Chamillionaire: With A Vengeance Published February 18, 2005 byTiffany Hamilton

Houston we have a problem. It seems nowadays that Houston is having everything but problems. With the resurgence of Southern music on the forefront, all sorts of talent is definitely making sure to get in where they fit in and Houston born rapper, Chamillionaire is no exception. Now signed with Universal after selling over six-figures in albums as an underground talent, Chamillionaire is here to prove to the world that he is more than average. After an unfriendly split with former partner Paul Wall and disassociation from Houston mixtape powerhouse Swishahouse, Cham is no stranger to conflict. More on that later…
We last checked in on him a couple years ago. Lets see what up with Chamillionaire at this stage in his life.

AllHipHop.com: What is the title of your upcoming solo album? There are two titles being tossed around in press.

Cham: The name of my album is called The Sound Of Revenge. It was gonna be called Controversy Sells, but the indie label that I put out my first album on, just put out an album with that name in an attempt to try to capitalize off the street promotion I have been doin’ with that title. They put out a CD with old material tryin’ to fool the public like it’s my new album, and the underground fans aren’t really feelin’ what they tried do.

AllHipHop.com: When is it slated for release?

Cham: The Sound Of Revenge will drop summer 2005 on Chamillitary Records. I know the world is really startin’ to see a lot of action comin’ out of Houston right now, but I’m not gonna rush. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my music, and I’m not tryin’ to put out anything less than the best album to come out. People will know I’m the truth when they hear it.

AllHipHop.com: I read in an interview where you said that you really don’t feel that you have to be signed with a major to make it, what made you decide to finally sign with a major?

Cham: I guess it was just meant to be. I had been doin’ a lot of underground records sayin’ that I wouldn’t sign with a major unless everything was completely right. One of my producer homies from the Beat Bullies called me up and told me he was gonna get my name on the VIP list for a Nelly party that was goin’ on in New York. I wasn’t even planning on goin’, but the guy that is now my manager called me and told me that one of the head guys from Universal Records saw my name on the list and was hoping to see me there. I paid for a ticket to New York, but by the time I got there it was just about over. I went and got a hotel and in the mornin’ when I woke up, I saw a lot of New York area codes on my missed calls log. Next thing you know, I was going from meeting to meeting. I met with various labels. Every meeting went well to me except for one, where the executives were stuck on an ‘American Idol’ type concept. I didn’t like the whole idea and the approach they was doin’ where you have to rap and dance for them. They passed on me, but I’m glad because I got the deal that people were tellin’ me that I wasn’t gonna be able to get.

AllHipHop.com: Now you started in the industry doing promotions for everybody, do you feel that entering in that way gave you an advantage from a business standpoint?

Cham: Definitely. It doesn’t matter what venture you tryin’ to get into. If you want to be successful, you need to learn about it first. You don’t dive head first into water with out knowing how deep the water is. Promotions helped me to learn the game before I jumped into it completely. Watching the lives of other people helped me know how I was gonna keep my life in tact. I got to see other people pass and fail, and got to see who was really makin’ the money behind the scenes.

AllHipHop.com: I know that you and Paul Wall started in this together but recently we have been hearing that you two are not on good terms?

Cham: Yeah, we came up together but now he is back with the Swishahouse, and I’m not. We aren’t cool at all anymore because a lot of personal stuff that I’m not even gonna begin to try to explain. He [recently] made a comment in XXL saying he has a feeling that I’m gonna start dissin’ him, but he won’t diss me back because he thinks that is childish. My response to that is everyone knows that he has been subliminally dissin’ me on all his records, and now he’s trying to act all innocent. Him and his homies are goin’ around everywhere tryin’ to turn people against me, and tryin’ to make me look like a bad guy. There is nothin’ they can say to anyone to keep me from being successful. They can pray for my downfall now, and be disappointed later.

AllHipHop.com: Now that you are a solo artist, do you think you can make an even larger impact than before?

Cham: Even though I sold over 100,000 units on my first independent record, I was still considered an underground artist. It’s bigger than that now and the stakes have been raised a lot higher now that I’m on a major. The independent album and all the mixtapes served as training for me. I’m still gonna do all that stuff but when I drop this first major album, people will be able to see that I don’t just make underground hits I can make nationwide hits.

AllHipHop.com: You have done a lot of songs on mixtapes for Swishahouse, why didn’t you ever sign with them?

Cham: When I was in the Swishahouse, it wasn’t really a real label at that time. It was kinda like a bunch of rappers spittin’ on screwed mixtapes. I never saw any contracts at all. We were never signed that’s the reason why we were able to start our own thing when our street buzz was hot enough. I got tired of watchin’ all the money get made and not being able to financially profit from it. I was told that I had to pay dues when I was askin’ about getting paid for a show that I was performing in. I did hundreds of mix tape verses and a lot of shows and wasn’t makin’ money doin’ it. So I got out and did my own thing. No one puts a salary cap on me or tells me when I get paid now. I am thankful for the experience though because I learned from it but what I went through is also the reason why I separate myself from everything they got goin’ on over there. I respect what that label did to get me where I’m at, but I’m not a sweatshop worker or a slave and this Rap is how my family eats.

AllHipHop.com: I hear there are a lot of beefs going on between you and Swisha House, like with Mike Jones. Are you going to continue to with the beef considering the fact that Houston is finally getting some shine.

Cham: I’m not a gangsta. I’m a businessman. So beefin’ is not what I’m here to promote even though I know the controversy in a rappers personal life can help record sales sometimes. I haven’t built my career on that and don’t plan to because when you are better at making music than your competitors, you don’t have to. See there are a lot of personal issues that the public doesn’t know that has been goin’ on between me and them guys. That’s part of the reason why some people go against me, because I’m the person that will say exactly what I feel is the truth instead of giving the politically correct answer. That’s mainly why I don’t really go into too much detail about the personal stuff. Because when I speak on it, I’m gonna have to give my truth. And I know once them skeletons they got come out of their closets, it’s gonna go to a whole different level.

AllHipHop.com: Okay, fair enough. A lot of Southern artists and artists in general are now creating their normal sounding CD’s, but then re-releasing a screwed and chopped version. Are you planning to do that as well to maintain loyalty to your underground fans?

Cham: Yeah, the mixtapes and the screwed versions won’t stop. You can’t get signed and then switch up what ya doin’ that got you there. There is a difference between a fan that likes you because they see you on TV, and a fan that has watched you grow and mature your whole career. The fans that watched you grow will stick around if you keep it real with them. The other fans will jump back and forth between who has the hotter single so I gotta keep feedin’ the fans that have been down the whole ride. OG Ron C used to be a co C.E.O. of the Swishahouse but he split up with them also, and is now my official DJ. All my screwed versions will be done by him.

AllHipHop.com: What producers are you working with for the album?

Cham: I been in the studio with a lot of big producers, but it’s too early to say what will make the album.

AllHipHop.com: Last but not least, what do you want people to know about you that they don’t already?

Cham: I’m not just some rapper who talks big to tries to over-hype and exaggerate what I have done. Most of the rappers of today all have the same story, but I’m a new breed of MC with my own success story. No gimmicks, just good music. For more information you can check out my website http://www.chamillionaire.com.

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Frankie J: Muy Calienté Published April 01, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

The streets fell in love with Frankie J when he laced the hook of Baby Bash’s huge summer hit of 2003 “Suga Suga”. After completing high school in his hometown of San Diego, the Mexican-born crooner got his shot in the music business as lead singer for the successful group Kumbia Kings, and has since been developing his own sound and style on the solo tip.

Now releasing his fourth studio album The One, he is here to show and prove that he is more than looks and hooks. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to sit down with Frankie J during his stop in Philadelphia to discuss his road to stardom.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: For those who don’t know, how did you get started in music?

Frankie J: I have always loved music. I grew up listening to a lot of greats but I loved music by people like what George Leman and Sweet Sensation Girls were putting out. Eventually my brother started to introduce me to his friends who were really big in the clubs, and I actually got started professionally when I was like 12 or 13 years old. I was really involved with people who were in the industry, and ended up signing with a Canadian record label, and I started doing a lot of the dance music I heard in the club. After that I started doing performances and started bringing down artists, and that’s basically how I got started.

AHHA: How did you end up signing to Columbia?

Frankie J: Initially I was a lead singer of this group called the Kumbia Kings for like three years, which consisted of like eight members and one of the members of the group was actually Selena’s brother, [A.B.] Quintanilla. One day he heard me sing, and he just brought me into the group and I started touring with the guys. Eventually I knew that I would want to go off and do my own thing, so I started writing my own songs and stuff while I was on tour, so I could start getting some type of feedback to see if I could do the whole solo thing.

When I left the group my single “Don’t Want To Try” got leaked out and my manager helped me get it to radio and see if it would get spins and the song blew up. Eventually Columbia got a hold of the record and basically it was a big bidding war between a lot of major labels for the song, but I finally ended up signing with Columbia because it was the best deal in my interest. So it worked out really well.

