It was an event to remember, and our very own correspondent Stella got all the deets from the Business Extrordinaire himself!!!!
Check the video below for her full conversation...
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Bone Thugs N Harmony have been dominating the industry together, and as solo artists for 25 years. Quite amazing for a group that many have at times ruled out of the picture. Nevertheless they’ve remained strong, and continued to release great music for their fans. Take a look at the last 25 years with Cleveland’s thugs…
Kimberley Zulkowski is well on her way to becoming a powerful name in Hollywood film. Her name and brand is behind the film, Grandma’s House, which is currently being featured at the Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival. Starring Loretta Devine, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Jordan Calloway, Paige Hurd, Coco Jones, Alex Thomas, Flex Alexander, and so many other powerful Hollywood figures, the films aims to pay tribute to the many grandmothers who assume the position of “mom” for their grandchildren, and their communities around them.
Truly a story that will resonate with many, Grandma’s House is screening this week in Cleveland, Ohio for GCUFF’s annual event.
We had an opportunity to sit and talk with Kimberley about the film, and the mark she was hoping to make. Check out the story below!
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you so much for the opportunity. Your film immediately struck my attention.
Kimberley Zulkowski: You’re welcome, thank you.
U.G. Digital Mag: You have an amazing project here. Congratulations are in order for getting it to the festival.
Kimberley Zulkowski: Thank you.
U.G. Digital Mag: Is this your first time doing GCUFF?
Kimberley Zulkowski: This was my first film, and it’s in memory of my grandmother who took me in at 14 out of foster care. It’s based on her life and the pillar she was in the community. During those times, the grandmothers really took care of children, and it’s very different now. You don’t have that dynamic anymore because the grandmothers are still dating like the daughters and grandchildren are dating. There’s no sense of morals and values, like cooking in the kitchen with grandma, peeling potatoes and making homemade food, and her teaching you. I felt like our generation this day and age needed a reminder. It’s also to honor those who go unnoticed and work so hard to care for their grandchildren as their own. It was a tribute to my grandmother, and grandmothers everywhere.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s an awesome story. Comedians make reference to this type fo story in their routines all the time, but it’s never been covered this way. My grandmother carried the same nurturing spirit. You have such an amazing cast involved, from Loretta Devine and Alex Thomas to Stephen Bishop and Wendy Raquel Robinson. How did you determine who you wanted?
Kimberley Zulkowski: Well, for Ms. Loretta Devine, it was a given. I wrote this script with her in mind. Seeing the characters she’s played in her career, she’s been the grandmother for so many people. If there was anyone to bring my grandmother back to life on screen, it would be her. I reached out to her agent, letting them know this script was made for her to play this role. We were not interested in anyone else. She read the script and she could relate, saying it reminded of her own grandmother. She was all in. She has been amazing.
U.G. Digital Mag: That had to be a good feeling, not just reaching out to someone you’ve admired, but having that person even agree to do it.
Kimberley Zulkowski: Yes, and she’s been great. She came to the red carpet premiere we had in Milwaukee, and she’s just been amazing. Her heart is really in the project. For Wendy Raquel Robinson, I wanted her to bring out the many personalities that my aunts had. She represented multiple people with her situation, her recovery, and wanting her children to not struggle with relationships. I’ve seen what she has pulled off on television, and thought it would be an appropriate role for her. We approached her agent, and they went with it. Same thing with Alex Thomas and Jaszmin Lewis. The great thing with Alex is this was his first feature film. He did an amazing job. It was a different character for him to play. I was very pleased with his performance. Coco Jones was a big Disney star. Actually, I wasn’t sure who I wanted to play her, which was a portrayal of me. My children were saying “mom, you have to get Coco Jones”. She was interested. It was a matter of putting together a solid script where all the characters were just as important as the matriarch. They realized they would get adequate exposure.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing. I look at all of the characters, and even the ones we didn’t mention and realize how big this will be. I almost missed Flex Alexander as well. What did you want to get out of this film?
Kimberley Zulkowski: I wanted to take people down memory lane in a good way, and remind them of the individuals who took the time to take care of them. It gives them an opportunity to do it for someone else. You’ll see in the film that grandma Margie is everyone’s grandma, including foster kids. Her home is a safe haven, and she doesn’t judge you. You can make your mistakes, and when you fall, she’s there to pick you up. That still is not to be abused, because she may not always be there.
U.G. Digital Mag: This will open a lot of eyes. There’s a lot of people who think it’s easy to get to this point with a film, especially when there’s a lot of big names. Why was it important for you to connect with GCUFF?
Kimberley Zulkowski: It’s still very difficult for us. We don’t have the distributors knocking down our doors, or the same platforms that our counters have when they make a film. There are very few black festivals. You want your film to be seen and shown, but you have yo go back to your people for it to happen. The urban film festival is our voice. I’m grateful for GCUFF because it’s a way for exposure that our films, sadly, will not get because it isn’t a studio film. There aren’t millions of dollars to advertise. It’s a work in progress, and a lot of people wish they could wake up and be a Tyler Perry, or have their own network like Oprah. It’s few and far between for us to have that platform. It’s still a white dominated industry. I don’t say that negatively, but it’s time for that tie to be split equally.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it’s reality and you make many great points. This is definitely a way for people to see your product. We’ve had so many come and do this festival, big and small. It’s an amazing avenue. I would love for readers to know more about additional projects that you have in the works.
Kimberley Zulkowski: Absolutely. We just finished editing a project called 53206 Milwaukee. It’s extremely special and dear to me. It’s about the struggles we face in the inner city. 53206 is the worst zip code in Milwaukee. There are homicides here in the city every day, and people don’t know about it. You think Milwaukee, and you think dairy land. There’s a black population falling every day. We are a minority of less than 200,000, and we are being shot and killed everyday. A study came out showing it as the worst place for black people to live. It’s the most segregated city there is. We are ten times more likely to be shot and killed there than Chicago because of the population ratio. So, what I did was take the homicide stories within a year, and represent those stories, talk about those victims, and show the world what we’re going through in Milwaukee in the eyes of our youth. Three weeks ago, I buried a little boy who was ready to go fishing with his father. He was running in the house to tell him mother they were leaving. A shootout happened and he was shot In the head. Four months before that, we buried a nine year old little girl. Our children aren’t making it to teenagers, let alone adulthood. This film talks about what’s happening, but also represents all urban zip codes in the world where violence is increasing, and the victim’s voice s not being heard. One of the great things is I took all cast from the city of Milwaukee. I brought an acting coach down from L.A. who taught them how to act and do the scenes. They did an mazing job. You would never believe these individuals have never acted before. Only people who have been through it can tell a story the way that we told it in this film. We had extras show up while filming because the entire city was excited. Even two of those extras during the process of editing were killed. Melanie was 14, sitting in her kitchen. She was killed in a shootout. Clinton Washington was in one of our scenes, and he was killed two weeks after we did a picture wrap. It’s very real, and something we hold to show the world what’s going on in the urban inner city, and the talent that goes unnoticed. If someone took notice of that talent and grabbed hold of these children, the result would be a feature in Hollywood like what we made.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing to hear that. I had no idea this was the way it was in Milwaukee. When do you see it becoming available to everyone?
Kimberley Zulkowski: We just submitted it to Sundance, and now we are making it available to all other festivals. We literally just submitted to Sundance. Sadly, my producers feel like they have to accept the film; I err on the side of caution, and ask why would they? Perhaps they should, but how many of our films do we ever see there? I’m going with a plan B and making it available to all the other festivals.
U.G. Digital Mag: I look forward to seeing the full film. Are there any final words?
Kimberley Zulkowski: I want to thank everyone involved with GCUFF. Without festivals like these, people like me would not have a platform. This is important and needed. I’m thankful to everyone, and grateful to be a part of it, and to the participants and viewers who will watch. I look forward to the feedback.
If Loving You is Wrong has become one of the OWN Network’s most popular series. In fact, it’s become insanely popular as each week, viewers are learning more and more way they relate to each of the show’s characters. Today, we were blessed to sit down with April Parker-Jones, who effortlessly portrays the role of blue collar mom Natalie Henning. As the fiancé of Lushion, portrayed by Charles Malik Whitlock, she’s very much like many of today’s everyday women. She works hard to make sure she and her family are good, and she nurtures her relationships and friendships the best she knows how, but she can flip the script and get wild on you when the moment calls. Natalie doesn’t take any less, and that characterization by Jones has placed the show as one of OWN’s top-rated shows to date.
Take a moment and check out this clip from the show...
Below, Jones talks with us about the show, and why she’s so grateful to Tyler and OWN for the opportunity, as well as what’s to come in her future!
U.G. Digital Mag: Before anything, I have to thank you. This is bucket list material right here [laughing]. I’ve loved your character since this show started, and have watched since day one. Between this and The Haves and the Have Nots, I watch religiously. I also work for a hospital, and I have always had my iPad or phone with me to watch when the show airs through the app. When I tell you, my wife and I have been waiting for this week’s premiere. Your character is amazing, and I just have to thank you for this awesome opportunity in speaking today.
April Parker-Jones: James, that means so much, and I have to ask you what about Natalie you like so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: For starters, Natalie is a mirror of my wife. Natalie works her tail off to be sure her kids are taken care of, her man is taken care of, and when it comes down to it, the way you marched down the street for Alex when you thought she was messing with Lushion, that was my wife all day. Even down to the friends I have ion Facebook, she will be quick to say if she doesn’t like someone and look for me to delete them.
April Parker-Jones: She loves you.
U.G. Digital Mag: My point exactly. I love that in your character. Natalie is so down to earth.
April Parker-Jones: I’m so glad to know you feel that way. I feel that way about Natalie, and I think that’s what makes her so relatable. Tell your wife I said thank you.
U.G. Digital Mag: I certainly will. Obviously, we’re celebrating this show, but we also celebrate you because this year makes 15 years that you’ve been out her entertaining us, and working regularly. The grind is evident. How is it to know you’ve made this mark in your career and the industry?
April Parker-Jones: When you put it that way, it kinda puts things back into perspective because as artists, we’re on a mission of constant grinding. We forget to celebrate our achievements. Thank you for pointing that out. I’m going to consciously make time to sit back and look at what I’ve done and say “you’ve done alright”. To me, in my everyday life, I’m constantly saying what do I have to do next, or I may feel I need to do this or that. I’ve got to do more, or accomplish more. We have to stop and celebrate those small victories. That being said, I still feel like the best is still yet to come for me in my career. I’m so grateful for where I am now. What I’m most grateful for is my most high creator in God allowed me to see this accomplishment, being on If Loving You is Wrong at this age and stage in my life and career, where I can appreciate it. I’m more mature, and I understand the impact that being on this show has on people, especially living back on the east coast now. I see people in everyday life who may recognize me from the show, and I see the impact it has. I’m so grateful that God waited until this point in my life to give me this blessing. It’s been great. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.
U.G. Digital Mag: For obvious reasons, with the show being connected through both Tyler Perry and Oprah, I think those reasons alone would make anybody jump at the opportunity, but what drew you to Natalie?
April Parker-Jones: Well, when I had the chance to audition, my agent and manager sent me the breakdown for the black characters, so those being Kelly, Marcy, and Natalie.
U.G. Digital Mag: They are great.
April Parker-Jones: They’re amazing. Everybody is so perfect for their part. It’s amazing to me how everyone fits perfect. They sent me the breakdown, and asked me who I connected with. Immediately, when I read Natalie, I didn’t even need to read the others. I connected immediately because she is so much like me, and so much like women I grew up around. She’s like so many of the women who are still a part of my life, so I connected with her right away. Naturally, when it comes to giving life to Natalie, and giving Natalie a voice, it ain’t too hard. It ain’t much of a stretch [laughing]. It really comes easy to me in comparison to so many of the characters I’ve played on other shows. It’s been a stretch for those because I’m not a doctor. I’m not a General for the military. I’m not a Pediatrician. So those required more acting. Natalie has been a joy because it has come so easily.
U.G. Digital Mag: You do an amazing job in her character. You’re strong when you need to be, but you still manage to show the softer side when needed. This week, when you came back and said you helped Kelly get a gun, it was cool to see the softer side.
April Parker-Jones: Yes, and I’m so glad that Tyler allows us the ability to show those nuances in our characters. He’s great about allowing us to explore those things, and I do believe it’s necessary. She is a woman, and she has feelings, and is not a superhero, although she wears a cape [laughing], life so many of us women do, but she is human, and very sensitive and insecure in her own way. I’m glad the audience got to see a softer side.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now I would be crazy not to ask, and you can answer this however you want [laughing], but what is the biggest thing we can expect in this season? I’ve been waiting for Eddie to go down for so long [laughing]…
April Parker-Jones: I think we have all been waiting for Eddie to have his day, but I can’t give away too much. I will say that Natalie will continue to explore the softer sides, but you’ll see the old Natalie when it’s necessary. She’s going to be a wonderful sounding board and support to her co-stars, and just stay tuned. Look, you never know what’s going to happen with Tyler Perry in that mind of his, but I will say that the season will keep you glued to your seat, and you will tune in to every episode.
U.G. Digital Mag: This past Tuesday, I was so thrown off by the finale from last season being an hour and a half, so I was confused at midnight when the new episode had not started yet. Nevertheless, it was great when I did see it.
April Parker-Jones: James, I just thank you for supporting If Loving You is Wrong, the OWN Network, and Tyler Perry. I’m so grateful that black people get to have this platform to express themselves and be creative. We’re getting so many more opportunities, and I feel I’m beginning to see the shift for black actors, and people behind the scenes getting more opportunities. It’ll continue to grow as long as we continue to support it.
U.G. Digital Mag: One of the final questions I wanted to ask was about other projects. You’ve done so well. I spoke to people in my family about connecting with you, and my mom knows of you from The Young & The Restless, my wife has watched you on both Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, and so many other projects. What do you see in the future?
April Parker-Jones: I’ve been so blessed to work on a project all summer in Los Angeles, and I don’t yet have clearance to speak the name of the show or network, but I will say we wrapped yesterday for the season. It’s a character extremely different from Natalie’s character. People who have watched me over the years have seen me in this type of role before though. The episodes will not air until next year, but when I have clearance, I will certainly let you know more about it. We’ll have some time, but it’s been great to be blessed with this summer job. I would love to do more film. I really don’t have as much film under my belt, so I would love to transition into more film, in addition to the television work. I’m open; I’m grateful; and like I said before, I feel like the best is yet to come. I can’t wait to see what God has in store for me. Im ready.
U.G. Digital Mag: There are mounds in store for you, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. For people who want to connect with you online, how can that happen?
April Parker-Jones: On social media [Instagram, Twitter], they can check me out at @a_parkerjones, and on Facebook it’s April Parker Jones.
We recently had to catch up with writer and musical superstar Roger Ortega, and the conversation was amazing. We get to hear all about his most recent project, The Lottery, and what else he has in store now that the music is pumping out consistently again. Check out the exclusive below!
Thank you so much. You have so much going on. Obviously, your progression is something to be noted. I love what you’re doing. This is especially good because we work to promote and push independent acts, so in that respect, there’s so much to talk about. It would be good to start with what brought you into music. I know you’ve been here…
It’s funny man. Long story short, I was born into a musical family. I didn’t want to do what my dad’s band was doing, but I listened to them practice. I knew this was what I wanted. At 14, I put together a group with my cousin and another guy. We changed members and names, but maintained the R&B and Pop feel. Eventually, we got a record deal.
Almost like a new edition…lol
Right. And New Kids on the Block played a big factor. One morning I saw them on TV, and was like who are these guys. Being a solo artists as a kid, I felt like I’d have more support with a couple other guys on stage. Eventually, some faded away, and I found more guys. We got a deal in Kansas and moved to New York. Universal was buying out everybody. We got locked into this deal where they just wouldn’t do anything with us. We eventually got out of that deal. By age 24, I said I was done. I went on about my life, but would write more for the love of it. Through a random series of events, at 37 I got a deal. I started off as a writer, and eventually they wanted a record. I quit at age 24 because I thought I was too old. How would it be at 37? I reluctantly said yes, and it ended up being number 62 on iTunes. I kept at it, and worked on a second album. The Lottery came out last year, and hit number 8. There’s so many good songs on the album, and you learn from your mistakes. You put all this work into an album, and you are to let it breathe. With the new single, The Worst Hangover, it’s actually a remix to the album’s first single. It’s doing pretty well. Not the same rules as an independent artist. You don’t necessarily have to do something new every year. You can work with what you have.
Now that you’re independent, how does it feel, having been with a major before? I see a lot of artists who don’t do well in the transition. Many artists don’t realize the level of work. How has it been for you?
I hate being told what to do, and am a lot less motivated when I am told what to do. So it’s one of those things where I’m in control. Failure or success comes back to me. My team is amazing, but they’re name is not the brand. If it doesn’t work out, it’s on me. I can sit with a little more pride when things go good.
