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As the momentum builds for the release of Malachi Rivers‘ new EP
“The Other I” (due early next year), the soulful
Hip-Hop artist debuts the first official single from his new body of work. “Love
Is All” is produced by Malachi’s long time collaborating producer Brandon D’LUX.
He also partnered with Michael Howard-Dossett on writing the chorus and vocal
arrangements, which were performed by several amazing vocalists.
During the process of recording this new EP, “Love Is All” almost did not
happen. “It’s one thing to talk about hard times because of money, poverty, rough
upbringings, love pains, etc but it’s another completely revealing experience to
admit that you have battled with depression, suicidal thoughts, mental illness,
bullying and much more” says Malachi. “I thought it was important to tell this story
because so many people deal with these various issues behind closed doors and in
silence.” Rather than making the song have a depressing or dark mood, Malachi opted
to make an uplifting track about getting through in spite of your opposing
situation. “We deal with a lot of things in life but at the core of it all, Love Is
All we really need.”
Between now and the release of his new EP, Malachi is keeping busy with
collaborations including his track with singer/songwriter Coriology titled
“Drummerboy.” The song is apart of Coriology’s holiday classics EP titled
“Twas The Night.” He is also featured on the upcoming TuneCore Hip-Hop
compilation titled **_”The Spirit of Independent Hip-Hop,”_** which features 17
unsigned Hip-Hop artists. Malachi was chosen from thousands of artists to be
featured on this compilation and is definitely proud to see his work recognized by
others in the music industry.
Actor and humanitarian Nate Parker first received critical attention for his starring role in The Weinstein Company’s The Great Debaters opposite Denzel Washington (who also directed the film) and Forest Whitaker. Denzel hand picked him to play the troubled yet brilliant, ‘Henry Lowe,’ who overcomes his selfish ways and becomes the team’s leader. Nate received an honorary Doctorate from Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, the school on which the true story The Great Debaters was based.
Nate most recently appeared in Jaume Collet- Serra’s action thriller, Non-Stop opposite Liam Neeson and Julianne Moore for Universal. In 2013, Parker starred in David Lowery’s Ain’t Them Bodies Saints opposite Rooney Mara, Casey Affleck, and Ben Foster. Parker was the toast of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival. He appeared in the Nicholas Jarecki- directed film, Arbitrage opposite Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon and Tim Roth, which sold to Lionsgate and Roadside Attractions, as well as the Spike Lee- directed Red Hook Summer. In 2012, Parker also starred as the lead in 20th Century Fox’s Red Tails, supported by Terrence Howard and Cuba Gooding, Jr.
It told the story of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American military aviators in the U.S. Army Air Corps and were some of the finest pilots in World War II. George Lucas funded, produced and co-directed this feature. Nate also starred opposite Alicia Keys in The Secret Life of Bees, which featured an all-star cast of Queen Latifah, Jennifer Hudson, Dakota Fanning and Paul Bettany.
Additionally, Nate has been seen in Pride alongside Terrence Howard, Dirty opposite Cuba Gooding Jr., Felon with Stephen Dorff and Sam Shepard, and Tunnel Rats with Michael Pare. On stage, Nate appeared opposite Dustin Hoffman, Annette Bening, Rosario Dawson and James Cromwell in “American Voices” at the Broad Street Theater. A Norfolk, VA native, Nate studied computer programming and trained his way to become an All?American wrestler at the University of Oklahoma. He mentors twenty-four children from schools in central Los Angeles and spearheads projects and events with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. He sponsors a Peace for Kids scholarship fund and works in their afterschool program.
Nate spoke with Aries from UrbanBridgez.com recently about his new film “Beyond The Lights,” working with legendary actors Danny Glover and Minnie Driver, “black” films, his recent controversial interview with BET.com, his next role as slave preacher Nat Turner and more.
UrbanBridgez.com: What was it about the script that attracted you to this particular role?
Nate Parker: First it was that Gina wrote it, she has a great track-record and a great rapport with me. We did Secret Life of Bees together. It was such a positive experience, I remember telling her the next thing you have that you need someone like me; if I’m in your vision, just let me know. So when it came along, it was kind of a yes, before it was a yes. That says a lot for me, because I can be really particular about the roles that I take. I said yes, then I read it and I then said heck yes! On top of it being a love story, there were themes that I felt it dealt with that I felt were important and fulfilled our responsibility as film-makers to project.
UrbanBridgez.com: The chemistry between you and Gugu was very real. What was it like working with her on that level?
Nate Parker: It was great! Gugu on top of being drop-dead gorgeous, is a workaholic. She works very hard, she’s disciplined, she’s compassionate, she’s open for discovery and that helped a lot. We rehearsed a lot, we spent a lot of time together outside of the project. We went to Disneyland together and spent the day together there. We went out to eat a few times. We did a couple of dates as the characters and Gina surprised us with a motorcade of paparazzi. That assaulted us and chased us around, that seemed very real and they did it very quickly. But all of those things solidified our relationship. I think by the time we made it to screen our relationship was already in place. There was no learning curve on that.
UrbanBridgez.com: The main subject in the film deals with suicide attempts and personal reflection. The timing of this could not be better with so many celebs and young people taking their lives. What can you say to speak to this subject of suicide?
Nate Parker: I think that it goes back to the major theme that to love someone else, you have to love yourself. To love yourself, you have to know yourself. So I think a huge theme of this film is personal identity and self esteem. I think about what it would take for someone to want that kind of quiet in their lives. Where they are so unhappy or feel so invisible, that they just want the world itself to go way. I think that’s a dangerous place for anyone to be, but we have to understand that it takes time for people to get there. In that meantime, they’re being failed by the support system that are around them. The people that are suppose to love them the most for whatever their intentions are, are the people that are abandoning them. Sometimes if you look at the relationship of the characters of Minnie and Gugu, that abandonment doesn’t come from lack of love. It comes when other ambitions become more important than the actual health of a person. It can happen over time, which is dangerous. We see it a lot with our kids, I have four daughters. So I see them look at like Ariana Grande and the Beyonce’s or whatever artists and they have no context. They don’t know what that person’s life is like. But in their minds, what they see is what they think they could get if they could have that persons life. So I think that it’s our responsibility as parents, as educators, as film-makers, as journalists to have these kind of conversations. We have to create platforms for these discussions to take place. I think it took courage for Gina, she could of just made a straight love story and not dealt with that aspect. It could of just been a cop meets a girl, you know. But the activist and feminist in her thought that it would be irresponsible to miss out on the opportunity to really change the conversation about what we’re seeing and what we’re supporting by virtue of reality with the hyper sexuation of women. And the mass epidemic misogyny that’s happening in music as well. So the fact that we’re talking in this interview about it, shows her courage in making this film wasn’t for naught.
