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ENTERTAINMENT

XXXTentacion’s Mom Posts Birthday Tribute for the Late Rapper

https://www.complex.com/music/2021/01/xxxtentacion-mom-posts-birthday-tribute-for-late-rapper

XXXTentacion's Mom Posts Birthday Tribute for the Late Rapper

XXXTentacion‘s mom pays tribute to the later rapper on what would’ve been his 23rd birthday.

On Saturday morning, Cleopatra Bernard shared an Instagram photo of her son with a mic in his hand and his “Cleopatra” chest tattoo on display. Bernard captioned the post: “Happy Birthday 23 on the 23rd. We never miss the signs you show us. Doing our best to continue everything you started, I love you beyond words ❤️ see you in the next life.”

Saturday marked XXX’s third birthday since his death on June 18, 2018, when he was gunned down outside a motorcycle dealership in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Four men—Robert Allen, Michael Boatwright, Trayvon Newsome, and Dedrick Williams—have since been indicted in the shooting death of XXX; they are now awaiting trial on charges of first-degree murder with a firearm and armed robbery with a firearm.

XXX’s friends, fans, and former collaborators also took to social media to remember the rapper on his 23rd birthday. You can check out some of the posts below.

Ski Mask's XXX Tribute

Lil Pump's XXX Tribute

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ENTERTAINMENT

Kim Kardashian Shows Support for Britney Spears, Reflects on Tabloids ‘Bullying’ Her During Pregnancy

https://www.complex.com/pop-culture/kim-kardashian-support-for-britney-spears-tabloids-bullying-during-pregnancy

Kim Kardashian Shows Support for Britney Spears, Reflects on Tabloids ‘Bullying’ Her During Pregnancy

Kim Kardashian recently had a chance to watch Framing Britney Spears, the New York Times-presented documentary directed by Samantha Stark, and told fans on Friday that it inspired her to reflect on her own experiences with cruel and judgmental treatment under the public microscope.

“So I finally watched the Britney Spears documentary this week and it made me feel a lot of empathy for her,” Kardashian said in an Instagram Stories update on Friday. “The way the media played a big role in her life the way it did can be very traumatizing and it can really break even the strongest person. No matter how public someone’s life may seem, no one deserves to be treated with such cruelty or judgment for entertainment.”

From there, Kardashian said her viewing of the documentary was followed by her looking back on a specific time in her life when tabloid publications profited off her insecurities. At the time, as Kardashian recalled in detail, she was suffering from preeclampsia.

“Looking back at my own experiences, I remember a time when I felt this way,” she said. “When I was pregnant with North I was suffering preeclampsia, which made me swell uncontrollably. I gained 60 lbs and delivered almost six weeks early and I cried every single day over what was happening to my body mainly from the pressures of being constantly compared to what society considered a healthy pregnant person should look like—as well as being compared to Shamu the whale by the media.”

Looking at photos of herself online and in magazines, she added, “made me so insecure” and gave her a fear of “if I would ever get my pre-baby body back.”  As Kardashian recalled, she was “shamed on a weekly basis” via tabloid covers. 

“It really broke me,” she said.

And while Kardashian noted that she was later able to funnel those feelings into motivation, the experience still took a mental toll on her. Anyone engaged in “the business of shaming and bullying someone to the point of breaking them down,” she added, should instead consider a path of compassion.

Kardashian then shared a number of examples of this type of treatment including several tabloid covers from the time period by In Touch, Star, Life & Style, and others.

“These are just a few examples … I’m tired of googling!” she said.

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Framing Britney Spears is out now on Hulu and is indeed a must-watch.

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ENTERTAINMENT

That Zamundan Palace in ‘Coming 2 America’ Is Rapper Rick Ross’ Real-Life House

https://variety.com/2021/artisans/news/coming-2-america-palace-rick-ross-house-mansion-1234922848/

That Zamundan Palace in ‘Coming 2 America’ Is Rapper Rick Ross’ Real-Life House

Eddie Murphy’s return as Prince Akeem Joffer in “Coming 2 America” (streaming now on Prime Video) brings the comedy franchise back to the fictional Zamunda, home to the royal family and its future heir.

Much of the Zamunda setting was recreated in Georgia, with the palatial palace brought to life courtesy of rapper Rick Ross, who opened the doors of his estate on the outskirts of Atlanta to the film’s production team.

Says production designer Jefferson Sage: “Our big problem was, where do we find a house that had the scale of the possibilities for a very lavish palace?”

Sage and his team scouted multiple locations before zeroing in on the Ross estate, which would serve as the bones of the lush royal palace.

