After months of discussion and media hype, “Think Like a Man,” a highly entertaining romantic comedy inspired by Steve Harvey’s New York Times best-selling book “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” opens today in theaters nationwide.
Featuring a strong ensemble cast, “Think Like a Man” is directed by Tim Story of “Barbershop” fame, and follows four beautiful and successful women, all looking for love. There’s Kristen (Gabrielle Union), who’s in a longtime relationship that appears to be going nowhere; Candace (Regina Hall), a devoted single mother who is looking for a good, stable man; Lauren (Taraji P. Henson), a successful “Type A” businesswoman who is actively seeking a man who is “on her level,” and the sexy Mya (Meagan Good) who has dated a string of opportunistic losers — the latest being the silly and immature Alex (Chris Brown).
The ladies are dealing with the usual suspects when it comes to the men in their lives - Zeke, the smooth playboy (Romany Malco), Michael (Terrence J), the hopeless “Mama’s Boy,” the complacent, commitment-phobic Jeremy (Jerry Ferrara) and Dominic (Michael Ealy), the hardworking guy with limitless potential, who often gets overlooked because that potential has yet to be realized. Despite the women’s angst, this band of merry men thinks that life is great — except for their pint-sized pal Cedric (Kevin Hart), who is going through a messy divorce, and never lets any of them forget it.
Just as their frustration becomes unbearable, the ladies see Steve Harvey on TV discussing his new book, “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” and are instantly intrigued. They race to buy copies of Harvey’s “self-help” book, and immediately put his plan into action. His advice works like a charm until the guys discover that they are being “played,” and that it was another man who sold them out.
The clever and engaging screenplay was written by Keith Merryman and David A. Newman, although that appears to mean very little to Philly’s outrageous Kevin Hart, who will do or say just about anything, forcing his cast mates to deal with the fallout. Fortunately, he was working with a group of professionals who rather enjoyed the challenge of managing an out-of-control scene stealer who would improvise during his scenes, talk non-stop, dissolve into tears without warning and physically threaten folks who were almost two feet taller and about 100 pounds heavier than he.
For me, and apparently for the rest of the ladies in the house, the most captivating couple was Lauren and Dominic, the controlling over-achiever and the struggling dreamer who has yet to arrive. Versatile Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson sizzles as Lauren, who drives the best cars, drinks the best champagne and is waiting for a man who can top her impressive six-figure income to show up.
The cerebral and sensuous Michael Ealy does a slow burn as Dominic, a sincere, ambitious guy who parks cars and works as a waiter while pursuing his dream of becoming a professional chef. One day while parking an expensive car for a customer, he encounters Lauren, and against his better judgment (along with his friends’ bad advice), allows her to believe that it is his. A relationship develops and the sparks fly until Lauren discovers that it’s all based on a lie. Can she love a man based on his potential, or will she find it impossible to “lower” her standards?
Tim Story does a brilliant job of directing this superb ensemble which includes sassy veteran Jenifer Lewis as Michael’s overbearing mother, and Steve Harvey appears just enough for the audience to associate him with his book. There are countless cameo appearances in the film, and you will have a great time pointing them out, particularly when you finally get to meet Cedric’s estranged wife.
Featuring an engaging story, a beautiful, talented cast, and Kevin Hart’s hilarious hi-jinks, “Think Like a Man” was definitely worth the wait, and for those who still have not seen enough of Taraji Henson at the conclusion of the movie, she is featured in all her natural glory in “Allure” magazine’s “Look Better Naked” photo spread hitting newsstands April 24. (Rated PG-13)
Celebrity Sound Bytes: Michael Ealy, on why good guys are often overlooked: “Guys like Dominic get overlooked because it starts when you’re young — high school. I have this theory that if young girls looked at the 3.8, 4.0 GPA instead of athletes ... when I was growing up in Maryland/D.C., it was drug dealers ... they had the cash, they had the clothes, the swagger, but it’s the guy who was getting the 4.0 who’s running American Express right now. That’s the difference. It’s all about everybody having to evolve. Women have to start out as girls, and they have this fascination with what’s flashy. The same thing with guys. At the end of the day, I think women overlook guys like Dominic because their priorities are not in the right place.”
Steve Harvey: “Every man can change, and every man eventually will change, but there is only one woman that we will change for.”
One of the best songs on Chris Brown’s new album is a soft number, “Don’t Judge Me,” that finds him asking a girlfriend to look past his mistakes.
“So please don’t judge me, because it can get ugly, before it gets beautiful,” he sings in his signature semi-high pitch.