I think it’s cool. What you have is hot and in so many ways, you break the stereotypes, and break the color lines. What has been your experience with connecting with other artists? I turn 40 this year, so I appreciate the fact that you pay respect to the artists before you of our era. I find it so funny that because of this new edition movie, our kids know all about New Edition now. My son is ten and is so enamored with Cool it Now like it just dropped yesterday…lol.
I think that has driven the direction of my music and where it comes from. Like you, I grew up on all that. It’s infused in my DNA. The Lottery album pays homage to a lot of those artists, and has a 90s appeal. That was one of the biggest things. I definitely wanted to be taken serious with this, but I knew my fanbase was 28+, and people who knew that era. That’s what was so cool.
I also think it’s cool because a big part of me misses that era. I make it a point to look back and connect with artists of that era now with the magazine. I like to be able to show what these artists are doing now, and how they impacted music. The blessing is I get to connect with my favorites, the ones who don’t get the respect. As far as shows go, what have your shows and tours looked like? Are you doing a lot of shows?
Yea, I have been. My last show will be in New Mexico. The last few months, I’ve had shows in New York, Miami, and so on. The shows have been great. One of my favorite shows was a tribute to George Michael.
Awesome. I grew up listening to him in Wham, and so much of his music.
He was one of the first to really cross over to R&B and radio play. I can remember hearing him on Hot 97. He had a lot of respect for R&B and Soul, and vice versa. I respect how he rode that line, and was one of the first major stars to cross over. I released a cover of Father Figure a few months ago along with a video. The video was to tie into the next video. That and The Worst Hangover is like a series. It was a cool concept.
I saw the father figure video, and I heard the single first on reverbnation. What are your plans moving forward and progressing?
What I feel like right now; someone asked me when the third album was coming. I don’t think I’m in a place emotionally to do a third album. I’m just writing right now. When something hits me emotionally, I’ll do a third album. With The Lottery, it was a lot of start and stop. I immediately went to work on the second album, but the owner of my independent label passed away and the label shut down. I lost a lot with that first album. All the stuff I had before was good, but not as good as this album. My dad developed cancer in the process and passed away as I started on the second half of the album. That gave me a lot for the album. I wrote three songs on the plane back from his funeral. One of those is Never Forget, which was a tribute for my dad. I also wrote The Worst Hangover, which is about losing someone and how you feel. I changed it to be more about losing a girl, but I pulled the pain from losing my dad. I also wrote a song called Put It On Me. Through darkness comes light and that’s where that came from. My plan moving forward is to work on singles and get as many people to hear my projects.
What else is to come for people to look out for?
There’s a song I’ll be working on for a project that my fans had been inquiring about. I can’t say much about it yet. I’m working on a song with another guy which will eat up a lot of time. Two guys from my group joined me for the George Michael show. I put up a video of us practicing Careless Whispers, and they agreed to do an album. That’s down the road, but right now, I’m focusing on me. I have to get to the Grammys, one way or another, even if I got to work the door [laughing].
Where can people check you out online?
Everything is at rogerortega.com. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.
I look forward to your upcoming projects. You clearly love the music so much that you’re still here. I appreciate having the opportunity to connect with you. I feel like you’re breaking barriers. Thank you.
Thank you. I appreciate telling my story.
I can’t begin to speak on how excited we are for the release of Chanté Moore’s new album, The Rise of the Phoenix. It’s one thing that she’s releasing a new project. Sure, there’s a certain level of anticipation that’s already there, yet, there’s something different about this project. This truly is a rising for Chanté. Her life has taken her in so many different directions. She’s had an amazing career, but like any other artists she’s experience some good and definitely some bad. This album represents her new beginning. She has truly risen to the top again, and the result is a beautiful project that the world can enjoy in it’s entirety. She also has a bonus coming in the form of a Christmas album that all release two weeks after The Rise of the Phoenix. It was an absolute blessing to connect with Chanté to talk about the new projects and what we can all expect. If you’ve heard the new singles ‘Real One” and “Something to Remember”, then you know she ain’t playing no games with this album. So enough talking on our end. Let’s jump right into the exclusive….
U.G. Digital Mag: Ms. Chanté Moore! How are you?
Chanté Moore: I’m great and you?
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m doing great. I have to thank you for doing everything you are to keep good R&B music alive. You are absolutely killing it right now.
Chanté Moore: I’m trying so hard, so thank you [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: You make it look effortless. I was at Essence Fest, and you were so beautiful, professional, and I could see this beaming happiness on your face when you spoke about the project. Obviously, at that time, I hadn’t heard any of the songs yet, but I’ll tell you .. with Real One, I have absolutely driven that song into the ground with my wife and she thinks I’m crazy. I love the song, and love the video. With the pre-download, you also get “Something to Remember”, and you get the Intro. What went into putting this together, because it’s almost like a new artist who comes in and kills the game.
Chanté Moore: You know, I just feel renewed. I really do. The Rise of the Phoenix is purposeful. The title is very purposeful. I feel like I have been through a lot of ups and downs, some good stuff, negative and positive, and it all worked together for the good. I’m just trying to give it my best. I feel like it’s time to be authentic, as usual, but what I love is the new producers I work with on this album are people like Lil’ Ronnie. I’m sure you know who he is, with songs from Usher’s “Same Girl” with R. Kelly, and the new song with K. Michelle, and he’s been doing very well. I love that he understands the music. It’s like adding chemistry. It’s like adding one thing with another and it doesn’t cease to just be one. All the elements are still present, but it becomes something new. That’s what I think happened with the music. With the writers, Felly the Voice is amazing; I love singing his words and writing with him. The melodies he comes up with are so beautiful. A new guy, @Sickpen, @beats4thestars is lil’ Ronnie, and we had so much fun making this record. We had so much fun that we did a Christmas album as well. So that’s pretty exciting, and we had so much fun. It has been work, but good work. We had the best time.
U.G. Digital Mag: I was going to ask about the Christmas album, and still will, but I have to say that the producers and writers you’re connecting with stand as a testament to the type of person you are as an artist. These people see how genuine you are, and they want to work with your caliber. It speaks volumes. It’s people like you, and I also credit Faith Evans because she is amazing, but going back to the songs, I always say if they have a good intro, they got me. I interviewed Faith as well, and every single interlude and intro she does to me should be a full song.
Chanté Moore: She is so incredible. I love her so much. She’s so funny and talented. Every time she sings, it’s like dang, I want to do that. Ooh, that’s a nice run. Just the way she soulfully approaches every song, I love her too, so you got my praises on that.
U.G. Digital Mag: But it’s the same thing with you. With “Real One”, for someone like me who can not sing a lick, I can admit that I go to town in the car on that song. My wife and son are so sick of me right now, but I love it [laughing].
Chanté Moore: It’s funny about “Real One”. It seems like a really easy song to sing, but that sucker is hard. When I sing live, and this song is new for me. We just wrote the album, finished it and mastered it. It comes out in two weeks, so these are new to me. Singing them live is a new experience for me. I sang “Real One”, and “Something to Remember” back to back; oh that’s never going to happen again [laughing]. That made me so tired. Then I did “Chante’s Got a Man” after that? I was worn out. It was form, but it wore me out. I was like, OK, enough.
U.G. Digital Mag: Why was it important to bare your soul with this? I feel like you give us your life with this album?
Chanté Moore: Absolutely. That’s been something I have done from the beginning. The songs I sing come from the heart. When I do it for my own learning and growing experience, I also do it for others. So many times, people come up to me on the road, and after the show there are tears for both of us. They say things like “if it wasn’t for your music, I wouldn’t have made it through this breakup”, or “I wouldn’t have made it through losing my mother”, or “if I didn’t know you were alone like that, I wouldn’t have felt like I could deal with it too”. Everyone always makes this thing of who they think you are and that regular stuff doesn’t happen to you, but it happens to everybody. We all get our hearts broken. We’re all get let own sometimes. We let other people down. We’re not exempt and we have that human life experience, so that’s what I endeavor; for people to know they are not alone. I’m not alone either. I put on my music sometimes and sing it to myself.
U.G. Digital Mag: The Christmas album. It’s amazing, but my biggest question is why it’s so close to this album?
Chanté Moore: Stuff kept happening over and over to push it back. We’ve been trying to release this project for like six months. My fans on Instagram and Twitter are like yelling at me like, Chante, really? If you push this back one more time, we are coming after you. It’s been for different reasons, and I don’t know exactly why because I really wanted it to be released February 17, 2017. It’s the 7th album release for me. 2/17 is my birthday. Then it was pushed back. I don’t know what happened, but I do know at the end of making this, and finishing up and adding new songs, we still wanted to keep working. We said let’s do a Christmas album. We had no idea it would happen so quickly. We said let’s just put it out. Radio just plays the radio stuff, and they don’t play a lot of R&B and the other genres. We’ll be in the middle of that, and then next year, we’ll add another, and another the following year. What’s beautiful is it keeps living on. We were excited about making more music, and it made sense to capture the holiday spirit because I love Christmas so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: I like the concept of adding a new song each year so you don’t get the same thing over and over.
Chanté Moore: This CD is so unique that I can’t wait for the world to hear it. I play both all the time, and put them on shuffle. That’s how I know this is music I love and I’m happy about singing it because I’m playing it. Usually, I finish a record and want to take a break from myself. Listening is work, singing it is work, and performing it live is work and making sure people get it, and there’s so many aspects that can be tiring and draining. I find that these two CDS are my favorite listen right now.
U.G. Digital Mag: Any last words or comments that you want to get out, and what can we look forward to in the next couple weeks?
Chanté Moore: I’m trying to do as much press as I can. I’m going on tour. I can’t give you the exact dates, and if I did, I’d be wrong [laughing]. Go to chantemoore.com, where we will put up the calendar. Please come see these LIVE. We’ll be performing the Christmas stuff as well as the new album. I’m having a great time. The band is amazing; I have a new band. The dancers are there when I have room on the stage. I’m giving my all like it’s my last.
VIDEOS: REAL ONE & SOMETHING TO REMEMBER...
If you’ve been following the last few weeks, you’ve seen the various features we’ve run here at UGD in support of The Haves and the Have Nots. This week, we catch up with Jon Chaffin, who plays one of the show’s most loved and hated characters, Warlock. Without going into heavy detail of his character, Jon Chaffin displays some of the best acting we’ve seen with his character, and it undoubtedly has taken the show to amazing heights. He’s got millions of fans tuning in each week to see what’s going to happen next on the show. The season is currently reaching it’s climax, and things are getting really heated right now. Jon sits down for a few moments to talk with us about the show, what’s to come, and also the many amazing things he has going on in his career outside of HAHN.
U.G. Digital Mag: First off Mr Chaffin, this is a tremendous honor to connect with you because you are one of the best I’ve seen do this. I imagine you hear it a lot, and I know the type of person you are so you don’t feed off it, but I still imagine you get it a lot. Even with what you are doing with The Haves and the Have Nots, it’s inspiring to so many. Not even fronting, I watch the show and am a die hard fan. I have said for so long that I wanted to connect, not just about the show, but also your journey. Many want to do this, and get into entertainment, acting, or more, and they get discouraged. With all you’re doing, you show people they can do it, do what they love, and make a living. They can prosper financially and professionally. I haven’t seen anybody else deliver what you do with HAHN. We regular push this man, in terms of following your passion. I walked away from career to build this publication that offers an alternative, and something that’s culture bending, and just not the norm. We love to show the positivity in people like yourself. Thank you for that. I know it’s a mouth full.
Jon Chaffin: Wow. I appreciate it and am really humbled by it.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool, too, because again, people easily get discouraged, and I’ve been there. This initially made no money. I had to maintain family and all else for something I love. Looking at you and so many others, you see first hand that when you put your heart and passion in, it works out.
Jon Chaffin: Yes sir. I appreciate that so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: My goal has been to connect with everybody from the show. It’s funny because I reached out to Crystal Fox, who plays Hanna, and we did that. Then I reached out to Presilah Nunez, who plays Erica. That’s running now. You’re will run here on the site and in the issue. On a side note, you worked with Markice Moore in a films that we’ll discuss later in our conversation, and he’s doing the cover. It’s so cool to see what’s going on with HAHN, and how big it has become. Getting into the show, how did War come about for you?
Jon Chaffin: It was an audition. My agent sent it to me. I did it the old-fashioned way. They liked it and brought me in for the callback. I had to go in to do it in Atlanta because I was in LA at the time. I’m still in LA. But I had to go to Atlanta for Tyler and the producers. I did my thing, and initially, I knew who this guy was. I grew up with people like him, and been around people like him. I was able to find the connection and bring it to life. Through the process, I was able to dive deeper into the psyche and personality. It was all done the old-fashioned way. I gave them my take and they liked it. As they say, the rest is history.
U.G. Digital Mag: Someone like myself, I have watched since day one. I DVR’d because I worked so much. Now I take an iPad to work with me to make sure I catch it. I binge watch at times just out of love for the show. What’s cool is it unites people with families. I watch with my mother, my wife loves it, my son loves it and begs me to DVR it. It’s funny because we watched last night, and I work a night shift gig. We watched, and as it went off, he was saying he wished another episode was coming on. Did you expect this type of success with it, especially reaching all age groups like it does? People either love or hate War.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. I had no idea. Initially it was one episode. Candace had come to him because she had gotten all her belongings taken. It wasn’t written that I would have a long shelf life. When I did it, Tyler really liked it, and he said he would write more for the character. You just never know, which is why you have to focus on the work and not so much the outcome. I didn’t go in with the idea that I would love for it to be a regular character. I just did my things, and that opened up the opportunity for more. I was totally surprised by what this role had become because like I said, it wasn’t written for that. I had no idea it would go this far, or fans would gravitate to it the way they have. It’s been an awesome ride. They either love me, or hate me. They love to hate me, hate to love me. It’s what we hope for as actors, is that the audience gravitate to the character and the work. We want to move them in some fashion, and the fact that I did that means job well done. They love the character and it’s been a blessing.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s cool because a lot of characters in many of Tyler’s shows are that way. Presilah Nunez said the same thing. She was only there for three episodes, and it grew. Crystal Fox was to be there long term obviously, but it’s great to see the smaller roles growing the way they do. I never imagined it would get this big, even though i saw big things. On Facebook, there’s a ton of groups, and I usually do some promotion there. People are like die hard fans. They have groups and everything with thousands of members. They LIVE chat each week, and they go in hard. I know Angela chats live sometimes. She actually did the cover of our first issue. Do you find time, even with how incredibly busy you are, to get on Facebook and chat?
Jon Chaffin: Oh yea. I get on, and try to respond as often as I can. i try not to live my life on social media, though. We’ve become a society that’s glued to our phones. I post and reply, but not all day and everyday. Sometimes, I LIVE tweet if I can catch the show. I am active in responding, and try to thank the fans. Without them, the show would not be what it is. We need the fans to love what we do so we can continue. I’m grateful for social media because it gives us the opportunity to connect directly with the fans. The comments, and gifs, have me cracking up. It’s hilarious, but it goes to show, like you said, how invested people are in these shows and characters. I go back to say it was unexpected that it would become this beloved character. I’m grateful. I try to reach out and thank them, or retweet. I can’t reply to everybody, but I try to like comments and let them know I see it and appreciate it.
U.G. Digital Mag: Keeping it real man, I know you can’t give nothing away, but I’d be crazy not to ask for a tidbit of intel?
Jon Chaffin: [Laughing] You just gotta watch. Let’s just say the journey comes to full circle. Hopefully, the audience will enjoy the next episode. it will definitely put some people on the edge of their seats.
U.G. Digital Mag: I say again that you guys reach all generations. I also work with someone who’s in their seventies, and she asked me last night about the show. It’s cool that you can bring people together this way. It’s amazing what we can do through entertainment.
Jon Chaffin: Yea man. It’s a blessing to affect people that way. That’s the beauty of what we do as artists, whether acting, writing, or doing poetry. Our job is to reflect the times in which we live. When we can reach and connect with people, that’s it. It’s good when people are affected in a positive way.
U.G. Digital Mag: So this is where I start to transition into some of your other work. I love how supportive the entire cast is of each other. No matter what it is, everyone supports. You did King Hedley II and you also did 96 Minutes, which paired you with Evan Ross, David Oyelowo, Markice Moore, and Hosea Chanchez. You did really good with the character, which was also somewhat villainous. In 96 minutes, what was it like bringing the role of JJ to life?
Jon Chaffin: That was an awesome experience to work with Aimee Lagos, who wrote and directed, David Oyelowo who is amazing at what he does, Evan Ross, and Markice Moore. It was really great. I knew people like that character, but it was also a learning experience. This was earlier in my career. It was a good learning curve to be on set with those veterans. I tried to learn as much as I could, and bring honesty and truth to the role. You never know how it will come out or how people will gravitate to it. You hope for good. I’ve played a variety of roles. To me, I don’t get caught up in the role. Each person has a story to tell. We are all humans and capable of the same thing. Each character deserves the same respect. I don’t get caught up in the idea of being type-cast. I make it a point not to play each role the same way because they’re all different.
