Music & Entertainment

Music & Entertainment



Interview by Brandon Jackson 

This winter Common stopped by Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana to talk about his book, influence on hip hop music, and his vision for the future. I had the chance to read his book entitled One Day It’ll All Make Sense, which gave an in depth look at Common’s life during his early years, his slow rise to success, and his greatest accomplishments that have defined his life and career. Common gives much credit to his mother, Dr. Mahilia Ann Hines, who raised him as a single parent after Common’s father left when he was very young. In the book, Dr. Hines admits not knowing about her son being a rap artist until he was offered a record deal while he was a student at FAMU. Dr. Hines would agree to support her son for 3 years, where he would have to go back to school if his rap career did not work out. Common would persevere through the difficult years as his career struggled to get off the ground. His 3rd album, “Like Water for Chocolate,” would be ground breaking, as it went on to serve as his first gold album.

Common’s relationship with singer Erykah Badu was the first time he actually discovered love. Their breakup would serve as a pivotal moment in his life where he would find inspiration to grow. Shortly after dating Badu, Common would start working with fellow Chicago rap artist, Kanye West, who gave him inspiration for the album BE. Common first met West early in his career when he would come to the studio to work with Common’s childhood friend, producer No I.D. Common continues to impact the lives of young people with his Common Ground Foundation and other initiatives that he does across the world. To learn more about Common’s visit to Indianapolis, check out the youtube clip below.


Tasha Smith Visits Indy

Tasha Smith: (mtDNA linked to the Bubi people of Bioko Island in Equatorial Guinea and the Tikar, Hausa, & Fulani people of Cameroon)

Tasha Smith is undoubtedly one of the most influential African-American actors of the last decade. With a career that has spanned over 20 years, she has continued to remain humble of her success on the big screen. Smith is well known for her portrayal of “Angela” in the Tyler Perry FilmsWhy Did I Get Married. Smith was once asked if she is anything like her character in the films and she stated, “The only similarities between us are we’re both loud.” Smith’s vocal personality has not only served as a way to portray various characters, but it has also served as a venue to tell her amazing story. Tasha Smith will be in Indianapolis on September 28th to speak at Eastern Star Church for the Circle City Classic Prayer & Praise Service. Last week, spoke with Tasha Smith about her career, her passion for serving Christ, and her desire to make a difference in the lives of others.

BJ: To what do you attribute your success as an actor and your confidence as a woman?

TS: God is the first reason for the success I’ve had in life. He has been the author of everything that I’ve done and accomplished. It’s been hard work getting to where I am today. I think people need to realize that in order to be successful in whatever you do you have to work hard for it. I know that throughout my life I’ve learned to respect myself and I think it’s so important for people to do the same .

BJ: Tasha, Can you talk about how God came in your life when you were 25? And what was it like making that transformation to who he wanted to be.

Tasha Smith

TS: During that time in my life I learned who God was. As I started to grow I realized that walking with God was not always easy. I learned during that transformation period in my life that I had to get into his word. I had to fellowship with other believers. I also had to learn how to allow God to be my best friend.
BJ: So many women have identified with your testimony. What has that done for you as a person?
TS: It has allowed me to not forget what God has brought me out of. I’ve learned how to count my victories and it’s very important that people do that. Looking back at my victories has given me hope to remain strong.

Tasha Smith Jill Scott

BJ:: Tasha, I know that you do your own acting workshops. Some of your students have said that you have them go to their most inner parts of themselves emotionally and spiritually in order to become good actors. Why is that so important?

TS: I feel like as actors we can only utilize what we have access to. So a lot of times, people come to my workshops and say they have never been angry, sad, or happy. You have to be real about what you do as an actor. You can’t feel bad about going into yourself. A lot of times a lot of actors come in with repressed emotions. The Bible talks about confessing yourself before the Lord, when you allow yourself to have freedom. That same attitude toward acting will allow you to be creative.
Tasha Smith and Janet Jackson
BJ: How have you managed to maintain who you are as a Christian, a woman, and role model in the entertainment Industry?

TS: You know what’s interesting is that I get that question a lot. A lot of people think Hollywood is very evil because of certain movies, but there are some good people who live here. There are good people who work hard at what they do. As for me, I am who I am. My atmosphere does not change who I am as a person.


Interview With New Edition & Bobby Brown Movie Writer Abdul Williams

Abdul Williams: New Edition TV Movie Writer Wins NAACP Image Award on King Holiday

     In the midst of watching a great movie, it’s so easy to overlook all the elements that went into making that particular movie a success. Yet, with every movie, there must be a well written script that brings that movie to life. NuAmazinglife had a chance to catch up with Hollywood scriptwriter, Abdul Williams, who is behind writing such movies as “Lottery Ticket” and most recently “The New Edition Story.” Williams, who penned his first story at age 8, spoke with NuAmazinglife about his struggles in the business and his commitment to staying true to his passion for writing.