UrbanBridgez.com: What was one of your favorite scenes to film during the movie?
Nate Parker: I think everything that happened when I took her away. When we had the opportunity to get away to a quiet space. Not only did the acting get quiet and the performances get quiet, but the filming got quiet. Gina had this projective vision of what that part of the film would be like. So she gave us these CD’s to listen to, that just kind of got us in the mood. We listened in our car, on the way to set, on the way home from set. Once we got into that space I was ready to emote. I was ready to be vulnerable for her and ready to be supportive of her. The size of the crew members shrunk, it just became this very quiet and intimate safe space for us to act as artists and for us to exist as characters. She created that, that wasn’t just something that happened by chance.
UrbanBridgez.com: How was it to work with great and legendary actors such as Danny Glover and Minnie Driver?
Nate Parker: It was great and you know what was so great about it? Is I got the chance to work with them both. The fact that Danny Glover played my father, someone who in so many ways has been a surrogate father for so many years. Just because I came up in a single-parent household and seeing him in his roles and seeing him in his quest to reunite the diaspora and reach across the continent and rebuild that bridge. His work in Haiti, he’s just always been someone that I have looked up to. So when Gina told me that I would have the opportunity for him to betray my father I was very excited. The only thing that excited me even more was meeting him and he was so excited to play this role.
UrbanBridgez.com: Black cinema seems to be on the rise from the small screen to the big screen again. How do you feel about this movement?
Nate Parker: The reality is this, people are always like is there a renaissance? The reality is black people are people. And guess what, we have experiences that are just as normal as anyone else. So the reality is, they say if you build it, they will come. What does that mean? If you build any film that is honest and authentic, people will go to watch it. So I won’t say that black films is up because the reality is the appetite will always be there. It’s just up to the filmmakers to have the courage and fortitude to fight to make these films that are about the experience real. And not create characters and not perpetuate stereotypes, but just to present real life. Like this isn’t a black film, this is a film about love. It’s a film about sacrifices, a film about obstacles, and a film about identity. These are things that if you play this film with in China, with the sound down and no sub-text and by the end of the film people will be moved. Because it’s a human experience, to see in every frame that there is authenticity happening. You know I think that where we fail is when we try to make black films. In your quest to make a “black” film there are certain stereotypes you have to perpetuate just to make it fulfill that design of a black film. But you can look at a film like Boyz N the Hood, that is a film that highlights elements of the black experience, but is it a black movie? No, and I can prove it to you. If you go and look at all of the reviews of that film, all across the board, race or whatever…all those people that review that film say the same thing. This is authentic, it was real, it dealt with manhood, it dealt with rites of passage. These are things that are human elements. So with that said, I think that artists job is to create art. If it happens to highlight the black experience, then that’s great. It’s worthy and deserving. If it happens to highlight a European experience, or an Asian experience. These are just themes and ideas. The reality is, as long as it’s truth, there is a place for it in the world.
UrbanBridgez.com: You did an interview recently with BET.com, where you took some heat from, is there anything from that interview that would like to speak on more so people get a better understanding?
Nate Parker: Yeah, you know what. I do feel like it was taken out of context. As a black man in America, there have been so many things that have been designed to attack our manhood and masculinity. I mean everything from slavery, to being lynched, to being castrated and these are things that are very real. So in that interview, my goal was to be very clear about me wanting to speak against those things. It wasn’t even a play on sexuality, at all. Actually one had nothing to do with the other. It’s funny because I sent out a tweet that said there is nothing in my DNA as an activist that would at all denigrate or lesson the experience of the gay and lesbian and transsexual…activism is activism. I stand for justice. My thing is a lot of my fight is for the rights of people that have been marginalized for whatever reason. I have a friend I called, who’s a journalist as well, his name is Patrick Riley. When this happened I called him and I said, you know this is what I said did I say anything wrong? The last thing I want to do is be divisive within our own community. He said for whatever group, if you feel like you’re marginalized, if you feel like you’re under attack, sometimes you reach and sometimes you’ll hear a certain statement. You’ll hear it a certain way based on your experience. He said he was happy that I called and brought it up, but he didn’t see anything offensive. So if anyone felt offended, I want it to be clear that was not my intention. That I do think what I said was taken out of context. But now here is an opportunity for me to be clear. Anything that has anything to do with marginalizing or creating disparities between people, whatever their believes are or whatever their preferences are is wrong. I like to believe that I stand on the side of right when it comes to that.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next for Nate Parker?
Nate Parker: I’m actually in pre-production of a film I’m directing called Birth of A Nation, it’s a bio-pic on Nat Turner the slave preacher. Who led the slave rebellion. I’ll be portraying Nat Turner in this film and it will come out sometime next year.
“Beyond The Lights” is In Theaters Now!