U.G. Digital Mag: The phrase you said, “I Love what I do”; that’s where we all want to get. That resonated really good in King Hedley II. I haven’t seen it yet because I’m in Ohio, but I’ve seen the promo. I’ve seen your postings on social media, and I see the postings from others. It appears to have done extremely well for you.
Jon Chaffin: Yea. King Hedley II is one of August Wilson’s plays. It’s set in 1985 in his ten-play cycle in Pittsburgh in the Hill district, about King, who is returning home from a 7-year prison stint, and he’s trying to reingratiate himself into society, his wife is pregnant, and he’s trying to start a business to make money to get going in life. I play Mister, his best friend, side kick, and sometimes business partner. It was a great opportunity to get on stage and do this play, and say those words. Michele Shay who is an August Wilson-ian; she originates the role of Louise in Seven Guitars. She and Viola Davis did it on Broadway. She’s done a number of August Wilson’s plays, and she directed this production. Like you saw on Instagram, we had a great turn-out. A lot of my cast members came out, and a lot of celebrities came out. It’s a timely piece. It’s set in ’85, but the challenges they were dealing with are prevalent today in what we deal with in society. To be able to go on stage and do theatre; there’s something in that. There’s an energy you don’t get with a television show or movie. In theatre, the audience is right there and in the moment. They laugh at things you didn’t expect them to laugh at, and then they don’t laugh when you thought they would. It’s like, you have to be totally focused and in a zone with theatre. It’s a great workout, and I always wanted to do something by August Wilson. When the opportunity came, I jumped in with both feet. I plan to do more. I hope to do another play if not this year, definitely next year. We did this out here in LA, which is not known for theatre, although they’ve done some great theatre, and it was great to get the response we got.
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s the biggest lesson in your journey?
Jon Chaffin: Not to expect anything. Roll with the punches. Don’t expect anyone to give you anything, and don’t expect a return on your investment. We want what we want right then, but a career takes time to develop. I’ve learned to be patient. I’ve learned to work hard, and believe in myself. In acting, moreso than any other career or vocation, you use yourself, and need to know who you are as a person. The more you know, and the more comfortable you are, the more you can look at your flaws and embrace the imperfections, and the more you can give to the character and story. That’s what makes a great actor. They’re able to give freely of themselves, and unblock the extra. I’ve just learned to be a professional but not expect anything and work hard.
U.G. Digital Mag: What have you taken away from the level of success black actors are beginning to see? You have people like Gabrielle Union, and you have Sanaa Lathan who was doing Shots Fired which was shockingly canceled… I thought it was so dope … but even outside of that, people like Tyler Perry are doing so amazing, and bringing opportunities to the table. I know when you came into this, the opportunities were fewer, and farther between. There’s been so much growth.
Jon Chaffin: Everything happens in waves. If you really think about it, in the nineties and earlier 2000s, we has a lot of shows, but we also were building the networks up. The CW was there, then they canceled Girlfriends, Fox had Martin and Living Single, NBC had The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. We had a lot of shows and then they died off. But now, especially with social media, people can express what they want to see, and everybody has the ability to voice their opinions as far as what they want. The conversation is being blown open. It’s a great time because there’s so much content, and so many avenues to get it out. It’s not just the major networks anymore. Sign up for cable and you get hundreds of channels. Then the streaming services. Netflix and Hulu. All these avenues, and everyone vies for attention. People are watching television on phones and laptops now. It’s a great time for artists of color to get opportunities, and create their own opportunities. Shots Fired, I thought it was great as well, but you also realize it’s a business. Shows will come and go. Sanaa Lathan will be on something else when you look up because she’s amazing. Its hard to get a show to a second season, third, and fourth. I can’t even go through all the shows that are out. People ask me if I’ve seen Game of Thrones, and I haven’t. I’m like, it’s seven seasons in. Ain’t no point of even jumping in now. I would literally have to spend my whole week or two glued to the television. I just don’t have that time. That goes to show how much is out there. You try to find what you like and ride with them. You miss a week or two and get left behind. The way the shows are done now is changing. They don’t do 23 episodes in a season. Now they do 10 or 13. They air the first 10 in the spring, and then you don’t see it again until the fall. I was just talking with my fiancé about when How to Get Away with Murder is coming back on. I feel like I haven’t seen it in forever. It’s so many other things you’re watching. It’s good and bad. Right now it’s a great time for actors, writers, and producers. There’s such a need for content, and so many more avenues to get it out.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re right, though. I’m the exact same way in the fact that I work so much that I miss a lot of TV. My wife and I just started streaming, and we’re doing Roku now.
Jon Chaffin: Right. That’s where the industry is going. People were hanging on for sports, but you look at Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, and soon the services will be as much as cable because you’ll have 5 or 6 subscriptions.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. I just binge watched Survivor’s Remorse, and saw how amazing it was. You’re definitely right about the content out there. What are you most thankful for?
Jon Chaffin: Just being able to do what I love. Having the opportunity to pursue my dreams. I’m thankful for life and good health. We take for granted the little things. I‘m grateful I’ve been gifted this talent to entertain, and the opportunity to pursue it, perfect it, and work at it. We spoke earlier about you leaving your job to do what you love. I’m a firm believer of not living your life with what ifs. As you have children, and I don’t but hope to some day, you want to push them to pursue their goals some day. It would be hard if I didn’t do it for myself. I want to lead by example. Go after what you truly desire in your heart because tomorrow is not promised. We’re all going to die at some point, so when you realize that, you come to realize nothing is as serious as we make it. Live a life that it pleasing to yourself that you can enjoy. Try not to hurt anybody in the process.
U.G. Digital Mag: Everyone has watched your journey. We saw that you went to school and put yourself in a place to be noticed. What advice do you offer to those out there who dream of this type of life, or any profession?
Jon Chaffin: I would say learn as much about the path that you are about to take. Understand that it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. Have a talk with yourself about the reasons for wanting to do it. I get asked a lot about how someone should start, and when you tell them, they have a look like “I actually have to do work?”. What are you doing it for? Do you want to be seen and famous, or is there something you have to get out, or stories you have to tell? That’s why I ask people. If this is something you want to do, you have to believe it is possible. You can’t get discouraged by the naysayers. Fulfill the promise to yourself. Push yourself and strive to go that extra mile. What people don’t understand is it’s not hard. It’s just hard to believe. That’s the hardest part. Once you conquer that part, the rest is about putting in the work and letting the chips fall where they may. You have people who pursue for years and it’s like there’s nothing; then you have people who step off the boat and jump and they blow up. I can’t say it will take ten years, or ten days. Every path is different. I say to stay encouraged. Learn the business and craft. Study it. You’ll have to study it for the rest of your life. You’ll never have it all. We grow, evolve, experience life and change, and you have to incorporate it into your work. You have to believe in yourself. That’s what I believe is the formula. If you need to listen to motivational speakers to keep you motivated, do it. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t second guess sometimes, or wonder if something was going to work. I also ask myself if there would be anything else that would make me more happy, and luckily that answer has been no. That’s how I know I’m on the right path, but if there’s something else you can do to make you happy, I say go and do that. This is a tough business and it’s not for the faint at heart.
U.G. Digital Mag: I thank you for so many things, especially the encouragement that I and so many others get. Again, we watched you work from the bottom up. I take it back to the show as well. I love the show and character. I’m counting down til next Tuesday. It’s dope and I love what you guys do. I appreciate your time. It’s cool to connect with people you admire.
Jon Chaffin: I appreciate you man. Thank you so much. The words gave me life today and I needed that.
We’re thrilled to bring you get another great exclusive right here at UGD! This time, we’ve connected with Sir Brodie, who has become one of the more prominent faces on the Starz hit series Survivor’s Remorse. In just five years, Brodie has built a significant name for himself, having made appearances in a number of popular shows. It’s with Survivor’s Remorse that he’s beginning to make his biggest impact, as the world is beginning to see how amazing an actor he truly is. Take a read below as we chat about the show and all else he’s got popping off these days.
Survivor’s Remorse premieres its fourth season tonight!
U.G. Digital Mag: In coming together for Survivor’s Remorse, I’m embarrassed to say I really just caught all three seasons of the show man. It’s really good work. I know you come along in season three, but it’s really good. Talk about your character?
Sir Brodie: My character is one of Julius’ friends. He was the uncle to Cam. Julius was Mike Epps’ character, and I was one of his friends from Boston. I came in during the funeral, as you know his character was killed in an accident at the close of Season two. Pookie is more the level-headed friend. He’s the one that all the rest of the boys trust. When you see him in season three, he’s more concerned about sending off their friend with respect and dignity. Another friend in the scene by the name Cakebread is more the “fuck-up”. He’s the comic relief [laughing]. At the end of the season, you see M-Chuck coming to Pookie to find out who her father was.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. She had been asking for a while. So many viewers have ideas, and of course, you’re seen throughout the new season. You’ve got to give us some intel about the show man [laughing]. What can we expect for the new season?
Sir Brodie: Man, I think you’ll expect a lot more comedy. Tichina is hilarious. The cast is hilarious.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny that she [Tichina] hasn’t been in a role like this before. She has such longevity and we’ve seen her in so much, but this is perfect because she’s taken it and run with it.
Sir Brodie: I know. With Survivor’s Remorse, the writing staff actually gives the lead characters a lot of room and opportunity to come in the writer’s room and discuss their characters. They have a lot to do with how it all unfolds. They allowed me this past fall to come into the writer’s room and discuss Pookie’s character.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s amazing because it doesn’t solidify anything in stone necessarily, but it gives the idea that you’ll be there for some time.
Sir Brodie: Man, we’re praying for that [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: I know man. I say let’s put it out there. It’s really good, but even outside of the show, you’ve done really good work. I see you’re also a part of an upcoming episode of The Haves and the Have Nots, which is one of my favorite shows. Actually, we just connected with Jon Chaffin this morning, who plays Warlock on the show. Talk a little about your spot there?
Sir Brodie: My role is that of a police officer. We actually shot that, man, it’s probably been a year or more ago. I can barely remember what was going on. I know we were investigating something in the hotel. I don’t even want to give that away [laughing]. Somebody’s been killed.
U.G. Digital Mag: They’re going to kill me man, because I’ve been digging for info. I’ve connected with a few people from the show over the past few weeks.
Sir Brodie: Yea, but I know we’re investigating. Honestly, I never know who it is based on the script I had, so I don’t know. I’m playing a police officer, basically when the cop shows up on the scene. It’s a small role, but a major blessing to do it with Tyler Perry. All of us actors in the game, especially here in Atlanta, are dying to work for Tyler Perry.
U.G. Digital Mag: Man, the actors here in Cleveland want to work with Tyler, so I know it’s a huge blessing [laughing]. I think it’s amazing for you. What I think is that it speaks volumes to you as an actor because you’re getting these parts in prominent productions. Blue Bloods, MacGyver, and more. Sleepy Hollow. I think it’s great, and the opportunities are flooding in for black actors in general. As I watched these three seasons, I started pinpointing who I wanted to connect with, and you were right at the top of the list. I thought it would be great to hear the experiences you’ve had with the show, and how it’s helping your career. I look from the outside obviously, and feel like it’s doing tremendous things for you. The growth is exponential. The show is huge.
Sir Brodie: It’s the biggest booking of my career. The experience of those great actors, and being around them is great. RonReaco is amazing. I couldn’t believe he didn’t get any awards last year. Starz is a subscription channel, so a lot of people don’t get to see it like they can see Empire on network television. But once they see it, they continue to watch. We don’t lose fans. I enjoy the show because it’s real. They keep it on the real and hold no punches. It’s funny and dramatic. You have all the elements.
U.G. Digital Mag: I can tell they give you free reign and allow you to develop the character into something believable. This is stuff that is really happening.
Sir Brodie: Yea, but you’ll like Pookie. He’s the OG from the neighborhood.
U.G. Digital Mag: It was weird when you first came in because I thought from that point, you’d be there the entire season. Of course, you came back eight episodes later for the “Father’s Day” episode. But this is real stuff. When RonReaco came in contact with his dad, people live that everyday. What are some of the other things going on that are coming up?
Sir Brodie: We have an independent movie in Atlanta, The Products of the American Ghetto, and it’s based on a book written by Tierre Ford. It talks about the Atlanta landscape when crack cocaine came on the scene, and the drug war between the Atlanta dealers and Miami dealers. It touches on the Miami police when they implemented the red dogs, which was a task force designed to clean the streets of drugs. They were given free reign in Atlanta.
U.G. Digital Mag: There’s a lot of powerful people in here, like Robin Givens, and Darrin Dewitt Henson.
Sir Brodie: Right, there’s a lot of good names here. They’re actually premiering it here in Atlanta on the 23rd of this month. Next Wednesday. That movie will do well in our community here. I play an OG character in that movie as well. I seem to get them roles, and I channel my father. That’s coming. I just finished shooting an untitled project. It’s an Al Pacino film based on Joe Paterno. That’s all I can really say on it.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s cool man. I saw that project coming, as well as The Products of The American Ghetto, and saw the caliber of people involved. I imagine it will do well.
Sir Brodie: Then we’re just out here grinding, and auditioning. It’s a lot of projects shooting here in Atlanta now, so the actors here have a chance to be involved in a lot more. Before, we would all go to LA, but now you don’t have to leave. if you want to be a working actor, you can do it here in Atlanta.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re right. Honestly, I’m seeing that in a lot more cities now. You can do what you want there, and it’s amazing how much Atlanta has grown. It’s ironic because I’ve considered relocating there. It’s amazing how many more opportunities are there. A lot of that is because people there are doing so much, including Tyler Perry, to make those opportunities available.
Sir Brodie: Definitely.
U.G. Digital Mag: What things are you looking forward to doing in the future?
Sir Brodie: Eventually, I want to do some of my own projects. When you create your own, you have a lot more creative control. I have that desire. I started acting five years ago, and it’s been a learning process. It’s definitely been a fast learning process. Most people say it takes ten to fifteen years to really make it, so I’m still in my grinding mode, and feeling the business of acting out. Hopefully, I can do a few projects on my own. I have a few ideas. I guess if I can put a wish out there, I want to play in a remake of Shaft and actually be Shaft.
U.G. Digital Mag: I can see that happening, and it would be a good thing. I say put it on the table and it will come.
Sir Brodie: Absolutely.
U.G. Digital Mag: Obviously, many people look to get into this amazing field of acting. What advice do you offer? I ask that because things are moving great for you. It often does take fifteen years or more. Things are really happening for you at a rapid rate, and it’s great. Surely, you’re working hard, but you’re following your dreams. What advice do you offer?
Sir Brodie: It’s the same advice I give for anyone looking to do something with their life. You first have to desire it and have it in your heart, and be willing to put in the effort it takes to see that come to pass, coupled with a lot of prayer. Whatever you want to do, you have to learn it. I had to learn the craft of acting. I took an acting class every week for three years because I wanted to do this. I said it when I started, that some people have natural talent. That’s good, but It takes more than that though. You have to make the commitment to train and educate yourself. Be willing to work for free and understand that. I was in projects for three years and wasn’t getting paid. It was free stuff, but I got that advice from Greg Allen Williams. I was a background performer on Necessary Roughness, and he told me that if I wanted to do it, don’t worry about the pay. Don’t worry about if the project is great or not great. You need to learn every aspect of it so you can recognize a good project, a good director, and a good DP, so you have to do it all. Young directors and filmmakers are the future, and many of them don’t have money to pay you to work with them. You have to establish those relationships. I went to class and started networking. People were calling because they knew I would say yes [laughing]. You have to work hard and network. Whatever role you book is for you. We’re not really competing because what’s for you is for you. You have to be out there though.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love the fact you said work for free. That’s goes for any profession. I take that back to my own personal experiences in Journalism. In the beginning, I was willing to do it for free. My thing was I have a job, and I have money coming in, so I can do this for free, and I wasn’t scared to say it. The experience and knowledge trumps. If that means I need to intern or work for free, I’ll do it. Many times, that’s your only way in. Especially with Journalism, you need two to three years of experience for the entry level stuff. It resonates for sure. I tell people that, and many frown, but it’s essential.
Sir Brodie: If you have a passion for it you’ll make it. I can act all day long. I love to do it. The grind and struggle works at building you and building your character. When the success comes, then you won’t squander it. I enjoy the present moment. Tomorrow is not promised. Enjoy the moment now and hope for tomorrow.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love it. Where can people keep up with you online?
Sir Brodie: All my info is @actorsirbrodie, on Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter…
U.G. Digital Mag: I can’t even lie man, I don’t know how you do the Snapchat thing, I can’t keep up with that one..