BJ: Jackson: Abdul, I first want to congratulate you on the success that you have received for writing the New Edition Story. I know that this movie was in the works for over 10 years or so. How does it feel to have everything finally coming together with the completion of this movie?

AW: Williams: It feels very vindicating. There were a lot of times in between that it didn’t seem like it was going to happen because of all the red tape and the fact that everything had to line up perfect. We started getting our momentum again around 2013. There were a few changes that go far back as 2007 that had to be worked out. Steven Hill from BET was always a big New Edition fan. Once he got on board everything came together.

BJ: Jackson: I know that there were a lot of elements that went into making the New Edition Story a success. And it seems that you were the glue that really brought this film together by writing an amazing script. Can you walk me through that process of what that was like?

AW: Williams: The process was very fascinating and frustrating at the same time. The fascinating part was hearing each group member tell their story. The frustrating part was making sure that I met my deadlines by making sure that I gathered all the information I needed for the script. I also interviewed everyone that was a part of their story that had a character in the movie.

BJ: Jackson: I know that New Edition meant so much to R&B and to their fans all over the world. What were your thoughts before the movie was made and after it was finished?

AW: Williams:  Prior to the film being made, honestly I thought to myself that I can’t mess this up. I know that a number of people were depending on me and everyone who was creating this movie to make this a success. I also felt that I didn’t want to let the fellas in New Edition down. Everyone was involved with giving their input into the making of the film, but it wasn’t until they all saw the final edit they knew they got the right guy to write the script for the movie. I’m real glad that everyone embraced the movie. The biggest thing for me was seeing this generation embrace New Edition. I was so happy with the entire cast on how they did such a good job preparing for this movie.

BJ: Jackson: What did it mean for you and your family in terms of the reception that you received from writing the New Edition Story?

AW: Williams: They were very happy with the success. I remember writing many rewrites of the script, but it was the patience that really got everyone through. I couldn’t be more thankful of a supportive team that helped create this movie.

Make sure you are on the lookout for future projects in 2018 from Abdul Williams!



The Rise of ATL

Hip Hop music has always been a part of my life since I can remember. Growing up with an older brother I had the opportunity of being exposed to music from the likes of KRS-One, Run DMC, Das EFX, and the Pharcyde. Yet it was my experience as a college student at Morris Brown College during the mid 90’s that allowed me to see up and close what was being birthed out of the South. One of my reasons for attending college in Atlanta was that I wanted to have a different experience aside from growing up in the Midwest. I wanted to experience some of the things that I saw on A Different World and the movie School Daze. Attending school in Atlanta Georgia also gave me the opportunity to witness some of the best rap music that was being created at the time. Being an intern at LaFace Records in the fall of 1996 allowed me to understand why the world could no longer ignore the city of Atlanta, Georgia. In the words of Andre 3000 during the 1995 Source Awards, “The South has something to say.” No longer could the world of Hip Hop ignore Atlanta, Georgia.

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Brandon with Jermain Dupri & Krioss Kross

pbrass 395 (2)Although Atlanta natives Kris Kross made a name for themselves coming from Atlanta, no other group would solidify the city’s place in Hip Hop more than the group Outkast. In the documentary ATL: The Untold Story of Atlanta’s Rise in the Rap Game, it showed how the Civil Rights movement was directly linked to those that were birthed out of the Hip Hop movement that came out of Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta was home of Civil Rights leader, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose childhood home was located on Auburn Ave. and was in walking distance of downtown Atlanta. It was also in Atlanta where you would find Morehouse College, Spelman College, Morris Brown, and Clark Atlanta University, which produced some of the greatest musicians, civil rights leaders, and politicians of our time. I can remember as a student at Morris Brown walking n the Atlanta University Center, riding the Marta, and attending some of the music festivals that educated students on the history of the city. It was during this time that I understood why Atlanta was set apart from cities like Los Angeles and New York. Atlanta had a vibe that the world was becoming in tune with around 1983.
Prior to 1983 the city had a sense of unrest as a number of children were coming up missing. It was during that time that children were being found dead and many families were being torn after learning their children had been victims at the hands of a predator. 1983 brought closure to a painful experience in Atlanta. Rappers like Mojo, Mc Shy, and Kilo would bring a sense of happiness to a city through music and celebration. From 1984-1989 Atlanta’s music scene would continue to go through a process of growth with young producers like Dallas Austin and Jermaine Dupri producing well known R&B acts. It wasn’t until 1989 that a major label came to Atlanta to set up shop and create an avenue for some of the best talent in Atlanta to be heard. Babyface & LA Reid would launch Laface Records, which was home to artists such as Toni Braxton, TLC, Usher, and Outkast. Yet it was with the release of Outkast’s first album in 1994 that Atlanta would be known to the world as the “New Motown of the South.” With the arrival of the Summer Olympic Games in 1996, Atlanta could no longer be ignored by the world of music. It has become a city that is home to the busiest airport, prestigious colleges & universities, and lastly some of the best music ever created!