AHHA: So who are some producers you are working with on the album? I know you teamed up with Irv Gotti and Mario Winans, and I also heard that you teamed back up with Happy Perez who did “Suga Suga”.

Frankie J: Yeah, I teamed up with Happy because we had such an awesome chemistry when we did “Suga Suga” that I had to go back. So we teamed up to do “Obsession”, the first single off the album. Actually Happy, Baby Bash and I all teamed up to do the single, because we wanted to see if we could re-create the magic we had with “Suga, Suga” and I think that we did because the single is hot.

AHHA: What would you say is the difference between The One and your previous album?

Frankie J: This album is definitely more mature and it’s more of what I wanted to accomplish with the urban and R&B feel that it has to it. I got a chance to work with Mario Winans, Irv Gotti and Brian Cox. I really got a chance to work with a lot of people I didn’t get a chance to work with on my previous albums. All my fans who listen to this album will definitely see and hear the difference, because it’s produced a lot better and the songs are just incredible this time around.

AHHA: Speaking of being more mature, your first single “Obsession (No Es Amor)”, is hot and the video definitely captures how racy the song is. How was it working with the director and Vida Guerra as your love interest?

Frankie J: The director, Gil Green, was very professional. What he really wanted to do with the song is bring it to life and that is what he did. The song is about a guy being obsessed with a girl, he’s been seeing her for quite awhile and he thinks it’s love. But, at the same time, he knows it’s dangerous for him because she’s playing mind tricks on him, and that’s exactly what the video captures. As far as working with Vida, she is incredible, very professional and we became really good friends. To be honest with you, I was the one out of everyone that was the nervous wreck because I had never done a video like that before. I had never been in a tub with a girl, in a video that is. [laughs] You know everything we were doing was different, but I liked it.

AHHA: What was the toughest for you when you were shooting the video?

Frankie J: That fact that I was in the back of a car and there was like forty people watching us and cheering telling me to kiss her. [laughs] I mean we can’t escape the fact that she is Vida Guerra, the FHM model of the year, so everyone was really watching and cheering. But overall I liked it and I’m glad we found her and that she fit the part, because she truly is amazing.

AHHA: What is the concept behind The One?

Frankie J: I really think that this record is the one that will take everything to the next level. I wanted to work with different people and just get a different feel and different vibe from the first album. I wanted to get more urban, and get in more with bigger names. It’s just better to work with people who are where you want to be, and by me reaching out, this album has more of an urban feel, more of a street feel, more of an R&B feel to it. To me it’s definitely the one.

AHHA: Now the music front has really seen the re-emergence of Latin artists. How do you feel about Latin and Spanish artists finally being recognized for a sound that you contribute to, versus having to cross over to find success?

Frankie J: I just feel it was a long time coming. I honestly feel that now we are being appreciated more than ever for what we contribute. I mean Fat Joe has been around for a while, Big Pun was around for a while, even J.Lo is doing her thing as far as making a Latin album with Marc Anthony and I thought it was hot how they did the Spanish song at the Grammys and was applauded, because it definitely shows we have come a long way. I mean now we have a lot of Spanish people in almost every genre of music except R&B, I mean Marc Anthony really does Pop and so did Ricky Martin, so I feel that if the people let me, I can definitely fill that void because there is definitely a big gap as far for R&B vocally.

AHHA: Are you planning on releasing an all-Spanish version of your album?

Frankie J: Yeah, we are definitely working on that, they actually had me record an all Spanish version of “Obsession” and another single from my album called “How To Deal” produced by Brian Cox, so I definitely think an all Spanish album is on the way soon which will be hot mixing R&B and Spanish.

AHHA: For all the ladies out there, are you single?

Frankie J: Yeah, I am very single.[laughs]

AHHA: What is your type of woman?

Frankie J: I love a woman who can cook. Definitely one who is very loving because I am very loving and I get attached very easily, so I am definitely looking for someone who has a big heart and can take care of me emotionally, because I will do all I can for her.

AHHA: How do you find inspiration for the songs that you write?

Frankie J: It all comes from love or situations that I have been in or people I know have been in, that’s definitely inspiring when it comes from within and it comes from something so personal that they are experiencing a part of you and your life.

AHHA: What’s next for you?

Frankie J: We are planning a U.S. tour in April that will pass through 40 cities, and after that I am going to be touring in Asia, Australia and Europe. I think it will be an experience, because I have never been to some of the countries like Asia, so it will give a chance to experience different people. I probably won’t get to go home until December. [laughs] But it’s all worth it to live out my dreams and get the music out to my fans, because after all they do come first. So no matter how tired I get or how long I’m gone I won’t stop, because I love my fans just as much as they love me. But most importantly, I want to continue to bring them good music.

Bossman: New Jack City Published February 22, 2006 by Tiffany Hamilton

The city of Baltimore has almost become synonymous with drugs and crime, but there is more to the Southeastern city than just missing lamppost lights and drugs. There is a whole Hip-Hop scene and sound that has even up until now been unscathed. Home to record executives and athletes, Baltimore is a city begging to make a name for itself in places other than a derogatory list. Bossman who was born and raised in the city of the trade, is hoping to shed some positive light on the city where Jay-Z, 50 Cent and the Notorious B.I.G all praised to be the place where they made the most cash and show that although Baltimore has been through “The Wire”, all it takes is a Bossman to place it on top. Virgin records new rookie has more than his city on his shoulders and a lot to prove not only to the industry, but Hip-Hop as a whole. The soul survivor of a drug infested family and two parents that were incarcerated by the time Bossman hit his teens, the 24 year old emcee thrives on the challenge and is ready to show the world who the boss truly is. All Hip-Hop.com got a chance to speak with Bossman in his hometown and see what it is that makes him stand out in the crowd.

AllHipHop.com: First things first, why do you think that Baltimore is so overlooked on the Hip-Hop scene?

Bossman: I think that basically if you look at our history that we have had in Hip-Hop, we have had people that had a chance but never got it to pop. Like B-Rich, he had a nice single with the “Whoa Now” joint, but at the end of the day all he had was the nice single. So that wasn’t a good look for Baltimore or for himself, the other artist Comp that was signed to Def Jam, never came out. So I definitely feel I have something to prove and show everyone that we have a sound too, and now you can definitely come here and find some real talent because now we are ready.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think that you will be able to show a different side of Baltimore, because when people think of Baltimore they think of the drug trade?

Bossman: Yeah, definitely. I mean it will be tales of that in it, because I have been here all my life, and grew I grew up in it. With me, mainly it was my family, because I grew up with parents who hustled and were addicted to drugs and ultimately ended up incarcerated – and a brother who was selling drugs to my father who, was hooked on drugs. [I tried them too], because that’s what I grew up around. So don’t think that when I address the topic it will be promoting the lifestyle, instead it will show a different side, like what it does to families. Because it was hard for me to basically raise myself and stay on the positive route but honestly I saw music as my way out. AllHipHop.com: Growing up in a family affected by both the selling and using of drugs, how do you feel about the rappers who promote hustling as the thing to do? Bossman: Honestly, I can’t knock anybody for doing what they do. I don’t want to contradict myself, because I am not completely positive. I don’t know how other people grew up that made them choose that lifestyle, but what I can do is show the realness of it, and show my aspect of it. I mean, I know real dudes that made getting money their life, and there are certain codes that they live by. To me, if you are really living that lifestyle, you wouldn’t promote it to kids like it’s the thing to do; you would look at it like what it is-your choice. Really, if people look at it, the worst rappers are the ones who contradict themselves. You can’t be like, “Don’t sell drugs and smoke weed,” nor can you act like you don’t give a f**k on records, and tell your kids not to do it; kids see that and don’t know what to think. If you are going to go hard, go hard.

AllHipHop.com: How are you dealing with the pressures of not only establishing Baltimore on the map, but also your label because people responded poorly to Jermaine Dupri’s Young, Fly, and Flashy and SunNY’s project…

Bossman: Well, the pressure of neither one of them is getting to me, I mean, with the success that I have had on the underground; I pretty much know that I can sell anywhere – if they market me right and stick to the script. Honestly, it’s hard being on any label, not knocking Virgin, but the industry is so Pop and single driven that labels have a hard time trying to market real artists without turning them into someone else, or presenting them as something they’re not. The industry now isn’t like what it was back in the day, there was no marketing [then], because artists gained fans by letting you get to know them.

AllHipHop.com: That’s true because one of my favorite artists is Nas and although I didn’t care too much for NAStradamus, I bought it any way though just because it was Nas.

Bossman: That’s what I am saying, you bought it because he made you like him as a person, and when artists establish that type of rapport with the fans, you can do what they feel creatively, and know that your fans will stick by you. Not because you made a hot song, but because they like the artist. Don’t get me wrong, I have a song that will knock in the club, but you can’t make a whole album with singles… well you can, but you won’t last.

AllHipHop.com: As a “rookie” in the industry what do you feel is the biggest block in creativity in the game, because when you are fresh from the independent route you have a different view on creativity than if you have been in the game for a while?