Sir Brodie: Yea, you do so many things. I film on one, and then have to figure out how to get it to the other one. Its a part of the business now. Production looks at it though. They want to know your social media following.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. Again man, thank you so much for today. It’s surely an honor.
Sir Brodie: Thank you!
The new film, Patti Cake$, which stars Mamoudou Athie is one of those films that could easily become the next blockbuster. Already being heralded as a classic, the film follows the story of aspiring rapper Patricia Dombrowski, also known as Patti Cake$ & Killa P, who is striving to become that next great inspiration in hip-hop. Immediately, the film touches on and conquers the idea and premise of someone defeating the odds to live and follow their passion in life. We’ve had the opportunity to screen the film, and it’s such an amazing story that will inspire a world of aspiring entertainers and beyond.
We were blessed with the opportunity of speaking with Mamoudou Athie about the film, and his role in the film, which drops tomorrow!
U.G. Digital Mag: I really treasure today’s conversation so much. I’ve been able to hear so many positive things in reference to this new film, and of course, being able to screen it for myself was the icing on the cake. So many people are talking about it. Talk about doing this film.
Mamoudou Athie: I’m really fortunate. I initially got the script, and I hadn’t read the entire thing because at first, I was like “this guy isn’t for me. I wasn’t sure it would work out because off the jump, I just didn’t know about this dude. Long story short, one of my best friends who I went to school with, we did ‘The Get Down” together, and his name is Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, and he’s a fantastic actor. This role had been in my mind ever since I read the entire script, and the casting director, Jessica Kelly, was very vocal, thinking I should go in for this. I just didn’t think I was the guy. Once I finally read the script I thought it was fantastic. By this point, I thought it was cast already. My buddy Yahya met Jeremy and he called me, saying the role wasn’t for him because he thought he was too old for it, but he thought it would be good for me. I auditioned a couple of times, and was just like Geremy Jasper was a fucking beast. I had to work with him. That’s kinda how we started. Geremy has been nothing but amazing and supportive ever since.
U.G. Digital Mag: There have been rave reviews so far, even looking at The New York Times, and hearing from the many people who have seen it already. What I enjoyed the most is there are so many stereotypes in hip-hop, and when you look at the film, it’s easy for people to look and instantly judge, but it really is an amazing movie. I love the entire story that resonates, with the idea of this legend in the making with Danielle Macdonald, and I think the film is really good.
Mamoudou Athie: She’s amazing in it. Geremy wrote a beautiful nuance with really diverse characters, and everyone is so relatable, from Danielle and Bridget, to Cathy, Sid, and more. It was a joy to be on set everyday.
U.G. Digital Mag: There’s some really powerful people here.
Mamoudou Athie: It’s really a special group. I feel like I’m repeating myself, but it’s so true. I’ve been very fortunate to work with people that I have wanted to work with. I genuinely get along with all of the cast, and these guys, we hang out when we’re in the same city. It’s like a really tight-knit family, and I know it seems so corny to say, but it’s true.
U.G. Digital Mag: When you think back at seeing the script, and not thinking it was for you, what was steering you away? Why did you feel it wasn’t for you?
Mamoudou Athie: I grew up in a very religious background, and I looked at it like it was the anti-christ [laughing]. That was honestly my whole thing. I felt uncomfortable with it. But when I finally met Geremy, and I also had been silently obsessing over it, I said I’d see what it actually what it was. It wasn’t what it appeared to be on the surface. There was way more nuance, and a lot more going on than I anticipated and gave credit for. I pinch myself everyday because I almost passed this amazing opportunity up, and it’s kinda crazy.
U.G. Digital Mag: Knowing your experience, and having completing the film, what are your thoughts now in how you feel it will do?
Mamoudou Athie: Everyone I’ve met who have seen it felt it was good. What else are they going to say, like, we hate you? [laughing]
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny though because when people meet you, they often will say that out of courtesy, but I think with this, it’s truly real and genuine.
Mamoudou Athie: Exactly. I can tell. People are very offusive in their love for it. In this unfortunately bleak time in history, this movie is hopeful in a way that is really welcoming. It’s a welcome change from some of the other stuff going on. It’s a beautiful movie about these flawed and interesting people pursing their dreams. It’s very relatable, and very much for and about the underdog.
U.G. Digital Mag: I agree with that. I love the whole premise of these people pursuing their dreams. It’s amazing again just connecting with you. Here at UGD, we’re all about pushing the ability to live your passion and live your life. It fits our magazine perfectly, and there’s so much for people to gain.
Mamoudou Athie: That would be really special.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think the film puts you in a good place because of roles you’ve done before. You played Grandmaster Flash, and I thought that was amazing. What was your thought in having that opportunity, and then transitioning to this?
Mamoudou Athie: Flash was the first role I played for myself. That one was the stretch. When I auditioned for the part, it only said master DJ. It didn’t have a name attached to the character. I went in and did my thing, and then I eventually got it, and when to meet Baz. When I walked in, everyone was talking about Flash. People were asking if I studied Flash because I had his mannerisms down. I still didn’t know who they were talking about until they said Grandmaster Flash. I immediately lost my mind, and there was an immediate sense of intense fear and dread.
U.G. Digital Mag: But it’s cool. Your portrayal showed that the culture is within you, and it’s authentic.
Mamoudou Athie: Here’s what I really loved. A lot of times, you see hip-hop themed stories and movies, and all this gangster stuff, but hip-hop started in a really positive place. Kurtis Blow came on set and was teaching people how to rap, and Flash came on and taught me how to spin. They told these stories about how these block parties went and they sound amazing. The thing that numbs me out is a lot of these stories don’t show that. Hip-hop is being commercialized right now. A lot of people are taking it back like Chance, Kendrick, and Jay-Z. A lot of people are doing a different kind fo things these days.
U.G. Digital Mag: I get what you’re saying. Life imitates art, so I love to see things like The Get Down, and Patti Cake$. We can see where it began. The more we have films like these, the better things get and the more change we’ll see. I see change already.
Mamoudou Athie: Exactly. He’s doing some really great stuff, supporting the community. That’s what it’s about, and it’s real exciting.
U.G. Digital Mag: Exactly. It’s all really amazing. What are some other things we can look out for from you? I know there’s a handful of projects you’ve been working on.
Mamoudou Athie: The one I’m most excited about coming out after this is is “Unicorn Store”. It’s very similar in which I love the people I worked with. I learned so much between the director and the lead. Pretty much everything I had was with her. I was able to learn how she does it. There’s one moment in the movie that I can’t necessarily say much about, but I needed to be very confused. The way she set up the shots, I had no idea what she was talking about. She’s really a beast, and I loved making that movie.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m also looking forward to Underwater.
Mamoudou Athie: Right. I got to work with another one of my heroes, Vincent Cassel. He was one of the funniest people to be on set with. Unbelievably hilarious. I’ve never laughed so much before take.
U.G. Digital Mag: In all realness, you have to be living the life, doing what you love, laughing, and having a good time. You can’t ask for anything better.
Mamoudou Athie: Thank you, and that’s the big thing. He was saying that he’s been doing this too long not to have a good time, so he’s going to have fun. I love that mindset. I learned a lot.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s all amazing. There’s so many people who learn from you as well, and I appreciate you for this opportunity. For those who like to keep up with you, how can they stay connected?
Mamoudou Athie: Oh wow, I don’t really keep up with social media, but I’m around in New York.
U.G. Digital Mag: I promise man, we’re watching these movies, and I enjoyed being able to screen Patti Cake$. I’m looking forward to your upcoming movies as well, especially Underwater and Watch Room.
Mamoudou Athie: Oh wow.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think you’re an amazing actor. There’s so many people out there doing this, and sometimes it’s hard to see who’s really in this for the love, and how genuine someone really is. We can see that in you, and it’s appreciate.
Mamoudou Athie: That means so much. Thank you so much.
We recently had the pleasure of featuring cast members from Tyler Perry’s The Haves and The Have Nots here at U.G. Digital. The current season is heating up, and in support of the show, we’ve taken some time to catch up with some of the cast to look at their roles in the show, in addition to some of the other things they have going on.
This week, we feature Presilah Nunez, who plays the role of Erica on OWN’s most popular scripted series to date. For the past few seasons, Erica was thought to be besties with Candace, played by Tika Sumpter, but in recent episodes, it was ultimately revealed that she’s not only against Candace, but a part of the big plot with recently-turned nemesis; Warwick, to take her for everything she has. The storyline has indeed gotten much-heated, and Erica sits down to chat with us about the show.
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you ever so much for the opportunity to speak today. It’s one thing to interview a megastar like yourself, but it’s a completely different thing to connect with someone you admire, and watch every week on a television show. You’re amazing at what you do, and you play your roles so wonderfully. Thank you for not only entertaining us, but inspiring us. UGD is all about entertainment of course, but my side-mission in this is showing our youth, and even adults, that you can do what you love, and have a blast, all while making a decent living.
Presilah Nunez: Thank you so much…that means a lot!
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s been your experience doing this show?
Presilah Nunez: Straight off the bat, my experience was one of those Tyler Perry stories in the sense that the character was supposed to be that one interaction with Benny where she sold him the car…
U.G. Digital Mag: Wow, that was my next question…
Presilah Nunez: Yep. That was all they had written. Contractually, it was supposed to be three episodes, but two out of those three were phone conversations. For die-hard Haves fans, they’ll remember that Erica called Benny twice, and on one instance, Mitch is in the episode, and Benny is like “yo, this is that girl that sold me the car for $500”, so that was one episode, and you see Erica do the whole interaction. So it was supposed to be three episodes, and we’re doing our thing. Tyler Lepley and I are doing our thing, and we really hit it off. Tyler Perry came up to me and asked how long I had been acting, and I don’t know … he’s just a visionary. He just saw something, and from there he pulled me aside and said “I’ll see you soon”. I’m like Ok, I didn’t really know what that meant. You know, you’re in L.A., and a lot of people say stuff like that. They’re like I have a part for you, or whatever, and you never hear anything. That’s not to say I didn’t believe him; it’s just one of those things you chalk up as a grain of salt. Nine months later, I’m sitting in an acting class and I get a text message from this Atlanta number. I had also missed a couple calls. It was Mr. Perry, calling to say he was bringing me back, and how he had all these ideas for Erica. So we spoke, and I was freaking out [laughing]. You have to understand, I grew up watching Tyler Perry. My mom had The Diary of a Mad Black Woman on DVD, and she had two copies. She would keep one, and lend the other out to her girlfriends. I was like 15 at the time, and now I’m talking to Tyler Perry on my cellphone and it’s like an out of body experience. He just kinda went through the character. He’s always evolving characters and has ideas. He wanted her to go a certain way and said we would see what happens. He said my agent would have it on their desk the next day, and that’s how Erica came to be.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s so amazing, and you speak of it being an out of body experience. Do you ever get to that point where it kinda becomes a regular thing and the excitement of getting the new part fades? Like, I’ve been in Journalism for 15 years, but anytime I connect with someone, I’m super excited about it. Are you just as excited with each new thing?
Presilah Nunez: I feel like I’m always just as excited. I feel like if you’re not that way about what you’re doing, why are you doing it, especially in this profession. What people don’t see is there is a lot more rejection. There’s a lot more no’s than there are yes. I have a lot of younger cousins who didn’t see me grow up because I’ve been acting since I was nine years old. All of my family that’s older knows I’ve been doing this since I was a little kid, but I have a lot of younger cousins who see me on TV and I have to remind them, you don’t remember coming to my shows? I have to break it down to them. I keep a spreadsheet of all the auditions I go out on and the opportunities I get. One side is the yes column, and the others is the no column. It allows you to never be complacent in this industry because you’re always fighting. Even the people who are on the covers of magazines right now, they’re fighting to maintain it. It allows you to remain humble.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love the fact that you do a spreadsheet because it lets you see not only who said yes and no, but you see your success and all you can do and accomplish. Look at what people said yes to. I love what you’re doing, and especially what Tyler is doing, because it creates so many more opportunities for minorities. I absolutely love it, and we haven’t seen it before with a show like this to do the numbers it does. People are clamoring for what is to come. How do you deal with the crazy success of the show, and the way people have really taken to you even more as an actress because of your involvement?
Presilah Nunez: What’s great is the show was already the number one show on OWN and cable on Tuesday nights. It’s easy to come onto a show when it’s already successful, but what’s been great is to be a part of it as it maintains that success. I think that the audience is able to see that Tyler added a few more cues to it when he added Erica and Officer Justin. It was great because we came onto this show and met everyone. I always tell this story because Tika Sumpter and I had never met. So we met and it was my first day on set, and we had to shoot this scene where I’m up in her room, and we’re talking about the whole house thing, the money she owes and the mortgage. I’m freaking out because I said War is really dangerous and he killed my sister, and all that stuff. I remember going onto set and we shake hands. Tika’s like “nice to meet you, I guess we’re playing best friends now”. I’m like yea, apparently we’re girls, and that was it. That was our first scene. What’s funny is the tweeting that came about when that scene first aired, and everyone was saying that we were definitely girls and you could see the chemistry. If only they had known we had just met. I say all that to say Tyler has an eye for talent and personalities. It’s almost like he does background checks because we mesh so well off camera. It really helped translate on camera, and it’s a big part of the success of the show. There’s a lot of chemistry so it’s been great. Renee, who plays Katherine, she is amazing, and hysterical. In the make up room, she’s always singing. There’s all these people my character never gets to interact with; Crystal Fox, who plays Hannah, she was hosting Barbecues every weekend. A couple of months ago, when we shot in Atlanta, we would hang out at her house. That’s what has allowed the success to permeate.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m glad you mentioned Crystal Fox because we ran a feature with her last week. I absolutely love the show and we’re working to feature everyone. Angela has done the cover for us, and we’ve also featured Ro Brooks. I think it’s great what everyone has been able to do. I also believe Tyler is a visionary. I’ve been in management before, and even in that, you have to be able to find people who not only can do that job, but people who also can work well with the people you already have. No one would have ever said that you and Tika had just met. It’s a testament to your talent and also hers. It’s huge and speaks to the credibility of you as an actress.
Presilah Nunez: Thank you so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now getting right to the meat and potatoes, Erica is my type of character. She can turn the drama on and off at the snap of a finger. She can be a mess all the way, and then be an angel the next minute. Nothing would have ever said to me that she would turn against Candace and work with War. Where did that come into the role at?
Presilah Nunez: Look, you and me both. I had no idea. When you’re in TV, it’s different. I grew up in theater. Even my first couple years as a professional actress, it was all theater. What’s different about that is you get a script, and you know the beginning, middle, and end. Your job as an actor is to find the moments of excitement. Now that you know the whole story you have to make sure you don’t play the end too soon. If you know you’re going to die in the end, you have to make sure the audience doesn’t know that because you want that element of surprise. When you work in TV, the writers kinda help you in a sense because you never know what they’re going to write for the next episode. All you can play is what is in front of you. I remember getting that script for the episode, at the end of last season where Erica and David are in bed and War walks in, and I screamed, like me, myself, Presilah, reading it by myself in my hotel room. I’m like what!!, I remember saying to Tyler “you’re kidding me, like, me and War”? He was like, “it’ll be fun”. I thought it was interesting. Now, I have to play that in my mind. It’s like, you get added a few more colors. Now I have to play with this. I love reading the tweets because some of you are very insightful. You guys can see things and I never notice it. Some can see that Erica is a little shady.
U.G. Digital Mag: That was my thing…
Presilah Nunez: Yea, then you’re one of those people who are really smart. I didn’t even know what was happening with War. That wasn’t until the next year that we filmed that. As an actor, there was no way I could play that at the moment because I had no idea where it was going. I just thought Erica was helping Candace get money. As far as her turning against Candace, I start to realize it and analyze it all as it is given to me. That’s when I start to piece it all together and realize that oh, she’s a lot more conniving than I thought. It’s a lot more fun to play. Angela and I have so much fun. Angela is a sweetheart.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s so weird that her character is so out there. When she visited the girl in the hospital and was slapping her around, I was floored. It’s crazy how she can play that so good, and meeting her in person, she’s the total opposite. Nothing like the character.
Presilah Nunez: Right. Nothing like it. So Erica came in a little slow, and what’s airing right now is when I began to realize there’s a lot more to it. Even as her relationship develops with David, there’s still a lot about her that Tyler hasn’t told anyone about. It’s like, where does she really come from, and what is her story. Why is she like this. These are all things that sometimes, you get told in the back story. When you don’t, it’s kinda freeing because you can make it up. It’s like you meeting Angela. Every time I shoot, I feel like I’m meeting Erica and learning more. I’m doing what’s written, but it’s so out of this world.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s strange because when you look at the past episodes, I’ll catch things, like when Erica and Candace were together and Erica spoke about what happened to her sister with War. Then to see them together, I was like, how could they be working together? It’s crazy to see it unfold. How is it for you, considering you shot all this a year ago. How difficult is it to sit on it without telling anything?