UB Review: “Beyond The Lights”
Beyond the Lights is the story of Noni, a hot new award-winning artist who is primed for superstardom. But not all is what it seems, and the pressures cause Noni to nearly fall apart – until she meets Kaz Nicol, a promising young cop and aspiring politician who’s been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance. But can Kaz‘s love give Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be? The contemporary love story stars Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Larry Crowne), Nate Parker (NonStop, The Secret Life of Bees), Minnie Driver (TV’s “About A Boy,” Good Will Hunting), hip-hop artist Colson “MGK” Baker and Danny Glover (Rage, Lethal Weapon franchise). Beyond the Lights is written and directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret Life of Bees, Love and Basketball). Stephanie Allain (Biker Boyz, Hustle ‘N Flow) produces, along with Reggie Rock Bythewood (Notorious, Biker Boyz), Ryan Kavanaugh (3 Days to Kill, The Social Network), and Amar’e Stoudemire. Kenneth Halsband and Marc Ambrose co-produce. Tucker Tooley (We’re The Millers, 3 Days to Kill), Matt Alvarez , Robbie Brenner, Ron Burkle, and Jason Colbeck serve as executive producers. The seasoned creative team is led by director of photography Tami Reiker A.S.C. (Pieces of April), production designer Cecilia Montiel (Biker Boyz), costume designer Sandra Henandez,( The Secret Life of Bees) and editor Terilyn Shropshire (The Secret Life of Bees, Black Nativity). They are joined by choreographer Laurieann Gibson, music supervisor Julia Michels, composer Mark Isham, and The Dream, who wrote and produced Noni’s original music for the film.
ABOUT THE STORY
Writer/director Gina Prince-Bythewood uses music as creative inspiration. So it comes as little surprise that inspiration for her new film came while sitting at an Alicia Keys concert. “Alicia was singing her song ‘Diary’ which is an epic love song, and suddenly this character and love story came into my head. It was one of those rare, great moments as a writer where a movie just starts flowing out.” Inspired by some of her favorite music films like Purple Rain, Lady Sings the Blues, and The Rose, Prince-Bythewood continued to develop the idea of love blossoming within the complicated world of hip hop and R&B. “I love the way music can fuel a movie, and everything just seemed to come together.” And so the story of Noni’s struggle to realize her need for a fulfilling personal life while maintaining her creative dreams began to coalesce. Over the next four years, the story of Noni evolved with support from husband and producing partner Reggie Rock Bythewood. The director’s ‘first eye,’ Rock-Bythewood describes himself as “the first person she gets to argue with about her vision.” And her vision was simple: “I wanted to create a great love story.” Gina Prince-Bythewood credits her husband for helping her through the writing process. Instead of writing Noni’s mother as African-American, he suggested she take a page from her own book; and make the character Caucasian, and Noni, biracial, like her and her own mother. “Why don’t you touch on your own life because things get stronger when you write from a personal place,” she recalls him saying. “Now I can’t imagine the story any other way.” Industry reaction to the finished script was overwhelmingly positive but getting a commitment to underwrite production was long in coming. “Getting ‘no’ is soul-crushing but we refused to give up.” One of their biggest hurdles was in getting past studios’ need for an A-list star in the role of Noni. Their combined belief in the story’s potential kept them hopeful. “I kept turning down other projects because suppose Beyond the Lights goes?” Prince-Bythewood explains. Rock Bythewood came up with a solution to shift the tide in their favor. “Reg encouraged me to shoot a presentation for the studios. That really changed the game and led Relativity to green-light the film.” After shooting the presentation, Prince-Bythewood sent the script to producer Stephanie Allain. “I’d worked with Stephanie on Biker Boyz and love her energy. She loves the process and I respect her opinion.” The response was immediate. “Stephanie called later that night and said ‘I want to be part of it.’” Allain offers. “Gina had actually shared it with me years before. I was really happy she called me again for such a classic and timely story.”
Allain joined the filmmakers to produce the story after viewing the presentation. “Gina is a visionary. She knows exactly what she wants and how to get it, says Allain.” Having Allain on board buoyed spirits. “I loved that she was so excited about it. I had passion, Reggie had it, now it was great to bring Stephanie on as well so it was three of us really pushing and fighting together.”
ABOUT THE CAST AND CHARACTERS
As she wrote, Gina Prince-Bythewood envisioned a real singer in the role of Noni. However her perspective changed when reality hit. “Nothing clicked” as she started auditioning people, singers primarily with a sprinkling of actors. After re-watching Walk the Line and Coal Miner’s Daughter, her thinking evolved. “The role of Noni calls for singing but there’s so much depth to the performance. I realized it was more important to have someone who had the chops to go there.” Auditions continued but none of the actors matched the image Prince-Bythewood had in mind, until Gugu Mbatha-Raw appeared. According to Prince-Bythewood, “Gugu came in, and started doing the scenes and it was just a thrilling moment. It was ‘oh my god, this is happening, this is her, this is her.” At the time of her audition, the film was set up at another studio which wasn’t as enthusiastic about the choice. “They wanted an established star to lead the film and Gugu was an untested newcomer,” explains Prince-Bythewood. “I was crushed.” The filmmakers eventually left that studio but found themselves dealing with the same issue at each turn. However she was undeterred, and she decided to prove Mbatha-Raw’s suitability for the role. Rock Bythewood offers. “Gina and Gugu started working before we had a deal at Relativity. They just started doing the research and the work. Neither one of them really lost faith that they were gonna get this film made.” Allain adds. “It was really a leap of faith and Gina’s passion for creating Noni out of a relatively unknown actress.” That persistence paid off when first BET came on board with the first funds, and ultimately when Relativity Media committed to finance and distribute the film. “They had no qualms about the fact that we were creating a star,” says Prince- Bythewood. According to Rock Bythewood, Mbatha-Raw helped to elevate the material. “Gina wrote for an American-born singer but Gugu really helped Gina see it in a different way, so that it now seems impossible to imagine Noni as an American-born singer.” Deciding to change the character from American to British “made the character more interesting and also added a global feel to the film,” says Gina Prince-Bythewood. “She’s the full package,” adds Allain. “Not only is she gorgeous but, trained at RADA, she’s got the chops.” Mbatha-Raw describes Noni’s life as the story begins. “She’s just won a Billboard Award and everything is going fantastically with her career.