For another singer, such a tune might come off as just another relationship plea. But coming from the bad boy singer whose career is nearly restored after his attack on Rihanna three years ago, it seems like a cry for understanding to the whole world and makes him sound vulnerable and appealing.
When Brown opens up, he’s the best version of himself. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of those songs to make “Fortune,” the 23-year-old’s fifth album, a must have (it’s the follow up to last year’s Grammy-winning “F.A.M.E.”).
The album veers from hip-hop flavored party jams to electronic, pulsating tracks meant for laser light shows to more emotional fare. The album suffers from Brown’s cocky rap-talk and the computerized noises that drown out today’s dance songs.
One of the highlights is “4 Years Old.” Like “Don’t Judge Me,” it is soft and slow, with Brown recalling his childhood, singing: “Feels like I’m 4 years old all over again, because I’m just running fast, I should be walking, saying when I grow up you gon’ see, I’m gon’ be comfortable and happy.”
But most of the other tracks are mediocre, and those that standout — like “Biggest Fan” and “2012” — suffer from the album’s lack of flow and patchy feel. But production may also be the blame: The 14-track set is overloaded with too many producers and songwriters. Sometimes “Fortune” feels like a mixtape.
CHECK THIS TRACK OUT: “Party Hard/Cadillac” is an amazing five-minute combination of two songs. It starts off groovy and bouncy before transitioning to an even better jam that features doo-wops, finger snaps and one of Brown’s best vocal performances. — (AP)
NEW YORK — Singer Chris Brown, his girlfriend and his bodyguard were injured when a dance floor showdown with members of hip-hop star Drake's entourage turned into a bottle-hurling brawl earl Thursday at a nightclub, police said.
Brown tweeted a photo of himself with a cut chin, then later removed it, as well as other messages about the fight, including epithets and taunts. A representative later released a statement saying the singer and his girlfriend, model Karrueche Tran, were victims of a "brutal attack."
A representative for Drake said the star was on his way out of the club when the altercation began.
"He did not engage in any activity which resulted in injury to person or damage to property," according to the statement.
Witnesses told police that two men approached Brown's table and asked him whether he had a problem with Drake, and he replied he did not. Later, as Brown was leaving the club, five men met blocked his way on the dance floor and started taking off their shirts and yelling, police said.
At some point during the face-off, bottles started flying. Chief NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said it's not clear whether the bottles were tossed by members of either entourage, or if bar patrons eager to egg on a dispute started throwing them.
Five bystanders, four women and a man, also suffered cuts during the fight at the club W.i.P. in Manhattan's SoHo neighborhood, police said. Brown's bodyguard suffered a more serious cut to the head, but all the victims were released from the hospital later Thursday.
Police were looking for surveillance footage and talking to patrons who witnessed the melee. No arrests have been made and no complaints filed, and no one has identified any one person as an assailant, police said.
"Chris and his party are cooperating with NY authorities who are pursuing this incident further," Brown's representatives said in a statement.
Neither star was on scene when police arrived around 4 a.m. Thursday. It's not clear what prompted the fight. Both Brown and Drake at one time dated singer Rihanna.
Brown spoke with police Thursday; Drake, who was scheduled to perform at Saratoga Springs Performing Arts Center Thursday night in upstate New York, said he was unable to and would do so at a more convenient time with his attorney.
Brown had a violent relationship with "Umbrella" singer Rihanna and is still on supervised probation for attacking her on the eve of the 2009 Grammy awards, leaving her with a split lip, a black eye and other injuries.
They are on good terms now; both performed at this year's Grammy awards and also recently debuted two songs featuring each other. Brown sings and raps on the remix of Rihanna's "Birthday Cake," and she appears on a new version of his song "Turn up the Music."
Police in Miami are investigating claims made in March by a 24-year-old woman that Brown snatched her cellphone outside a nightclub when she tried to photograph him.
Rihanna dated Drake very briefly after Brown, and has said they didn't last long in part because she was "too fragile" from the split.
She also recently collaborated with Drake on his hit "Take Care" and appeared in his video. Drake is one of rap's top-selling rappers, and his latest album, "Take Care," has sold about 1.8 million copies. He is also known for playing the character Jimmy Brooks on the TV show "Degrassi: The Next Generation." -- (AP)
Where, oh where is R. Kelly when you need him? Or Pharrell Williams, or Ne-Yo? While Ruben Studdard’s crystalline tenor is as exquisite as ever on “Letters from Birmingham,” his new CD that hits stores and online music outlets Tuesday, March 13, the material is sorely lacking.