Bossman: I think that the lack of creativity comes from artists letting the labels mold them, because they don’t know who they are. I think that is the worst thing for an artist to do is let someone tell you what direction to go with your music, because let’s say you do that and flop, then try to create a sound that is really you but a totally different direction, people ain’t going to feel you because they are like-“I thought the other sound was you?”. So as an artist, whether new or established, you have to make sure you know who you are and what type of sound that is true to you, because if not fans will see right through it.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think working with Jermaine gives you an advantage or a disadvantage, because when some people think of Jermaine Dupri and his projects, they think of Pop or little kid rap?

Bossman: I think that working with Jermaine is definitely to my advantage, I mean although he is known for more of a Pop type of work, this dude has brought some stuff to the studio that makes you think twice. I mean he really takes his time to get to know you as an artist and your style so that the beats and stuff he brings to the table for you, is really you. So, I think the fact that you don’t see me all up under him in the videos and in pictures is a benefit for both of us because you don’t stigmatize or taint either one of us. All in all I think that music will speak for itself and in the end our situation is going to be similar to that of Young Jeezy and Jay-Z.

AllHipHop.com: What do think about Cam’ron dissing Jay-Z and then holding a press conference about it, do you think that Rap has gone to the point now where it’s just a circus?

Bossman: Well, I think that if the beef is real. Like, if two artists really have problems with each other, then it’s all good. But if you are doing it just to promote an album, then you are wack because people can see through it. Dealing with Cam and Jay, Cam is a cool dude and I don’t have no problems with him, and I know that he has had problems with Jay for a while so I feel the diss record was appropriate. But to hold a press conference about it, [laughs] I don’t know, maybe he felt that he needed to explain some things about the situation he is dealing with.

AllHipHop.com: Dealing with your album, why did you name it Law and Order?

Bossman: I named it Law and Order for a lot of different reasons. From a musical standpoint to me, the game is running wild and there is no law or no order. I don’t think that people are following the original laws of being you and that is why stuff is so out of order, and we have all these one-hit artists coming out. I mean look back at like ‘94 and ‘96, to me those were the best years in Hip-Hop because there was such a different array of sound, you had Wu-Tang, Gang Starr, Tupac, Death Row, Biggie, Outkast, I mean the list goes on and on, so if you didn’t like what Wu was bringing, you could listen to Nas, you didn’t like that you could listen to Death Row; now it’s more like you stuck listening to one thing with no alternative.

AllHipHop.com:: Do you believe in labels on projects, like ‘underground’ and ‘commercial’?

Bossman: No, not really because I feel that if an artist is just being them and their song is hot and happens to get played on the radio, that doesn’t make them commercial, that just means the masses are feeling them. I think commercial is when the artist goes completely against who they are to sell records, and get played on the radio, that is commercial to me. Some people hate and say stuff like Nelly is not [Hip-Hop], but Nelly is rap; he’s doing him-he’s representing who he is and where he’s from which is genuine and that’s why he is successful. He’s better than the rapper that comes out sounding like someone else. So I give him all his props.

AllHipHop.com: Coming from the independent circuit and then signing to a major label, if you had your choice which would you prefer?

Bossman: Honestly, I would go the independent route just because you don’t have to answer to anyone about creative decisions. I think that’s why the South is popping off like it is, because no one in the majors wanted to give them a shot, so they made their own way and now look.

Blair Underwood: Man Of Distinction Published October 24, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

When you hear the name Blair Underwood, you may fondly reminisce on the 1985 classic film Krush Groove, in which he portrayed now-billionaire Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons. Or perhaps you envision the good-man banker who so desperately tried to save Jada Pinkett’s character Stoney in the dramatic film Set It Off. Whatever your first memory of Blair is, his presence in Hollywood has been undeniable.

Since his initial appearances, Blair Underwood has established himself as a very influential actor. Over the last 20 years, he has appeared in more than 20 films, and has received several industry awards and critical praise. Although he widely known for his nice guy roles, his performances in the films Asunder and Just Cause earned him the notoriety as an all-around actor. Aside from his acting career, Blair also has credits behind the lens as director, producer and author.

With his upcoming film G, Blair is once again proving that he has the talent to pull off an alter ego, and with his upcoming book, the father of three proves that he has a sixth sense in dealing with children. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to sit down with the man who was named in People Magazine’s 2004 ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ issue to discuss his new role, his new book, and his thoughts on being considered a sex symbol.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: After being a successful actor for the last 20 years, what was it initially that drew you to want do this as a career?

Blair Underwood: I just loved the fact that it was an art form that brought so many different human emotions to the surface. That to me was the initial attraction, because ever since I was a child I always looked for way to express myself creatively and acting is the perfect way to do that.

AHHA: You have played a very broad spectrum of characters. Looking back, which would you say is your favorite and why?

Blair: One of my favorites was a mini-series based off of one of Alex Haley’s books called Mama Flora’s Family, because that was really an every man kind of person. I love it because it was a very touching story, and also because I played a range of characters. It portrayed a man who you got to see age from 15 to 50, and of course because I co-starred with Ms. Cicely Tyson, who really inspired me when she starred in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman. The other one [of my favorites] would be the movie Just Cause, just because I got a chance to play a character so vastly different from myself. In that movie I played a serial killing pedophile, which was very intense. Any movie where I have to play a range or makes me tap beyond my creative ability is always going to be a favorite.

AHHA: For a role like what you played in Just Cause, how do you tap into the psyche of that character? In essence, for the role you are that character?

Blair: That one was a challenged because it was so dark, it wasn’t a role where I could tap into any part of myself, but you really have to immerse yourself into the darkness of your soul. I mean the character was a serial killing pedophile, so it was really off the deep end. But for me it starts from research to find out what type of people do those types of things, and just really get into the mind of a character. Once you get a clear view of who these people are, you have to bring yourself then to try and understand why they do what they do so it makes sense to you logically. Because, although we step outside of those individuals mindset, there is a disconnect between the mentality of us and them, and that is where it becomes challenging.

AHHA: You have a book coming out called Before I Got Here. What is the book about, and what made you venture into that area of art?

Blair: The book is inspired by my four-year-old son who said something so profound to me that just blew me away. When he said it, it made me realize that children are spiritually connected, and connected to a spiritual reality, and they remember every aspect about that spiritual place before they were born – unlike we do as adults. So really the book is written by children all over the world. It’s their stories and anecdotes and remeberances of these little people in their words. So I wrote the foreword and the introduction, as well as edited it with my partner Danyel Kennedy, who created all the pictures and the photographs in the book.

What’s funny is, initially I thought it was going to be a children s book, but it is really a book for adults to encourage them to listen to the souls of children – not only your own but other children around you. I mean it’s easy for us as parents to teach them and guide them, because that’s our job. But every once in a while if you just listen to them, not to what they are regurgatating off of what we taught them, but really listen to what their souls are saying when they speak unedited. It’s profound.

AHHA: Dealing with this project and the children, do you see yourself writing children’s books, or are you planning on just steeping into being an author of various types of books?

Blair: It’s funny you should ask. I have a production company with my brother called Eclectic; it’s called Eclectic because we as people are all complex and we all are capable of thinking and doing things in many different ways. As an actor am I fascinated in playing a good guy, bad guy and everything in between. Even in this book, it’s a book for adults about children, but I have another book that’s an erotic mystery that is written by Tananarive Due, her husband Steve Barnes and myself. It’s a book about a gigolo who gets swept up in tracking a murder mystery, and realizes that he has a skill for uncovering mysteries and detective work. It’s called The Chronicles of Tennyson Hardwick. But once again, I like the fact that the two books are polar opposites. I am also in the process now of pitching and solely writing a series of children’s books.

AHHA: With all that you are doing with fiction books, are you planning on turning these into feature films?

Blair: The Chronicles of Tennyson Hardwick is something that I would definitely like to turn into a feature film, but we’ll see how the book sells and take it from there.

AHHA: With all of the behind the scenes work that you have done, do you think that it will be a permanent move that you will make?

Blair: Producing and directing is something I have been doing for the last 10 or 15 years, and I really enjoy doing. But I like doing it in addition to acting, because that’s my first love.

AHHA: Now, no one may know this, but you got your start directing music videos for Tony Terry…

Blair: Yeah. [laughs] That was along time ago. But it was great because it gave me the experience I needed to direct feature films.

AHHA: Can you describe your character in the movie G and his dilemma?

Blair: I would say he’s a philandering womanizer, a greedy Wall Street banker who has let the greed get into the way of both his personal and professional life. But eventually he finds out that he’s about to lose his wife, who he truly does love, to another man.

AHHA: With this character, how far did Blair have to reach inside to capture the attitude of this character?

Blair: [laughs] It was a stretch for me, but I do like that about this character. I have another film coming up by Tyler Perry called Madea’s Family Reunion, and I don’t play a nice guy in that either, but it’s all parts that I truly enjoy because it gives me a break from how I am in everyday life.

