Sunday, June 26, 2011

Review & Interviews: Beats, Rhymes, & Life: Travels of Tribe Called Quest


"Can I kick it?" No matter who asks the question, if you're a Hip Hop fan, there's really only one right answer, and documentary, "Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" shows us why. But don't let the word "travels" fool you. This IS NOT A Tribe Called Quest on an "Award Tour"; this doc is about their travels through life.

Told through the lens of passionate hip hop fan and actor turned director, Michael Rapaport, the approach to the subject matter begins inquisitively. Who, what, when, where, and of course, why. But much of the film is centered around why Tribe as a group and music force came to an end in the late 90s.

As a fan and the director, Rapaport understood what audiences wanted most--that's Tribe itself. Most of the interviews are with Tribe members, Phife, Q-Tip, Jarobi, and Ali Shaheed, not journalistic commentators on the outside looking in. Even their music peers, old and new, from DJ Red Alert to Pharrell, only speak to Tribe's influence and impact on hip hop music and culture. That's a refreshing approach to "keeping it real" as a documentarian, and not making a PR piece for the group or any label.

So we're taken back to where it all began on New York City's Linden Boulevard then shown how four childhood friends became the iconic, world renown hip hop group, A Tribe Called Quest. For those of us that remember not just the music of the early 90s, but the culture that was being birthed then through hip hop, you'll instinctively reflect on the impact it had on you personally.

As the Tribe members tell their individual stories, you'll begin to understand how collectively things changed, some for the good and some for the bad. You'll see what happens when a group of four talented teens become men on and off stage--childhood friendships are constantly tested, motivations change, decisions of life and health have to be made. And Rapaport pulls fans in as close as outsiders can get to Tribe's internal dramas.

Overall "Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" is insightful, creatively produced, and pays homage to the music. But is it worthy of Q-Tip's public criticism? That's for audiences to decide, and yes, when the credits roll so will opinions of Tribe fans.

One problem I have with the film is there's so much focus on Phife and Q-Tip, we don't get a true sense of the collaborative efforts Tip speaks to in the film. And THAT does create some criticism, but Jarobi and Ali haven't expressed publicly any concerns. So I'll leave it alone. As Rapaport alludes to in the interview below, we may get more of Ali and Jarobi on the upcoming DVD.

"Beats, Rhymes, & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest" hits theaters this JULY 8TH in Los Angeles and New York. So visit the official website for release dates in your city. To prepare you for what you're going to see, take a listen to the UNEDITED press interviews with Phife Dawg and Michael Rapaport. There's JEWELS OF INFO about the group, the doc, and music in them and as a fan of Tribe AND hip hop, I didn't want to cut anything out! As you'll hear, I had to jump in like double dutch to get some questions in!

Here's Phife Dawg:

And director, Michael Rapaport:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pre-BET Awards 2011 Black Girls Rock Event With Erykah Badu

flier_0IMG_0035IMG_0036IMG_0040Be'la DonaBe'la Dona KingKingGoapeleKim ColesErykah Badu, Be'la DonaErykah Badu, Be'la Dona Erykah Badu, Be'la DonaErykah Badu DJingErykah Badu DJingDJs D-Nice, IdrisDJ's Erykah Badu, D-Nice, Beverly Bond, Idris ElbaDJ's Erykah Badu, D-Nice, Beverly Bond, Idris Elba Mary Mary on the Red CarpetAlice Fuller , Simone Smith, Wendy Wheaton, LL Cool J in  Backstage Gifting SuiteHalle Berry, Alice Fuller, Otis WinstonTatyana Ali on red carpetHolly Robinson-Peete on red carpetChandra Wilson on red carpet

I had a GREAT time at the Roxy last night dancing my (BEEP) off during BET Pre-Awards event, the Black Girls Rock & Soul Tour, featuring Erykah Badu, aka @fatbellybella aka DJ Low Down Loretta Brown. Call her what you want, but Badu's show was off da chain with the added "go-go swing!" Y'all know I love go-go music!

Fresh out of DC area, all female band Be'la Dona introduced to many, re-introduced to some the genre of music seen performed by E.U. in Spike Lee Joint, "School Daze." This "Klymaxx of the new millennium", set the tone for the night by covering Beyonce, Rihanna, and Michael Jackson's biggest hits with their musical flavor. The crowd moved and grooved, myself included until we sweat! While they were on stage, we were totally distracted as to how long the wait for Badu was becoming.