Brandon with Ambassador Andrew Young



Baggage Claim Review: Finding True Happiness


Now I know why it’s hard to find the perfect person. “They don’t exist.” These were lines stated by the character played by Paula Patton in the movie “Baggage Claim.” From the beginning I knew that the movie would be your typical love story. A woman has a desire to meet the perfect guy after being lonely for a long time. She takes it upon herself to discover her true love, only to find out in the end that what she was searching for was right in front of her. This basically sums up the movie. But as simple as all of that sounded, there were some principles in the movie that really stood out for me. There were things in the movie that I’ve talked about in my own discussions and counseling sessions. There were issues that I’ve heard other people discuss. The important thing that I took from the movie was that you have to know you and be comfortable with you even before you step out to try to find that person who you hope to spend the rest of your life with.The main character Montana Moore was on a mission to find a mate in 30 days. She went through a number of obstacles trying to find the perfect guy. Without giving the movie away, she realized that what she truly valued and wanted was something that she had all along. The thing that I thought about as I watched the movie was that anytime you have a desire to be in a relationship or marriage one day, you can’t rush it. Sometimes people think that because everyone else has a mate and are happy, that means they have to go out and find the same thing that everybody else has. Although there is nothing wrong with meeting people, the question that must always be asked is, “what is my reason for wanting to meet this person?” If that question can’t be answered, then what a person is searching for may not be what they really want. Not rushing simply means “taking time to prepare yourself for the mate that God has for you.” As a woman is preparing herself a man may come along and see her beauty. His only choice will be to speak to you and the rest is history. Once two people connect and discover there is chemistry, this is a great time for a wonderful relationship to begin. I think along the way two people in a relationship should grow together, learn from each other, and allow what they have established to be a basis for their marriage. One of the things that I thought about when watching the movie is what are people’s reaction when they find out the true colors of the people they’re dating? The character Montana had a few run-ins with her exes that started out good, but turned bad. I always say that when you meet a person you’re getting the representation of that person. What happens when they show you who they really are? That’s why I always stress the importance of two people getting to know each other. This could save a lot of heartache and pain in the end. The last thing that I wanted to discuss is that sometimes what people are looking for is right in front of them. I can remember a time in my life where I was searching for perfection. I thought that being with a certain person would bring me happiness. In the end I discovered that my happiness comes from God and within. I realized that all I had to do was trust God with that mate that I dreamed about. It was in the end that Montana discovered her true love. It was when she let go and allowed God to bring to her what was there all along. Once we view love as something beyond the physical, then we will understand it can only be brought to our lives in the spiritual.


NCORE Conference Brings Hip Hop to Indy

Brandon with African Bambatta

Since the 1970s Hip Hop music has been able to transcend cultural, socioeconomic, and language barriers since its birth in the Bronx, New York. Hip Hop music has influenced radio, television, and the way we view certain things that take place in our society such as crime and poverty. Yet in the past 30 years, Hip Hop music looks nothing like it did in the early days. The music today is more about material possessions, partying, and sexual content. Yet there are those who dedicate their lives to educating others about the importance of Hip Hop music. This year at the 2014 NCORE Diversity conference, a session entitled Hip Hop as Evolution: From Urban Shadows to the Global Mainstream and Academy was held to highlight the history and significance of Hip Hop music. Hip Hop pioneer Africa Bambaataa, Hip Hop artist Jasiri X, Yo Yo, Aisha Fukushima, and Hip Hop photographer Joe Conzo served as panelists for the two-hour discussion, which was held at the JW Marriott in downtown Indianapolis. Martha Diaz, who served as the moderator, facilitated the conversation where the panelists talked about the experiences, contributions, and influence that they’ve had on the Hip Hop culture. Africa Bambaataa took attendees down memory lane as he spoke of the origins of Hip Hop music. Bambaataa was very influential with using Hip Hop music as a way to draw young people from gangs and crimes to doing something positive by creating music. During the discussion Bambaataa talked about the importance of learning history about the past, and how as a people we can’t be caught up in believing the hype!“We have to learn our real history in order to have a sense of direction,” stated Bambaataa.HIP3The females also represented during the discussion. Aisha Fukushima currently serves as a Youth Coordinator at BAVC in San Francisco, California. Fukushima calls herself a ‘RAPtivist’, in which she educates others around the world about social justice & Hip Hop. Fukushima speaks of unity in her music, an appreciation of life, and her experiences living in other countries. Yolanda Whitaker, or better known to the world as Yo Yo, talked about her passion for other artists who had an impact on Hip Hop music. Yo Yo was a protégé of rap artist, producer, and director Ice Cube. When Yo Yo was asked about the death of Tupac Shukar, she was not afraid to express her feelings not only as an artist, but as a friend of the slain rapper.“I remember seeing Tupac right before he died. I was upset, because his life did not have to end that way,” said Yo Yo.Hip Hop’s fallen soldiers will never be forgotten. One person who has committed the last 30 plus years of capturing images of Hip Hop is photographer Joe Conzo Jr. Conzo’s work is now being featured at Cornell University’s Library Division of Rare Manuscript Collections. NCORE Conference attendees had the pleasure of witnessing various photographs from the collection during the panel discussion. The session concluded with each panelist giving last thoughts that reflected their passion, dedication, and love for Hip Hop Music. For more information on the panelists and the NCORE conference please visit http://aishafukushima.com, and