AHHA: What words of advice would you give to other actors, especially those of color trying to break into the industry?

Blair: I would definitely say know your craft and treat it like a business more than anything else. Always get better at what you are doing and always strive to be the best.

AHHA: A lot of people are speaking on the fact that there are a lack of Black film makers who want to make movies from our perspective. After the boom in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it seems as if although Black directors are still here; they aren’t really making Black films.

Blair: Well, like you said they are there, but it’s just about getting the money to make the films you want to make to have your voice be heard. So it’s really not a matter of shortage of film makers waiting to be heard, but money to produce and create these films. That’s a reason I said treat it like a business, because now in this day and age you can make a film with a video camera, a computer and a couple of thousand dollars and do it yourself. Honestly, I am seeing a lot more people taking that mentality and not waiting for someone to invest five million dollars into a film, but instead taking the bull by the horns and doing it all by themselves.

AHHA: On that note, with so many film directors coming in and creating low budget films, where do you think that leaves actors who aren’t quite as big as Denzel Washington, but have done enough to require a nice bit of compensation?

Blair: Those are the ones that I would say have to make their own films or align their forces. If you aren’t a writer, go out and get a writer, because that’s the way of the land, but there is a huge vacuum of starvation to make our story. So the only thing we can really do is grab someone who also shares the same passion and hunger to fill that need.

AHHA: Although within the last few years a lot of African Americans have either been nominated or won an Oscar, do you feel that racism is still a strong factor in Hollywood?

Blair: I am going to actually quote a great book written by Cornel West entitled Race Matters, and honestly I think it will always matter and factor into everything especially in Hollywood. But honestly it’s human nature to want to see someone who thinks, acts and looks like you, so film makers and directors are always going to do things from their point of view. It may seem racist, but actually it’s from a human point of view in the art of storytelling.

AHHA: It’s no secret that women have been lusting after you for years. How did it feel when you first saw yourself on the list as one of the hottest guys in Hollywood?

Blair: You know, [laughs] it was funny then and it’s funny now. I mean I take all that with a grain of salt because at the end of the day, I am still that loving father and husband regardless of how many people think I am sexy or how much money I am making.

AHHA: How was it getting to play a role in the HBO hit Sex and the City?

Blair: Because the show itself was a successful, it was a great opportunity. I love the fact that it opened so many doors for me to further extend my career, because it was that role that landed me the role on NBC’s LAX.

AHHA: What happened with that show, because it was actually a really great show?

Blair: I know, I think that the time slot actually played a huge factor. I mean we did really well the first few weeks, but then we slumped because we were up against Monday Night Football so it was a definite ratings killer.

AHHA: Are you looking into going back to TV?

Blair: Actually I love traveling and the excitement that comes with shooting a feature film. I mean I love acting, so anything that allows me to express my creative ability is always welcome, but I would have to say that movies is the bulk of my passion.

AHHA: With everything that you have accomplished in your career and all the doors that you have opened, what would you say is your legacy?

Blair: Wow, that’s a hard one. I would definitely say to be the best father and husband I can be, because at the end of the day everything else is just acting.

Blair Underwood: Man Of Distinction Published October 24, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

When you hear the name Blair Underwood, you may fondly reminisce on the 1985 classic film Krush Groove, in which he portrayed now-billionaire Hip-Hop mogul Russell Simmons. Or perhaps you envision the good-man banker who so desperately tried to save Jada Pinkett’s character Stoney in the dramatic film Set It Off. Whatever your first memory of Blair is, his presence in Hollywood has been undeniable.

Since his initial appearances, Blair Underwood has established himself as a very influential actor. Over the last 20 years, he has appeared in more than 20 films, and has received several industry awards and critical praise. Although he widely known for his nice guy roles, his performances in the films Asunder and Just Cause earned him the notoriety as an all-around actor. Aside from his acting career, Blair also has credits behind the lens as director, producer and author.

With his upcoming film G, Blair is once again proving that he has the talent to pull off an alter ego, and with his upcoming book, the father of three proves that he has a sixth sense in dealing with children. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to sit down with the man who was named in People Magazine’s 2004 ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ issue to discuss his new role, his new book, and his thoughts on being considered a sex symbol.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: After being a successful actor for the last 20 years, what was it initially that drew you to want do this as a career?

Blair Underwood: I just loved the fact that it was an art form that brought so many different human emotions to the surface. That to me was the initial attraction, because ever since I was a child I always looked for way to express myself creatively and acting is the perfect way to do that.

AHHA: You have played a very broad spectrum of characters. Looking back, which would you say is your favorite and why?

Blair: One of my favorites was a mini-series based off of one of Alex Haley’s books called Mama Flora’s Family, because that was really an every man kind of person. I love it because it was a very touching story, and also because I played a range of characters. It portrayed a man who you got to see age from 15 to 50, and of course because I co-starred with Ms. Cicely Tyson, who really inspired me when she starred in The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pitman. The other one [of my favorites] would be the movie Just Cause, just because I got a chance to play a character so vastly different from myself. In that movie I played a serial killing pedophile, which was very intense. Any movie where I have to play a range or makes me tap beyond my creative ability is always going to be a favorite.

AHHA: For a role like what you played in Just Cause, how do you tap into the psyche of that character? In essence, for the role you are that character?

Blair: That one was a challenged because it was so dark, it wasn’t a role where I could tap into any part of myself, but you really have to immerse yourself into the darkness of your soul. I mean the character was a serial killing pedophile, so it was really off the deep end. But for me it starts from research to find out what type of people do those types of things, and just really get into the mind of a character. Once you get a clear view of who these people are, you have to bring yourself then to try and understand why they do what they do so it makes sense to you logically. Because, although we step outside of those individuals mindset, there is a disconnect between the mentality of us and them, and that is where it becomes challenging.

AHHA: You have a book coming out called Before I Got Here. What is the book about, and what made you venture into that area of art?

Blair: The book is inspired by my four-year-old son who said something so profound to me that just blew me away. When he said it, it made me realize that children are spiritually connected, and connected to a spiritual reality, and they remember every aspect about that spiritual place before they were born – unlike we do as adults. So really the book is written by children all over the world. It’s their stories and anecdotes and remeberances of these little people in their words. So I wrote the foreword and the introduction, as well as edited it with my partner Danyel Kennedy, who created all the pictures and the photographs in the book.

What’s funny is, initially I thought it was going to be a children s book, but it is really a book for adults to encourage them to listen to the souls of children – not only your own but other children around you. I mean it’s easy for us as parents to teach them and guide them, because that’s our job. But every once in a while if you just listen to them, not to what they are regurgatating off of what we taught them, but really listen to what their souls are saying when they speak unedited. It’s profound.

AHHA: Dealing with this project and the children, do you see yourself writing children’s books, or are you planning on just steeping into being an author of various types of books?

Blair: It’s funny you should ask. I have a production company with my brother called Eclectic; it’s called Eclectic because we as people are all complex and we all are capable of thinking and doing things in many different ways. As an actor am I fascinated in playing a good guy, bad guy and everything in between. Even in this book, it’s a book for adults about children, but I have another book that’s an erotic mystery that is written by Tananarive Due, her husband Steve Barnes and myself. It’s a book about a gigolo who gets swept up in tracking a murder mystery, and realizes that he has a skill for uncovering mysteries and detective work. It’s called The Chronicles of Tennyson Hardwick. But once again, I like the fact that the two books are polar opposites. I am also in the process now of pitching and solely writing a series of children’s books.

AHHA: With all that you are doing with fiction books, are you planning on turning these into feature films?

Blair: The Chronicles of Tennyson Hardwick is something that I would definitely like to turn into a feature film, but we’ll see how the book sells and take it from there.

AHHA: With all of the behind the scenes work that you have done, do you think that it will be a permanent move that you will make?

Blair: Producing and directing is something I have been doing for the last 10 or 15 years, and I really enjoy doing. But I like doing it in addition to acting, because that’s my first love.

AHHA: Now, no one may know this, but you got your start directing music videos for Tony Terry…

Blair: Yeah. [laughs] That was along time ago. But it was great because it gave me the experience I needed to direct feature films.

AHHA: Can you describe your character in the movie G and his dilemma?

Blair: I would say he’s a philandering womanizer, a greedy Wall Street banker who has let the greed get into the way of both his personal and professional life. But eventually he finds out that he’s about to lose his wife, who he truly does love, to another man.

AHHA: With this character, how far did Blair have to reach inside to capture the attitude of this character?

Blair: [laughs] It was a stretch for me, but I do like that about this character. I have another film coming up by Tyler Perry called Madea’s Family Reunion, and I don’t play a nice guy in that either, but it’s all parts that I truly enjoy because it gives me a break from how I am in everyday life.

AHHA: What words of advice would you give to other actors, especially those of color trying to break into the industry?

Blair: I would definitely say know your craft and treat it like a business more than anything else. Always get better at what you are doing and always strive to be the best.