The 45,000 square-foot mansion in Fayetteville, Ga. sits on 235 acres and was previously owned by boxer Evander Holyfield. With 12 bedrooms and a dining room that seats up to 100 people, it had the scale director Craig Brewer and Sage were looking for.

“That entrance foyer with the big two-story interior and double-winding staircase was perfect,” says Sage. “Off of that, there were two beautiful big rooms with giant windows and 18-foot ceilings. We used five key spaces that we turned into Zamunda.”

Those spaces were converted for the film’s primary sets, including the King’s bedroom and the dining room. The primary bedroom in the palace was Ross’s own. The rapper says 1988’s “Coming to America” may be his all-time favorite movie and that he was chuffed to see Eddie Murphy and Arsenio Hall walking through his estate.

“They changed the wallpaper in the dining room so I asked them to keep it up there,” Ross laughs. “They also created that huge dining room table for a dining scene that seats 50-60 people, and they left that for me as a gift. It’s humungous.”

Set decorator Douglas A. Mowat deserves credit for enhancing Ross real-life rooms. To transform the primary bedroom, he went with the existing color — warm white — but brought in blues and silvers to “make the room pop and give it more dimension.” Mowat took the lead by adding silver leaf to the canopy above the bed.

Sage made sure to honor the original film by keeping a similar color palette, “but we altered it a bit,” he says. “We took the bones of the original set with the idea that they renovated and upgraded regularly.”

Quantrell D. Colbert

Elsewhere, Sage built the ballroom and throne room on external soundstages, but the architecture of the mansion served as the basis for the design. “We did that so it would always feel like the same building,” Sage adds.

The Ross mansion had a white interior with a gold ceiling trim throughout, so when it came to those external sets, Sage accented and embellished gold-leafing throughout. “We used so much gold leafing that we bought out the country’s supply for at least two months,” he cracks.

He relied on visual effects to enhance the silhouette of the film. During one sequence, a campanile bell rings, and while the actual set was small, Brewer and Sage inserted the shot into a swooping vista of the Zamundan palace and residence. “That was our moment to sell the place as a bit of fantasy and show where they live and bring out the fairytale quality of it all,” says Sage.

Creating the iconic My-T-Sharp barbershop for a sequence was Sage’s favorite. He sought out all the information on the original set created by Richard Macdonald. He researched and studied the pictures on the wall, honing in on the signed photos of the baseball stars and boxers. Adds Sage: “We went to great lengths to find as much as we could, and we got just about everything. The sense of going back to that set is a tie-in to the original and brings the two movies together.”

Quantrell D. Colbert

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ENTERTAINMENT

SZA Praises Doja Cat in Conversation: ‘You’re Exactly Who I Needed When I Was in High School [and] College’

https://www.complex.com/music/sza-praises-doja-cat-conversation-who-i-needed-in-high-school-college

SZA Praises Doja Cat in Conversation: ‘You’re Exactly Who I Needed When I Was in High School [and] College’

SZA is a Doja Cat superfan. In a cover story interview for V magazine conducted by SZA, the 2018 Best New Artist Grammy nominee applauds Doja’s ability to create cross-genre material—a talent that has landed the “Say So” singer among this year’s Best New Artist nominees.

“I really feel like I relate the most to you because between the pre-TDE shit and crossing that path, I always felt like I couldn’t fit into anything. That my music isn’t ‘Black enough’ with ‘Drew Barrymore.’ Or I’m doing shit that’s strange. I never felt that as a Black girl, I could make music and be in these realms,” SZA said. “You make music in all these other realms and make it sound like it touched my inner mind and spirit.”

She continued, “It’s like, you’re exactly who I needed when I was in high school [and] college. I just wanted to feel like it’s OK to be an individual that isn’t really planted but is highly mutable and superfluid. Working with you was literally my dream.”

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Image via Publicist

SZA went on to ask Doja if she feels pressured to make pure rap or pop music.

“I wanted to be a rapper before I was a singer at all. And I always wanted to sing because singing is amazing when you hit a note and you’re like, ‘Wow,’” Doja answered. “They’ve just melded together, and I’ve just been able to make those two come together. … I definitely get shit for making pop music and then rapping with it.”

Elsewhere in the interview, the pair talked about Doja’s collaborations for her forthcoming album Planet Her, including a collaboration called “Kiss Me More” between her and SZA that will apparently appear on the record.

“It’s people that I respect and I’m extremely excited about having on the album and it’s a full-circle moment for me, basically,” Doja said. “Just knowing that I have you on it is just sexy. It’s perfect. I feel confident. It doesn’t feel like something out of myself, you know? I feel like I’m doing what I want to do.” (Earlier in the conversation, SZA volunteered, “I know our little ditty ‘Kiss Me More’ is a different strut and I’m just excited.”)