Presilah Nunez: It’s hard because you’re excited. People ask and you’re like, if only you knew what was going to happen. It’s exciting to know, but I don’t get to see a lot of what is shot because I’m not in every scene. A majority of time, I with Peter Parros. I started working with Angela, Tika, Jon, and that’s it. I never see Benny anymore. All these other stories are unfolding that I don’t know much about. It’s fun to watch because I get to see what other people are doing when they’re at work. I know what I’m doing, but now I see everyone else. Like the other night, Christian, who plays Landon, had this whole elevator scene after my elevator scene, and I’m like excuse me, I wonder where he learned that from? He was laughing because we never see them. It’s exciting to watch with the audience because I’m seeing things I had never scene yet. Even this past week with my scene in the elevator…
U.G. Digital Mag: Oh my God. I love both of your characters, so I was back and forth like get her Erica, and no, slap her Veronica. I loved it, and you two did an amazing job.
Presilah Nunez: Thank you. In that scene, we had a really good time shooting. Funny thing is all the shit talking was really us, but when hair was being grabbed, those were body doubles. So at that moment, Tyler had us step out and brought in the stunt doubles. They started actually fighting. They had this whole choreographed fight, because everything is choreographed to be safe, and he throws Peter Parros in the middle. He tells the doubles to just go at it, and Peter is supposed to keep them from touching each other. At “Action”, they starting going …and going … and going, and by the time they stopped, his tie is over his head, and Tyler is cracking up because Peter is breaking a sweat. These stunt doubles are jacked. Peter is trying his hardest to keep them apart, and looking at Tyler like, ‘Can you yell cut?”. Finally Tyler yells cut and is like, “Peter, you look a mess”. It came out so good.
U.G. Digital Mag: How into social media, are you? I ask because when you look at Facebook, there are a number of groups created for the show where everyone talks so much about the characters and what they think will happen next. Do you ever join in on comments at all?
Presilah Nunez: I do, but moreso on Twitter. I definitely do, though. I’m not as active as others, mostly because I don’t feel like my life is that interesting [laughing]. I go to auditions, I go to Trader Joes, I walk my dog, like it really isn’t that interesting. But on Tuesday nights, I will tweet. I do it usually on east coast time. For them, it’s just premiering. I respond and it’s a lot of fun. Overall, this show has forced me to be a little more active. Otherwise, my Instagram, in my opinion, is a little boring. I think other people’s lives are interesting. Another bazaar thing about me, I watch family blogs on YouTube. There’s a family I watch from Wyoming, and I think it’s so fascinating to see the things they do. My boyfriend thinks it’s ridiculous but I like it.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it speaks to how down to earth you are and how much you relate to the average person.
Presilah Nunez: I guess that’s a good way to look at it [laughing]. Have you seen them?
U.G. Digital Mag: I do watch a lot of YouTube. I haven’t want her them, but I know exactly what you’re talking about. Now you were recently in “Dear White People”. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Presilah Nunez: So “Dear White People”, my role is Kerry Washington. It’s a parody. When I first moved to Los Angeles, Scandal was still really big and everybody would be like you’re like Kerry Washington. I don’t think I look like her, even though she’s beautiful. I think they meant more like her essence. Erica is a lot more flirty, but my natural essence is a lot more grounded. So when I got this role, I loved Kerry Washington and now I had to make fun of her. The writing is so funny and it was a blast to be a part of. Dear White People as a whole is so monumental. The timing on it is really perfect. It’s great to be a part of it in a sense that speaks to the culture, gathering around to watch, and it was a fun little Diddy I did.
U.G. Digital Mag: Also, what was your experience being a part of Rosewood?
Presilah Nunez: Rosewood is interesting because my ethnicity is Dominican. I’m Latin. It’s funny that people from the east coast will pick up on it, because there’s a lot of Dominicans on the east coast, especially in New York and Florida, but other people, like here in Los Angeles, have no idea. Most think I’m mixed in terms of White and African American, which in a sense, I am. The Dominican Republic is basically a country made up of mixed people, half African and half European. I’ve never played a Latin role until Rosewood. America thinks Latin and they think Sophia Vergara, or Jennifer Lopez. They’re eyes haven’t been opened yet. It’s happening, like there’s a lot more roles for women of color now, and people of color in general, so they’re eyes are being opened. So people are realizing we are African, but we come from a country that speaks Spanish. With Rosewood, it was a cute role. I was like, I’ll go in , audition, a lot of girls will look like Sophia Vergara, and whatever. But it was different. I went in with my name plaque on, which is a very Latin thing. It’s like a gold necklace with your name on it. I wore that necklace, and did an accent. Naturally I don’t have an accent, but I have a lot of aunts who do. I spoke it from the time I walked in until I walked out. I got the role, and then went for the table read after I had been hired. I walked in and the producers are looking at me funny. Finally they go around the table, and then they take a break. They finally said they had no idea who I was. They were shocked that I could just do an accent. It was great and I felt honored to play a Latina because I never had. It was so much fun; the mannerisms, accent, and flavor I grew up with but never had been able to put into a character.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s really cool. Do you see yourself playing more roles that speak more to your ethnicity?
Presilah Nunez: I think if the role is appropriate and if that’s what the role and character is about, then sure. It’s always important to be in touch with your ethnicity, background, your people and culture, but to be honest with you, it’s never something that I felt like I needed to force down people’s throats. I think when the time comes and when the character is there, then it’s great. I’ve just love to tell stories, which was why I wanted to be an actor. I love the details about storytelling. If the character necessitates that element in terms of her being Latin, I would love to play it, but if not, it isn’t necessary. With time, I know that because of the way shows are going and being diverse and showing what America is, and people being more accepting, it will happen. I have a lot of family who will be able to understand what I’m saying [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: What else can we look out for from you? You’ve been put on a larger platform and people recognize you now…
Presilah Nunez: “Dear White People” will be back for a second season.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s amazing.
Presilah Nunez: Absolutely. It was a little bit of an experiment. That was another character that was booked initially for one episode, and it was expanded. That will be fun. We just filmed another season of The Haves and The Have Nots that will air next year.
U.G. Digital Mag: I like that you mention filming more of The Haves and the Have Nots. A lot of fans, including myself, often look at various sites about the show, and I had seen something that kinda timelined you on the show as ending in 2017.
Presilah Nunez: Oh no, there’s more. There is definitely more of her, and it’s a lot of fun. That will air, and you know, we’ll see what else is to come. I just got a puppy. I didn’t realize it’s like having a child. No one told me. OK, correction. My boyfriend did tell me this, I just didn’t listen. But, I’m doing that. I’m on the show, and I’m grateful. People don’t realize that in our off-season, we still hustle. I still audition for things. I try to get the next job and gig. It helps that with all of these things, you ride the steam. You have to go with momentum and put yourself out there. I’m still hustling. That’s my job. The cake and batter is the audition. Getting the job is easy. The meat and potatoes is pounding the pavement.
U.G. Digital Mag: Where can people keep up with you in terms of social media, and online in general?
Presilah Nunez: All my social media is public and it’s all my first name, @presilah. My mom and dad were dating; she was like 15 and he was 19, but anyway, my dad wanted to name me Presilah. My mom said absolutely not. They argue, break up, get back together, have a daughter, and name me Presilah. My mom is like, you win, but I’m changing the spelling. She starts deciding, and comes up with my spelling. Phonetically, it’s actually how you say it in Spanish. All of that is to say that it’s all my first name because no one else spells it that way.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think that’s great. You’re showing so many people that dreams really do you come true. I love it and thank you for that.
Presilah Nunez: Thank you. That means a lot.
For those of you who’ve followed us through the years, you know that I’ve developed a strong liking for great stage plays. I’ll easily travel round the world, which I sort of did, earlier this year. I’m almost ready to take another drive for this amazing story in Tempest, written & directed by budding playwright Kerry Ann Frazier. Let’s be clear that I say budding simply because she’s a new face to many. Her storylines, her professionalism, and the spirit she delivers speaks that of a true and ultimate master. She definitely falls right in line with the best in the world of playwrights, and the story of Tempest will undoubtedly show you that.
We had the amazing opportunity to talk with Kerry Ann about the play, and the August 19 showing in Killeen, TX! Check out the exclusive below!
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you so, so much for the opportunity. I could easily be considered a stage play buff. I absolutely love a good stage play. I was excited to connect with you. Starting off, talk about how you entered into the arena of stage?
Kerry Ann Frazier: I have been on the stage since I was 5 years old. I was a hyper kid, and my parents didn’t know what to do with me [laughing]. They put me in a church play and I got the bug at 5 years old. I’ve been in theater; church, school and community, since I was that age, and I’ve been a director for a little over 20 years now. I didn’t study theater at USC; I graduated with a degree in Social Work. I was around a lot of theater buffs while I was there, so much that I call it an unofficial major. That’s really how I was introduced to acting. I enjoy the classics, so I studied the greats, and tried to go to as many plays as possible. I really studied the craft of stage acting. It’s been a hobby and now has developed into a business, that being Frazier Drama Company, which is owned by Daryl Frazier.
U.G. Digital Mag: Talk to me about Tempest.
Kerry Ann Frazier: With the story of Tempest, I have to go back to our last production, which was “Losing Mama”. This is a prequel to Losing Mama. “Tempest” is one of the younger grandchildren of the Dupont family. She is a corporate attorney, and is one who has had everything in life come to her except relationships with the opposite sex. It’s a comedy where we explore where things meet with reality, and how we set plans for ourselves. It’s a gospel stage play that shows how sometimes, when God intervenes, it’s just so much better than what we could have imagined. That’s what “Tempest” is. Many characters are from “Losing Mama”, and it introduces our next production.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing. Are there side stories and additional storylines that this play will show?
Kerry Ann Frazier: Definitely. Through my past plays, one of the things I’ve heard a lot from my viewers is they want something from a singles perspective. This play covered so many different things; being single, and then also being married. Sometimes, those who are married look at their friends who are single and have that nostalgic feeling. It’s like one side wants what the other side wants. It’s about relationships from your own perspective. The next play is “Sunday Dinner”, and “Mama’s Family”.
U.G. Digital Mag: Like I said, I love a good play, so I’m sitting trying to figure out how I’m getting to Killeen, Texas (laughing). I have no problem traveling for a good story.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Well come on out. We’ll make sure you’re taken care of.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny because at the top of the year, I covered a play and drove from Cleveland to Houston to see it. I would do it in a heartbeat.
Kerry Ann Frazier: What I can say is with Losing Mama, we’ll definitely be selling the DVDs for those who can’t make it. It sold out in different cities. Some of the characters, like Uncle Riley and Aunt Pearlie, they’re also in Tempest, so you get to see a little about their family.
U.G. Digital Mag: Amazing! I love how you have it set up with different families, and storylines. It puts me in mind of the other playwrights who do a lot of the same. What have you learned looking at the power figures, like your Tyler Perrys, and Shelley Garretts?
Kerry Ann Frazier: One thing I get from Tyler Perry, and David E Talbert, is to go out and do it. I am a social worker by profession, and I’ve been a social worker for years, and have always had apprehension of starting my drama company. One of the things I heard from Tyler Perry and Denzel Washington in one of his actor’s workshops is to take the leap. There will never be a right time. If you have a good brand, and story, and operate in the spirit of excellence, it will work out. The success will come.
U.G. Digital Mag: I also heard that same thing from Shelley Garrett, who was responsible for Beauty Shop, and many others. I can relate as well because I had the same apprehension in launching this magazine a few years ago. I have been in healthcare for 16 years, but you have to believe in yourself and take the chance.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Right. I attend one of the largest churches here in Killeen. I remember doing a play called Behind Closed Doors, and it touched on domestic violence. I remember dozens of people coming up to me afterwards looking for help and someone to talk to. It was such a huge impact. People might read a book, or listen to a seminar, or hear a sermon. To have a play dealing with these issues, and people have the visual aspect, it resonates differently. That’s one of the things I learned, and I try hard to be responsible to spread positive messages. Even in negative situations, people can walk away wanting to make a difference.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love your enthusiasm and spirit. I can tell it is so well thought out. I must get there to see it (laughing). How far is Killeen from Dallas?
Kerry Ann Frazier: It’s about two hours, and about 40 minutes from Austin.
U.G. Digital Mag: Hey, it’d be a nice vacation. I have family in Dallas.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Oh, OK. Well please let me know. It would be a honor.
U.G. Digital Mag: I will surely be at the next one.
Kerry Ann Frazier: That wlll be in Waco, Killeen, and Austin.
U.G. Digital Mag: Oh wow, pretty awesome. In terms of this play, will there be a possibility of touring to other places?
Kerry Ann Frazier: We would love to. Many of our actors are active or retired military. The option is open.
U.G. Digital Mag: For people looking to keep up with you and your production company, where can they go?
Kerry Ann Frazier: Direct them to kerryannfrazier.com. We are on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook as well.
U.G. Digital Mag: Thank you again, so much. This was so awesome, and what you have is amazing. I’m a big fan of the arts, and an even bigger fan of the stage.
Kerry Ann Frazier: Thank you so much.
Toronto, ON. 01 August 2017 – TDOT FEST, Canada’s largest free all ages outdoor Urban Music showcase is ready to #pack the square. Sunday, SEPTEMBER 3, 2017 from 12 PM - 10 PM, TDOT FEST will once again bring together Canadian Urban Music artists to perform at the iconic Yonge-Dundas Square. Headlining this year's show is award winning recording artist Peter Jackson referred to as the "hardest working rapper in Canada” and Hip Hop pioneer, Choclair. Also hitting the stage are veteran recording artists, Rochester and Blacka Da Don with special surprise guests. The festival brings together Canada's hottest rising artists, Alex Price, Leo Vance, John Mega, Mic Miles, EMG, Jay Evans, Southeast Cartel, YOANA, and twenty-one others to heat up the stage.
TDOT FEST also brings popular Toronto's DJ'S to keep the music spinning throughout the square. DJ Andre 905, the official DJ for the Raptors 905, DJ Keys, the official DJ for the Wolfgang Umbrella Collective, DJ Tycofrom 90 nickel and DJ C-Sharp will take to the TDOT FEST MADAM BLING PERFORMANCE stage. TDOT FEST has become the perfect cap to the summer for urban music fans, bringing together Toronto's past, present & future in one iconic location. Come join us. Enjoy the full music lineup, dance crews, beer garden, food trucks, local vendor marketplace and more. Let's #pack the square.
TDOT FEST would like to thank its 2017 partners for their support: Madam Bling, Socan, Ontario Media Development Corporation, ACTRA, FACTOR, Zongbyte, Three 60 Legal, Sasha Stoltz Publicity, The 6 Lifestyle, Benjamin Verde, and Musicvue. The Sound Lab, Vitamin Water and Urban Grandstand Magazine.
Full Artist lineup can be found on TDOT FEST website http://www.tdotfest.com
There’s nothing like connecting with someone you’ve admired and been inspired by for so long. I’ve had the pleasure of watching Crystal Fox in many of her roles for a great part of my life, and like many actors and actresses, she’s one of the reasons I do what I do in my career. She’s shown me and so many others through her success that it’s possible to do what you love and be happy. She’s taught us what it is to work hard and build a strong legacy by the work you do in the world, not only with her acting, but the work she does for her community. Today, we were blessed beyond measure to talk to Ms. Fox about her magnificent career, her longevity, and the amazing work she has been doing with her new community-driven upstart. Of course, she talks to us as well about The Haves and the Have Nots. Everyone knows she’s been stealing the show with her outstanding portrayal of Hanna Young on the hugely popular series created by Mr. Tyler Perry. Because of her amazing work, the show has gone not to be come OWN’s most popular scripted series to date. We’re happy to present to you; Ms. Crystal Fox: A Shining Star!
U.G. Digital Mag: First and foremost, I am immensely grateful to you for so much. First, this opportunity is so amazing for me. I’ve watched this show from episode one, and wouldn’t dare ever miss one episode. Then, there’s the bonus that I’ve followed you since ‘In the Heat of the Night’. As young as I was, that was something I watched with my grandmother, and I feel like you brought us together in that moment. I remember you in Driving Miss Daisy. Today, The Haves and the Have Nots is another connection between my mother and I. We watch this show together weekly, or we’re calling each other at 8:59 to say the show is coming on. Thank you for that.
Crystal Fox: It is my absolute pleasure. You have touched my heart with my whole soul, from the start of my desire to act until now. It is all I ever wanted to do is tell the truth, and tell one that people could feel. You go into the theater and disappear, and go into another world. I did it because I didn’t feel like I had a voice. When I did it, I wanted to be the voice for the voiceless, as you hear people say. I wanted people to be moved by something. You have blessed my whole soul with that. Thank you so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re welcome. I’m so glad to know that. With your character, Hanna, there are so many people who relate to her. They spend their lives trying to live by the teachings of God, and nevertheless, they experience scenarios that are hard to deal with. They feel the world is against them, although they do the right thing. How difficult was it, or is it, to play a character this deep?