Everybody just adores her and then she tries to end her life. Suddenly we see that this seemingly perfect person is actually deeply unhappy, and feels her whole life has been masterminded by her mother. She feels trapped and that there’s no way out.” “This is a movie about how love saves you,” says Allain. “So it was really important to find who Kaz Nicol would be.” The filmmakers didn’t have to look very far. Nate Parker, who has been on the filmmakers’ radar since appearing in The Secret Life of Bees, was interested in playing the socially-minded cop and aspiring politician. She explains. “Nate’s dope. He just needs that one great role to propel him to leading man status. He’s very giving, and focused and specific. It was great to put him and Gugu together and immediately see the chemistry.” Allain agrees. “Gugu as Noni has a very acquired persona and Nate, as he plays Kaz, is very grounded, very behind-the-scenes. It’s a very interesting connection between the two of them.” Nate Parker describes Kaz Nicol as someone he “would want his daughters to be involved with. He was raised right but he’s flawed like everyone else.” Kaz has to overcome his biases about Noni and her lifestyle. “Noni’s this Rihanna/Beyoncé-type living a lifestyle contrary to the way he’s been brought up,” explains Parker. “He’s leveraging the way he’s been raised, and his morality against what’s happening every day in her life, and the things that are acceptable in her life.” Of Noni and Kaz, Mbatha-Raw offers. “They’re from different sides of the tracks in some aspects. Kaz is very solid and grounded. As a police officer, he works in the real world while Noni works in the artificial bubble of the music industry.” Reggie Rock Bythewood explains. “ Beyond th e Lights is a love story between a man and a woman, but on a deeper level, it’s a story about Noni learning to love herself.” Mbatha-Raw agrees. “Noni discovers her own voice in more ways than one. She finds love when she meets Kaz, who stops her from jumping off the balcony. They develop a relationship and she is able to finally become a woman, stand up to her mother and make her own way in the industry.” Meeting under such extreme conditions triggers a connection that neither could have foreseen. But it forces them to examine their lives which leads to life-changing decisions. “This is a man who sees Noni at her worst moment and still sees the good in her,” explains Prince- Bythewood. “Through his love Noni discovers unconditional love, finds it in herself and ultimately finds her voice.” Mbatha-Raw adds. “Kaz sees her in such a vulnerable state. From that point on, even though she tries to put the barriers up again, they can never really go back. He helps her see herself in a different way, and grow into herself. He sees her as a person and the love story evolves.” Similarly, Kaz discovers himself through his relationship with Noni. Abandoned by his mother, Kaz doesn’t trust women or relationships. “But he meets Noni who throws him off his game. He fights it constantly because it doesn’t make sense, personally and professionally, to get involved with her. But there’s something about her,” continues Prince-Bythewood. “He’s probably written off women like Noni as shallow and unattainable but eventually sees that she is more than the image. That’s a revelation for him. Even though Noni is very emotional and has her issues; Kaz finds that intoxicating because he’s able to see the person beneath it all,” concludes Mbatha-Raw. “People don’t do love stories like this anymore. We see lots of romantic comedies, but the chemistry and the love story element to this film is what’s really elevating it to another level,’ states Rock Bythewood. “It feels immediate.
The intensity Gugu and Nate bring to their roles will really resonate with audiences.” Parker found it easy to connect with his co-star. “On top of being extremely beautiful, Gugu’s super-talented, super-thoughtful and easy to fall in love with on screen. We came into the project with our tool boxes, put ‘em on the table and, and figured out how we could work together to make this love story really work.” He credits Prince-Bythewood for giving them time to build their onscreen relationship. “Gina made sure we had a lot of rehearsal time. We rehearsed every day for hours, and so it was a lot easier once the cameras went up.” In addition to the love relationship between Kaz and Noni, parental love is also explored in the film. In casting the role of Noni’s mother, the filmmakers wanted to ensure that Macy was not being seen as the ultimate stage mom. “As written, Macy is an impoverished, British white mom of this beautiful mixed baby. And could easily have been the evil mother or villain,” explains Allain. On meeting Minnie Driver, it was very obvious to everyone that she was the right person to bring the complex character to the screen. Prince-Bythewood offers. “Minnie brings so much to a character that on the page could have been a very one-dimensional person. As a writer, to have somebody take your words and take them to another level, and that’s what she did with every scene, was very exciting. It was also gratifying to see her and Gugu feed off each other.” For Prince-Bythewood, it was rewarding to have two British actors in the cast. “They brought their Brit connection and phrases and words. The reference to Ready Breck, a breakfast cereal that Macy would have fixed for Noni as a girl was something they came up with. Those are the type of specifics that I’d never come with on my own.” “I really loved working with her,” says Mbatha-Raw. “Minnie is so warm-hearted and brings a manipulative quality which is so real and three-dimensional. I’m interested in mother-daughter relationships and appreciate how intense that bond can get. Macy’s fierce maternal instinct leads to Noni feeling claustrophobic and controlled, and she has to figure out how to deal with that.”
For Minnie Driver, Macy makes hard choices from necessity. “Macy had Noni when she was 17, and has been kicking and shoving and trying for so long and she’s pretty hard,” reflects Driver. “She does love her kid but it’s been overshadowed by her ambition. Macy finds herself in perilous water when her greed for recognition for Noni overcomes her moral compass. But she’s not a bad person, she’s just had it hard and it shows. The other parental relationship explored in the film is that of Kaz and his father, Captain Nicol, played by Danny Glover. “Danny was up on my vision board early,” recalls Prince- Bythewood. “He has such a natural warmth and gravitas and strength but I didn’t know if we could get him because of our budget.” She needn’t have worried because the script, and her “clear idea of how she wanted to construct the story” piqued his interest. Glover was also interested in exploring the character, seeing links between Captain Nicol and Tom Bradley, the former LA mayor. “There’s a way that Tom Bradley’s life and the people who became his mentors reflected the tough world they had to deal in, coming up through the ranks and then finding a political life within that,” says Glover. “All of these things which Captain Nicol was not able to realize or achieve. Any father expects his child to go farther than they have. In fact, they want to think that they prepared the circumstances for that success to happen.” Like Macy, Captain Nicol is a single parent whose thwarted ambitions are being carried by his son. “So you have these two strong parents who devoted their lives in various ways to the success of their child. Now, their own success is reflected in that child’s success,” continues Glover. “Kaz is being pushed by his parent into a role he may not be totally comfortable with. He and Noni have parallel lives but one is healthier than the other,” explains Prince-Bythewood. “Kaz’s father really wants the best for him whereas Noni’s mother is really using her to prove to the world that she’s worthy.” Both Captain Nicol and Macy are wary when Kaz and Noni begin their relationship. “It couldn’t be further than what Captain Nicol wants for his son and his political aspirations. He says, “She’s not First Lady material.” It creates a conflict within Kaz whether to honor his father’s wishes or to follow his heart,” says Allain. Driver empathizes with Macy’s feelings towards Kaz. “I understand why Macy is pissed off at him. He’s getting all up in her grill about how she should parent and he just showed up five minutes ago.” As the story begins Kaz is actively pursuing his father’s dream. “He wants Kaz to make it further than he did. Kaz goes to college and majors in political science. He becomes a cop as the stage before entering politics,” explains Parker. “It wasn’t until Kaz meets Noni, that he realizes that he’s living someone else’s life. They help each other deal with the people pushing them into a corner of the world where they don’t want to be.” Noni and Kaz’s relationship takes place within the world of R&B and hip-hop music.