AHHA: A lot of people are speaking on the fact that there are a lack of Black film makers who want to make movies from our perspective. After the boom in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, it seems as if although Black directors are still here; they aren’t really making Black films.

Blair: Well, like you said they are there, but it’s just about getting the money to make the films you want to make to have your voice be heard. So it’s really not a matter of shortage of film makers waiting to be heard, but money to produce and create these films. That’s a reason I said treat it like a business, because now in this day and age you can make a film with a video camera, a computer and a couple of thousand dollars and do it yourself. Honestly, I am seeing a lot more people taking that mentality and not waiting for someone to invest five million dollars into a film, but instead taking the bull by the horns and doing it all by themselves.

AHHA: On that note, with so many film directors coming in and creating low budget films, where do you think that leaves actors who aren’t quite as big as Denzel Washington, but have done enough to require a nice bit of compensation?

Blair: Those are the ones that I would say have to make their own films or align their forces. If you aren’t a writer, go out and get a writer, because that’s the way of the land, but there is a huge vacuum of starvation to make our story. So the only thing we can really do is grab someone who also shares the same passion and hunger to fill that need.

AHHA: Although within the last few years a lot of African Americans have either been nominated or won an Oscar, do you feel that racism is still a strong factor in Hollywood?

Blair: I am going to actually quote a great book written by Cornel West entitled Race Matters, and honestly I think it will always matter and factor into everything especially in Hollywood. But honestly it’s human nature to want to see someone who thinks, acts and looks like you, so film makers and directors are always going to do things from their point of view. It may seem racist, but actually it’s from a human point of view in the art of storytelling.

AHHA: It’s no secret that women have been lusting after you for years. How did it feel when you first saw yourself on the list as one of the hottest guys in Hollywood?

Blair: You know, [laughs] it was funny then and it’s funny now. I mean I take all that with a grain of salt because at the end of the day, I am still that loving father and husband regardless of how many people think I am sexy or how much money I am making.

AHHA: How was it getting to play a role in the HBO hit Sex and the City?

Blair: Because the show itself was a successful, it was a great opportunity. I love the fact that it opened so many doors for me to further extend my career, because it was that role that landed me the role on NBC’s LAX.

AHHA: What happened with that show, because it was actually a really great show?

Blair: I know, I think that the time slot actually played a huge factor. I mean we did really well the first few weeks, but then we slumped because we were up against Monday Night Football so it was a definite ratings killer.

AHHA: Are you looking into going back to TV?

Blair: Actually I love traveling and the excitement that comes with shooting a feature film. I mean I love acting, so anything that allows me to express my creative ability is always welcome, but I would have to say that movies is the bulk of my passion.

AHHA: With everything that you have accomplished in your career and all the doors that you have opened, what would you say is your legacy?

Blair: Wow, that’s a hard one. I would definitely say to be the best father and husband I can be, because at the end of the day everything else is just acting.

Zoe Saldana: Sky’s The Limit Published April 11, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

A lot has changed in the life of Dominican beauty Zoe Saldana. From her break-out role as the best friend of pop princess Britney Spears in Crossroads, to playing a sexy siren who got to slap the taste out of co-star Johnny Depp’s mouth in Pirates of the Caribbean, there is something about Zoe that makes audiences want more.

Born in New Jersey, Zoe was raised first in Queens, New York then in the Dominican Republic, where she studied ballet and various forms of dance at the Espacio de Danza Academy before returning to the United States for high school. Her first major motion picture role was actually as a ballerina in the film Center Stage, followed by an appearance in Get Over It with Kirsten Dunst. She became a member of the New York theater group FACES, which performs skits directed at teenagers to open up conversation about drug abuse, domestic violence and sexual assault. All of her hard work began to pay off with more scripts being passed her way, and her role in the phenomenally successful film Drumline set Zoe firmly in the ranks of hot Hollywood ladies.

Now starring in the new film Guess Who alongside the King Of Comedy, Bernie Mac, and the prince of Punk’d, Ashton Kutcher, Saldana is continuing her path of box office success. AllHipHop.com Alternatives got a chance to talk with Ms. Saldana about sex, love and what makes her tick.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: I got a chance to see you on Punk’d with Ashton. How did you feel, and was it before or after you shot Guess Who?

Zoe: What was funny is, it was way after. We wrapped Guess Who last summer, and that was done a few months ago – so it took him that long to get me.

AHHA: Well, at least we know you are a ride or die friend.

Zoe: Yeah, [laughs] and what’s even more hilarious is that one of my guy friends called and said that I am his chick for life because of the way I reacted.

AHHA: Yeah, it was serious. Now let’s talk about Guess Who. You play Teresa Jones, who falls in love with a white stock broker [played by Ashton Kutcher]. Was that a stretch from your actual dating life?

Zoe: Not really, as far as dating someone who wasn’t Black or Spanish. Truthfully, I don’t look at someone for their color, because if they are a good person, they are a good person; that’s just how I was raised. So when I see a guy, I don’t think,’Wow, he’s a fine Black guy’ or whatever, I just think, ‘He’s a cool guy’.

AHHA: How was it working with Ashton Kutcher and Bernie Mac? Was it hard to keep your composure?

Zoe: It was great! They are so hilarious and such talented actors, I learned a lot from them. As far as keeping cool and not laughing my ass off, no I didn’t do a good job because they are just too funny. But I loved working with them, we had fun.

AHHA: I hear that you teamed up with Orlando Bloom again for a new film called Haven. How was it working with him and what is Haven about?

Zoe: Working with Orlando was great. I remember when we met on the set of Pirates of the Caribbean, we were just two kids happy to make it. Now we have grown a lot, both personally and industry-wise, so we met up and we’re like, ‘Let’s have lunch’. [laughs]. Haven to me is a great film, we are in the process now of looking for a studio to house the film. It’s about two people who are on this beach and they are there to just escape, you know, get away from everything in their everyday lives.

AHHA: With a lot of Hip-Hop stars getting into acting, is there anyone that you would like to work with?

Zoe: I would love to work with someone like Nas or Andre 3000, because Nas is so poetic with his rhymes and I feel he could really bring something to the art. But, I would really love to work with [Andre 3000], he is so fine.[laughs] I love the fact that he is so experimental [with his music] and it’s just something about him, I would work with him anytime. [laughs]

AHHA: I hear that you are stepping into the producers chair by producing your first independent film, Dias Duesperte. How is it taking on the role?

Zoe: It’s cool, but a lot of hard work. We are actually in the process of wrapping up the script, and I am flying to the Dominican Republic where the film will take place to do casting and all that stuff, so we can start filming hopefully this summer.

AHHA: What is the movie about?

Zoe: It’s about the children in the Dominican Republic who are starving and are very poverty stricken. It’s basically giving you an up close and personal look into what a day in their life is like. We ended up choosing to shoot the film in the Dominican Republic, because that is where both the director and I are from.

AHHA: That’s pretty deep…

Zoe: Yeah, it just shows that anyone can make a difference, but that celebrities need to use their money and star power to go towards something more than just shoes and things like that. I like shoes and things too, but instead of buying a $400 pair of shoes, buy a $150 pair and donate the rest, because there are kids out there who can really use a hot meal and warm clothes – and they need it way more than we do.

AHHA: Are you planning on debuting your film at the PanAfrican Film Festival when it’s completed?

Zoe: I would love to debut my film at an independent festival, but I really want it to debut on a major level. That way it can reach a lot of people and really show the effects of world hunger. I just don’t want this film to be written off as another indie film that’s deep, because they are a dime a dozen. I really want this film to touch people in such a way that they give help.

AHHA: A lot of roles that you have done so far have been pretty safe, do you plan on doing any action films?

Zoe: Well, I would love to play in a film where the character is really dark. I think a lot of actors start off doing certain roles that appear to be safe, because they are basically building a resume’ of their abilities. But the flip side to that is if you do it too much, you could end up being type cast as whatever they see you as being. But yeah, eventually I am going to step out and do some off the wall type of characters.

AHHA: Getting back to the theme of Guess Who and you being an equal opportunity dater, what type of guy grabs your attention?

Zoe: Let’s talk about guys who don’t. [laughs] I hate it when guys call out to me like I am an animal. I find that really annoying. I feel that if a man wants to talk to me, then he should approach me like a lady and not yell out the window like a fool. I also hate it when guys just come up and grab me. When I was in Atlanta filming Drumline, we had went out to a club and I had on a cute skirt and this guy just grabbed my ass. [laughs] I am laughing now, but at the time I cussed him out. He stood up and he was like 6’6”, but I didn’t care because I was so mad. My friends had to pull me out the club.

AHHA: Let me find out we are going to be watching the news and see you beating up some man for touching you. [laughs]

Zoe: [laughs]I promise my friends are like I am going to get shot by someone because I have a bad mouth, but to me it’s all about saying how I feel. I don’t care, and I don’t back down from anything I believe in.

AHHA: What’s the worst pick up line you have ever heard?

