The artist, who’s ready to
drop long-awaited new music, redefined hip-hop vocally and visually—and
lifting up other artists only burnishes her superstar legacy.
This spring, Melissa Arnette Elliott stood before a mass of Berklee College of Music students and faculty in Boston. She requested a moment to gather herself. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, and tears began to fall freely over her smiling face. She opened her eyes. She began to speak to the graduating class, herself among them, just before being awarded an honorary doctorate.
A few days later, I watched Elliott’s speech on YouTube from my living room couch. I scrolled back to when she closed her eyes and counted the seconds until she spoke again. Altogether, there were 20 seconds of what I assumed was silent meditation, perhaps gratitude, in service to a life so successful, it had fashioned itself into this spectacular moment.
Two weeks later, at a recording studio just outside
Atlanta, where she’s working on a long-anticipated seventh album, I ask
Elliott if she remembers standing there for those 20 seconds. She
hadn’t known it had been quite that long. I confirm. I counted to make
sure. Her eyelids, painted green and shimmering under the overhead
lights, flutter a few times while she thinks about it more.
didn’t even realize,” she says. “You know what’s so funny? I wrote a
speech and got up there and choked up, and before I knew it, I was like,
‘Oh my God, where’s the paper?’ And it was just crumbled up on the
podium.” However, she hadn’t closed her eyes to remember her speech or
make a harried backup plan for giving one on the fly. She’s Missy
Elliott. She went somewhere else entirely.
“I went to the side of my grandmother’s house where I used to play church. I used to shout and sing all kinds of gospel songs. Ones I had made up, ones that existed in the church…I was at that place.” Elliott considers herself a very spiritual person. For her, “God is real because I went to that place and felt like he had his hands on me from a child.”
Beyoncé is extremely private, and only lets you know what she wants you to know, when she wants you to know it — typically, in a surprise post be it on her website or Instagram. But throughout the years, she’s slightly cracked open her door to reveal parts of her life and personality — apart from what she gives through strong singing and extraordinary dance moves — to help remind us that though she is epic and flawless, she is still mortal. “HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” which premiered Wednesday on Netflix, captures the human side of the superstar singer with behind-the-scenes, intimate moments of a mother, wife and artist tirelessly working on what’s already become one of most iconic musical performances of all-time: Beyoncé’s headlining show at the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. The performance marked the first time a black woman headlined the famed festival and made Beyoncé just the third woman to score the gig, behind Bjork and Lady Gaga. Beyoncé took on the role seriously — as she does all live performances — giving the audience a rousing, terrific and new show highlighted by a full marching band, majorette dancers, steppers and more that is the norm at historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The film takes it a step further to showcase what was happening to get to the historic moment: you see a mother bouncing back from giving birth to twins via an emergency C-section; an African American woman embracing her family’s history and paying tribute to black college culture and honoring black art; and the world’s No. 1 pop star defying the odds yet again and pushing herself to new heights, creating an even wider space between herself and whoever is No. 2. Simply put, Beyoncé changed Coachella — forever — and performing after her is like trying to out-ace Serena Williams or dunk better than Michael Jordan: You won’t win. Woven into the film are audio soundbites from popular figures to help narrate the story: Nina Simone speaks about blackness, Maya Angelou talks about truth, and Tessa Thompson and Danai Gurira explain the importance of seeing people who look like you on large screens. Beyoncé speaks, too, saying that she dreamed of attending an HBCU, though she explains: “My college was Destiny’s Child.” She also says the importance of her Coachella performance was to bring “our culture to Coachella” and highlight “everyone that had never seen themselves represented.”