The character Kid Culprit embodies all of the swagger, glamour and bravado associated with the genre. “Kid Culprit is somebody who’s in the game. He’s a top rapper, and helped bring Noni into the game. She sings the lyrics to one of his songs and it helps her to blow up,” explains Rock Bythewood. The filmmakers wanted to cast a real hip-hop artist in the role and Colson Baker, better known as Machine Gun Kelly (MGK), made a strong impression on the director. She explains. “He understood the character and understood the world.” She went on to see a lot of rappers for the role “but Colson stood out so far above the rest. He has a natural ability and I needed that foundation to build on.” MGK auditioned four times before getting the call. Allain recalls. “He really campaigned for the role. He wrote letters. He sent things. He just had the passion.” Prince-Bythewood was finally convinced when she saw him with Mbatha-Raw. “You could see the chemistry there and I started to see the dynamic of that relationship.” MGK adds. “The reason why I was so adamant about this being my first role was because the character wasn’t too far off from who I am as a person.” He also appreciated that “Gina believed in me. She didn’t have to give me a chance to read. Kid Culprit wasn’t even scripted for anyone that looked like me.” His sincerity and authenticity also led her to recruit his friends to play Kid Culprit’s entourage in the film. Parker was very impressed by MGK. “We developed a really cool relationship outside the script. Inside the script, he’s a misogynist who has really bought into the idea that the rapper can objectify women, get what I want, it’s the way things are type character,” says Parker. “In real life, he’s cool, talented, raw and humble. He came in asking questions like what can I do to get better? Or am I doing this correctly? Or do you have any advice for me as an actor?” When the story begins, Noni is involved in a sexual relationship with Kid Culprit. Mbatha- Raw describes Noni’s relationships with Kid Culprit and Kaz. “The two relationships epitomize Noni’s evolution. The one with Kid Culprit is very much about sex and the industry. It’s a very superficial relationship that’s enhanced by the fact that they’re on the same label. It’s very convenient but not very deep. Kaz and Noni’s relationship is very much a soul connection.” Kid Culprit “starts to hear about a police officer with his lady. At first, he’s not threatened because he doesn’t think a police officer can compete with what he and Noni have, but, as it turns out, Noni and Kaz have something that Noni and Kid Culprit don’t have,” explains Rock Bythewood. His true feelings come to the fore when he humiliates Noni during their BET appearance. “And, throughout all of his bravado and his foul language and antics, Kid Culprit’s actually pretty hurt by Noni leaving him for Kaz.” Kid Culprit’s antics leads to a fist fight with Kaz. “Kaz has a problem with him disrespecting Noni – because that attitude has a direct effect on Noni, someone that Kaz is growing to love more and more every day,” explains Parker.
CREATING AN ARTIST
The process of transformation was one of the ideas that attracted Mbatha-Raw when she first read the script. “I liked the idea that you can start as a caterpillar and end up as a butterfly and, and go through all of this massive journey just to come back to who you really are.” The filmmakers needed to ensure that Mbatha-Raw was prepared for the challenge of bringing Noni to the screen – a process that started before Relativity came on board. They needed to transform her into a R&B hip-hop artist. To do that, ”we had to surround Gugu with the very same people who surround Rihanna, Beyoncé, JLo, all the amazing talented women at the top of their game today,” explains Allain. “We wanted authenticity, even though we were creating it.” The filmmakers started with the music. “The acting was dope and she sang Nina Simone’s Blackbird but it was a different kind of singing,” recalls Prince-Bythewood. “She comes from musical theatre but this is R&B hip hop.” Debra Byrd, vocal coach for the American Idol and X- Factor contestants, was hired to work with Mbatha-Raw. “Debra really helped to add the right quality and texture to Gugu’s voice.” “You can’t sell a music movie if you don’t have authentic music,” says Allain. Following Mbatha-Raw’s work with Debra Byrd, the filmmakers needed to partner with a hit-maker to create songs for her voice. “And the only person Gina had in mind was The Dream. He has made hit after hit for Beyoncé, Rihanna. He was the one we needed.” Prince-Bythewood clarifies. “I needed someone who could write a song like “Ride” with Ciara and Ludacris, which is really raunchy to writing “1+1”, a beautiful love song for Beyoncé.” Music supervisor Julia Michels contacted The Dream who, as an admirer of Prince- Bythewood’s previous films, agreed to join the team. “The Dream is very specific,” the director explains. “He sings all his demos and then you sing to what he did, so it was really giving Gugu the tone and swagger that the songs needed.” “We’re so lucky to have The Dream,” says Mbatha-Raw. “Each song is different and charts a different aspect of Noni’s journey, starting with Masterpiece, which is probably the most raw and aggressive number and then Private Property, which still has that element, but is a little slinkier.” “We’re hoping this is one of those films where people rush to get a soundtrack,” says Rock Bythewood. “But music is just another character in the film and as entertaining as the music is, it’s really an opportunity to challenge people’s perspectives about what we’re saying in music.
