Category: Reviews

An Interview With the Stars of If Beale Street Could Talk

Stephan James and KiKi Layne play Fonny and Tish, two young lovers torn apart by Fonny’s false arrest, just as Tish finds out she’s pregnant. The film jumps through narratives, and we watch their love bloom at the same time we watch Tish’s family come together to face the terrible odds of getting Fonny free.

Nothing in If Beale Street Could Talk is new. Black love isn’t new. White cops wielding their power against marginalized populations isn’t new. Finding strength in vulnerability isn’t new. The many injustices of our justice system aren’t new. James Baldwin published If Beale Street Could Talk in 1974, and yet the combination of all these experiences—the love and the pain—manages to feel new in the hands of Moonlight director Barry Jenkins.

This isn’t James’s first time in a film that deals with such powerful themes. At 25, he’s already played icons Jesse Owens and John Lewis. But this is Layne’s first feature film, and next year she’ll be starring in another adaptation of a seminal work, Richard Wright’s Native Son. The two spoke about the beauty and urgency of Baldwin’s work, how Jenkins translated that to film, and how unfortunately timely and rare the film’s message is.

GQ: Before this, what was your relationship to James Baldwin’s work?

Stephan James: I had read The Fire Next Time a long time ago. I think I was more familiar with James as an activist, as a poet, but not necessarily his writing work. After I read the Beale Street screenplay for the first time, I went back and read the novel.

KiKi Layne: I hadn’t read any of his novels prior to this. I had just been familiar with all the different interviews and speeches he’d given. Beale Street was the first novel that I actually read, and I read it in preparation for my chemistry read. Since then I’ve read so much more. I mean, he’s definitely one of those authors you read one thing, and then you read everything.

What drew you to this movie? Was it just Baldwin’s story?

Layne: I just love that [Tish is] so vulnerable, and just all this love that’s around her. I thought that was so beautiful, how much Tish and Fonny love each other. I just felt like I hadn’t seen love like that for black people, where like you see these two young black people who are soul mates. That really drew me in, but then at the same time, because it’s James Baldwin, the way that he writes and speaks about all of these different injustices, and how beautifully all of that is interwoven with this really lovely love story… It’s amazing to me, the ability to speak about these really painful things but then still be so uplifted and invested in their love. I don’t know, I just think it’s so powerful how Baldwin and Barry, bringing it to film, were able to communicate these two stories in a way.

James: It was, for me, the prospect of working with James Baldwin and with Barry Jenkins, you know, that marriage. The both of them remind me of each other in a way, where they have this beautiful way of describing love and having an abundance of love amidst tragedy, and do it in such a poetic way. So the prospect of working with them, of working with Regina [King, who plays Tish’s mother], it was on, and it was something that was so important, something that I felt was so timely. I looked at Fonny and the ordeal he was going through, and right before finding out about this script I had learned about the Kalief Browder story. For me it was this full-circle moment where I thought to myself, “Wow, James Baldwin had written these words in 1974, but they mean so much now. They probably mean even more now.” I took it on almost like a responsibility to be the vessel to tell this type of story.

The story is unfortunately resonant almost 50 years after it was written. Why do you think now was the right time to tell it again?

James: James Baldwin has a way of describing our struggle and what we have always resorted to [in order] to get through those moments. Love is the biggest thing, right? Love and hope is how we’ve made it through the most tumultuous times, specifically for the African-American experience. You look at a system that has been made to protect you but has failed us time and time again. You have young men who are really having their innocence taken away from them before they get to realize who they even are as people. To me, just that timeliness and timelessness of the story struck me as important.

Layne: I think with social media, people are more aware of these injustices and have more stories and personal experiences and images that are related to a lot of the issues that we’re dealing with in the film. I think that helps to make it more powerful in this time, where you’re watching Fonny and you’re not just thinking about Fonny. You have all of these other images and men and stories that you could think about that are similar to what he is experiencing in the film. I think that’s what makes it really powerful this time, because I think it can be a lot more personal for many more audience members.

Why Won’t Donald Trump Speak for America?i

The president lays himself at Vladimir Putin’s feet.

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The last time President Trump claimed that “both sides” were responsible for bad behavior, it didn’t go well. That was nearly a year ago, after a march of neo-Nazis descended into violence and a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of peaceful protesters, killing a woman.