Giving An Amazing Praise


Praise & Worship can do wonders for the spirit! I had a chance to speak with Byron Cage who shared his thoughts on his passion for music and how he has remained true to his roots.

You were blessed to begin your music career in the city of Detroit and then transitioning to New Birth Cathedral when you began college. How have some of the experiences molded you to be the artist and musician you are today?

BC: I actually started in Grand Rapids Michigan. I went to the same church as the Debarge family. I remember singing in the same choir where Fred Hammond was first a bass player, and I also was influenced by Donald Bell who was Minister of Music at my church. When I got a little older I had the pleasure of working with Thomas Whitfield who taught me a lot as an artist. I went to Morehouse College when I was 23 on a scholarship, and I had the chance of becoming the Minister of Music at New Birth Cathedral.  I even remember being in Tyler Perry’s first play in Atlanta when he first started out. I’ve been doing this for over 16 years, and I am very grateful for all the opportunities that I’ve had.

Byron Cage, Keon Moore, and Brandon (Representing Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.)

      You’re considered to be the pioneer of praise and worship music! What do you contribute to being the driving force that allowed you to bring this style of music out to the forefront?

BC: Praise and worship used to be called testimony service. Saints and praise started that. I learned my style from Minister Thomas Whittfield. So I owe it all to the early saints for this style of music we call praise and worship. I really enjoy the feeling that is in the atmosphere during praise and worship.  I really owe everything to what I learned growing up. But as I reflect on the song that I did that really brought praise and worship out front it was called “Shabach.”

          Why do you feel praise in worship is such a critical part of being at church and what do you think it does for the believer as a whole?

BC: I think it’s important for believers to make worship their lifestyle. I had to make it a part of my lifestyle. 

         Your last album, Faithful to Believe was recorded in Detroit with a handful of great artists. Why did you go home to record that album, and what are you going to try different with your next album?

BC: The recession was very hard in Detroit. I went back, and I wanted to bring some things back to the people.

How do you remain grounded as a gospel artist when the world celebrates secular music more than gospel? How do you not lose focus?

BC: When you’re called to do something, I learned how to be thankful and just keep walking. I’ve done all the award shows and things related, I just try to make sure that I don’t get caught up in all the hype.





What I Learned In Paris


The city of Atlanta, Georgia has always been at the forefront of one of the most progressive cities in the last 4 years. When Maynard Jackson was elected mayor in 1973, it would turn the city of Atlanta into a place where African-Americans would flock to for a new start. Young politicians saw Atlanta as an opportunity to make a difference in their community, college students saw it as a place to attend well-known institutions like Spelman and Morehouse College, and lastly it was a place where African-Americans were leading the way for change.
Nationally recognized author and playwright Pearl Cleage, served as Maynard Jackson’s speechwriter and press secretary during his campaign. It was during her experience that she was inspired to write her play What I Learned in Paris, which is now playing at the Indiana Repertory Theatre until April 12th.
The year 1973 was the setting of the play, which followed 5 friends who assisted during the campaign that would make Jackson the first African-American mayor of the city of Atlanta. During the campaign, somehow the 5 friends seemed to find fulfillment in their roles while working on the campaign, yet they somehow could not deny their calling placed on their hearts for love and new beginnings.
There are a number of issues that were discussed during the play. The year 1973 brought about a new beginning of topics such as racial equality, women’s rights, and new roles for African-Americans who wanted to explore leadership opportunities. Audiences will cry, laugh, sing, and reminisce during the 2 hour 30 minute play.
What I Learned in Paris is a comedy that plants the seed of possibility into all those who attend. Like the characters, it causes the attendee not to be afraid to dream about what could be and what could become.