So many people were represented during those performances last April — her stage was packed with about 200 performers, from dancers to singers to band and orchestra players. Beyoncé kicked of the performance dressed like an African queen, walking up the stage as the jazzy, soulful big band sound of New Orleans is played. After letting her dancers and backing band shine, she emerges again, this time dressed down — like a studious, eager, hopeful college student. The musical direction and song selection flows effortlessly and was purposely crafted to tell a story: the first song is 2003’s “Crazy In Love,” a massively successful No. 1 hit and her first apart from Destiny’s Child. It also was Beyoncé’s first of many collaborations with Jay-Z. But then comes “Freedom,” representing the Beyoncé of today, unconcerned with having a radio or streaming hit, but more focused on the art, and the message. And her message was loud and clear on “HOMECOMING”: Her performance is a homage to the culturally rich homecoming events held annually at HBCUs, but also showcases Beyoncé’s own homecoming — her return to her roots, and how she’s found a new voice by reinterpreting her music through the lens of black history. Young, gifted and black, indeed.
“HOMECOMING: A film by Beyoncé,” a Netflix release, is rated TV-MA. Running time: 137 minutes. Four stars out of four.
LOS ANGELES —
Thousands of mourners are expected to gather in downtown Los Angeles on
Thursday to honor the life of Nipsey Hussle, the Grammy-nominated rapper
who was fatally shot last month and whose success and commitment to
redeveloping South Los Angeles made him a local hero.
funeral, billed as a “celebration of life,” will be held at the Staples
Center. All tickets for the event, which were free, were claimed online
within minutes of being made available earlier this week. The arena’s
capacity is 21,000.
Tens of thousands
of fans are expected to gather around the venue, where a public
memorial for Michael Jackson was hosted in 2009. The two-hour service
will begin at 10 a.m. local time and will be followed by a procession
from the Staples Center through South Los Angeles.
Hussle, born Ermias Joseph Asghedom, channeled his upbringing and adolescence as a gang member into music that spoke powerfully to many who live in Los Angeles’ most vulnerable neighborhoods. As his star rose in recent years, Hussle brought investments and attention back to the area, earning the adoration of his neighbors and fans.
Though he developed a following far
beyond Southern California, his death last week struck a particularly
painful chord among residents of the Crenshaw District, where he grew
up. His clothing store on Slauson Avenue in South Los Angeles, The
Marathon Clothing, had become a potent symbol of local success
and black entrepreneurship, a theme he addressed regularly in his
music. His fans clung to lyrics that melded familiar rap bombast with
exaltations about self-discipline and long-term financial planning, a
break from a music culture that often emphasizes flashy spending.
The store transformed into a makeshift memorial on March 31 after Hussle was gunned down there over a “personal dispute,” according to the Los Angeles Police Department. The suspect, Eric Holder, was apprehended by authorities two days after the shooting.
For days outside the store, fans prayed,
lit candles and left hand-written letters addressed to Hussle. One of
the mourners was Candace Cosey, 32, who remembers him as Ermias from
their time attending Hamilton High School together in the early 2000s, a
magnet school on the West Side of Los Angeles. She recalled how Hussle
would sell mix CDs to her and others at school, and how he later started
selling music in the neighborhood out of his trunk.
came close to tears as she pulled out a picture of him from the high
school yearbook. “If you grew up here, you either knew him directly or
you knew someone who knew him,” she said.
Even as his career took off, Hussle remained approachable and “big hearted,” she said. As he amassed fame and wealth, he continued living modestly while making investments in businesses in the neighborhood. And he could be very generous. When a colleague passed away several years ago, Ms. Cosey approached Hussle’s team to see if he could help with the funeral expenses. He contributed several thousand dollars, she said.
“He was about
uplifting us. He hired people from the neighborhood who wouldn’t have
had a job otherwise. He took care of so many people, and he invested in
what he believed in, here, because he grew up here,” she said. “We have
to keep that work going. It’s what he was about.”
Hussle’s death has drawn attention far beyond the Crenshaw District. Celebrities and political leaders across the country have offered their condolences to Hussle’s family and friends. In an interview last week, Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles praised Hussle’s contributions to South Los Angeles, a community that he acknowledged has been historically overlooked by the city’s political establishment.
said Hussle embodied the very idea of black entrepreneurship, a critical
component of lifting the community and its residents.
represented redemption and hope. He had come from the world of gangs
and gotten out,” he said. “This is a devastating shock to the stomach.