This 16-track “concept” album is based on a series of letters that chronicle a relationship, and appears to parallel Studdard’s two-year marriage, which ended in divorce. Most of the tracks are written by Elvis “Blac Elvis” Williams and Studdard’s longtime collaborator Harold Lilly, and feature redundant themes of blatant sexuality that simply don’t sound quite right coming from a romantic soul singer who was once dubbed “The Velvet Teddy Bear” by none other than Gladys Knight.
Not that Ruben can’t get his sexy on, but the repetitive “Baby, Ima do this, Baby, Ima do that,” or “Baby, take this off, Baby take that off,” that are present in such mundane tunes as “Turn You Out,” “Do It Rite” and “Twisted Love” sound much different coming from someone like Chris Brown than from Studdard, whose bona fide vocal chops allow much more room for subtlety. For instance, I’m pretty sure that Teddy Pendergrass’ simple but firm command to “Close the Door” would spark more of an emotional (and positive) response than “I’m ‘bout to turn you out!” But that’s just me.
While the production of the disc was slick and quite adventurous, in keeping with today’s standards, it also did not enhance Studdard’s strong points — mainly his ability to deliver a passionate performance. I doubt that anyone hates drum machines and synthesized tracks more than I do, and even with Studdard’s powerful pipes out in front, “Letters from Birmingham,” with few exceptions, has the soul-less sound of a single individual turning knobs and pressing buttons on an electronic keyboard and “clicking” away on a computer.
High points of the project include Studdard’s smooth interpretation of Bobby Brown’s “Rock Wit’cha” as well as “June 28th (I’m Single)” in which he reflects on the demise of his marriage and his desire to find love again.
It would be interesting to see what the Grammy-winning Philadelphia-based production/songwriting team of Ivan Barias and Carvin Haggins, who worked their magic with Musiq Soulchild, Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige, Justin Timberlake, Jazmine Sullivan and Jaheim, among many others, would do with a major voice such as Studdard’s. Their songs are creative, yet commercial, and are steeped in the timeless legacy of Philly Soul.
While “Letters from Birmingham” missed the mark for me, hopefully, this hot young production team will someday get the opportunity to deliver material that is truly worthy of Studdard’s amazing God-given instrument, considerable talent and lovable persona.
For a number of reasons, 2012 was quite an eventful year in entertainment, but arguably, the star who captured the most media attention, due in part to her ability to manipulate the media — and her fans — to gain the maximum amount of exposure, was Beyoncé Knowles, also known as Mrs. Shawn Carter.
In August 2011, Knowles strategically and dramatically revealed on stage at the end of her performance at the MTV Video Music Awards that she was with child. The camera immediately panned to hubby Jay-Z in full celebration mode with his pal Kanye West, and the Carters’ adorable daughter Blue Ivy was born on January 7.
The good news continued throughout 2012, and Queen B was tapped to star in the Super Bowl XLVIII Half-time show in New Orleans on Feb. 3. To cap off a stellar year, she recently signed a record $50 million promotional deal with Pepsi, and is expected to release an album in 2013.
The year 2012 began auspiciously, with Octavia Spencer winning the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.
Spencer won the Oscar in her first time nominated, for her portrayal of maid Minny Jackson in “The Help,” the big screen adaptation of the Kathryn Stockett book about Southern life in the 1960s amid the Civil Rights Movement.
Spencer, who was chosen over Oscar nominee Queen Latifah and Academy Award winners Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique to play the role of Minny, also won the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal.
It was also a banner year for Steve Harvey, who retired from stand-up comedy in order to tend to his burgeoning media empire, which in addition to his syndicated morning radio show, now includes an afternoon talk show on NBC.
He is having a blast as the host of the enduring game show “Family Feud,” and “Think Like a Man,” the feature film based on his New York Times bestseller “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man,” grossed $91 million at the box office. As if that weren’t enough, his syndicated daytime talk show, “The Steve Harvey Show,” which debuted on September 4 on NBC, had the strongest premiere since “Dr. Oz” in 2009. Harvey recently weighed on its early success.
“I’m pretty blessed. That’s all I can say,” Harvey said during a recent interview. “It made me feel really good that people would buy into what I’m trying to do over here so quickly. That was nice, and the numbers are holding strong and everybody over here is happy, so I’m pretty comfortable.”