“Hello Beautiful.” This phrase was tagged by Writer, Artist, and Model, Tasha Jones when she noticed a group of children discussing who among them was the blackest. She soon discovered that many of these same children did not view themselves in a positive way, so she empowered them by affirming that they were beautiful. If you ever have a chance to see Tasha Jones perform, you will somehow leave feeling that you have the ability to reach your dreams. She has been no stranger to the world as she was once recognized by Lauryn Hill, featured on an episode of Versus & Flow, and just recently caught the attention of Stave Harvey and later appeared on his show.

Tasha, I understand that you discovered your passion for writing poetry during some tough moments in your life. How have those moments played a factor in the person you are today?

I’ve experienced some things in my life at a young age that I wouldn’t wish any young person to have to go through the things that I went through. I got through some of the struggles by discovering my passion for writing. Writing saved my life from a therapeutic standpoint, plus it also gave me the opportunity to get some of my true feelings out. When I wrote the pages didn’t talk back, they listened. The pages didn’t have any facial expressions or tell me that I was dumb or stupid.  The pages allowed me to speak. That’s what I needed at the time when I started writing.


Tasha, you seem to have made the most out of impacting the lives of others by your poetry. Why is it so important for you to be more than just a poet?

I definitely believe that the poet’s job is to speak the truth to the people. The job of a poet is to hold the courage to tell the truth to the people who need the truth. I know that as a poet I’m called to do more. As an artist there are things that I need to do to express how I feel to other people. To be honest most of the work that I do is for me first. And I think the biggest reason that I do it for myself first is because it drives me to not be afraid, it helps me to understand different situations, and helps other forms of expression to come out when I focus on myself first. Lastly, I believe that if I just limit myself to just poetry, I’m putting limitations on what God has for me.


Can you share about your thoughts on everything that has been taking place in the world in the past two years? How, as a poet, are you inspired?

I think the first thing that I want to say in terms of how I relate to what has been taking place in the world the last couple of years is that I can relate to people that have been hurt, abused, neglected and left out.

Tasha, I know that fashion has had an influence on your career as a poet. How have you managed to combine the two since you started in the business?

I think my sense of fashion has definitely influenced my audience. The people who come out to my shows are people who represent somewhat a sense of who I am. I love fashion because I just love to look good. I like clothes and my ability to put things together. I remember growing up poor and not knowing I was poor. I was very creative as a child, and there were things that I saw in my closet where I could make certain things for myself. I have the ability to look at things and make certain clothes. I remember being in high school and people asking me if I was from London or Paris, so I know that people saw the difference in my taste of style.


What do you have in store for the future?

I’m working on a new album with some great writers. I’m also working hard on the Nina Simone project. This is something that’s in tribute to her life and legacy. I’m also trying to learn how to play some new instruments and just continue to grow.


Any last words for our readers?

I want the readers to know to always dream big and don’t be afraid to keep going when everything around you says stop.

For more information on Tasha Jones please visit or email


Catching Up with Fishbone in Indianapolis

Meeting Fishbone front man Angelo Moore and bass player Norwood Fisher on a Thursday in Indianapolis, Indiana was an opportunity that doesn’t come too often. And to top it all off, the place where they played on September 18th was tucked away just 5 minutes from where I went to high school on the Northside of the city. Yet it was a chance for me to speak with two guys from Los Angeles who have played great music for almost 30 years, who have been credited as influences of Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and No Doubt. Norwood greeted me around 7pm to conduct the interview and Angelo showed up 10 minutes later after a quick sound check for the show.


Can you guys talk about what you’ve been doing in the last couple of years as far as touring and any new music you’re working on?

NF: We put together a 5 song EP called Intrinsically Intertwined that came out during the spring of this year. We’ve also started playing big festivals like Coachella and some other big shows. We’ve just been having a really fun spring and summer. We are putting together a 5 episode web show that is based on the 5 songs on Intrinsically Intertwined.

BJ: I know you mentioned the Coachella Festival and other big name shows you guys have performed at this year. I understand you’ll be performing with Outkast and Foo Fighters during a festival in New Orleans on 10/31. How did you link up with those guys?

NF: We’re very fortunate enough to make some level of acquaintance with Outkast going back to when we were in the movie Idlewild. We’ve been cool with those guys for years. I remember knowing Dave Grohl going back to when he was in a band called Scream, which was before Nirvana. Scream had opened up for us during a show way back in the day.