He was really ambitious — he wanted to get African Americans into tech,
on top of his music game, on top of his businesses.”
“Then to be killed in such a clichéd way, by guns, for a beef in South L.A., it feeds into too many stereotypes,” he said.
Velma Sanders, 60, said she did not listen to Hussle’s music but, as a lifelong resident of South Los Angeles, she felt pride watching his career grow in recent years. His presence, she said, was felt by everyone.
“He would be out
here. He showed you that he didn’t fear where he grew up. He was proud
of it,” she said. “He was building up this community, giving back to
this community. He took that money and instead of buying something
luxurious, a big home or whatever, he put it back in his community so
these would not be vacant buildings. It’s just beautiful.”
Pastor, a professor of American studies and ethnicity at the University
of Southern California who has researched the demographics and culture
of South Los Angeles, said Hussle’s killing “felt like a kick in the
stomach.” He described Hussle as “a hometown guy lifting up his
hometown.” Nothing illustrated this more, he said, than when Hussle and
his girlfriend, the actress Lauren London, posed for a photo shoot in GQ
in February at locations around South Los Angeles — not Hollywood, not
downtown Los Angeles, not New York.
“This really hit hard. This was a hometown guy who stayed home,” said Mr. Pastor.
Pastor said Hussle had left the gang life but never rejected the
culture of the community. Alienation and the search for identity amid
violence and poverty often feed into gang culture, something Hussle
spoke about openly.
“He did what many
people ask of black celebrities, to come back to their community,” said
Najee Ali, an activist in South Los Angeles who knew Hussle. He said
the community is accustomed to feeling left behind when one of its own
makes it big and finds fame.
all leave,” he said. “Hussle was the only one to stay in the community.
He believed in the slogan, ‘Don’t move, improve.’ That’s what made him
Hasani Leffall, 35, who
knew Hussle, once worked for the rapper’s stepfather at a South Los
Angeles restaurant called Bayou Grille. To emphasize the depth of
feeling over Hussle’s murder within the black community of Los Angeles,
he mentioned the murders of Tupac, Biggie Smalls, even Malcolm X and the
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Even with his fame, money and the support of the community, Hussle couldn’t escape the violence of the streets he rapped about.
Mr. Holder, the suspect in the killing, is an aspiring rapper who knew Hussle when he was younger. Mr. Holder, Mr. Leffall said, “represents a dark side about L.A., and a dark side about just men in L.A., in Crip life. There’s always somebody that just doesn’t like you, doesn’t like the fact that people love you.”
As if willed into existence by our collective despair, Solange surprise-released her fourth album, When I Get Home,
last night right at the intersection of Black History Month ending and
Women’s History Month beginning. Her mind! Like her previous,
groundbreaking album A Seat at the Table, Home
is a rich tableau of collaboration, black history, and references to
her Houston upbringing (the homeward destination implied by the
collection’s title), but the album takes even more experimental risks
with her sound. Among the mix of artists involved are Gucci Mane, Dev
Hynes, Earl Sweatshirt, Cassie and … a viral Atlanta public-access
sexpert? Let’s plunge right on in to the world of When I Get Home.
It’s not entirely clear how soon after A Seat at the Table Solange broke ground on When I Get Home — she took some time off in 2017 to treat an unspecifiedautonomic disorder — but exactly one year ago, she revealed in a Billboard cover story
that she’d been working on new music. She mentioned writing in Laurel
Canyon, Topanga Canyon, and Jamaica, and said she was “following” Joni
Mitchell for inspiration, sometimes unknowingly: “It has been really
wild. The house that I was just recording in [in] Jamaica, I stayed
there for four days. And then the last day, the owner was like, ‘You
know that mural that’s downstairs in the spare bedroom that the engineer
booth is in? Joni Mitchell painted that.”