On Monday, Mr. Trump again engaged in immoral equivalence, this time during a gobsmacking news conference after his meeting in Helsinki, Finland, with the Russian president, Vladimir Putin. A reporter referred to last week’s indictments of 12 Russian military officials for a coordinated cyberattack on the 2016 election and asked Mr. Trump if he held Russia responsible. “I hold both countries responsible,” Mr. Trump said. Even in a presidency replete with self-defeating moments for the United States, Mr. Trump’s comments on Monday, which were broadcast live around the world, stand out.

The spectacle was hard to fathom: Mr. Trump, standing just inches from an autocratic thug who steals territory and has his adversaries murdered, undermined the unanimous conclusion of his own intelligence and law enforcement agencies that the Russian government interfered with the 2016 election with the goal of helping Mr. Trump win.

“My people came to me, Dan Coats came to me, and some others, they said they think it’s Russia,” Mr. Trump said at one point, speaking of his director of national intelligence. “I have President Putin; he just said it’s not Russia. I will say this: I don’t see any reason why it would be.” (In a statement on Monday afternoon, Mr. Coats reiterated that, in fact, it was.)

Mr. Trump called the special counsel’s Russia investigation “a disaster for our country” and then performed a selection of his greatest solo hits: “Zero Collusion,” “Where Is the D.N.C.’s Server?” and finally the old chestnut, “I Won the Electoral College by a Lot.”

Even top Republicans felt moved to speak up.

“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally,” Paul Ryan, the House speaker, said. “There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals.”

READ MORE:https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/16/opinion/donald-trump-putin-russia.html?action=click&pgtype=Homepage&clickSource=story-heading&module=opinion-c-col-left-region&region=opinion-c-col-left-region&WT.nav=opinion-c-col-left-region

The New Business of Hip-Hop Beats: How One Company Gets Musicians Paid For Creating Samples

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On June 10, manager Mike “Heron” Herard got a mysterious phone call from the Grammy-winning production duo Cool & Dre. Two artists Heron manages, multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels and composer Beat Butcha, had landed placements on a top-secret project that the producers described only as “life-changing.”

They just needed stems of the recordings that Heron had sent them months before, including a four-bar instrumental loop Michels had created in his spare time, and a few tweaks: a new bassline and strings on top.

Days later, Heron got another call: The project was JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s surprise LP as The Carters, Everything Is Love, and the album’s opening track, “Summer,” would feature Michels’ loop. (A bonus track, “Salud!,” featured Butcha’s work.) It was the first time Michels’ music had been sampled since he began working with Heron’s musician management company, BeatHustle, in 2017. Within its first week, “Summer” totaled 9.1 million on-demand streams and 3,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Music, debuting at No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.

“It’s Beyoncé and JAY-Z — that’s the top of the mountain,” Michels tells Billboard about the placement, jokingly adding, “It’s all downhill from here, basically.”

The success of Heron’s new music outfit is a window into how the ­business’ top stars are ­churning out music faster than ever, increasingly soliciting pieces of ideas from a wide range of creators in order to make as many beats as they can in real time. With that kind of ­pressure, the old model of producer as crate digger, crafting melodies out of old soul records or on synths or keyboards, is history. The increase in volume has made it more ­difficult for sampled musicians to claim credit — and payment — for their work, ­creating an opportunity for ­businesses like BeatHustle.

“We’re in a climate where people are just trying to get records out really quickly,” says Heron. “I’ve been with guys where they dedicate tons of hours to records just to walk away, and no one credits them. Often there’s nothing malicious in it — it’s just guys trying to hustle.”

In the late 1990s, Heron was part of a community of record-collecting fanatics who would spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars digging through record stores for obscure samples, re-recording them onto LPs and selling the breakbeats to producers like No I.D. and Dr. Dre. Diddy, says Heron, would give one of Heron’s record-collecting friends $10,000 to $15,000 just to go shop for records, many of which wound up on Bad Boy albums like The LOX’s Money, Power, Respect.

“I would go get everything, ­digging hard, and put all the choice cuts on one album and sell them,” says Heron. “I was making a living doing that — must have been 20 volumes, which was 100 percent illegal.” He laughs. “[BeatHustle] is sort of like what I was doing before, but just, like, 100 percent legal.”

Heron began working with Shady Records in 2013, where he remains vp A&R. But he also started managing ­musicians on the side, beginning with Robert “G Koop” Mandell and AntMan Wonder three years ago, helping them place original music with hip-hop producers. It was then that he realized there was a problem in the production line.