BJ: I know your audience has changed from when you guys first started out compared to today. How different are your fans now vs. back then?

NF: What happened was is that they all became adults! And now they have grandkids. The cool thing is that since our documentary came out “Everyday Sunshine,” we see a lot of our fans show up with their kids and grandkids. They’re introducing Fishbone to a new generation.

BJ: How do you feel about how your fans outside of America have embraced you?

NF: It feels that we still get love from all over the world. We just got back from Columbia and Chile. We had a great time. We also would like to travel to Africa and Jamaica, which are two places we’ve never been too. I heard they have an audience for what we do, so we really want to make it a point go travel there one day.

BJ:What has been your guys’ secret to your staying power after all these years?

NF: You have to be in it for the art and the love of the art of creating music. I think you should always remain humble and never take for granted that this music thing will last forever.

BJ: What do you want people to say about you 30 years from now?

NF: I want people to say that Fishbone came and expressed a profound relationship to artistic freedom in music and inspired a generation to do what they feel.



It’s been almost a decade since the release of Esperanza Spalding’s first album ‘Junjo’. Her debut to the world was almost destined way before she won a Grammy, played alongside Prince, or graced her presence at the White House on two occasions. It began in Portland, Oregon when she discovered her desire to play the violin as a child. Despite all of her success in her career, Spalding has continued to remain humble about the many accomplishments in her life, and still speaks of the importance of growing and always evolving as a musician and artist. Spalding spoke with us about her new tour that kicks off this month, and also shared some life lessons about growing as an artist.

Esperanza Spalding
Brandon greeting Esperanza Spalding

BJ:Esperanza, before I talk about some of the work you’ve been doing since the release of ‘Radio Music Society’, I want to ask about this dream you had a day before your birthday which gave birth to ‘Emily’s D+ Evolution’. Tell me how this all came about.

ES: You know I really can’t tell you how it came about. It actually surprised me too (laughter). It was something that came about that was never really meant to be a character as if I’m saying, “hi my name is Emily,” but it was really the way of how I saw myself. It was the energy of the performance that I saw and the vignettes. I really liked the symbolism in the vignettes. The vignettes were very abstract and I really liked it. I guess I really had been missing that, and later with a little reflection the original dreams actually turned out to be songs. I think that’s how everything started to move forward. It always seems that the original source of inspiration always turns out to be a winner. Over time it just seemed that there was more and more to unpack and I just kept running with it.

BJ: I now that your tour kicks off in early May and runs through the mid part of August. Can your audience expect to see anything different from this tour compared to some of your past tours?

ES: Yes they will! I can’t tell everything, but it’s going to be very good so I hope they come out.

BJ: You’ve been in the public eye for about 12 or so years. And I know for Jazz artists it can take years, sometimes 20 or so years for a Jazz artist to arrive. Do you still consider yourself new to the public eye or do you feel that you’ve arrived as a musician?

ES: To me there is no such thing as “arriving.” Arriving is usually related to the realm of notoriety, which is really not my concern. I arrived when I was born and that was enough for me. Arriving is already an arrival. No person, no entity, no group of peers, or organization has the authorization to tell a person that they’ve arrived. I would also like to say that in the realm of being any artist whether it is a songwriter, classical pianist, or jazz musician the process is ongoing. You do get to a place where you know your strengths. You know you can read a sheet of music if someone puts it in front of you. You know as an artist if you have to write a jingle about resumes you can nail it. The miracle is that forever the potentiality expands, so there is no such thing as arrived. It’s sometimes like arriving on the horizon, and as soon as you get there there’s another horizon. As artists we are so limitless, so to me there is no arriving.

BJ: You know it’s interesting, I remember reading an interview where you stated one of your goals was to sing and play the way a piano player does. Is that something that you’ve achieved yet or are you still working on that?

ES: I wish I was there! I think that has to do more with one aspect of singing and playing. What I mean by that is having the independence and the agility in both the voice and the bass to move in real time. I think that would be really great to be able to do that. But this is a process that is ongoing.

BJ: I know that writing has been a big thing for you going back to when you wrote for your first group Noise for Pretend. Do you still keep a journal as a means to help you with some of your lyrics for projects you’re working on?

ES: Yes. I use a journal, voice memos, and tape recorders of some of my thoughts and ideas. Everything that I do is ongoing. At this point in my life everything that I do goes through many revisions before it’s ready for other people to hear. I use the journal for mostly editing and fine tweaking things.

BJ: It’s no secret that when you made your debut to the world you drew in an audience of people who never would have listened to Jazz had it not been for them seeing you on the Grammys or the BET awards. Do you still feel that there is more of an audience that has not been tapped into yet who would like jazz?