On the medical front, “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, who was successfully treated for breast cancer in 2007, was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome or MDS, a disorder in which the bone marrow fails to produce enough healthy blood cells. Roberts was required to undergo a bone marrow transplant, and her sister Sally Ann Roberts, a perfect match, was the donor. According to ABC News, the transplant was a success, and Roberts, still on hiatus from “GMA,” is now “on the road to recovery.”
In a major development, Oprah Winfrey, whose television network OWN was floundering, joined forces with her friend and colleague Tyler Perry, recently announcing “an exclusive partnership” to “become his singular destination for all new television series and projects, including two new scripted series for the network to premiere in mid 2013.” These will be the first original scripted series for OWN and Perry will executive produce, write and direct both series.
“I have been looking forward to the day when we would be in the position to enter the world of scripted television. That day has come,” said Oprah Winfrey, CEO, OWN. “We are all energized by the opportunity to collaborate with Tyler, who has a proven track record for producing highly successful cable series. He has an incredible ability to illuminate life stories and characters in his unique voice and inspires and encourages people all over the world.”
“It’s a dream realized to partner with Oprah and bring scripted programming to OWN,” stated Perry. “She has accomplished so much with the network and I’m excited to work with her to be part of its continued growth.”
Network television also got a much needed shot in the arm with the arrival of the hit ABC drama “Scandal,” created by “Grey’s Anatomy” producer Shonda Rhimes.
“Scandal,” according to the network, centers on the “revered and feared” Olivia Pope, a former communications director to the president of the United States, who left the White House to open her own prominent crisis management firm. She is hoping to start a new chapter in her life — both professionally and personally — but she can’t seem to completely cut ties with her past. Slowly it becomes apparent that her dysfunctional staff, which specializes in fixing other people’s lives, can’t quite fix their own.
ABC recently announced that due to its increasingly large viewership, the second season of “Scandal” has been expanded from 13 to 22 episodes. In addition, Elise Neal, formerly of the sitcoms “The Hughleys” and “All of Us,” has joined the cast of the show as Anna Gordon, “an attorney with secrets.” Columbus Short, best known for his role as DJ Williams in the feature film “Stomp the Yard” co-stars as litigator Harrison Wright, a member of Olivia’s staff.
In a less savory situation, there was a major shake-up at “American Idol,” with both Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez announcing their departures from the judging panel. Ratings for the 2012 season were down 23 percent from the year before, with the season finale hitting an all-time low. According to Billboard.com, the news prompted a Fox network executive to proclaim there would be “creative reinvigoration” of the “Idol” franchise next season.
Making good on that promise, three new judges were recently announced, with Mariah Carey, Keith Urban and Nicki Minaj joining original judge Randy Jackson on the panel.
Of course there was the usual media minutia, including the continuing saga of the toxic romance between Rihanna and Chris Brown. The Bajan beauty addressed her issues by getting naked at every opportunity, while Brown went through the motions of moving on with his life, only to dump his new “Boo,” Karrueche Tran, after hooking up with Rihanna at a Jay-Z concert. It is now being reported that Rihanna has since kicked Brown to the curb, however the two were spotted at a Lakers game on Christmas day, so it appears that the volatile relationship between the addicted lovers changes almost daily. Speaking of love, in 2012, rising R&B star Frank Ocean revealed in his blog that his first love was a man. Ocean, who has produced and collaborated with some of music’s top hip-hop acts, and has co-written songs for Beyoncé, Justin Bieber and John Legend, received an outpouring of support from the hip-hop community, including encouragement from 50 Cent, Nas, Jamie Foxx and Def Jam Records founder Russell Simmons.
On the police blotter, the talented but troubled comedian Katt Williams was arrested repeatedly in 2012, with one of the most recent incidents being a bust outside of Sacramento on Dec. 7 on a felony warrant related to a police chase. According to TMZ.com, Williams has been besieged with legal problems, including the fallout from a bar fight in which he allegedly threw a rock at a car, a lawsuit over a bizarre onstage meltdown and slapping a Target employee in the face.
As 2012 drew to a close, perhaps the most shocking revelation in the world of entertainment was the resignation of Kevin Clash, the 21-time Emmy Award winning creator and voice of beloved “Sesame Street” character, Elmo.
In November, Clash resigned from the show in the wake of allegations that he’d had a sexual relationship with an underage boy. A federal lawsuit was filed in New York said Jeff Herman, attorney for a second accuser, identified as Cecil Singleton. The first accuser, an unidentified 23-year-old man, later recanted his claim.