“In 2018, there’s not a whole bunch of young guys that can ­actually play instruments,” says Heron. “So I found that those that could were sort of getting taken advantage of. And guys were ­reaching out to me, like, ‘Hey, man, I got a placement with this guy, I didn’t get paid, I didn’t get any ­publishing, I wasn’t credited.’ ”

An overlooked credit can equate to millions in lost revenue for a musician. G Koop, for example, provided the melodic backbone to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which Metro Boomin flipped into a No. 1 single that has racked up 1.1 billion on-demand streams and 1 million downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music. Heron says that in the past, G Koop might have gotten a few hundred dollars for his ­contributions, and no publishing credit. But with BeatHustle, working with people like Metro and his manager Rico Brooks — the two of whom he ­considers to have “led the charge on fair ­treatment of these musicians” — G Koop is credited as a co-producer. Heron declines to comment on ­specific songs but says he’s often able to secure 50-50 splits with producers.

Heron now manages a stable of six composers who, collectively, have contributed to records by Rick Ross, Future, DJ Khaled, Rihanna and others. He has his musicians create original beat packs, which he sends to a tight-knit group of producers he knows and trusts; Cool & Dre, Metro and Murda Beatz, the lattermost producing Drake’s recent No. 1 single, “Nice for What,” are among them. For someone like Michels, who has led several funk bands over the years and worked on records by such artists as Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, the process can be much simpler and more collaborative than just getting sampled.

“I’m not making bridges and choruses and verses, it’s usually just a groove,” he says, noting he’s made around 100 tracks that BeatHustle has sent out. “I’ll do them in a night, just get some weed. They’re not that involved.”

But for producers and artists, particularly in a fast-paced world and in the shadow of high-profile copyright lawsuits like that of Marvin Gaye‘s family against Pharrell and Robin Thicke, the value that BeatHustle provides can make a huge difference.

“The musicians and producers, they’re like a community,” says Heron. “That’s what I like to think of BeatHustle as: just music guys.” This article originally appeared in the June 30 issue of Billboard.

READ MORE: https://www.billboard.com/articles/business/8463320/business-beats-beathustle-help-musicians-paid-hip-hop-sample

jacquemus launched his menswear line with a love letter to the boys of marseille

Who?
“I don’t just do clothes, I write a story and then come the clothes,” Simon Porte Jacquemus explained to i-D back in 2014. It’s a design process that has propelled this self-taught Provençal-born talent from staging guerrilla presentations to winning the Special Jury LVMH Prize and becoming one of Paris’s hottest (and most successful) talents, with 230 stockists worldwide and over 40 employees. While each seasonal chapter focusses on different characters, the story can always be read as a love letter to France. Now that he has launched Jacquemus menswear for spring/summer 19, the offshoot will have its own narrative but will always be France, je t’aime. “They aren’t together, the man and woman,” Jacquemus explained as the sun set on his debut show. “He is much younger and more naive but in a good way; it’s about colorful, simple, and easy clothes.”

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Why?
After a throwaway Instagram “I will do men’s” declaration and tongue-in-cheek #newjob teasing caused a social stir, he confirmed that he would be launching menswear when he took his bow at the end of his Le Souk fall/winter 18 women’s show wearing a sweatshirt that read “L’Homme Jacquemus.” “I fell in love and it pushed me to speak about men and realize my first menswear collection — it was very spontaneous,” Jacquemus explained. He wanted his debut menswear collection to celebrate Marseille. “I grew up here, where you don’t call them guy or boy but gadjo,” read the designer-penned show notes. “I grew up here, barefoot, bare chest, strong perfume. I grew up here, in the Mediterranean. My Mediterranean.”

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Where?
As the collection was inspired by the sun, sea, and sexiness of his hometown, Jacquemus immersed us in the sun, sea, and sexiness of his hometown. Instead of joining the Paris men’s show schedule, he chose Calanque de Sormiou to debut his menswear. While the show was watched by family, friends, and locals alike, for many of us it was our first time in Marseille. “I’m happy to bring so many people here. The idea was not to just show a collection, it was to provide a real vacation moment.” The FROW consisted of a few towels on the sand and everyone else found a space on the rocks or in the sea to watch. It was magical. Not only did this #outofoffice opportunity provide the perfect punctuation to a long season of shows, it enabled us to experience the France that Jacquemus knows. We could see the world through his eyes. “I’ve always dreamed about doing a show in the South of France but never thought it would be possible to show here because it’s a national park,” he explained. “I had to fight but they understood that it wasn’t just a location for me, I care about this place. I live 45 minutes away and started coming here as a teenager with friends so to do an event here is unbelievable.”