Later in the year, Solange did another interview for the New York Times’ T magazine,
where it was reported that her fourth album would “likely arrive into
the world fully formed at some mysterious and unexpected moment, like a
meteor cratering into the culture” sometime that fall. “But she will not
be rushed,” the piece warned. The album would be “still very much in
progress until the very end,” and it remained untitled at the time of
publication. “I like to be able to tell the story in 13 different ways,
then I like to edit,” she said. Though it was unfinished, Solange knew
how it would sound, noting that jazz would be at its core — though not
exclusively. She said electronic and hip-hop drum and bass elements
would also be present with the intention to make it “bang and make your
Once again citing Joni as an influence (for “lessons in balancing a career as a musician with the demands of visual creation”), she named other muses: director Busby Berkeley, dancer and choreographer Diane Madden, and Vegas theater, for inspiration for her new live shows; Missy Elliott, for visuals; and Aaliyah, Sun Ra, Rotary Connection, and Stevie Wonder’s Journey Through the Secret Life of Plants, for sonic cues. The Times wrote, “The record will be warm, she says, fluid and more sensual than her last one.”
Like A Seat at the Table, Solange gave us little time to prepare for When I Get Home, mostly because sharing her art makes her antsy; drawing out the process would only make it worse. (“I have this fear living in my body about releasing work,” she told the Times. “I don’t know any artist that doesn’t feel that before they hit the send button.”) Instead, Solange reemerged on — of all places — BlackPlanet, bringing back from the presumed dead one of the original social-media platforms (predating even Myspace) that was created specifically by and for black people. She launched her own page with lyric excerpts and a dossier of new images, both still and moving, that appear to be pieces of a larger visual project. They — along with the album’s cover, another striking portrait of Solange — were shot by Max Hirschberger and Alex Marks, creative directed by Cary Fagan, and styled by Kyle Luu and Mecca James-Williams. Images included a pole dancer (Instagram’s @neyon_tree) and scenes from a ranch, with horses and dancers styled in modern cowboy looks. Solange had referenced the latter inspiration in an earlier interview as something she’d recently taken an interest in. “Hundreds and hundreds of people every weekend are getting on horses and trail-riding from Texas to Louisiana,” she told Billboard. “It’s a part of black history you don’t hear about.” She later teased what appears to be a music video on her Instagram, instructing fans to dial the number 281-330-8004 for more clues. It’s the exact same number Mike Jones used in his song “Back Then” (“Mike jones 4 life!” she added in the caption.) She then shared the album’s full 19-song track list, with multiple songs named for geographic locales within Houston. Per her mother, Tina Lawson, it’s a map of Solange’s life: “Binz” (the street where she grew up); “Almeda” (the street where she’d get a shrimp po’boy at There’s No Place Like Nola — or Nolas, for short); “Exit on Scott” (the street where she’d eat fried chicken and beans at Frenchy’s); “Beltway” (take it to get seafood at Pappadeaux); and “S McGregor” (for a “trip down memory lane” on the street where Debbie Allen and Phylicia Rashad’s father lived and “we jogged on the bayou”).
Though Solange undoubtedly sits at the head of her table, there are others who got a chair. When I Get Home
is her most experimental work yet, the result of massive group effort
between more than a dozen artists who’ve been in Solange’s orbit for
some time. The album features guest verses from Gucci Mane (“My Skin My
Logo,” on which Solange also tries her hand at rapping) and Playboi
Carti (“Almeda”); Cassie and Abra are the lone featured women, with
vocals on “Way to the Show” and “Sound of Rain,” respectively. The rest
of the album includes repeat production and vocal contributions from her
circle of close friends: Dev Hynes, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt,
The-Dream, Pharrell, French artist Chassol (with whom she’s toured),
Panda Bear (a.k.a. Animal Collective’s Noah Lennox), Sampha, and Jamire
Atlanta producer Metro Boomin is also brought into the mix, with production on “Stay Flo” and vocals on “Almeda.” Gio Escobar, the de facto leader of the “post-genre” New York group Standing on the Corner and a close collaborator of Earl Sweatshirt, has multiple production and composition credits, lending his group’s freewheeling, sample-heavy sound as the album’s connective tissue. The Internet’s Steve Lacy also contributed production, which Solange hinted at when she previously told the Times that the two had been “jamming” together. “He’s like, ‘OK, I got these chords.’ ‘Hey, papa, let’s go!’” she said.