Can an artist be authentic and still be commercial? That’s one of the things we struggle with as filmmakers, and it’s one of the things Noni struggles with as a singer.” “Once we had The Dream and after he created these great songs, and we knew Gugu could master them, we felt really confident,” explains Allain. “ But that’s only part of it because the next part is artist development. Could Gugu really step into the role as the pop diva queen?” To help find out, the filmmakers turned to Laurieann Gibson. “We had an amazing meeting and she started crying,” explains Prince-Bythewood. “ I knew she was the perfect person for Gugu because she believes in tough love but she’s also giving and enthusiastic and impassioned about what she does. Thankfully Gugu has a dance background, so she had a place to start.” Allain continues. “Laurieann is the artist developer. She works with Nicki Minaj, she’s worked with Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. I’m talking choreography and carriage, how they walk and how they look and how they wave at fans, and just being a diva. Laurieann is amazing.” “Gina wanted the knowledge, the passion, the commitment I had to the movie to translate in my process working with Gugu,” explains Gibson. “She’s very specific and did not want there to be any preconceived notion about what happens in a club, on the stage, in the music industry, and that element of ‘sex sells’.” “The work with Laurieann was really important for me to get the physicality, the dance and, that über-cocky sexual confidence that comes with the swagger of being an artist like Noni,” explains Mbatha-Raw. “Laurieann, Gina and I saw Rihanna live, we saw Beyoncé live, we went to the Grammys, Greystone Manor, LA’s hottest hip hop club, and visited artists performing in the studio. Anything that can help to build the character.” Gibson continues. “We had to do things that could be very uncomfortable but Gugu threw herself into the physicality of it and allowed me to push her. What Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Nicki do looks easy, but it’s not. There’s an athleticism to being a performer, and to the stage, and to what it really takes to be number one. Gugu was determined. It was a pleasure to help her discover the character.”
“Beyond The Lights”
In Theaters November 14th!
Great music, flashy lifestyles, suspense, drama, perfectly tailored
characters; it’s all here. Beyond The Lights goes above and beyond the
expectations that many will expect when it hits theaters this Friday,
November 14th. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker alone are enough reason to
dig into your pockets to pay for this Gina Prince-Bythewood (The Secret
Life of Bees and Love & Basketball) directed flick. But even putting the
lead actors aside, the film delivers a very good script, supporting cast
and a highly appropriate soundtrack (which is perfectly coupled with
At first glance, some may think this is a 2014 take on the cult classic
film, The Bodyguard. But once you take in the first 20 minutes of the film
you will quickly see how different Beyond The Lights is from the Whitney
Houston & Kevin Costner love story. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays the lead, Noni,
who seems to have it all as far as pop stars are concerned. She has a
perfectly executed music career from hit singles to features with hip-hop
artists including her boyfriend Kid Culprit (Machine Gun Kelly). Just when
you think Noni is on top of the world everything comes crashing down
including an attempted suicide. Noni’s fate is intervened by Kaz (Nate
Parker) during a time when her verbally abusive mother Macy (Minnie Driver)
is proving to be the stage-mom from hell.
From this point on, the movie brilliantly takes you on a journey as Noni
navigates herself back from the bottom to the top. She has been given a
second chance at life and the film explores what a person does once given
The films soundtrack was a pleasant surprise, especially when you find out
that Gugu herself provided vocals to many of the tracks that she performs
in the film. Viewers are in for a special treat just in time for the
holidays as Beyond The Lights delivers on all counts and does not
disappoint. You will definitely find yourself smiling at the end of the
film and saying out loud “job well done.”
- JDot. (UrbanBridgez.com)
Maybach Music Group/Atlantic recording artist Omarion has announced the exclusive digital release of his hugely anticipated new album. “SEX PLAYLIST” arrives at all DSPs on December 2nd.
Omarion‘s MMG/Atlantic debut and first full-length release in more than four years, “SEX PLAYLIST” is highlighted by the new single, “Post To Be (Feat. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko).” The track — produced by DJ Mustard (Wiz Khalifa, Trey Songz, Ty Dolla $ign) — was recently heralded by the surprise reveal of its colorful cover art on the GRAMMY®-nominated superstar’s official Instagram.
“SEX PLAYLIST” also features such tracks as “Work” and “You Like It,” which received unprecedented acclaim upon its release earlier this year. “A freaky-deaky little jam,” raved VIBE, while Complex hailed the track as “a promiscuous record that borrows elements of DeBarge’s 1982 hit single ‘You Like It’… a nice jumping off point for his upcoming album.” “Keeping up his track record of quality music for the lovers, O’s newest song tells us that infidelity is morally wrong, but utterly sexy,” declared VIBE Vixen, noting, “(Omarion) never disappoints.”
As if that weren’t enough, companion visuals for both “Work” and “You Like It” — not to mention an exclusive “SEX PLAYLIST” trailer — can be viewed now at Omarion’s official YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/omarionmmg.
A multi-platinum certified and GRAMMY® Award-nominated singer, actor, author, and producer, Omarion is a 21st century superstar of the first order. “O,” his 2005 solo debut, was a chart-topping phenomenon, entering the Billboard 200 at #1 on its way to RIAA platinum certification. The album’s 2006 follow-up, “21,” also arrived atop the SoundScan/Billboard 200, fueled in part by the gold certified smash single, “Ice Box.” In 2012, Omarion joined forces with Maybach Music Group CEO Rick Ross for the blockbuster single, “Let’s Talk,” featured on MMG’s hugely successful “SELF MADE VOL. 2″ compilation. The “CARE PACKAGE” and “CARE PACKAGE 2″ EPs soon followed, as did additional tracks on 2013’s “SELF MADE VOL. 3.”
Currently starring on VH1’s hit series, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood, Omarion has made a range of promotional appearances in recent weeks, including a visit to FOX’s The Real.
Omarion credits his Los Angeles based management/production firm, Art Club Intl, for helping him navigate and maintain success in this tumultuous climate of the entertainment industry.