V’s digital editor Dania Curvy moderated the interview, writing on Instagram that it “was the best experience of my life. I’ve never felt more comfortable and at home in an interview—it was giving divine feminine and black girl magic, indeed.”

Read the entire interview here.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Leslie Odom Jr. on How His Theme Song for ‘One Night in Miami’ Echoes Sam Cooke for the Era of George Floyd

https://variety.com/2021/music/news/leslie-odom-jr-song-speak-now-one-night-miami-1234922327/

Leslie Odom Jr. on How His Theme Song for ‘One Night in Miami’ Echoes Sam Cooke for the Era of George Floyd

When Leslie Odom Jr. signed up to play Sam Cooke in “One Night in Miami,” he knew that he had a non-acting task awaiting him after shooting: director Regina King had already made it clear that whoever played the late, great soul singer was also who she wanted to co-write and perform an original end-credits theme. That task fell readily into the hands of Odom, who had already used his stardom from his stage role in “Hamilton” to launch a career as a singer-songwriter.

The he Golden Globe-nominated and Oscar-shortlisted “Speak Now,” which Odom co-wrote with his friend Sam Ashworth, is intended to subtly echo Cooke’s own “A Change Is Gonna Come”… even if, as Odom explains it, it’s closer to a still questioning song than “answer song” per se.

But, as Odom tells Variety in the following Q&A, it wasn’t 100% set from the start that his final offering would be in an inspirational/protest vein that would seem of a piece with Cooke’s “Change” or Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” which also figures into the plot of the film (which dramatizes a 1964 night in the life of Cooke, Muhammad Ali, Malcolm X and Jim Brown). Like any actor eager to offer a director different takes, he gave King choices in how to let the last few minutes of the movie aurally play out.

VARIETY: How much instruction did you get from Regina about what she hoped your song would fulfill as it closes out the film?

ODOM: We didn’t really have a conversation in that way. The assignment was to write a handful of tunes. She wanted four, because she wanted to have a selection. And I didn’t have much time to deliver the four, but I also didn’t have much time to feel sorry for myself about that, so I just got to work. In hindsight, I’m really glad that I got to write more than one, because the experience obviously meant so much to me, and I had quite a bit inside that I felt like I wanted to say. So the fact that I got to spread that out over four tunes meant that I wasn’t so precious with any one of them. If I was going to write four, I wanted them to be very different, and let her choose which one she wanted, and then we would continue to refine it. After she picked “Speak Now,” we started to talk about ways we might edit it, ways we could make it better from the demo that she heard.

Will we ever hear any of the other three songs that you wrote for consideration?

There’s one of them that I really can’t wait to get back to, to pick it up and put it on a record or something like that. But I knew that it might be an unconventional choice. It was a real up-tempo kind of party tune, so I knew it would be risky, but I dug it. Yeah, those other songs, I’m sure they’ll get repurposed.

The big question in doing an end-credits song for a movie that has a contemplative ending is whether to carry that mood forward or bring everyone up. If Regina had gone for the up-tempo song, that would’ve countered the feel of what it was coming out of a little bit.

Yeah, right. Before I wrote with each of the teams — because I wrote in collaboration with other artists; I don’t really like to be holed away in a room by myself. I want to be bouncing things off of another person, making one another better — we would always watch those final 10 or 15 minutes of the movie. With the up-tempo (alternative)… I thought, that’s what they showed up there for (at the hotel setting). I think there’s so much joy present on that night, too. It’s a celebration; it’s a party. And even though things go left, the film is a celebration of brotherhood and friendship and humanity.

How did you arrive at “Speak Now” as your alternate approach?

Sam Ashworth, who I’ve written many songs with, is a good friend. It’s a great creative exchange, but it’s also a nice hang. We knew the song would come after “A Change is Gonna Come.” And the first question we asked ourselves was: Has that change come? And if it has, for whom? We went back to that Bob Dylan tune and thought about those answers blowin’ in the wind. Are they still out there? We were imagining what questions an audience in 2021 might have about that. It’s like, when you’ve been singing “A Change Is Gonna Come” for decades on decades, eventually people are going to be like, “Well, when? When is the change going to come?” In taking an honest look at where we are and how far we’ve come, I think it’s undeniable that some of that change has come. I think it’s cynical and not true to say that we are in the exact same spot that we were when Sam wrote that song and he imagined a future. I also don’t think he would say “You’re all done — congratulations, you did it.” But I think that he would also say, “It’s not finished. So, what are you doing about that? The work ain’t done. The change hasn’t come? Okay, well, get to work” — I think that’s what he’d be saying.