Zoe: Oh my gosh, I have heard some dumb ones. I mean, they were so dumb I don’t even remember them because I try not to hold on to ignorant comments. But regardless of what they were, pick up lines just don’t work on me. I love a guy who is just himself. He has to believe in doing things equally and by that I mean letting me pay sometimes and valuing my opinion. If he isn’t stepping to me like that, then he might as well not step at all.

AHHA: I read in an interview that you don’t like to define yourself as being a Black nor Latina actress, nor do you have a preference on what you play. Do you find that people tend to focus on race too much?

Zoe: I think that we have come a long way from when that’s all people thought about, but I do feel that there is still a lot of ignorance out there. What I meant by the comment I said was that I am not going to let any role define me. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see Black Zoe or Spanish Zoe, I just see Zoe – and that’s all I expect other people to see when they are looking at me for a part or whatever. I mean it’s obvious that there is a lot of ignorance out there, it’s evident by what some people say. But I don’t let that stuff bother me. When I go up for roles, if they don’t want me because I’m Black, then “oh well” I am on to the next audition, because you know what? It’s their loss. I am going to keep being me regardless, because that’s all I know how to do.

Deemi: Diamond In The Rough Published September 23, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

When you think of Brooklyn, New York, you think of the raw and gritty streets that reared emcees like the Notorious B.I.G, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Jay-Z. Although she is from the streets, Deemi is not an emcee – and she’s definitely not your usual R&B diva. Born and raised in Bedford Stuyvesant, the 24-year-old songstress definitely has a story to tell. Deemi was drawn to the freedom of music as a child, and dominated talent competitions by the time she was seven-years-old. As a teenager, she was a part of the most prestigious high school choir in New York. Regardless of her early recognition, it hasn’t all been roses for the Brooklyn beauty.

By the time she was 21, Deemi was already a single mother of two. Working hard to make ends meet, she had countless dead-end jobs, and was forced to get on welfare to survive. She struggled for years trying to raise a family and simultaneously pursue her dreams, until a chance meeting with producer Chris Styles solidified her musical aspirations. She signed to Family Ties/Dangerous LLC, helping secure her a deal with Atlantic Records and linking her with Midi Mafia to produce her debut album. Yet another bump came into Deemi’s path when her estranged baby’s father was tragically murdered, leaving a void in her life.

After overcoming years of abuse at the hands of her ex, as well as the struggles that plague every hood in America, Deemi knew just what it was that would make her stand out in a glamorized industry. With the pain and the struggle she has endured, it’s no secret why the Hood’s Princess’ songs serve as not only a soundtrack for her life, but also to the streets. AllHipHop.com Alternatives connected with Deemi to talk about her journey, her mission and what we can expect from her debut.

AllHipHop.com Alternatives: How exactly did you get started in music?

Deemi: I started singing when I was young. My parents used to make stages out of plywood and we would sing on those. Once my mom saw that I was serious about singing she entered me in competitions, and from then on I went on to sing in choirs.

AHHA: I know this question seems cliché, but how would you describe your style? You are classified as R&B, but your sound has more of a Hip-Hop feel to it.

Deemi: It’s really hard when someone asks me to describe my style, because to me my music is not a style, it’s my life. When I write or listen to my music, I see things that I have been through, things that I am going through and it’s those things that keep me hungry.

AHHA: Who are some of your influences?

Deemi: Around the house my mom always used to play the greats like Aretha Franklin, the Chi-Lites and the Delphonics, definitely Whitney [Houston]. The first talent show I won, I was singing Whitney Houston’s song “The Greatest Love of All”, so she definitely was a big influence. But honestly I listen to everybody, from Lauren Hill to Mary [J. Blige] because they opened doors for me. I also look at everybody different now that I’m doing [my thing in music] because I know it’s hard. So just to be here and do what you do, says a lot. So I listen to and respect everyone.

AHHA: Your life hasn’t been an easy journey, I know that you are a mother of two and you baby’s father was recently killed. Being a new artist, how did you cope with the pressure of your professional life, as well as the trauma that was going on in your personal?

Deemi: Growing up where I am, you don’t want to be limited to what you see… and plus I look back to when I was 12 and 13 years old, telling my friends where I was going to be when I was 25. Seeing where I am at now, it’s totally different, because it’s bigger than I ever dreamed. The main thing that kept me going and kept me sane was my kids; I look at them and know that I can’t stay in the hood forever. I deserve better and my kids damn sure do, so it was that drive to get out the hood that kept me going, because no one deserves to stay at the bottom.

AHHA: What can you say is your biggest goal to accomplish in the industry?

Deemi: I want to make a lot of money so I can help other people get out of [the hood]; because I go to my kids’ school and I see the other kids and I feel bad. I mean the situation in the hood is real crazy, there are so many people are there with a feeling of hopelessness. It’s like they have settled with the fact that they can’t go anywhere, and it affects their kids to the point where they can’t see themselves going anywhere. So I just want to help as many people out of that as I can, I want to maintain so that others can see a better way of life.

AHHA: What is the hardest thing for you about being an entertainer and a mom, because I know leaving [your kids] is hard?

Deemi: Yes! Definitely. It’s one thing when they are small and can’t voice their opinion, but when they are six and seven they start with the, ‘I miss you’ and, ‘You’re always gone’ – it gets real tough. I am glad that they are getting older, because they can understand that I am a singer and see the benefits of me being away all the time. But no matter what, it’s still hard.

AHHA: You’re first single, “Hoodz Princess”, was actually on Wendy Williams’ compilation album. How was it to be tapped by Wendy to do the compilation, and how was it working with Styles P?

Deemi: When Wendy chose “Hoodz Princess” to be on her compilation, she actually hooked up the collaboration with Styles P and that was cool with me. I love The LOX and I felt honored that she even wanted to put my single on her album, so I wasn’t choosy about anything at all. If anything I felt blessed and appreciate the fact she looked out for me.

AHHA: How was it when she called you, because she reached out to some big names for the compilation?

Deemi: I was scared at first, [laughs] especially when I did the interview with her. But I am just glad that she showed me mad love and that she really liked the song. Honestly, with my music it’s either you feel me or you won’t. I don’t like fake people and I am happy she was one of those people who felt what I am trying to do, because I have heard her interviews and she definitely lets people know how she feels. [laughs]

AHHA: Your album is due out in March, so I know it’s early but what can people expect when they pick up Soundtrack To My Life?

Deemi: They can expect some real sh*t. [laughs] I want people to relate to me because I am a normal person and with my story, I hope that I can inspire people to dream. Especially people in my hood, because they don’t have real dreams – their dreams are to become the neighborhood drug dealer, because that’s the only people we see continuously making it. I want to show them that by following your dreams and not giving up you can make it, but that you also have to fight for it.

AHHA: Do you feel that artists who allow themselves to be placed in a box are really hurting their creativity?

Deemi: Honestly, I feel that our music as a whole lacks creativity because it lacks substance. I don’t really fault the artists so much because the industry is so fake. All people are talking about is the fact that they are killing and shooting, but no one is saying I was killing and shooting but I changed my life. So now you have kids running around trying to live out a fantasy that is already a harsh reality, and, in essence, you’re not giving them anything to look forward to. I feel that in order for us to restore the creativity back into music, artists need a reality check and need someone to tell them that putting out nothing is not cool, because people need substance.

AHHA: What words of inspiration would you leave to anyone, regardless of what they are trying to do?

Deemi: I bought a post-it and it says, “If you are going through hell, keep going” – and that’s my words of inspiration. I never thought that I would make it this far, and from that alone, I learned how to dream bigger. So to anyone out there who has set goals, you can accomplish it – just believe, and you will make it through.

Busta Rhymes: Come Clean Part Two Published October 05, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

AllHipHop.com: Everyone has a favorite Busta album, but in my opinion you really shine the most on remixes. Is that because coming from a group setting you had to work harder than a solo MC or is it just the challenge of being around other great MC’s?

Busta Rhymes: My goal when I jump on those remixes, is for that woman or that man to say I killed it. I mean I have been on some joints with heavyweights, so if I am not the favorite MC out the bunch, that’s fine. But I always want them to say my verse ripped everyone else’s, because you only get one chance to really express yourself on someone else’s record. So I treat every opportunity like my last when I am rhyming with other MC’s because if you are nice with the pen and the delivery muthaf**kas are already screening for you, so I am going to take every opportunity to shine because you never know if you will ever get to rap with these MC’s again.

AllHipHop.com: On another note, you know the biggest question on everyone’s mind is what’s up with the Flipmode Squad? Are they on hiatus because when you left Elektra, Rah Digga followed you over to J Records and shortly before you left, she was about to drop her solo album.

Busta Rhymes: Well actually they all followed me. The only reason why you really feel more of a presence from Rah Digga is because she was the one ready to release and album and she was the one that was ready to do more of a solo project. Unfortunately, she and the rest of the Flipmode got caught up in the political dumb s**t that I was going through as I was leaving J Records. So without me being at J Records, Rah Digga didn’t really have the support on the strength or the bargaining power that she needed to support her project. So I didn’t want to leave her in a death trap, especially when I see how J Records was treating all of their other artists. So I took her with me, everyone in Flipmode is with me; the only thing is that things have to work in stages and structures but everything I do will be beneficial for the grand scheme of things.