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What?
“The collection, Le Gadjo, explores all the cliche boys of Marseille,” Jacquemus said. “I was obsessed by the different guys in Marseille — from the soccer player to the clubbers — and how they’re unknowingly fashionable with their blue tracksuits, blue hats, blue wallets, and gold chains. Everything is very precise.” Jacquemus and his design studio worked closely with The Woolmark Company in creating this debut menswear collection with 27 pieces in 100% merino wool, which covered every summer staple, from T-shirts to sweaters, jackets to shorts. Now, you might not think of wool as a holiday friendly fabric, but Jacquemus has demonstrated throughout this three season long collaboration that he can make it as light and as sexy as possible.

the A-Z of london menswear

As London Fashion Week Men’s celebrates its fifth anniversary, we salute the vibrant visionaries who make the capital the most exciting place in the world for menswear right now. From the club kids to the collaborators, from the iconic to the opulent and the wild and eccentric, the bespoke and the Nu Lads, we flick through the A-Z of London’s menswear scene. From all the As of Astrid Andersen to the Zeitgeist setting agenda of the Palace skateboards crew.

HBO Is Adapting Lydia Diamond’s Broadway Play ‘Stick Fly’ For The Screen (Alicia Keys Producing)

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Interesting…

An screen adaptation of Lydia R. Diamond’s play Stick Fly has been ordered by HBO. You’ll recall that a recent Broadway run of the play was produced by Alicia Keys and Reuben Cannon, with Kenny Leon directing, and a cast that included Ruben Santiago-HudsonDulé HillMekhi PhiferTracie Thoms, and Condola Rashad, who was nominated for a Tony Award (Best Featured Actress) for her performance.  As I recall, the play was met with mixed reviews, opening on December 08, 2011, and closing on February 26, 2012. Stick Fly chronicles the a weekend of secrets, prejudice, hypocrisy and adultery that are exposed during a well-to-do African American family’s weekend stay at their home in Martha’s Vineyard. And now the family dramedy is headed to the small screen, in what will be an hour-long drama, adapted by the playwright (Lydia Diamond), with Alicia Keys and Nelle Nugent executive producing along with HBO. Word is that HBO has only committed to a script, so a lot of work still has to be done before we see this fully realized on our TV screens.

No word on whether the stage cast will follow Diamond, Keys and the play to the screen.

Stay tuned…

Trend of the Year: Alt R&B

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From its late-’70s and ’80s catwalk of flamboyance, eccentricity, and innovation with Michael Jackson, Prince, and Sade, to its years in the wilderness as hip-hop’s hook-supplyin’ weed carrier, R&B is alive again! Cherry-picking the past while exploding conventions and taboos, an array of compelling artists have reinvented the genre as perhaps the only cool-yet-sane refuge for music fans in 2012.

The sheets of cheers coming from the first seven-or-so makeshift rows at Frank Ocean’s Lollapalooza performance this past summer were practically the Beatles at Shea Stadium. It was the closest to an unbridled can’t-hold-it-in embrace of a musician by his or her fans that I’ve ever witnessed. Ocean’s nighttime set began with an acoustic cover of Sade’s “By Your Side,” moved through songs from last year’s debut free download Nostalgia, Ultra and then the newly-released channel ORANGE, at his own deliberate pace. He stopped to praise the city of Chicago’s architecture, warned mind-altering newbies that they should take it easy, and held up one of the green-friendly cardboard cartons of water that were scattered all over the festival grounds and said they were “something else.” Then he worried aloud if that qualified as an endorsement.

The set ended with the 10-minute “Pyramids,” which conflates Sun Ra, Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions, Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” pop-Egyptology video, plus R. Kelly’s or T-Pain’s stripper jams, and is the centerpiece of Ocean’s album channel ORANGE (released in July), SPIN’s best of the year. While channel ORANGE undoubtedly signifies as R&B, it deftly bobs and weaves around the genre’s traditional expectations. Performing just a couple of hours before Ocean was fellow R&B boundary-pusher the Weeknd, a.k.a., Abel Tesfaye, who presented his risqué, heretofore anonymous R&B on one of the festival’s main stages — where, later in the night, the Red Hot Chili Peppers would unleash their weathered dude-funk.

Ocean’s performance came just a month after the singer-songwriter, 25, detailed his first love (to another man) in a Tumblr post, deading whispers about the loaded “he” pronoun on the channel ORANGE track “Bad Religion.” At Lolla, every song, every self-conscious joke, even a coy reference to the infamous first-love note, brought screams from Ocean-obsessives who had pushed to the front of the stage earlier in the evening to ensure a spot. CONTINUE READING..