Was it intimidating to know that your song would come soon after “A Change Is Gonna Come” — and it couldn’t feel like a major letdown?

Yeah, I know. Even in singing Sam’s music, the first hurdle was believing in myself. I trusted Regina, and if Regina thought I could be a Sam Cooke, and if Regina thought I should be the one attempting to write that song, I had to find the belief in myself And the way we got over that particular very important bump was to go, in the same way that these four men could occupy space in that hotel room and not be diminished or in competition with one another, that they could occupy unique space and support one another in this room, the same way that I felt that on the set with my brothers, with Kingsley and Aldis and Eli… We were a company. We were a real ensemble, with Regina included, that could occupy space and it didn’t mean that somebody had to dim their light for me to shine or vice versa.

So we just thought that we can do that with this song, too. We’re not in competition with “A Change Is Gonna Come.” We’re not in competition with “Blowin’ in the Wind.” We want to make an offering. We want to add something that can occupy its own space. That was the only way we were going to be able to do it. Because, I mean, if you’re starting from a competitive place, I think as an artist, that’s dicey.

Were you thinking at all in terms of: If Sam Cooke were still around, or if the ghost of Sam Cooke were to come back and sing a song, this would be in his voice? Maybe not literally singing like him, but that it was a sequel in some way that you could imagine to “A Change Is Gonna Come” that he would do?

That’s a great question. And I really thought that it would be important that I added my own voice. It wasn’t Sam Cooke singing now. I didn’t have a prosthetic nose on anymore. I wasn’t trying to do his voice in any way, really. The filming was about bringing him as close to me — or me standing on my tiptoes, rather — trying to get as close as I could get to him as possible. And I knew that there would be places that I would fall short, but I figured — I hoped — that if my intentions were pure, that there could be magic moments in there. But when we sang “A Change Is Gonna Come,” that was my final day of shooting. And after Regina gave me a big old hug and said “Job well done,” and I left the prosthetic nose and left Sam behind in that way, I had to take those steps to remembering who I was again.

So by the time we wrote this song, this was months after we’d finished shooting and I really did feel like I was in the seat of myself again. So, yeah, it didn’t feel like Sam at all. It felt like I need to now take everything I’ve learned from playing Sam, everything that Sam has given me and left me here, and do my best to be all that I can be.

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You changed your voice somewhat to play Sam. Is that something you can instantly snap out of, when you’ve spent that much time on it, even though you didn’t do a huge amount of singing for the movie?

No, it does take a second to let them go. I mean, as you can imagine, it took me a second to… I did over 500 shows of Aaron Burr (in “Hamilton”). And while that wasn’t a character that was about verisimilitude — it wasn’t about how much I can look and walk and talk like Aaron Burr — there was some creation there of a different character than myself, than the way that I sing. Somewhere between what Lin(-Manuel Miranda) was inspiring me to do with his writing and Lac (Alex Lacaoire) with those orchestrations, there was a different guy up there than me. So it took a while for me after 500 shows to let that go and remember who I am and how I like to talk and how I like to sing.

So with Sam was no different. Absolutely, it took a second to shed it and remember myself again… you know, a month or two, not anything crazy. But yeah, you’ve just gotta (say), “Let Sam go.” Because for six, seven weeks or whatever, it’s all you’re thinking about. You’re just so deeply consumed and you’re trying to go as deep as possible. So, absolutely, there’s a little bit of a shedding. You’ve gotta let it go.

Everything about this has been about asking questions, and it has been about an unsteadiness. Some of that creeped into the performance. I think it worked in my favor, in some ways, you know, because Sam (Cooke) is questioning and I was questioning. And I think Regina was able to sort of use some of my doubt [laughs] to serve Sam in the movie. And the (song)writing was no different, you know. Like I said, we started by asking questions. This song was asking us, what do we want to say? What do we think is required? And we came up with the action of speaking,  — you know, speaking, there’s lots of ways we can speak. Lots of ways we can speak. But there’s also the refrain of listening, and that really is about study and sensitivity to the ancestors, to what’s come before you, so that you understand the context that you’re living in, to know what to speak about.

The song has some universal aspects. How much did you think that it was specifically about racial struggle? There are all these scenes in the movie of assimilation and pride and aspiration and setbacks. How much of it was tied to that, as opposed to just wanting to write a more all-purpose, universal song?