AllHipHop.com: As far as being signed to Aftermath, everyone hasn’t seen too many different sides to Busta, other than the animated, party joint side; so a lot of people were a little shocked when they heard your verse on the “Never Scared” remix, although you continue to divulge a little more of yourself with each album. With that being said, with all the beef coming from over there with G-Unit, are fans going to start hearing you spit more disses because there is word that you have a song called “F**kin’ Up the Game” and it features 50 Cent.

Busta Rhymes: Well to set the record straight, I don’t have a song on my album called “F*ckin’ Up the Game”. For two, I don’t have beef with nobody in the industry and never have, with the exception of me and Ja Rule, but we addressed it accordingly. The only reason it went down like that after he said what he said on his record, was because we used to be cool when he did that. I guess he felt obligated to diss everyone at Violator, which is my management company, when 50 came over there. Now of course me and 50 is on the same team and I rep my for my team and who ever is on my team. Now if you don’t like it, f**k you. But at the end of the day, if me and you are cool and you have an issue with something before you publicly disrespect me, you better try to call me or get at my peoples so we can talk about whatever differences that we have. Because I am that type of person, I am very confrontational; I don’t want to go to bed knowing that there is unresolved issues that I have to wake up to tomorrow.

But as a man, I got kids and an integrity, morally and principally that I am going to defend to the death bed. If a muthaf**ka crosses the line, we are going to deal with that on whatever level necessary. I have never been one to promote going out there tearing somebody’s head off, but if it’s in self-defense I support it fully.

AllHipHop.com: Looking back over your career, is there any point in your life whether professional or personal that you would change?

Busta Rhymes: I really feel like after going through all these years with making these records and situations, I feel that I am finally receiving my reward and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The only thing I wish is that the stuff I know now, I wish I knew when I made my first deal. But now I am on Aftermath and even though I have so many years of experience, I really feel like I am getting a chance to do it all over again, but with all the information that I have always wished I had in the beginning when I did my deal with Elektra.

AllHipHop.com: You have always been a spiritual type of person and it’s no secret that you are a part of the Five Percent Nation, with all the controversy surrounding Eminem and the tape; what is your take on the situation? Because as a Black female, I personally don’t feel he apologized for it and all though he said it when he was sixteen, the fact still remains he said it.

Busta Rhymes: My experience with Eminem now, is a major respectful one. We really don’t get to see him that often, because everybody pretty much has their own things and their own crew so we only see each other if it’s work related. I can say I have never had a problem with him, I ain’t never heard him say, “nigger” on no record since his career started. When he was sixteen, our culture didn’t embrace him because he didn’t have a record or a record deal, so he was going through something personal at the time. We all have our way of dealing with s**t and I am not justifying it by no means because if a White dude call me a nigger, we going to have problems. But I don’t just hold him responsible because it could have something to do with his upbringing or whatever. I mean he’s a White man and his family is White, so of course they are going to be on some pro-White s**t, just like we being Black, were raised on the pro-Black, so it really shouldn’t be surprising. I think the worst type of racist is the one who acts a totally different way than they feel. So as far as I am concerned I ain’t mad at Em, I am mad at a lot of muthaf**kas who are Black like me but they don’t even help they own, they don’t even support they own, they don’t even respect they own, so f**k them n***as.

AllHipHop.com: You have recently sat into the producers seat working on Raekwon’s upcoming album, what made you want to venture into the area of producer and is this a move that you are planning on making permanently?

Busta Rhymes: I hopped on Raekwon’s project because Raekwon and Ghost to me, just put me on another level, musically – the whole Wu-Tang did. The always seemed on some other s**t to me, I have never seen a nine-man clique that all had solo deals on different labels, while being housed as a group under another one; that was unheard of back on the day until they did it first of all. Number two, their dynamic was so different from each other, it reminded you of the old school super-hero cartoons where each one had their own intro, I mean Wu is like that they have their own swagger and that is just unbelievable to me. They whole movement was historic and no one has done it like they have done it. I told Raekwon that he didn’t need to make another album he needed to make another movie because Cuban Linx played like a movie, that whole album from the packaging to the color of the tape was classic. So I just hollered at him and told him he needed to recapture that. But honestly, I feel like I just sparked the energy and I am there for moral support. I mean I heard hot beats that I couldn’t use and I felt was right for him I slid them to him and we just worked like that. But as far as beats and all that, he and RZA have teamed up and created some sh*t that made my eyes water yo. Like on some emotional s**t, I may be a little biased but this album is going to be some fire.

AllHipHop.com: With all the groups reuniting to give a taste of the old school to the new school, what are the chances of you linking back up with the guys to do a Leaders of the New School album or tour?

Busta Rhymes: I would do it only if Charlie Brown wouldn’t be there.

AllHipHop.com: You guys still have beef after all these years?

Busta Rhymes: I mean there isn’t really a beef, there are just a lot of unresolved issues that he ain’t willing to speak to me about. Like I said I am a very confrontational person, and for things to go down like they did ain’t cool. I still see Dinco and Milo and we chill, we give love and it feels like the group never broke up. But it ain’t the same with Brown and when I really blow up like I want to, I am going to take care of D and Milo because that’s my fam and they will always be my fam.

AllHipHop.com: All in all what do you say is the overall legacy of your career?

Busta Rhymes: That everything comes full circle, if you look at the themes of my album it was like a telling what was about to happen. Like I said before, I find it real ironic that this being my 7th album and being ironic that this is 2005, it’s like everything is finally working out and I just feel blessed to experience all that God has allowed me to, in such a way that I am able to not only express myself creatively but reach people.

Busta Rhymes: Come Clean Part One Published October 05, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

In his illustrious career, Busta Rhymes clearly established to Hip-Hop not only that he was here to stay, but also a distinguishable force to be reckoned with. After enduring professional growth and personal pain, it was Busta’s stand out performance on his verse of the A Tribe Called Quest hit “Scenario” that helped him to establish a name for himself as not only an animated but an ill MC.

The crews, the labels, it’s all changed in the last fifteen years. No prophet could’ve connected Leaders of the New School with N.W.A. in 1991. But now with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records, Busta Rhymes speaks to AllHipHop.com on the journey. We look at the botched J Records deal, the politics of Aftermath, Busta’s weaknesses and strengths, and even a word on LONS. Great art comes full circle.

All HipHop.com: What really happened at J Records, because the partnership between you and Clive [Davis] seemed great when Genesis hit, it also seemed like a great move for the team especially with what was going on with Flipmode and the solo joint with Rah Digga?

Busta Rhymes: You know everything is always beautiful in the beginning. So when we first did our deal with J Records, they weren’t even officially announced [as a label yet] and to me it made sense to jump on something fresh; especially with a man who had a record like [Clive Davis]. The problem with J Records for me was that they don’t have a clue on how to market a Black record, because Urban Music is the politically correct way of saying Black Music. People will look at it like Alicia Keys is a Black woman, so she is Urban Music, but you can’t group Rap music the same way. Rap music is about going against policies and is so hard to contain that it is impossible to market the same way as you would an Alicia Keys’ record. It was a time where if you didn’t have a Puffy or Missy or Mariah Carey on your album J Records didn’t know what to do with it and that is why I think they are a trash record company.

AllHipHop.com: So is there any beef between you and Clive Davis?

Busta Rhymes: My feelings on the way my deal went down and the views I have about J Records have nothing to do with the way I respect Clive Davis’ legacy, but I do feel that the Rap department is a part of the company that he doesn’t give a f**k about. I feel that it’s evident by the way he runs the label. Look at when the American Idol muthaf**kas won, he was right there giving them million dollar deals and putting all this money into making sure they were marketed right and that they are promoted to be a success. Now look at Cassidy, yeah they were there [for him] in the beginning, but when he got locked up they gave him one video and the rest of his album was thrown in the trash. They cut his budget and really just messed him up, but if you look at Lil’ Kim [who’s on Atlantic], I don’t mean to compare situations that are unfortunate but Lil’ Kim is on her way to jail and you can see the distinct difference that Lyor Cohen and them did versus that of Clive Davis.

AllHipHop.com: There are two things that you said in previous interviews that I agree with, one is that the reason you continue to switch labels is because the labels aren’t understanding your vision, but you also said something in a totally separate interview that Hip-Hop is the only music that has created jobs for people who don’t understand it. Do you feel that the lack of understanding is what causes street records not to be as heavily promoted as a mainstream record and that’s what leading to the over saturation?

Busta Rhymes: Completely, I definitely feel that and I feel that a lot of that has changed because of the corporate mergers and the layoffs that have taken place in the industry. I think that there has definitely always been a lack of respect and a lack of understanding by the employees that worked at the labels because they looked at this like a job, like a straight up nine to five. On the other hand with me, switching labels has always been something that was needed in my situation in order to maintain a certain level of success because I feel like the longer you stay at a company the less fresh and the less exciting you become to a company and that’s the nature of any relationship. Just like if you with your girl, the longer you are with her the less exciting the relationship become and it’s unfortunate but that’s just how we [as people] are, we have short attention spans.