Crystal Fox: First of all, two things happened for me. When I read the breakdown, it hit my gut, almost like you described. I know that life. I know our struggles, my own personal struggles, the ones I’ve witnessed people have, and those our people have. I’ve seen a woman like Hanna, either who has been a part of my life as blood family, or someone who took on the responsibility of helping raise me, and people who raise the community, and I have never seen people work as hard, and struggle as hard against adversity, and raise solid people, as we call it a blue collar worker, and I’ve never seen them in a lead role like that. The responsibility of it, and the joy I got from it, it has been a blessing, and it blesses me everyday. I love this character because I know who she is. The joy I got in getting the job was met with the same feeling of “Lord God, please help me deliver what I know can happen with this character”. The responsibility I feel to the people she represents was so great. I said I will trust you with this as I do with the rest of my life, because you know the intention of my heart and soul. For me, getting it, and realizing I had to do it, were the hardest moments of my life. Then, living in her is easier because I know who she is, if that makes any sense at all.
U.G. Digital Mag: It makes perfect sense. You have to excuse my language, but you do a damned good job with this character in The Haves and The Have Nots. When I tell you I was crying with you at the start of this season when you were in the hospital after Q was killed. I would imagine that it would be difficult to dig so deep for that type of raw emotion in scenes like that. How do you bring yourself to that place?
Crystal Fox: I do not mean this in any arrogant way, and you’ll understand why later. It’s not difficult because I have witnessed my own sense of hardship, but I know other people who have witnessed such hardship. In this particular season, we shot what you saw last year, and what you see now is a culmination of the same season; they just break it up and show it in two seasons. This storyline is one of the most important that I have been able to share. There are certain aspects of Savannah that they shoot the exteriors of. I went last year to meet the people that live on the street where they shot. Those people are an extension of our show. They are like cast members you never get to meet. They were so happy to see me. I met a woman who was the epitome of Hanna. She was on her porch, across from where Hanna’s house was. The girl who took me to her was elated, but when she got to the house, she kinda bowed her head. I asked, “how are you”, and she said “we’re making it”. The young lady said they had experienced some hardships. Come to find out, her daughter was supposed to graduate that year. She had a picture of her in her graduation cap and gown. I asked what happened, and it turns out the young lady went to a party with a friend, and they witnessed a drive-by. The shooters came back and killed her and her friend because they witnessed it. When I left, I went back home, and went to work, and those were the scenes I was shooting about Q’s death. For me, it was the most truth I wanted to tell. I had never seen a child killed on television, and I knew it would be jarring to the audience. I thought, it’s happening in the news but we don’t see it. It takes the sting off when we tell the truth about it. I wanted to honor the pain these families feel over the senseless violence more than I’ve honored any truth in my life. For me, this whole season is dedicated to that family. That scene for me; I could not let go of the girl. She feels like another cast member, and I could not let go of any kid taken like that, or any senseless loss. We have to stop killing each other. I did it for those moms and dads, and everyone else. The response; I tear up. People keep inundating me with responses from that moment. It means so much because it was for them and the families.
U.G. Digital Mag: I appreciate you telling that story because it shows your heart. It’s amazing you could relate your work to real life, and what someone else is going through.
Crystal Fox: Yes. That’s what I try to do. I feel like I can’t afford to miss someone if what I deliver is going to be healing, helpful, or do something for someone else’s life. I commit to telling the truth.
U.G. Digital Mag: Clearly there’s nothing you can give away about the storyline to come because Tyler wouldn’t have that [laughing], but what are some things you would love to see with the storyline?
Crystal Fox: I can give you a sneak because this season is so heavy. Candace still doesn’t know about the baby being killed. We have to have service or something for the baby. That’s inevitable so I can say that. Because it is so heavy, I know everybody is asking is she ever going to stop crying [laughing]. Does God ever bring her joy? So far, we haven’t had the luxury to show that. But we just shot about 4 seasons of material, and you will see Hanna laugh, smile, have a little joy, and date somebody. I can’t wait for you guys to see that. It’s like, finally!
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing, and I love how there’s so many different characters that surface. Your love interest, Ro Brooks, has done the cover of our magazine, and so has Angela Robinson. It’s amazing to see so many different people, and so many black people. I love the way we are growing and doing so many things. Tyler has done an amazing job with this show.
Crystal Fox: The funny thing is Viola [Davis] is a friend, and I’m paraphrasing her speech, but the bottom line is the difference in black and white people getting scenes is opportunity. We were always working; we just had fewer opportunities. I’m grateful for Oprah, and Tyler, because they have a platform that can provide that for us, and others who are providing opportunities for us. Once they see us, the doors open a little more.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I love how supportive the entire cast is of each other. Everyone certainly has many other things going on, but it appears that everyone is shouting for each other in every capacity which is amazing. I know Jon Chaffin has done amazing things outside of HAHN, and so has Danielle Deadwyler. It suggests real family which is hard to find on such large casts.
Crystal Fox: First of all, I got chills because when I started, I felt like the baby of the cast, and now I’m like the veteran. I worked with both of them, and consider them my babies. Jon understudied me in ‘God of Carnage’ with Jasmine Guy here in Atlanta at The Alliance. Danielle is my baby for real. I love her. Not only is she a fabulous actor, but she is a producer, a writer, and people have no idea. She can do anything. She’s a mommy, which cracks me up because she’s so fun. Angela and I knew each other before this. We did ‘Voice of Syracuse’ at The Alliance. We’ve done musicals together, and she was my friend for a while. I didn’t know she would be on the show until right before we filmed. I love every minute we film with each other. A lot of them, including Renee who plays Mrs Cryer, are theater-based people. It’s collaborative, and normally that happens. You almost become an immediate family. We bring that to the table, and I’m glad we don’t forfeit it either. Heck, yes! …and Tika? She is Candace, but she is my baby. I can not scream high enough for anything good that happens for her. When anything happens for anybody, we are the loudest cheerleaders in the world for each other because we took this journey together. It was a risk. Tyler said it was a risk for him.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing. I’m glad you mentioned Danielle also, because you both were in Ir/Reconcilable and she was one of the producers. Of course it also featured Jasmine Guy, Brandon Dirden, Dick Gregory, and Enoch King, among others. The storyline hits directly with so many in regard to shame, forgiveness, redemption, and courage. I said you were just as fiery in that and you are in HAHN.
Crystal Fox: [laughing], Yes, it was funny. I had a cuter, sexier dress on though. You know her sister Gabrielle wrote it. Such an amazing family.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s beautiful, and It’s opening so many more doors for African Americans. It’s beyond amazing. I love seeing it. Thank you so much for all you give.
Crystal Fox: You’re so welcome. I also want to shout out Brandon Dirden from Ir/Reconcilable. He and Jason Dirden. These brothers are not only wonderful people, but wonderful artists as well. I’m excited that the circle of people I’ve found myself fortunate enough to surround myself with are fabulous artists in their own right. I feel blessed that this has been my life. I’ve been surrounded by this type of talent all around me, from the beginning my career until now.
U.G. Digital Mag: What’s next for Crystal? What do you see in the horizon? What do you aspire for?
Crystal Fox: Well, I do want to do more film and television, although I always want to do theater. Theater is my first love, and always will be. I love it, and it connects me with the audience. You get an understanding, one way or the other, whether they like it or not, immediately. I say it’s the last place we agree to disagree, or agree together. I did a film independently, and I think it’ll be a feature film. It’s called ‘Burdens’. Ironically, there’s also a documentary with the same name. This is based on something different. It’s by Andrew Heckler. I was able to play Forest Whitaker’s wife in this film. It’s based on a true story about the KKK opening a museum with their paraphernalia, and the gentlemen ended up selling it to an African American preacher. The circumstances involved, that’s what the movie is about. It’s based on a true story about Laurens, South Carolina. Usher was in it as well, along with Tom Wilkinson. It’s supposed to come out this year. The thing is, I think it’s still kinda Hanna-esque because its a woman of strong will and faith, so I don’t know if it’s so different for me, but I am with different artists.
U.G. Digital Mag: It sounds like a powerful storyline.
Crystal Fox: Exactly. I like doing things with a strong message. The irony is the ending is wonderful and won a victory. This court case went on about whether or not the black actor owns the museum or not. The case was settled in 2012 and he is the owner. It is no longer a KKK museum. The irony of this black, civil rights activist and pastor owning a KKK museum is crazy. It also shows the power of forgiveness. Aside from that, I have a dream project that I figure if I keep mentioning, you all will hold me accountable to do it. I want to create a play to honor and tribute my aunt, who was Nina Simone. People are doing it left and right, and I’m glad they’re talking about her. I don’t want to tell her story, although everyone thinks I do. It’s artist to artist. We had a bond when I was little, and I didn’t understand what it was about. As I grew into an adult, I realized it was the artist in us, and I learned that. I believe she agreed with me on that. So, as an artist I would like to honor her with something that is art-worthy.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love it. The more we speak about the things we desire and dream of, the more they become reality.
Crystal Fox: I believe that. I really do. I have the resources to make happen, so now it’s just on me.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s amazing. Now, you have an amazing talent with singing. This will tell you how much I really watch the show and pay attention [laughing]. There was a scene where you were telling Benny that one day, he’s going to learn to listen to his mother. Then you started singing and it was like wow, she’s out of this world. Surely, those who knew you from ‘In the Heat of the Night’ knew this already, but it’s new to those of this generation. Will we hear more of your vocals in any capacity?
Crystal Fox: I think so. I’m sure Tyler will fit them in somewhere. What’s funny is I feel like it’s another hidden thing people will be surprised to learn about. I sing a certain way on The Haves and the Have Nots because it’s fitting to Hanna, but they’ll be surprised to know I sing R&B. I don’t consider myself a Jazz artist, but my friends beg to differ. They say that I am a singer, but I think I sing just enough to get through a good club act, but I don’t have the discipline to do it the way they do it. I love it when I do though. I hope to do more. I’ve been asked if I will sing more. With ‘In the Heat of the Night’, we did a Christmas album, but it was to raise funds for a certain organization. They did a Blue Grass album, but mine was a Jazz piece. I did ‘Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire’. It keeps coming up, and I’m sure somebody will utilize it. I believe it will be Tyler.
U.G. Digital Mag: Right. He’s gotta just put you in these movies in a lounge like Chandra Currelley [laughing].
Crystal Fox: Exactly [laughing]. That’s what I want to do. Like a period piece, and I can be a club owner [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: You do so much outside of acting and entertainment. Can you talk a little about Act to Impact Global?
Crystal Fox: Yes, that’s new for me. I have always wanted to give back to the community, and try to find different ways. Most times, I volunteer with Hosea Feed the Hungry and Homeless. Elisabeth and Afemo Onilami are friends, and I knew them before Mr. Hosea Williams passed away. I try to do as much as I can. After this election, like many others, I could not move for two days. I didn’t want to complain anymore without action. I tried to get a ThinkTank together to see who else felt the same. Act to Impact Global was born out of that. Friends got together, and people I didn’t know, and we talked about what meant something to us. People say you have to break it down and do one thing, but why can’t we work on each thing? Michael Moore said if we form small groups and attack different things, we’ll be powerful when we come together as a large group. I took that to heart. That’s what I’m doing now. I had my first event to introduce the group to the community, and show that we would be about taking care of our social ills, until we can come together to take care of something on a global scale and politically. It’s very new, and I have no idea what I’m doing. People say it starts with you, so I’m trying to go back and participate with other groups who need support, a voice, or my faith to get them noticed. It’s at the beginning stages, but I hope it does more for our community and our world.
U.G. Digital Mag: Nothing about what you’re doing here says you don’t know what you’re doing. You’re reaching masses. Will the doors open for people outside of your immediate community?
Crystal Fox: Absolutely. That’s what I would prefer. I want it to be as many people that want to do something. We are on Twitter and Facebook, and I take suggestions on how to grow and build. What’s interesting is I did an event called ‘Dance for Diversity’, and we had different types of dancers come out and demonstrate dance and movement. Then we danced with them. It was received so well with the community that they want it to be an annual event. I’m thinking about it, and it was wonderful. The advocacy issues were around voter education, and literacy. It was originally going to be on child literacy, but adult literacy is very poor in Georgia. It went hand in hand, because if we can’t read we can’t vote. Finding out that info and sharing it with the community shed light on something they didn’t know about, and everyone was excited about doing more. I would absolutely like that to be shared globally.
U.G. Digital Mag: We will surely post it on our end, and share it through our social media. We can link through our site as well.
Crystal Fox: Fantastic. Thank you so much.
U.G. Digital Mag: I covered this year’s Essence Fest, and I literally scoured the arena looking for you [laughing]. Were you there with the rest of the cast at all that weekend?
Crystal Fox: No I did not, and it’s killing me because ever since Tyler Lepley has been going, he has said it was fabulous. Each time, I haven’t been able to go. With this year’s festival, I was close to going, and then I got an invitation from Mr. P. I can’t turn down no invitation from Mr. P to do nothing [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: It was amazing. I met Angela, and it was amazing because she covered our first issue. It was amazing meeting her, and the fact she remembered was even better.
Crystal Fox: Wow. I love her so much. Can you see that she is so not Veronica?
U.G. Digital Mag: I can but I can’t figure out how she digs so deep to play the role.
Crystal Fox: She’s nothing like her, except for one way: she’s a classy dresser. She’s beautiful and classy. Nothing like Veronica in the heart though.
U.G. Digital Mag: Yea, I thought Katherine had her for a minute when the season started, but when she flipped it around, I was done [laughing].
Crystal Fox: That’s my baby. I said I was going to have to stand in front of her to make sure nobody harms her [laughing].
U.G. Digital Mag: What are the best ways for people to keep up with you online?
Crystal Fox: I feel like a dinosaur when it comes to social media, but my young folks are trying to help me [laughing]. I’m on Instagram at @only1crystalfox. My Twitter is the same thing. On facebook, my fans always find my personal page, but it’s so full that I can’t really add anyone else. I do have a fan page, which is @crystalfoxfans. I’m working on a website eventually. I guess I need one [laughing], but I don’t know.
U.G. Digital Mag: Again, I have to mention how grateful I am to you. Any final comments at all?
Crystal Fox: Listen, I can’t wait to meet you. I am going try to get to Essence Fest also. Do you love it?
U.G. Digital Mag: I absolutely loved every minute of it. I decided so last minute. I’m based in Cleveland, Ohio. I literally flew out at 6am that Friday morning, landed, and headed to the events. It was absolutely the best time of my life. I’ve already booked a hotel for next year.
Crystal Fox: See! OK, I will definitely try my best to be there next year. I thought it would be too hectic, but I’ve heard it’s electrifying.
U.G. Digital Mag: It was amazing. It wasn’t an atmosphere where people didn’t want to be bothered. Everyone was mingling, meeting, greeting, and having a blast. The entire set-up was really awesome. My cup of tea was meeting the cast of HAHN. It was amazing to meet Angela, Tyler, and Gavin.
Crystal Fox: Now why do you like the show so much?
For starters, I love drama. The characters are amazing. Even the bad characters are really good. I feel like Tyler really does his homework, and picks the right people. I’ve always said he was brilliant with casting. John Schneider has been around for years, and this has become an avenue to showcase his brilliance. You’ve been here for some time, and now people are really getting to know you. Same for Angela. But many didn’t realize you were in Driving Miss Daisy. You’ve worked hard to get here. I love the direction and the writing, and it keeps you entertained. I keep my iPad at work with me to watch the midnight and 3am run of the show, even though I’ve already watched it at 9pm. I love it.
Crystal Fox: I thank you so much and that’s why I asked. They didn’t know who they were gearing it for. They started with 25 - 60 year old women because they just didn’t know. What I love is that even in the beginning, we got compliments from women, and now we have everyone. We have every age, color, sex, and I love it. It’s like a show that no one knew what it would do. We don’t do a lot of talk shows, and we’re kept hidden. Tyler said he was keeping us hidden for a reason, but our fanbase is swelling.
U.G. Digital Mag: You definitely have everyone. I’m 40, my cousin is in her 20s and she’s watching, my son loves it and he’s 10. He comes in ready to watch every Tuesday. During the school year, he makes sure we DVR so he can watch later. I work with someone who’s about 75 years old and we talk about the show. And my mother and I watch together a lot. Regardless of the storyline, it’s believable, and that is what makes it so appealing.
Crystal Fox: Thank you so much from the depth of my heart.
U.G. Digital Mag: I follow you on social media, so we will certainly be posting about it. I’m in heaven for sure by talking to you. I’m forever grateful to you. Thank you for your time because I know you’re busy.