DIGITAL RELEASE DATE: December 2nd
1. Sex Playlist
2. Post To Be (Feat. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko)
3. Show Me (Feat. Jeremih)
6. The Only One…
10. Don’t leave
11. You Like It
12. Love & Other Drugs
Jessica Reedy has become a much sought after vocalist since making her appearance on the BET Reality Competition, “Sunday Best” in 2009. Although Ms. Reedy didn’t take home the winning prize from the hit TV show, she has become a fan favorite and has given the fans exactly what they wished for. Her debut album “From The Heart“, which featured the hit singles “Put It On The Altar” and “Something Out of Nothing” proved to be without a shadow of a doubt that Jessica Reedy was primed for success.
Her new album “Transparent“, promises to be Jessica’s most heartfelt piece of work yet. It features the inspirational anthem “Better” along with smash singles “Grace” and “Hold On” featuring Mary Reedy. Khirye Tyler and Mali Music produced the album and it was written by Jessica herself. “Transparent” was be released on Jessica’s custom imprint Purity Records.
Jessica spoke to Aries from UrbanBridgez.com about her new album “Transparent,” Working with Mali Music, surviving hard times, growth in her music, Faith Evans and much more!
UrbanBridgez.com: What made you title the album “Transparent?”
Jessica Reedy: The title came from heartache and pain. We’re using music to vent, we’re using music to get it all out. It was my escape, it was my way of pleading to God in any way I could in any form or fashion. To let him know that I was grateful but yet I’m in pain and I need for you to rescue me. It just became my voice and transparent embodies all of that for me.
UrbanBridgez.com: Being that you’re the main songwriter on the album, didn’t you write about 80% of the album?
Jessica Reedy: I would say about 95% of the album (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: Oh wow that’s wassup (laughs). How does it feel for you to be able to showcase your words on this project?
Jessica Reedy: Oh my gosh, it’s an amazing testament to myself. Like Jessica don’t underestimate what God has put in you to do. You can do way more than you think you can do. So it was a challenge for me, me saying to myself, can you do this? I think you can do this. We shall find out! You know how you write a song and you think it’s good but don’t nobody else believe it’s good (laughs). So we shall see.
UrbanBridgez.com: I can’t wait, I’m sure it’s great. I know you worked with Mali Music, he’s a UB fav. What did he bring to the project that only he could?
Jessica Reedy: Mali is amazing. So I called him randomly after his sister let me hear a song. I said hey Mali, can I have this song? He was like yeah Reedy. So I’m like so look I’m in Los Angeles can you come to the studio? He was like Reedy…okay what time? So he comes to the studio and I’m like hey Mali, can you sing background on one of the songs? He was like sure Reedy. So I’m just really thankful that he is a friend of mine, the way he is and how he has always supported and given me music at the last minute. No matter what it is that I needed.
UrbanBridgez.com: Your debut album is such a gem, what are some of the differences that you would say there are from this album to that album as far as content?
Jessica Reedy: I would have to say it’s growth. There has been a lot of growth on my behalf. From where I was when that album came out and to where I am now. The growth has been a six year difference. I kind of went from stepping into womanhood, to finally coming into womanhood and saying to myself, you know what embrace being a woman now, it’s okay. It’s okay to be a woman now and to come into your own. So it reflects in my music as well.
UrbanBridgez.com: I’ve been a fan since Sunday Best, but prepping for this interview I never knew you went through so much at such a young age. How were you able to get through all of that and direct that energy towards your career?
Jessica Reedy: God, he helped me more than I could of ever imagined. To get through the worst of times in my life. It’s why I sing about him, it’s why I love him as much as I do. It was too hard for me to do it with my own strength. He gave me strength to endure.
UrbanBridgez.com: Who or what inspires Jessica Reedy?
Jessica Reedy: I would have to say my mother. My mother is the biggest inspiration for me. Because she has contributed to mostly everything that I am today. What you guys see is a product of her teaching, a product of her watching my son, helping to relieve the stress of trying to balance it all. All of that has helped me be an individual that sings. When you’re trying to sing and travel and I’m worried about my son, then I can’t give 100% to anything because I’m concerned about his whereabouts. She’s contributed in a major way,a really really good way.
UrbanBridgez.com: You and Faith Evans have made some beautiful music together. How did you two meet and can we expect anymore upcoming collaborations?
Jessica Reedy: I met Faith through my manager at that time. She was just amazing! And I don’t know, hopefully Faith will get on another record with me, because she’s just an amazing human being. She’s unlike any human being I’ve ever met, she’s fantastic.
UrbanBridgez.com: Yeah she’s great, I love her. If you were not singing, what do you think your career goals would be?
Jessica Reedy: If I wasn’t a singer, I would most likely be an attorney. I would probably go into law most definitely. Either that or a construction worker (laughs).
UrbanBridgez.com: Say what, I didn’t expect that one (both laugh). I want to congratulate you for being one of the faces of Poetic Justice jeans. How did that opportunity come about for you?
Jessica Reedy: It came about from a friend, who was basically like I have this product line that I would like for you to try out. Read up on it and then tell me what you think. So after doing research on it, I felt it was fantastic. It was a perfect fit, so I said I would love, love to be apart of this. So I’m really grateful for the opportunity, the jeans are amazing. They help the curvy woman, the ones with the hips and the dips. Who can’t really find the jeans that will stay on real good, where as they kind of slide down (laughs). So they definitely make you feel secure and that’s a great thing.
UrbanBridgez.com: What’s next for you, with the release of “Transparent” what else can fans expect from you?
Jessica Reedy: I would have to say, there is a movie that’s out called Who Can I Run To, I was honored to be apart of that. There is also a lot of different opportunities that have come out of nowhere. Commercials and different opportunities for partnerships. So right now, the sky is the limit there is no cut off to what’s going to happen. I don’t know, think of something and I’m going to do it. That’s kind of where it is right now.
UrbanBridgez.com: Anything else you want to share with your fans?