ES: Well, like a lot of art forms there aren’t many spaces in the public arena for the general public to hear about things like poetry, international literature, world music, folk, and contemporary dance. It’s hard to gain access sometimes to the performing arts and non –performing arts like poetry. I think the more that we are exposed to the performing arts, the more we learn to appreciate them and love them more which have been the experience for my life. I don’t really think much of my music is very jazzy, and I don’t consider myself a gateway act into jazz. I’m an artist first and if people come to see me and they want to listen to jazz awesome, and if not I’m thankful they came to see me!

BJ: Lastly, Esperanza I know you’re a fan of Mos Def, so I had to ask you this question.Who’s your top 5 Hip Hop Artists?

ES: You know it’s funny I don’t have a top 5 anything. I mean everyone is so different so it’s not really fair. I really don’t believe in competition. I will say that I think Kendrick Lamar is amazing! I really think he’s a genius and his talent for what he is doing with his poetry and language is really underrated. I think what he’s doing now is super special. Please visit for tour related information.



 One the most influential hip hop groups of all time just happened to roll into town on a stop for their 14 city HipHopgods tour. Base!!! How Low Can You Go! You guessed it- Public Enemy! With a career that has spanned over 25 years, produced 85 tours, and a recent nomination for the 2013 Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, there seems to be no stopping for Public Enemy any time soon.

Public Enemy has always been a major supporter of keeping real hop music alive. Chuck D talked about his reasoning for organizing the tour at a press conference while in Indianapolis. “Our career in hip hop music expands over 25 years. I always felt like it was my military for the simple fact that I wanted to be of service to my friends and peers,” said Chuck D. There were over 30 people on the tour that consisted of performers, DJs, band members and artists with likes of Schoolly D. X Clan, Leaders of the New School, Son of Bazerk, Wise Intelligent (of Poor Righteous Teachers) and Awesome Dre and Davy DMX . Chuck D, who put together the line-up, made sure that there was room for the ladies to be heard. Monie Love, who is best known for being one of the major pioneer female rap artists in the industry and one of the original members of the Native Tounges, talked about her thoughts on the role of the female artist of today. “It’s time for the female artist to be heard. We do more than just rap, we own companies, write, and direct,” said the London, England born rap artist. Hip Hop music today looks nothing like it did 25 years ago. Today you find more focus on material possessions and lack of originality than lyrical skill and content with true meaning. The Hiphopgods tour was created to do one thing. To reach the masses and to let them know that real hip hop is here to stay and is just as relevant now as it was 25 years ago. Make sure you check out the next show coming to a city near you.





Every so often, if you’re lucky during the summer you months, you’ll have the chance to catch a good live show in your city. As I write this, Funk Legend Masseo who did most of the early production work for James Brown and who often played alongside Prince, will be performing tonight in the city in which I reside. Yet ironically, a group by the name of Foreign Exchange played at the same venue called the Jazz Kitchen a few weeks earlier.

The journey of the duo that is The Foreign Exchange has been a quite serendipitous one. Nicolay and Phonte initially met in 2001 on, which is an online music community that allows hip-hop and alternative artists to connect. Nicolay, who is originally from the Netherlands, started sharing his music without expecting anything but honest feedback for his craft.

“Back home in the Netherlands, there were not many likeminded people to work with,” Nicolay recalled. “While I was not really searching for anything, I was throwing up a ball and waited to see if anyone would catch it.”

Phonte reached out after hearing a beat that Nicolay had posted and asked if he could sing something over it. The two have been rocking together ever since as they created The Foreign Exchange while never having met each other in person and released their first album together in 2004, intentionally and accurately named Connected. After the successful reviews of their first collaborative effort, the music started flowing like butter. Phonte brings the hip-hop and his classic R&B voice to compliment Nicolay’s fusion of jazz and electronic sounds – the perfect addition to your Chill Summer ’16 Cut List.

Phonte and Nicolay both spoke to Brandon about their journey.

How have the audiences in the United States and over in Europe embraced you throughout the years?
Nicolay – I think it’s been a good balance. Being from the Netherlands, I felt that the United States has a bigger audience. We have played places like South Africa and we Paris, and have always received a warm reception everywhere we’ve played.

I know you’ve played at First Avenue which was the backdrop place that Prince performed in Purple Rain. How did Prince and Micheal Jackson influence your music?