Surprisingly, during their set, "Closer To My Dreams", Goapele made an appearance. The Bay area songstress blessed us with a rendition of crowd favorite, Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thang". Following her great performance, female trio, KING, then slowed the mood down a bit as the three women harmonized to mellow tracks.

Later, another celebrity surprise guest, Ledisi, stepped on stage and introduced Badu--and no, she didn't sing. Once Badu arrived, she performed with Be'La Dona like an original go-go band member, playing the cowbell, and percussion. She rocked that bell but that's not all!

A woman of many talent and hats, literally, Badu incorporated her a turntable into the show and became DJ Low Down Loretta Brown. On the 1s and 2s, Badu showed off a few mixing techniques for several minutes to an attentive crowd then her cypher kept moving like a rolling stone with celebrity guest DJs D-Nice, Idris Elba aka "Dris", and Beverly Bond, the founder of Black Girls Rock. The four of them cold rocked the party until closing time!

Overall, it was a wonderful night of great performances which supported a great cause. Learn more about Black Girls Rock by visiting its official website. Enjoy the video!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Green Lantern: Gets Ring Finger Not A Middle


When Hollywood says it's going green June 17th, it doesn't mean eco-friendly, it means box-office friendly. And that's what I expect "Green Lantern" to be opening weekend, very box office friendly to kids, families, and comic book lovers. Let the green dollars flow!

Green Lantern 101 For Comic Newbies
"Green Latern" (Ryan Reynolds) as most know is based on the popular character from DC Comics. The reason there's no "The" with the title is because there's more than one of them. What? Okay, for the comic book/superhero-challenged like me, allow me to explain. According to the original story which is some 70 years old, there's an intergalactic Green Lantern Corp. that exists to protect the universe from evil.

The Corp is supervised by these "big thinkers" called the Guardians on planet Oa. I say big thinkers 'cause their heads are HUGE, and because they instilled into the Lanterns the notion that anything they imagine can become real based on sheer power of will and fearlessness. That's "big thinking"! That said, there's plenty of Laws of Attraction-esque messaging and Shakespearean themes throughout the film for adults wise enough to recognize them.

As the story goes, Hal Jordan (Reynolds) is the first of six Green Lanterns from Earth, and for the purposes of this movie the most popular.

The Story

Cocky, sexy test pilot, Hal Jordan, is chosen--literally picked up off the street--to be a Green Lantern. By whom or what is hard to explain, so put your imaginary hat on! He's chosen by a "force of will" to be "knighted" by Abin Sur, a dying Green Lantern that fell to Earth in battle with the evil force, Parallax. With Hal's new distinction comes a pretty green ring, a lantern, and an oath.

In the tradition of "The Greatest American Hero" (I just aged myself), Hal has plenty of trial and error in trying to figure out what it all means. It's not until he's brought to Oa that the mystery is solved. And there is where he gets his tailored made, green power suit and his first lessons in what it really means to be a Green Lantern.

On Oa too is Hal's introduction to nemesis, Parallax. Feeding on the fear of everything in its path, Parallax is out to destroy the cosmos, including Oa and Earth. But does the inexperienced human Green Lantern have what it takes to stop it? His fellow Lanterns aren't so confident especially, "Mega-Mind" look-like, Sinestro (Mark Strong), and Kilowog (Michael Clark Duncan). He's the weakest link to them.

Adding to the story are Hal's love interest, childhood boo and test pilot, Carol Ferris (Blake Lively), and scientist turned villain, Hector Hammond (Peter Sarsgaard). Carol sees underneath all Hal's swagger is a man who's afraid of failure. To get him to see his own value, she challenges him to "man up" and take his new Green Lantern membership seriously.

On the outside looking in is "hater", Hector! He wants Carol for himself and to have Hal's life and looks. Instead, he's a boring, overlooked xenobiology professor, until he's given the opportunity to examine the alien body of Abin Sur, thanks to dear old influential dad (Tim Robbins--who by the way looks young enough to be his brother). When Hector gets infected by some evil Parallax virus during his examination, he can now attract everyone's attention with his new evil powers, but it damn sure doesn't make him attractive! Under Parallax's influence, he breaks Hell lose for Hal and Carol!

Green Thumbs Up or Down?