Jessica Reedy: I just want to tell everyone that I love them. Thank for you for hanging in there with me for all of these years. God is real, God is amazing, he has done it and he’s doing it and I’m grateful every moment that I get where I say, wow this album is off of my record label, this was an album that I was able to see all the way to the finish. It’s a miracle to me, so I’m just grateful to everyone that stuck in there and kept supporting me.
“Transparent” is available now on iTunes via Purity Records.
Multi-platinum selling artists Chris Brown and Trey Songz announce their upcoming BETWEEN THE SHEETS TOUR kicking off in 2015. The tour was announced today at the House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard in front of a packed house of fans and people worldwide via a live stream who were treated to a special performance by the two mega-stars.
Produced and promoted exclusively by Live Nation, the BETWEEN THE SHEETS TOUR will take the two entertainment heavyweights to 25 cities across North America starting Jan. 28, 2015 in Hampton, Va. at the Hampton Coliseum, with additional dates lined up in Brooklyn, Atlanta, Dallas, Philadelphia, Chicago, Toronto, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. Tyga will be a special guest on the tour. A full list of tour dates is below.
Grammy award winning singer/songwriter Chris Brown recently made his sixth #1 album entry on the Billboard R&B/Hip-Hop chart with his latest release X (RCAS Records). The album also debuted at #2 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart, marking his sixth album debut within the Top Ten. X sold over 140,000 units in its first week while Spotify streams of the album continue to rise. With his incredible national television debut performance of the album’s title track on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and recent much-buzzed about performance of “New Flame” with Usher at the iHeart Music Festival, combined with the ongoing chart-topping success of “Loyal,” there’s no question why the talented Chris remains a mainstay at top of the charts.
His latest album, Trigga, debuted at #1 on the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart and is the sixth studio album by the Grammy-nominated entertainer/artist known as Trey Songz. The album was released on July 1, 2014, by Songbook and Atlantic Records. Following the release of his fifth studio album Chapter V (2012), which also debuted #1, Songz made his acting debut in Texas Chainsaw 3D and Baggage Claim in (2013). The same year Songz began work on his sixth studio album collaborating with artists including Nicki Minaj, Mila J, Ty Dolla $ign, Justin Bieber and Juicy J.
BETWEEN THE SHEETS TOUR
All dates and venues below subject to change.
Jan. 28 Hampton, VA Hampton Coliseum
Jan. 29 Brooklyn, NY Barclays Center
Jan. 31 Baltimore, MD Royal Farms Arena (on sale Nov 22)
Feb. 03 Atlanta, GA Phillips Arena
Feb. 05 New Orleans, LA Smoothie King Arena
Feb. 06 Dallas, TX American Airlines Center
Feb. 07 Houston, TX Toyota Center
Feb. 09 Charlotte, NC Time Warner Cable Arena
Feb. 10 Greensboro, NC Greensboro Coliseum
Feb. 12 Sunrise, FL BB&T Center
Feb. 14 Columbus, OH Nationwide Arena
Feb. 15 Detroit, MI Joe Louis Arena
Feb. 18 Philadelphia, PA Wells Fargo Center
Feb. 19 Worcester, MA DCU Center (on sale Nov 22)
Feb. 21 East Rutherford, NJ IZOD Center
Feb. 22 Washington, D.C. Verizon Center (on sale Nov 22)
Feb. 24 Montreal, QC Bell Centre (on sale Nov 15)
Feb. 25 Toronto, ON Air Canada Centre
Feb. 27 Rosemont, IL Allstate Arena
Feb. 28 Cincinnati, OH U.S. Bank Arena
March 1 Nashville, TN Bridgestone Arena
March 3 Minneapolis, MN Target Center
March 6 San Jose, CA SAP Center
March 7 Las Vegas, NV Mandalay Bay Events Center
March 8 Los Angeles, CA The Forum
Steven Christopher has released the visual for his single “Breathe.”
This full-length video is a bit abstract and performance based, as Steven
Christopher chose to stay away from visuals that appeared too literal.
Instead, Steven and the director played on the lyric “it’s about the place
love takes you” – a place you will soon visit once you watch the video.
Christopher opted for something cinematic to enhance the emotions of the
song, allowing feelings to become massive. Shot in California’s Lucerne
Valley, Stephen traveled from Atlanta, GA, to achieve that perfect setting.
Being inspired by artistic visionaries like Kanye West, Steven’s goal was
to give fans, something they’d never expect.
Everyone has dreams and ambitions in life, but only a select few actually
strategize and act out those dreams. Memphis native Steven Christopher had
a dream to become one of the top entertainers in the music world. His
explosive vocals, charismatic personality, work ethic and creative blend of
hip hop, R&B and soul, Steven Christopher’s unique sound is one that will
make you remember who he is.
Working with some of the top producers in the business, including Chuck
Harmony, Kendrick “Wyldcard” Dean, Kwame, traveling back and forth to L.A.
and NYC; the work paid off. *“I got to Atlanta, and have no idea how but
ended up around the right people. At that point it was grind or go home. I
didn’t care about anything but making music. I’m sure everybody was
probably thinking ‘Who’s this skinny kid and why won’t he leave the
studio?’ I just always tried my hardest and thankfully people saw something
Steven found a mentor in producer Shama “Sak Pase” Joseph (Rihanna “Man
Down”, Jay-Z & Kanye West “Who Gon Stop Me”). “Sham was the first producer
I ever had a in-studio writing session with; before that I’d just write at
home and bring the song in to demo. I was scared as shit but somehow we
made the biggest song I think I’ve ever written and it kept going, song
after song. He and I developed this crazy musical chemistry and he became a
mentor to me like a big brother. Sham was the first person I went to when i
decided to start workin’ on my own music.” Fans can find his new joint,
“Breathe,” off his upcoming EP called “Luv Hard.”
Sebastian Mikael has released the visual to his single “Made For Me.” Shot in Palmdale, California, the video features beautiful desert scenes that capture the feelings conveyed in this R&B smash.
Check out Sebastian and Teyana Taylor in their first music video appearance together. “Made For Me” can be found on Sebastian Mikael’s “Speechless” album.