Well in terms of both artists, I had a great deal of respect for what they did for music. Music critics say that in terms of artistry you’re either a Micheal or a Prince. Micheal was perfectionist the way he dropped an album every three years. I mean the world stopped anytime Micheal did something big. Prince was the shear work horse, by the way he release such good music every 6 months for example. Micheal to me represents audio excellence .I consider myself to be somewhat like Micheal in the since that when I release something, I want to make sure that I am saying something. I usually wait a few years to release new material, because I don’t want to saturate the market with just any type of music. The Foreign Exchange is now five albums in with a 2009 Grammy nomination under their belts. What began as a happenstance encounter between an unlikely pair, swiftly transformed into a successful creative relationship. Please visit for more information about Foreign Exchange .


Interview with Skateboard Legend Alphonzo Rawls

In the late 80’s and early 90’s skateboarding emerged as one of the fastest growing sports to date. With over 18 million skaters worldwide, skateboarding has continued to grow since its conception in the late 1960’s. One skater who laid the foundation for early African-American professional skateboarders is Alphonzo Rawls. Rawls,who is an independent shoe designer in San Diego, spoke with us about skating and his career.

Interview by Brandon Q. Jackson

So you’re a shoe designer now? How did you segue into doing that after skateboarding?
Kastel Shoe Company approached me around 1995 about doing a pro model shoe. I was already into art and designing things so I knew it was something I wanted to do. I presented 10 designs to the company and they liked it. 17 years and over 102 designs I’m still at it!

Can you talk about skateboarding when you first started vs. today? How much has changed in the past 20 years?
I think skateboarding is in a good place today. Skateboarding is more recognized today. It’s more accepted than it was in the past. A lot of adults are backing it today. Skateboarding is more diverse today that it was 25 or so years ago.

e409a93482494971490cd3883dd3acafWhen you came out on the scene, you joined the ranks of skaters like Ron Allen, Ray Barbee, and Ron Chatman as being one of the most visible African-American pro skaters. Did that do anything for you knowing that you influenced black skaters that did not grow up in a diverse setting?
Yes and no. I was kind of doing my own thing and I didn’t really think about it at first. It wasn’t until after the Hokus Pokus video that I started to think about it. There were few scenes in my part that addressed the issue of race so I guess I felt there was an influence.

What was it like skating for H-Street and what do you think Hokus Pokus did for street skateboarding when it was released?
It was the most amazing time in my life. I was 14 years old when I first got sponsored by H-Street. It was all new and a lot of it was being done for the first time. H-street is such a “doing it yourself” brand. The graphics were tighter and it really put skateboarding on the map.

I know that you skated both vert and street. Did you ever lean to one more than the other?
It was a golden era and we just skated. We were just skateboarders. When I think of skateboarding as a whole I think we should get back to that. I respect pros more when they are diverse. It was cool to see Jason Lee (Actor), Lance Mountin, and Eric Kosten do both when they skated.

Any advice for kids who are currently learning how to skateboard?
Just skate and have fun. If a kid wants to get sponsored they have to realize it takes more than just skill set and doing lots of tricks. A lot of pros these days are more in charge of their career today.


Jasmine Guy Visits Indy


Every so often you will have a television show that will change the way people think, live, and how they view life. One show in particular was A Different World, which made its debut 27 years ago. A Different World would address issues that raised awareness about racism, HIV, and life at a historically Black College. One character that made her mark on the show with her signature southern accent was Whitley Gilbert who was played by Jasmine Guy. Ms. Guy was on hand as the keynote speaker at the 2014 IUPUI dinner celebrating the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in Indianapolis on January 19th at the Indiana Roof Ballroom. The annual dinner has been held for the last 45 years and has featured speakers such as Bobby Seale, Maya Angelou, and Ben Carson. Ms. Guy was introduced by Gerri Black, who was one of the coordinators for the event. Black, who is a first-generation college student, was very moved by Ms. Guy’s speech. “I was inspired by Jasmine Guy growing up. She is a person that has always had the ability to touch people. Her life has been a true blessing to me,” stated Black.And touching the audience with her speech that night is exactly what Jasmine Guy did. IUPUI students, faculty, and the community had the chance to hear Ms. Guy’s experience growing up across the street from the King family. Her father, who is also a preacher, attended and taught at Morehouse College, which is the alma mater of Dr. Martin Luther King. Ms. Guy spoke a message of how Dr. Martin Luther King was just a human being like all of us. “We all have the ability to make a difference like Dr. King. He was human just like us. We don’t have to do something that will change the world. We can do something will change our homes and community,” said Ms. Guy. The very next day on Dr. Martin Luther King Day, over 500 IUPUI students volunteered at 20 different agencies around the city. The vision of Dr. Martin Luther King and the message of Jasmine Guy inspired those very students to keep his dream alive by serving. To learn more about Jasmine Guy, please visit


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