When we were writing this song, we were just a few weeks after George Floyd got lynched publicly. We were just a few months after Ahmaud Arbery. That murder had shaken me to my core, man. I’ve got to tell you, as a Black father, raising these babies and watching this young man, 25, 26 years old, be pulled over on the side of the road in America, with shotguns, by other citizens, and they demanded proof of his legitimacy — they wanted proof of his manhood and his humanity… At 25 years old, he answered them with his life. He said, “You won’t take my liberty for two minutes. I’m not answering your questions.” We have video footage of his bravery. That kid’s a martyr. And you know, I mean, things were on fire at the time when we were writing that song.

I think that the only reason to look back at history is to have an understanding of where you are. It’s for the context to understand how to chart your path forward. So those are always the questions that I’m asking myself as an artist. I’m like, why this movie, right now? What is applicable to us right now? Because the best art is malleable. You know, the best art, when you look back on a film or you listen to a song 20, 30 years later, it means something slightly different. “A Change Is Gonna Come” already meant something different by the time it was released. It meant something different to everyone because Sam was no longer here. Sam was a ghost. He was singing to us from the beyond, already, when the song was released.

Your song is one of several movie theme songs that are out right now that seem to speak to the times we’re in, even though they may be in period pieces. And for the most part, those films were made before the pandemic and before Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd — but the songs that were crafted for them were written last spring or summer or fall.  

They’re all talking to each other. There’s a conversation that’s happening. And I think as an artist, you want to jump right in the center of that; as a writer or an actor, or quite frankly as a journalist or a politician, you want to jump right in the center of that conversation. You want to use your talents and your skill set and your resources to make something useful. And sometimes we make good use of ourself when we are a part of being a salve— when we are a part of giving people respite and a deep breath in the middle of what they’re surviving. Sometimes we are useful if we are incendiary, if we light a match, if we challenge people the way Bob Dylan did, in his own way.

In his own way, Sam was troubled by the fact that this young kid (Bob Dylan) had written this thing, “Blowin’ in the Wind,” and he hadn’t done that yet. And he loved the song, he recorded it, he sang it live. And then he writes his answer to that. And it’s not only in reaction, obviously, to “Blowin’ in the Wind,” but it is well-known that Sam was bothered by the fact that he hadn’t quite said something like that and gone on record in the way that Bob did. So anyway, I think that a lot of us are just trying to make good use of ourselves. We really are.

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Leslie Odom Jr. stars in ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI
Photo: Patti Perret/Amazon Studios

Courtesy of Patti Perret/Amazon

With “Speak Now,” you could have done a production or arrangement where you gave it big drums and a big climax, but it’s affecting in the way that the song builds but doesn’t have this huge, ultra-modern climax.

For this song, that was inspired by Sam. You know, Sam knew — Mr. Soul knew — in his soul that he had a gift that should not have been relegated to any ghetto that might’ve been built for him. He knew that his voice should be welcomed in any room, in any space. People couldn’t believe it when he left gospel music behind to go start singing pop songs and soul music and R&B. But he knew it didn’t mean that he loved God any less. He just knew, like, “I’m meant to do all of these things.” It was a big talent that he had.

But one of the things that Sam wanted was, every now and again, he just wanted to sing a song straight. You know, when he’s singing those standards, when he’s singing “Old Man River” or “Blowin’ in the Wind” or any of the standards that he sang… He wasn’t really celebrated for that part of the gift that he had, in his time. But I do think that because of Sam and because of our consciousness and the knowledge that we have of history, a way has been made for me. I feel like me and singers like me are more accepted in many different genres of music that were just tougher for Sam to crack. So that which you just spoke of — I think that was our nod to Sam, too, you know?

Was there anything about either playing Sam or writing and singing “Speak Now” that made you think any differently about how you might approach your own music career in the future?

I just want to keep breaking new ground. I was really inspired by the fact that Sam didn’t put limits on himself. And I don’t think Sam had a confidence problem. That is something that I’d like to hold up as an example and be inspired by as I chart my path forward.

 

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ENTERTAINMENT

From Blackpink to Top Execs: Women in Music Who Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment

https://variety.com/2021/music/news/blackpink-women-in-music-impact-global-1234922072/

From Blackpink to Top Execs: Women in Music Who Have Made an Impact in Global Entertainment

The world has changed tremendously since Variety‘s last International Women’s Impact Report a year ago: The COVID-19 pandemic shut down business around the globe and accelerated the shift toward streamed entertainment. The music industry has felt the impact of the pandemic more than many — particularly live entertainment — but it has rose to meet those challenges, and the music artists and executives featured in Variety‘s larger International Women’s Impact Report (see the full report here) are among those leading the charge. We at Variety salute them, and their accomplishments, in honor of International Women’s Day on March 8.

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Natascha Augustin – Received 2021
Courtesy of Robert Haas

Senior creative director, A&R, Warner Chappell Germany

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