Crystal Fox: That’s alright. I’m never too busy for the love. I appreciate it from the depth of my heart, and can not wait to meet you so I can hug your face real hard [laughing].
U.G. Digital: I love it, thank you.
Crystal Fox: You as well. I wish you all the best, and look forward to seeing you at Essence Fest next year.
Most definitely. My wife is ready. We booked the hotel, and if I could get the airfare today, I would [laughing]. But thank you so so much.
Crystal Fox: You’re so welcome.
Savvy Girl Money was something that came along suddenly, but we knew instantly that it would prove to be an amazing addition to U.G. Digital. In our communities, there's no question that we're missing many of the fundamentals of personal finance, planning for our futures, and securing the futures of our children. This is were Mrs. Ashira Nelson steps in. This Cleveland native has taken on the task of educating those within the community in any way she can on ways that they, too, can save money and plan appropriately for the futures of their families. Through Savvy Girl Money, she offers an amazing service, and we're ahppy to share that service here in U.G. Digital. Currently, we're planning to offer more from Ashira in the form of a regular column. Until now, check out the interview we were able to complete with this financial guru!
U.G. Digital Mag: We’re so grateful for this opportunity. I was checking some things out and realized what you were working on. I know last time we spoke you were making jewelry. Imagine my surprise when I saw you were now doing things to help the community within the financial world. What really took you into that area? I preface that with the fact that you have been a CPA for some time.
Ashira Nelson: Right. I’m a CPA, and I’ve been in the field for six years now. I’ve worked with so many different types of clients, primarily wealthy clients. I started out with PNC Bank; then I went to an investment firm; and now I’m at a CPA firm. I always see a common denominator among the clients, regardless of where I am. I was constantly working with money, budgets, and how they financially plan their lives. I said it had to be something to take away and help my community. Growing up, I had never heard of some of these things related to tax planning and financial planning. There’s people I know who don’t have access to this information. That’s kind of how I got here. Personal finance has always been my passion. Jewelry, I started because I always saw myself as a business woman. My dad always franchised restaurants. As a young girl, I always saw myself in the light of being a business owner. There wasn’t any passion behind it though. I came into Savvy Girl Money because it represents everything about me and what I do everyday. It’s a way for me to educate and help my community.
U.G. Digital Mag: This is one of the biggest things our community struggles with. It’s difficult for a lot of people because often, they don’t make a lot of money. I saw through your site that you make things very simple in that respect. It’s the smallest things that will help you save money. You talked about going to an event for your dad, and opting to pull something from your closet as opposed to shopping for something. That saved you $40. What gave you the thought and sense that this would help people everywhere?
Ashira Nelson: I have so many friends and co-workers who feel the need to get a new outfit for events. This video showed that you can mix and match different things and still make it look great without spending extra cash. I felt like I had to buy something new. Ultimately, I said I don’t need this new outfit. I have so many clothes in my closet. Sometimes, I think we find ways to spend cash when we don’t need the things we spend it on. It’s just for the moment.
U.G. Digital Mag: Personally, I’ve been in that same head space where I’ve bought something just for the sake of buying it. I’ve pulled things out of the closet that I’ve never worn.
Ashira Nelson: Right. I wear something, and think that wow, I forgot I had it. I never needed it.
U.G. Digital Mag: The other thing I saw was you featured your daughter. It’s great to start this at a younger age. How much do you feel she understands though, considering her age?
Ashira Nelson: My goal wasn’t for her to get like this in-depth personal finance lesson. My goal was to start the foundation. I want to take the same approach as people do with their ABC’s. When you first teach your child their alphabet, you make a song, and keep repeating it. I want her to slowly collect on different topics. I don’t want it to be her first time when she steps out into the world. I want to teach her the foundation and upper level things before she goes to college. Why not start now?
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it makes perfect sense. At her age, she’s in the sculpting years, and it’ll stick with her.
Ashira Nelson: Exactly. I’m trying to mold her.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s great. When I was in high school, I hate to say that I never learned a lot of that stuff. It’s bad because then when you go to college, it’s much easier to get caught in the circle of credit cards and whatnot. It definitely makes a big difference. Where do you envision Savvy Girl Money going as a brand?
Ashira Nelson: My vision is to start doing speaking engagements; talking to millennials, talking to families about different financial topics, removing the stigma of talking about finances at home, and make finance topics the norm. Growing up, my parents never discussed money with us. I didn’t even know how much they made. It was never in any conversation. There was no talking about bank accounts, or balancing a check book. I want to remove the taboo and change the perspective so our kids are not so far behind.
U.G. Digital Mag: A lot of parents don’t realize that they hinder their children by not talking about it.
Ashira Nelson: Right. I sympathize though because I am a parent. I don’t blame my parents for not educating me because I felt like they weren’t educated. I want to break the generational curse, and give a script on how to introduce these topics. A lot of parents don’t know because they didn’t get it either.
U.G. Digital Mag: You also have to understand that our parents were also trying to keep us from growing up too fast. That’s what a lot of it was. I just did get an allowance, and I knew the value of a dollar, and that I had to work to make money. But the real particulars came later in life. It’s great though what you’re doing with your daughter.
Ashira Nelson: Thank you. Just introduce it a little early so they get the basics now, and build on it when they get to high school. You don’t want to wait that late and you’re just getting a bank account. Start a little early, and get your child a little bank card. Simple things like that will help.
U.G. Digital Mag: Where can everyone find you online?
Ashira Nelson: We’re on Facebook, and also have a YouTube channel. I’m on Instagram as well. I try to give consistent information on each platform. YouTube and Facebook is where you find the most engagement.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now you’re also mentoring. Talk about that?
Ashira Nelson: Yes. I have a new video coming out speaking to incoming freshmen. It’s titled being savvy on the yard. I’m giving tips on them entering their first year of college. I talk about picking meal plans, going out on the weekend, and how to navigate.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s awesome. Congratulations and kudos for that. It takes a lot of time and effort. I wish I had that when I first went to college. It’s amazing that you’re taking the time.
Ashira Nelson: Thank you. I’m trying to be the woman I needed when I was little. I’m trying to be that woman.
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it’s great. Thank you so much and we will be following you religiously.
Ashira Nelson: Thank you so much for watching and extending the offer.
It’s always an amazing honor to talk to one of the heroes of hip-hop, as I often call our legends. Without a doubt, MC Eiht falls within that category. For any of your who were around in the nineties, you know exactly what I meant. Eiht entertained the masses with his tales of struggle, triumph, and glory in Compton. His presence and his magic had so much significance for me, and I’m sure it’s the same for many others. Many people, whether in his own surroundings, or around the world, were inspired in some way or another to pursue music, entertainment, or more.
I can proudly say that I was one of those. Always excited by the industry, It was pretty easy for me to look beyond some of the perceived negative to see that figures like Eiht were absolutely living their dreams through music. I strongly admire the fact that while Eiht has remained mostly low-key through the years, he has managed to maintain his relevance, appearing on various tracks here and there with many of his hip-hop peers. In doing that, he has also maintained his own character, doing what he does best and not variating to match the times so much. He’s always continued to give its the hard-hitting flow that we are accustomed to from him.
That makes his new album all the more better. “Which Way Iz West” has been a long time coming, for anyone who has truly followed Eiht, and more importantly his relation with DJ Premier. The two have worked seamlessly together for such a long time, and it’s always been anticipated that the two would collaborate on a full-length project. That project has finally come to pass with “Which Way Iz West”.
We had an amazing opportunity to connect with the legend himself one day before release to talk about the influence he has had in this industry throughout his career which has span well over two decades. It was amazing to hear his thoughts on the industry, and how he is keeping real hip-hop alive. It was amazing to hear him proudly big up other legends like L.L. Cool J. and Kool Moe Dee! He’s paying homage to the West coast with this album, but more importantly, he’s paying homage to Hip-Hop! Check the exclusive out below!
U.G. Digital Magazine: The album is dropping man, I would love you to talk more and expand upon the process of putting it together.
MC Eiht: Well basically, I’ve just been working the past few years to find the sound I felt was familiar, and paid homage to west coast music. A lot of music today is different to the ear, but we have a lot of core fans who grew up in the nineties and who appreciate it. I just felt with trying to direct this record, I wanted to reach them, or people who appreciated what hip hop stood for at that time. It was my direction to capture that feel good music of yesterday when music had substance to fans and to artists.
U.G. Digital Magazine: You speak a great deal of truth in that perspective. I’m one of those fans. I think back to my high school days, listening to you. You’re relevance is still strong. When you look at your history, it’s well over twenty albums, and we appreciate that. Music has changed drastically in the sense that many artists don’t work the same anymore. No one works as hard to do this anymore or to get noticed.
MC Eiht: I know, because I was reading somewhere, and someone said rap was a young man’s game to where it’s about the money you got, or the broads you’re fuckin’, or being on cocaine and pills. If rap is a young man’s game, it’s just a different lane that we came from. I don’t jump into the game to hate on today’s rap music, or what these cats are doing to entertain. I was just brought up in a time where it meant something to pen a song. It meant something to deliver quality music to your fans. Bullshit didn’t get any kinda play with us back in the day. I know it was payola, but still, my music has substance and it’s more than just braggadocios effect. Not to say people didn’t brag back theneither because I love me some L.L. Cool J, or Kool Moe Dee, you know what I’m saying but..
U.G. Digital Magazine: …but they talked about so much more than that though!
MC Eiht: Exactly. You know, shout out to L.L. Cool J. He had substance: I can’t Live Without My Radio, I’m Bad, 4,3,2,1, we had that. But now, the youth can youtube it, and iTunes it, and whatever, all they want to hear about is the Lamborghini, or the choke chain. But it’s cats from our era who are still around, and they appreciate the substance. I wanted to give back to fans who have been riding with hip-hop from the beginning, and who deserve a decent project.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I appreciate the fact that the people you worked with have been here working just as hard. The Lady of Rage, Xzibit, and more. You’re clearly on your own page, and sticking to your truth. We appreciate that man..
MC Eiht: I can’t get caught up in trying to compete with cats. Been there, done that. My lane is just that. I stay in my lane with my music. I’m not trying to compete because if I’ve been consistent with my clientele all this time, then I’ll remain that way. They don’t expect me to be over 40, talking about how may girls I ran through, or look at my car, rims, and chain. Been there, done that. You have to be grown enough to know what substance is. Reaching out to cats I’ve had respect for, to the point they have been hustling as long as I have, and people forget about when they were on top, and still are, we just wanted to reach out to those we respected.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I feel like this has been written for you and Premier for a long time. What took so long?
MC Eiht: I mean, you know. He’s a busy cat. You can’t force a square peg in a round hole. Timing is everything. I’ve known Premier my whole career. Him doing his thing and touring, me doing mine and touring, him being in New York, and me in Cali, it all was done for a reason and it’s set up to where shit will slide into motion. Our friendship is what brought us to this place, and having respect for what he’s done. We sat down as friends, and he came at me asking what I was doing, and saying music was so messed up. I let him hear what I was working on, and we decided to finally do this project. He felt like I deserved it, and being a pioneer of West coast hip-hop, he felt it was time.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I wholeheartedly agree with that, but also, the reality is you’ve inspired so many people. Looking at the albums, and even more your collaborations, you’ve inspired a lot. Til’ this day, your collaboration on Snoop’s “Blue Carpet Treatment”, “Candy”, is one of the dopest cuts I’ve heard. It’s funny that my son appreciates the whole vibe of that song too, and it shows you’re reaching all groups.
MC Eiht: I mean, that’s what I’ve been able to do, thank God. I’ve been able to get with the times, and you have to be able to adjust as a true artists. That keeps me fresh and able to hang if you wanna say that. I always love competition, so that’s what I look at when someone asks me to get down or be on a song. As an artist, you want to come up with your best work. Whether it’s Snoop with “Candy”, Pete Rock, or “Ma.a.d City” with Kendrick, I try to adapt to what an artist is feeling in me. Obviously, there’s a reason they contacted me. When someone shows me that respect, it’s nothing for me to give my best. That’s out of respect for the artists I work with.
U.G. Digital Magazine: So I did the pre-buy. That gave me a few tracks. It still drops tomorrow, right?
MC Eiht: It officially drops tomorrow. No delays. A lot of people talk about Jay being out tomorrow. Everybody has their own lane.
U.G. Digital Magazine: But speaking to that, dope is dope. It doesn’t matter who you drop with. If people are going to buy, they’re going to buy.
MC Eiht: That’s the way I look at it. We didn’t sleep on anything, and don’t bite out tongue for anybody. We have just as good a product, whether it be Jay-Z, T.I., Snoop, or whoever. Everybody has their own lane, and I advise you to pick and choose. That’s what preference is for. If it’s good and stand up just as strong, then why not…
U.G. Digital Magazine: What else is in the can?
MC Eiht: I’m working on “Which Way iz West II”, I’m back in the studio to work on some Compton’s Most Wanted stuff with Chill, and hopefully from there I’ll get out on tour, meet some of the people like back in the day. I like to get out to the fans, meet and greet, and see the people. Rap is so computerized, but you need to connect with the people. I want to show people my appreciation.
U.G. Digital Magazine: So many appreciate you for that. You have to get out there, communicate, and open up to the buyers. That’s dope.
MC Eiht: Exactly. If you can’t do that, you lose. I thank the people for giving this project a listen.
U.G. Digital Magazine: I’m looking forward man. I love the people you have on here. It’s great to feature you, and look back at your history and influence. I follow music so much, and this is my life, so I appreciate your contributions.
MC Eiht: When you been here as long as I have, you know to stay humble, and stay on the right track with music, and not going out of your lane. I’m just trying to give the people what they want.
U.G. Digital Magazine: Website, social media?
MC Eiht: They can hit me at @eiht0eiht on Instagram and Twitter, and @eihtcompton on Facebook.
Article by: James Johnson
Jay-Z’s latest release, 4:44, has been out just over a week, and already he’s launching a full tour in support of the album. Due to touch ground October 27, the tour will begin in Anaheim, California, and travel all around the U.S. with dates in Colorado, Washington D.C,, New York of course, and even Canada.
4:44 was first announced mid-June, and was quickly released June 30. In just one week, despite millions of illegal downloads, the album sold more than 1 million copies. Jay-Z has received wide-spread praise for the album, as well as a high amount of criticism for various points of the album, including production and lyrical jabs he took at multiple people throughout the album.
Nevertheless, Jay-Z appears unbothered by any of the negative Press, and has continued to promote the effort, which continues to do well with buyers and fans alike.
Tidal members have the luxury of buying tickets beginning today at www.tidal.com, while all others can get their hands on tickets beginning Friday, July 14, 2017 via www.livenation.com
See the current dates below for the 4:44 Tour:
Oct. 27 – Anaheim, Calif. – Honda Center
Oct. 28 – Las Vegas, Nev. – T-Mobile Arena
Nov. 1 – Fresno, Calif. – Save Mart Center at Fresno State
Nov. 3 – Phoenix, Ariz. – Talking Stick Resort Arena
Nov. 5 – Denver, Colo. – Pepsi Center Arena
Nov. 7 – Dallas, Texas – American Airlines Center
Nov. 8 – Houston, Texas – Toyota Center
Nov. 9 – New Orleans, La. – Smoothie King Center
Nov. 11 – Orlando, Fla. – Amway Center
Nov. 12 – Miami, Fla. – American Airlines Arena
Nov. 14 – Atlanta, Ga. – Philips Arena
Nov. 15 – Nashville, Tenn. – Bridgestone Arena
Nov. 16 – Charlotte, N.C. – Spectrum Center
Nov. 18 – Detroit, Mich. – Little Caesars Arena
Nov. 19 – Cleveland, Ohio – Quicken Loans Arena
Nov. 21 – Montreal, Quebec – Bell Centre
Nov. 22 – Toronto, Ontario – Air Canada Centre
Nov. 25 – Boston, Mass. – TD Garden
Nov. 26 – Brooklyn, N.Y. – Barclays Center
Nov. 29 – Washington, D.C. – Verizon Center
Dec. 2 – Uniondale, N.Y. – Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
Dec. 5 – Chicago, Ill. – United Center
Dec. 6 – Lincoln, Nebr. – Pinnacle Bank Arena
Dec. 9 – Edmonton, Alberta – Rogers Place
Dec. 11 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Pepsi Live at Rogers Arena
Dec. 13 – Seattle, Wash. – KeyArena
Dec. 14 – Portland, Ore. – Moda Center
Dec.16 – Oakland, Calif. – Oracle Arena
Dec. 17 – Sacramento, Calif. – Golden 1 Center
Dec. 19 – San Diego, Calif. – Viejas Arena
Dec. 21 – Los Angeles, Calif. – The Forum
So much has changed in hip-hop, but when you look at areas like Philly, the evolution has gotten even bigger. Hip-hop newcomers Blumbros have best onto the scene to wild popularity, and their riding a train that shows no sign of slowing down. While easily compared to groups like Rae Sremmurd, this Philly duo have certainly developed their own style and following. We recently caught up with the fellas to talk about their latest single, Everybody”, and their plans for maneuvering through this industry.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s awesome to connect with you brothers for this feature. First and foremost, we’re grateful to you. I think what you have is awesome for hip-hop. I appreciate what you bring. So much has changed in hip-hop, and no one is having the kind of fun you’re having. You’re bringing that feel back to music. Is that something you’re starting to hear from people?