Having little knowledge and no true childhood allegiance to any comic strip/tv hero with the exceptions of Wonder Woman and Almighty Isis, I give "Green Lantern" three (3) green rings out of five (5)! Why? It's pretty formulaic as these movies go, but some things I questioned. Even with my imagination hat on tight, how does a scientist that took the necessary precautions NOT to come in direct contact with an alien body, still get infected with an alien virus? We should have seen that happen or it had it explained!

And lastly, if the Green Lantern Corp.'s purpose is protect the universe from evil and "keep intergalactic order", why did none of them HELP their new frat bro out when Earth was in danger? Hal was WILLING to help them fight Parallax in their time of need!

So should you spend your greens to support this green movie? Sure, overall IT WAS ENTERTAINING. I liked the costumes, special effects, make up, and the chemistry between the lead characters. And that's what you're paying to see and experience. So in essence, "Green Lantern" lives up to its underlying theme, "Anything I see in my mind, I can create!" And trust, all the Oscar winners and nominees in front of and behind the scenes of this film have already thought of its box office successes.

That said, like them, I imagine YOU, reader, leaving me a comment on this post! If I think it, I can manifest it! So go ahead, conquer fear like Green Lantern, Hal, and let me know your thoughts and expectations.

Friday, June 10, 2011

The siSTARS & John Salley Dish on Soul Food, Vegans, & Black Hollywood

Hey readers! While tweeting this week, I was introduced to this new webcast by "The siSTARS" called the "Black Hollywood Weekly." It's co-hosted by a few women featured here on including Tanjareen Martin ("Chronicles of A Celibate Nympho", "Love For Sale") and Caryn Ward ("The Game"). The other hosts include Chrystee Pharris ("Scrubs","Passions") and homegirl (shoutout from NC!) Janori McDuffie ("Grey's Anatomy").

Me likey! Why? There's stimulating conversation and some REALLY good information and insights shared by first guest, NBA player turned vegan and wellness expert, John Salley. And second guest, Richard Ri'chard, LAWD forgive me but that handsome, intelligent young man makes cougars purr! I love too his thoughts on the role and responsibility of actors. Watch how he turns the interviewers into interviewees. That brotha is RESEARCHING!!! I digress...

No, the talk show format is nothing new, but I like hearing different and fresh perspectives on various topics, especially those impacting Black Hollywood. I also like how they've integrated social media into the mix with livestreaming. How long have I been preaching to Black industry folk to do more of that? Ummmm 4 years now! It's past time black and brown entertainers really began using these internet tools to grow their fan bases and promote shows like their white counterparts! Indeed, the show must go on and in right now it's playing more and more on the internet!

Not to mention, this topic of veganism and vegetarianism keeps popping up in my Hollywood and circles. I just saw "The Future of Food" three weeks ago on Hulu. Did you know you could patent seeds and a lot of what we eat is genetically modified? Think the Lord is trying to tell me something?

Whatever your tastes offline and off, I think this show has something to satisfy it or they may at least address it. All the ladies can be found actively tweeting and Facebook-ing so look them up on their social profiles. Follow, fan, and engage with them too and be sure to check out their show, "Black Hollywood Weekly" on the AfterBuzz TV Network on Ustream.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Hawthorne's Christine: Best Depiction of Black Women on TV Now?

With so much online and offline chatter about black women on tv, from the harsh, pseudo reality show divas to the new scripted single women hunting for love in all the wrong places, I had almost forgotten there's still a few black female characters on television that most would agree are a more balanced representation-- one being the character of Christine Hawthorne on the TNT's, "Hawthorne", portrayed by none other than Jada Pinkett Smith.

Now, of course some of you "meanies" may scratch Christine off the list too for dating outside the race, but hey love sees no color on cable tv, especially when ratings and advertisers are involved! HA! And this new third season of "Hawthorne" appears to be a ratings booster thanks to a wedding and a multi-racial love triangle. Enter cop Rick Doneta portrayed by singer turned actor, Marc Anthony! And AFTER you finish reading this post, check out the recap of Season 2 to see what led up to the images from the new season below.

As you see Christine is getting married to cutie pie doctor, Tom Wakefied (Michael Vartan)! But what the TV lord put together, one man could put asunder. And that's not really bad bloating filling out the wedding dress. Christine's pregnant in Season 3! Now that's some good ol' soap opera drama right there! So set your DVRs for June 14th 10pm/9c on TNT so you won't miss a thing!

So, if you watch "Hawthorne" what are you looking forward to this upcoming season? And do you agree Christine, as a character, is a needed break from the overly hyped reality show black women and the scripted attention starved ones? Share your thoughts!

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