While A Seat at the Table
was narrated by New Orleans legend Master P and Solange’s personal
legends, her parents, this new album doesn’t have a narrator in that
sense. But it is chopped up by interludes and snippets that involve
Houston’s finest, specifically focusing on Solange’s heroes of the Third
Ward, where she grew up. Most of them are samples, but even rap titan
Scarface makes an original one-line special appearance for the interlude
“S Mcgregor” This first interlude samples a clip from the 1987 TV movie Superstars & Their Moms, where Houston’s own Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen recite a poem called “On Status” written by their mother Vivian Ayers-Allen, accompanied by piano: “And now my heart knows no delight. I boarded a train, kissed all goodbye.” The song’s title is a reference to S MacGregor Way in Houston, where the sisters grew up. READ MORE: https://www.vulture.com/2019/03/solanges-when-i-get-home-explainer.html
Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status. (Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage” shirt, as it was under his jacket.)
Last weekend, fans felt slighted on 21 Savage’s behalf when the Grammys came and went with barely a mention of the double nominee or his detainment by ICE officials over his immigration status.
(Producer Ludwig Göransson was the only person to mention 21 Savage by
name, and you might not have even spotted Post Malone’s “Free 21 Savage”
shirt, as it was under his jacket.) Following his release on bond after
nine days in custody, the British-born, Atlanta-raised musician says he
honestly wasn’t bothered by the fact most of his peers didn’t offer any
verbal support. “Nah, I was stressed about getting out,” he tells the
New York Timesin a new interview. “The Grammys is the Grammys, but when you in jail, the Grammys is nothing.”
don’t care what nobody say — everybody in that building who’s connected
to this culture, I was on their mind in some type of way,” 21 Savage
continues. “That’s all that mattered. They didn’t have to say it ’cause
everybody knew it. It was in the air. All the people that was there,
they said the words in other places and that matter just as much. All
the big artists was vocal about the situation, so I was appreciative.”
Instead, the rapper, who says he became aware he lacked legal status as a teen, “probably like the age when you start to get your driver’s license,” after overstaying his visa, is focused on staying in the country. “My situation is important ’cause I represent poor black Americans and I represent poor immigrant Americans,” he says. “You gotta think about all the millions of people that ain’t 21 Savage that’s in 21 Savage shoes.” He is currently reportedly waiting for an expedited hearing. Oh, and despite how hard you all went, 21 Savage says he even liked your memes about how British he is. Or, at least, he acknowledges them. “Some of them was funny — I ain’t gonna lie,” he jokes. “I was appreciative of that.
Your boss is going to have to be disgruntled about something else this four-day week, because you’re off work Monday for President’s Day and free to blast Cardi B’s extra-filthy “Thotiana Remix” verse as loud as your neighbors can stand it. The Cardi-fied version of the song comes complete with a new video dropped this weekend, which, of course, features rapper Blueface and a car that gained the power of flight once it heard this verse. Wait a minute. If you’re off work, your kids are also probably off school tomorrow. Will the world never allow you to a moment’s peace to enjoy the things you love?!?!
Listen to ‘Please Me,’ Bruno Mars and Cardi B’s New Colla
Cardi B and Bruno Mars are back with another throwback collaboration.
This time, “Please Me” hearkens to the R&B fuck jams of the
mid-90s. Think “Red Light Special” at a more athletic tempo. Cardi
temporarily deleted her Instagram after her Grammy win,
but she’s back to do promo for the new single. “Ok so I’m back from
retirement to announce I have a brand new song coming out Friday at
midnight with @brunomars,” she wrote on Instagram.
The cover art for the new single features Cardi in a purple leather
fringe jacket to make Prince jealous. Bruno Mars is more understated in a
teal button-down. It’s Beyoncé and Ed Sheeran all over again, no?