Blumbros: We’re hearing that a lot. We also get compared a lot to Rae Sremmurd. Other than that, people are amazed at our vibe.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s good and you really have something. You work well together, and that goes a long way when you’re dealing with so many people. Who were your influences, coming from Philly and there being so many people from there in music?
Blumbros: I say Quavo and Kendrick Lamar inspired me to do music.
U.G. Digital Mag: And that’s how. People see that, but they also see you have your own style.
Blumbros: For me, it’s Meek Mill and PNB Rock. I saw them go from nothing.
U.G. Digital Mag: How did you guys really want to be seen as artists coming into this?
Blumbros: We really wanted to let people know how different we were. We wanted them to see we bring a different vibe. We’re more positive than a lot of things you see.
U.G. Digital Mag: So talk more about the overall scene of Philly. Like, I’ve been into hp-hop for years, and when you think of the people who have come out in the last 10-15 years, nobody has come the way you are. Artists have been more like they have to have that “hard” or tough persona to come out and be respected, and they’re not really high spirited and having fun, especially in Philly. Some artists enjoy ti a lot more than they let on, and they feel like they have to cover up that fun side of it to be respected. You guys aren’t afraid to be who you are. With that in mind, do you see the respect from Philly?
Blumbros: They support us. It’s like 50/50.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s good. Any support is good, but no one can dispute how different you guys are from everything else in the city.
Blumbros: People used to that battle rap and all that (laughing).
U.G. Digital Mag: I do think it’s dope. I love what you guys have, and it takes me into the single, Everybody. What separates you guys, because what I got from the song is “this is us and this is what we’re offering, we’re doing this and everybody else is doing that”.
Blumbros: What separates us aside from the music is our shows as well. We do choreographed dance and everything. We want people to look at us positively. We make our shows fun to come to.
U.G. Digital Mag: You’re proving that music can be something really big. You hear a lot of negative, and not just with hip-hop. It’s in all music. I think back to being 17, knowing I wanted to work in this, and the thing my mother always warned about was drugs and how a lot of people get turned around on that sort of thing. It’s not just hip-hop. It’s just a lifestyle that has come with entertainment period. You guys have consciously made an effort to separate from that.
Blumbros: We try to be positive. We come from Blumberg projects. People have a different perspective on us, but we try to prove them otherwise. Just because we from the hood don’t mean we got to be ghetto. It’s still positive people out here.
U.G. Digital Mag: Things are really growing for you guys. You’ve had other songs, and I’m actually hooked on “Wanna Be Grown”. I think it’s really hot. What do you see over the next year with your brand?
Blumbros: I think we’ll be doing more touring for sure. We have a mixtape dropping July 22. We’ll have a release party for it when the time comes.
U.G. Digital Mag: That’s awesome. We’d love to see you guys here. Everyone is into what you’re doing.
Blumbros: We appreciate that.
U.G. Digital Mag: Where should everyone be checking you guys out at?
Blumbros: All of our social media is @blumbros, and we’re also on Soundcloud and Youtube.
U.G. Digital Mag: Any final thoughts at all?
Blumbros: Our mixtape is “Something’s Gotta Give”. We feel like we’re kicking our way into the industry. Being broke, and needing help sometimes, it’s like something’s gotta give.
U.G. Digital Mag: People can relate to it, so it’s cool. Young people especially can relate to that. We’re looking forward to it.
For as much as we felt we already knew about The Notorious B.I.G. and the classic double LP, Life After Death, the process of completing the various features we have has been quite eye opening. It’s been an opportunity to look deeper into the lyrics that he truly lived, and the words that have lived posthumously for 20 years now.
In this particular feature, we connect with Nashiem Myrick, who was an intricate part of Bad Boy’s Hitmen, the in-house production team that ultimately crafted a majority of the songs we all knew an loved, not just from Biggie, but from many other artists on the booming roster. Myrick has been lauded for his work through the year, especially the personal touch he added to Life After Death. Having developed a relationship with B.I.G. that began during the “Ready to Die” days, it wasn’t difficult for him to know exactly what the King wanted. Myrick definitely delivered with four of the album’s most revered tracks: “Somebody’s Gotta Die”, “Niggas Bleed”, “My Downfall”, and “What’s Beef”. We talk to Myrick not only about these powerful tracks, but also the legacy that has lived now for two decades, and continues to grow with each passing day. He also gives us a glimpse into what he has going on right now, and what we can be on the lookout for.
U.G. Digital Mag: I’m immensely grateful to you for your time man. As someone who religiously read album credits, I've wanted to connect with you definitely this entire 20 years. This is really awesome to talk so someone I feel was majorly vital for the overall creativity in this project. Clearly we're honoring the legacy of Biggie in Life After Death, but you're responsible for a bulk of the album in terms of production. What was that like at the time, knowing you would contribute, and then what's it like now, looking at how inspirational it's been to so many people?
Nashiem Myrick: Well, you know, it was the hitmen, and we got a chance to do a bulk of the album. Me and B.I.G. were in tune, and we had a connection when it came to music. He liked the stuff that I liked. With Somebody’s Gotta Die, I got that to him well before the album started. We were still working Ready to Die, and I have him the track. It pretty much started the direction of the new album. Not to say that it was the maiden fact for the album, which it is on the album, it’s the first track, but he got into that new vibe at that time when he started to wrote to that song. If you listen to Life After Death, and then you go back to the first album, you can tell his rhyme style changed a little.
U.G. Digital Magazine: Oh it changed a whole lot.
Nashiem Myrick: Right. It got way more intricate and sophisticated. I got a head start before everyone else. I had an opportunity to do way more tracks for him.
U.G. Digital Mag: I felt like there was something in I’m that, while not trying to be like anyone else or prove anything, it’s like he was saying “look, I can roll with the best of ‘em, no matter who It is”. Coming from Cleveland, People here really looked out for Notorious Thugs featuring Bone Thugs, and he clearly switched his entire flow. He did stuff many were scared to do.
Nashiem Myrick: Right, and it’s like, if you wasn’t from the midwest, you wasn’t doing that Bone Thugs n Harmony record. At that time, he surprised everybody, but we knew he had it in him. Him and Jay were just on another level at that time. I can’t explain it, and no one can, but they was just on another level when it came to the rhymes, it was like out of this world.
U.G. Digital Mag: My own interpretation with Life After Death was that you had the most introspective tracks on the album. Not really any of the uptempos, but the more gritty cuts. Was that a conscious move? How would it be determined what you worked on versus what everyone else in the hitmen worked on?
Nashiem Myrick: We all had different styles, and that was the beauty of it. It was never a case of us having to preplan anything. I had linked up with a guy names Carlos Broady a little before the album started. He and I collaborated on those songs, and we had the same ear, and the same style. When it came to the rest of the hitmen, D-Dot, Stevie, Ron Lawrence, you know, we were just different. Even though Ron Lawrence and D-Dot were a team, basically everybody had their own style. When it came to making the album, B.I.G. and Puff pretty much knew what each element; the elements being Me, Carlos, and Stevie, they knew what each one of us individually would bring. That would make a more broader album as far as music was concerned. You gotta understand; we was new at the time. I had a track record from Who Shot Ya, and a couple other joints floating out there like Queen Bitch.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s crazy because a lot of people really don’t know, and I look at how big some names have gotten in production. There’s so many songs you’ve done out there, from Queen Bitch, and Who Shot Ya, and you’ve worked with Mary, Jay-Z, Scarface, and a lot of people don’t recognize. You brought something to the table with B.I.G. that so many people fell in love with. Even looking at the samples you used, You figure the Isley brothers, Al Green, Richard Evans, The Dramatics, Run DMC, you introduced a lot of people to music before that time. Today, many artists don’t know about the predecessors, let alone even having respect for the predecessors. I talked to DMC last week about “My Downfall”, and we talked about the fact that musicians today don’t know those before them.
Nashiem Myrick: I know, and that behooves me because I grew up on music since I was so little, and I was always interested in the credits, even before I was really making music, I always understood it was a process to make these songs. I was reading the sleeves at such an early age that I knew this guys also played in Funkadelic, and Bootsy Collins, or they derived from James Brown’s era. I always put it all together. My father was a big music fan, and he was also a DJ, and had a record collection that would blow your mind. That’s all I did was gain knowledge, and he was into every type of music. If it had soul, he introduced it to me. I don’t understand these kids. You’re not going to last if you don’t know your past. Period! Everything on earth relied on the elements that came before.
U.G. Digital Mag: I appreciate hearing that from you because I was somebody that read the liner notes to see who was involved, where the sample came from, and everything. You speak of Carlos, and that was my introduction to him; reading the liner notes for the album. I remember listening to “Anotha”, and learning ti came from Barbara Mason. Before reading that, I had no clue. It’s good to hear this from you. Also, the people you sample, my son picks it up, even at 10. He knows “Stay With Me” by El Debarge was sampled for One More Chance; He knows Al Green, and so on.
Nashiem Myrick: I had an advantage that these young kids don’t have today. I was born in 1970, so I was born when hip-hop was created. I lived through it, so I don’t really have to go back in time. I didn’t have to do too much history because it was right there for me, and since we as a culture, our music comes from what we have around us. We’re not band players. We actually developed through technology, so we relied on old records that were already done. You have to know your history. I was a guy who always knew the break beats. I collected break beats. Since I grew up around music, I always knew the samples as people were coming out with them. I always knew it, and if I didn’t, I went back into my record collection, or I would read the notes. I used to know, down to the drum loop, what songs were used. Even if they used a snare and a kick, I could name the snare kick when I was young, and it was crazy. I was a buff, and people would be amazed. That’s one thing Puff loved about me when we met. I met Puff when we was at Howard. He was DJ’ing and hosting parties. When he got his job at Uptown, he would call me over for studio setups. I would sit with him and go through break beats all night.
U.G. Digital Mag: It had to be a good feeling in your heart to be involved from the very beginning of Uptown with him.
Nashiem Myrick: Yea, when he got the job interning, I can remember he was still going to Howard. I knew like, I know this guy so somehow we’ll connect. Plus, I was in the group with one of his friends, one of my beats friends, Harve Pierre, and our friend Davie, we had the connection, and he was trying to get into the music business. We already had the record deal. He was promoting parties, and we was always in cahoots with each other.
U.G. Digital Mag: How did you end up being production them?
Nashiem Myrick: Well, the record deal that me, Harve, and Dave had, Sticks and Stones was the name of our group, they dropped us. We was on Pay Day Records, and was managed by Empire management. That’s Group Home and Gangstarr, they was down with them also. They dropped us on my birthday and I’ll never forget. I got the call on my birthday, so from there, Puff had gotten fired from Uptown, and started shopping Bad Boy. He had already asked me to work for him when he was at Uptown, but it was more clerical stuff. I knew that could open doors for me, but I didn’t know nothing about clerical work. When he got his deal at Bad Boy, Mark Pitts was working for him. He invited Harve up there, and Harve was working for him. He didn’t really have a staff at the time. He had a studio in the crib, and needed an intern. I was interning under Poke of the Trackmasters. They were taking care of the studio and I worked under them, but two weeks later, I guess they had a break-up over something, and Puff wanted me to take a bigger part in this. He wanted me to step up, and I said let’s do it. He already knew I wanted to be a producer, and I knew the street essence of the hip-hop game as far as music was concerned. I was already heavy into the samples, and he already knew that from me being a DJ. Gradually it formed.
U.G. Digital Mag: Of all the songs you worked with, you had “Somebody’s Gotta Die”, “What’s Beef”, “Niggas Bleed”, and “My Downfall”. What did those songs specifically do for the album to lend it the credibility it has maintained for 20 years now?
Nashiem Myrick: I think they were the glue for certain moments in the album. You could tell a couple of them were storytelling joints, which B.I.G. was incredible out.
U.G. Digital Mag: Exactly.
Nashiem Myrick: He had to display that. They were the glue. It’s like, you make a dish and you need something to keep the certain ingredients together. Those tracks gave it that grit. That’s where I came in at. It was to hold the album together. having an album with just video joints, there’s no depth involved. You need something to take with you. You need legs to an album to where it keeps with you for a while. If you have all radio joints, it gets exploited on the radio and in the club, and then you’re through with the album. This is so you can have something to take you into the future. They keep the album together and make it do beautiful.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s funny, though, how you speak of the radio tracks. You have “Hypnotize”, ‘Going Back to Cali”, “Mo Money, Mo Problems”, and by far, they took the album to the next level, but when you look at even “My Downfall” specifically, it has carried the album for this time. You had the more introspective joints where you could listen to what he was saying and relate it to your own life. Theycarried the album.
Nashiem Myrick: Yea, and that’s the basis of a classic album. You gotta have a joint that’s not going to be exploited on the radio. it’s just for the album. You have to buy the album to get certain cuts. A lot of times, it can be worthy of a single, but let’s keep it on the album. That’s a trick I guess they learned long ago.
U.G. Digital Mag: It’s definitely dope though. When you look at hip-hop today, how has this album aided the evolution of hip-hop?
Nashiem Myrick: Wow, first of all the production on that album is fucking ridiculous. People wasn’t taking the time and effort to put into the production what we were doing, you know, we were taking sample based records but making them so orchestra-like, and bigger than they could be. You go back to like Dre would do it. He would get people to come in and play the parts of the sample and take it into a live form. What we were doing was the same, keeping the sample there, and creating on top of that. We added new material, new tracks, and new instrumentation on top of that sample, making it extraordinary. That’s where it took a shift, as far as I’m concerned as a producer. Hip-Hop took a shift, and if they didn’t learn from Dre that you had to do more with the music, and make it more extraordinary, they saw it with the Hitmen and how we did it on that album, and the Mary album prior to that.
U.G. Digital Mag: I agree. I know for a fact that people were sampled who only cleared the samples because of who you were and what they knew your track record to be.
Nashiem Myrick: Right.
U.G. Digital Mag: I look at “Rise” from Herb Alpert, and I know so many artists were trying to clear that, and nobody could, but he immediately cleared it for the Hitmen and for B.I.G., which was amazing.
Nashiem Myrick: We thought we wasn’t gonna clear it too.
U.G. Digital Mag: Angela Winbush, the joint with her was absolutely amazing.
Nashiem Myrick: And we had her come in and sing.
U.G. Digital Mag: I know. That’s just what I mean. It’s a sample, but she sang on top of it, and killed it. Til’ this day, it’s one of the dopest.
Nashiem Myrick: Took her song, and wrote a version just for that sample.
U.G. Digital Mag: You won’t get that with anyone else man.
Nashiem Myrick: No! Especially not anyone with her credibility.
U.G. Digital Mag: So yea, there’s a lot of people who appreciate that. Where does the legacy go in the years to come? People are still buying?
Nashiem Myrick: It’s going to be there forever because of the untimely death of my man. That’s just going to grow the legacy more because it’s the last offering he had. He didn’t even get to hear the album. He didn’t get to hear “Somebody’s Gotta Die” in it’s latest form. 60% of that song was produced after he had passed.
U.G. Digital Mag: Wow.
Nashiem Myrick: It’s a lot of songs on there like that.
U.G. Digital Mag: I would have thought he had finished it all before, seeing as how it released two weeks after he passed. It speaks volumes in terms of the connection everyone had. Now, going back a little, everybody knows you were behind “Who Shot Ya”. The song made people think so much. Was there ever any though just of any drama that could come from what people thought?
Nashiem Myrick: Not at all. We never thought that. I mean, emcees were going at each other unknown, subliminally, but he wasn’t. I was there during the session as it came out. It was never that. it was all fantasy-based. You never thought about drama. His lyrical skills were so amazing that it would make you believe that. But that never entered our minds. We just thought we had a dope record.
U.G. Digital Mag: I really want people to know the many things you’ve done production-wise. Mary J, Scarface, Nas, Lil’ Kim, Jay-Z, Push T, Mariah Carey, and the list goes on.
Nashiem Myrick: I worked with Mobb Deep. It’s a blessing. it was one point where people didn’t know my name. Then one record, and everybody wanted to work with me. That was cool. I wanted to produce for as many of these great artists as I could. I went from being an in-house producer to being one of the hottest producers in the industry.
U.G. Digital Mag: What is there for everyone to see and follow right now?
Nashiem Myrick: I’m trying to put together a Hitmen album. I have a few artists I’m recording now who I will be putting out. it may take a couple years to get it out there, but I’m still working with artists. You just have to look out for it. I will be promoting it. I’ll be out there.