AllHipHop.com: Do you feel that it will turn that way with Aftermath?

Busta Rhymes: I feel that destiny for me has worked itself out, because I have never dreamed of being on a label that is so understanding of the music that I have always been trying to make, but have never been able to make like Aftermath. Because to me if you can win a Grammy and perform on the Grammys with someone like Elton John on a record like “Stan” that talks about killing your wife because you are an over obsessed deranged muthaf**ka, that is so far from a Top 40 record or even a club banger, that it’s created a new level of success that goes against the normal establishment. Working with Dre has given me the freedom to express feelings and things that I was never able to express because the labels always wanted a high energy, bafoonish, animated Busta Rhymes that I really don’t have a problem with doing because it’s a part of who I am. When I have a problem with it, is when I am unable to express other parts of myself and other sides that I consist of. It ain’t always the cartoon and exaggerated facial expressions that Busta Rhymes is about, I have so many other dimensions that I consist of and I am glad that honestly the label that I am apart of allows me to explore and express those sides thoroughly through my music. I hope people are bracing because I am going to finally get a chance to tell stories that I have been holding on to since ‘95 that I haven’t been able to share, because the previous companies I was a part of didn’t know how to nourish or nurture those types of records, concepts or ideas. That’s why I feel blessed that despite how I was hindered in other situations, muthaf**kas tend to identify with the true capabilities that you represent and the quality of your music.

AllHipHop.com:: Why do you think It Ain’t Safe No More was so unsuccessful, is it because you were unhappy with the situation at J Records or did you just feel like oh well?

Busta Rhymes: I am going to break it down for you a lil’ bit. When I was at Elektra, all of my albums were platinum, when I was leaving Elektra the Anarchy album was the least successful. When I went to J Records, my first album sold 1.8 million, when I was leaving J Records, the biggest radio record I have had in my career, that Mariah record was bigger than “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” bigger than any other single I have had, but ironically the record sold the least amount of records. Why, because when a label knows that you are leaving, they are not going to put as much money into your project when they know they ain’t getting that money back. So that’s really what that’s about and I am glad you asked that question because a lot of time people hold it against you, like you slipping creatively; but it ain’t got s**t to do with my creative ability. If you look at around the time this album was falling off, I was the hottest muthaf**ka out.

Benzino: Pump Up the Volume Published November 09, 2005 by Tiffany Hamilton

Ray Benzino might be setting up his personal Tet Offensive, a series of aggressive moves in his long running war again “the machine.” And like the famous strategy in a war torn 1960’s Vietnam, Benzino hopes to topple his adversaries in a spectacular fashion and drive them out of Hip-Hop for the good of the culture.

If this offensive is to work, Boston native must contend with a number of obstacles from his cumbersome work as The Source’s Co-Owner/ Chief Brand Manager to and his plethora of enemies and his other affairs.

Rumors have swirled of The Source’s financial woes, sale, and eviction. If that weren’t enough, Benzino and the magazine have not only criticized G-Unit for [being agents of the corporate machine?], but also accuse radio heavyweights like Funkmaster Flex of accepting pay for play. Although his foes deny the charges, ‘Zino is pursuing them using every weapon in his arsenal. Read the war report from Zino’s uniquely abrasive perspective.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s touch on the issue of The Source and bankruptcy, what is really going on?

Benzino: We are definitely not filing bankruptcy, that’s a lie. Dave has been handling the finances since day one. What happened is he took out a loan to get in on the Internet stuff; the next thing you know we are indebted to this bank because of the high interest rate. It’s funny that in Hip-Hop, everyone has money except for the artists. There is a big corporate machine that basically exploits our music and our artists, and this is exactly like one of those situations where corporate America thought they could get over.

AllHipHop.com: Besides the issue of bankruptcy, there is also speculation that financial troubles is leading to an eviction of The Source at your 23rd street office in New York.

Benzino: We are not being evicted. We are just looking for a smaller space because we aren’t using it. There is no reason to continue paying for a space that we aren’t using, so we are in the process of shopping around.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking of businesses – many are still wondering why you are still beefing with artists at Aftermath?

Benzino: You know what we have explained the issue with Eminem and Jimmy Iovine repeatedly. I really can’t understand how he can be rated one of the top rated MC’s when he is exploiting our music. I mean, it’s crazy because we have beef with Interscope, who basically has everything locked down. People won’t advertise with us. So we decided to go through a restructure just like any other business. But everyone wants to talk about The Source, but everyone wants a business like The Source, I hate the fact that we get criticized for promoting ourselves. If you look at it, we aren’t doing anything different than Russell Simmons or Damon Dash. Honestly, if you wear two hats, of course you’re going to cross-promote between the two.

AllHipHop.com: Recently there has been a lot of friction between you and Funkmaster Flex, what’s the issue and how did that start?

Benzino: First off, I would like to say there is no beef. He talks a lot of trash [on air at Hot 97] and when he leaves, he has a group of security guards, but one day he is going to slip and when we do collide you are going to hear about it.

AllHipHop.com: Touching on another subject dealing with the payola scandals, what is the deal behind this lawsuit you are filing against the industry?

Benzino: We are filing a lawsuit against the major forces in the industry for the middle-man, because it’s the middle man who doesn’t get their artists played in a major market like New York – because they aren’t paying. We are linking up with all the artists and managers, anyone who has tried honestly to get they stuff heard and couldn’t because they wasn’t paying. In all honesty, Flex thought he was going to be gone a long time ago because of the payola. I ain’t going to lie, I used to pay Flex back in the day, but now because he down with G-Unit he want to trip, b*tch please. That’s why I am telling you, if we ever met up, it’s a wrap.

AllHipHop.com: A lot if people have been coming down on The Source not because of the “G-U-Not” issue, but because the attack seems to have been going on for a long time now.

Benzino: We basically are taking a stand, but while everyone points out the fact we are standing up, no one is saying anything about XXL being bought out to put them on the cover every month.

AllHipHop.com: Steve Stoute has been on Hot 97 talking about he loaned Dave Mays money for The Source and he’s made reference to the fact that he is in the process of looking into buying The Source.

Benzino: Steve has always been on Dave’s d**k. He’s on Hot 97 lying. Notice how he’s saying, “He was going to buy The Source,” he wasn’t going to do nothing. We bought his house back in the day when he was in trouble, and turned it into the Made Men headquarters, I mean this is the same guy that was chased by Foxy Brown and smacked across the head by Diddy; so he has always been a peon. The best description I have for Steve Stoute is a crab who jumps on everybody’s d**k. Dave borrowed $500,000 from him and gave it back to him, then he tried to ask for $100,000 in interest. Put it like this: anyone who mentions my name will get the business. Chubby Chubb got it, DJ Enuff apologized, so it’s over. But next time I see Flex and Tony Yay,o it’s on. I want everyone to know that Flex and Tony Yayo aren’t allowed in Boston.

AllHipHop.com: Speaking on Tony Yayo, what happened with him being on the cover of The Source?

Benzino: Tony Yayo saw me in South Beach, ran across the street and started talking that trash about how 50 best not be on the cover.

AllHipHop.com: What happened to The Source Awards and is it going to be held again?

Benzino: UPN had it for a year, but UPN was really scared of the Hip-Hop audience. Too many people say they support the craft, but then they turn their back on it. I mean now they do the Vibe awards, which is some cookie cutter bulls**t; some stuff for Steve Stoute and Russell Simmons. They are too busy trying to reach a suburban audience, that they aren’t paying attention to the ‘hood. But we are in the process of taking The Source Awards to another network, so we are looking at hosting it in January of 2006.

AllHipHop.com: So what happened at BET?

Benzino: The same thing that happened to Free and AJ, the same people that had problems with them is who we have issues with. I mean there is so much stuff going on with them up there that it’ crazy. You got Scott Mills who has a family, dating some guy in the legal department and he was the main one with issues about Dave and I showing up at our own awards show. So you best believe that is one case that we will win in court, because the contract we had with BET was straight black and white and it was for three years, so I am waiting for that day in court.

AllHipHop.com: Is there anyone else you want to air out that has been putting you on blast?

Benzino: I mean everyone over at Hot 97, Angie Martinez she talks all that s**t. You know what, here is a contest: I got $97.00 for anyone who can guess who the father of her baby is.

AllHipHop.com: Other than issues with side talking, what’s next for Benzino?

Benzino: Right now the next issue of The Source is taking an in-depth look at Hip-Hop behind bars, we are in the process of releasing a Source sponsored Hip-Hop hits album with Warner Music. We have launched three additions to The Source Magazine family which is The Source Latino, The Source France, and The Source Japan and last but least we have The Source ringtones. So we are definitely doing it big and not going for broke.