Upon his resignation, Clash, who is divorced and has one daughter, said in a statement, “Personal matters have diverted attention away from the important work ‘Sesame Street’ is doing and I cannot allow it to go on any longer. I am deeply sorry to be leaving and am looking forward to resolving these personal matters privately.”
ABC News contributed to this report.
NEW YORK — The Grammy Awards' warm embrace of Chris Brown three years after his assault of Rihanna has drawn the ire of viewers who claim the controversial R&B star shouldn't have been rewarded with such attention.
Brown was front-and-center three times during Sunday's Grammys. He won best R&B album for "F.A.M.E.," he performed a single from his upcoming album, "Turn Up the Music," and he opened a dance tribute to "Soul Train" creator Don Cornelius.
The imagery of Brown's Grammy glory was striking because it was, literally, a return to the scene of the crime. On the eve of the 2009 Grammys, Brown beat his then-girlfriend Rihanna, for which he later pled guilty to a charge of assault and was sentenced to five years of probation and six months of community labor.
Since then, Brown has worked to repair his image, undergone domestic violence counseling and rediscovered popularity with his hit album "F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)." Last year, his restraining order was eased. The former order required Brown to stay 50 yards away from 23-year-old Rihanna, but the restriction was reduced to 10 yards if they were at a music industry event. Rihanna also performed Sunday but the two never shared the stage.
On Sunday evening, Twitter was abuzz with questions of Brown's significant role in the proceedings. Many critics argued against the Grammys' decision to celebrate Brown and endorse his comeback.
New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones called Brown's return "one of the Grammys' weirdest choices ever," and cited R&B singer Drake as the more deserving star in the genre to celebrate.
In an op-ed, Valerie Strauss for The Washington Post said that while people deserve second chances, "That doesn't mean they deserve a chance to strut around the Grammy stage a few years after being convicted of felony assault."
Jeffrey Goldberg for The Atlantic tweeted: "I don't look for the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words 'felony assault' mean anything at all?"
Grammy producer Ken Ehrlich defended the show's backing of Brown on "CBS This Morning" on Monday. He said that he was "kind of rooting" for Brown.
"I just believe people deserve a second chance," said Ehrlich. "The year he had this year, really brought him back into the public. He really deserved a second chance."
Certainly, there are many fans of Brown — "Team Breezy," as he calls them — and they, too, took to social media to defend Brown. But some of those tweets were also held up as examples of questionable taste.
The site Buzzfeed gathered 25 tweets from Brown fans with lines such as: "I don't know why Rihanna complained. Chris Brown could beat me anytime he wanted to."
The feminism blog Feministe cited such reaction as evidence that "we as a society have a lot more work to do" to educate on domestic violence.
Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, also questioned the message the Grammys were sending.
"If an awards show is going to highlight an artist, what an awesome message they could send if we got an update somehow about how that artist had changed in a positive way," said Smith. "Otherwise, the message becomes wait for a period of time and go on with business as usual."
Brown, who didn't attend last year's Grammys even though he was nominated for three awards, has sometimes portrayed himself as embattled. On Sunday, he tweeted, "Team breezy we have come (a long) way ... No matter what anyone says ... WE MADE IT!!"
In his acceptance speech and performances, he made no mention or gesture to his last, abbreviated trip to the Grammys. But he did tweet — and then delete — the message: "People who make mistakes and learn from them are ROLE MODELS too. I'm just happy to inspire growth and positivity."
Rihanna also performed Sunday, singing her hit "We Found Love" and transitioning into a duet of "Princess of China" with Coldplay's Chris Martin. Rihanna was nominated for four awards, including best album for her disc "Loud." She shared in the wins for best rap/sung collaboration and best rap song for Kanye West's "All of the Lights," with Kid Cudi and Fergie.
But many performers watching at home questioned Brown's involvement.
"Are Chris Brown's mom and dad CBS and Grammy Brown?" sarcastically wondered Eric Stonestreet of "Modern Family."
The singer Michelle Branch tweeted: "Trying not to go off on a rant but ... Chris Brown ... (bites tongue) have we forgiven him?"
"View" co-host Sherri Shepherd took a similar tact, writing, "Looks like all is forgiven (with) Chris Brown. That's all I'll say." -- (AP)
The year 2011 was an eventful one in entertainment, including the loss of a pioneering producer and Oprah Winfrey’s bold move into the next phase of her career, making headlines. However, the fascination with Beyoncé Knowles and her hubby, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z, continued, and Knowles, who has obviously studied hours of footage on R&B divas Tina Turner, Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, chose a high profile platform on which to reveal the news that celebrity watchers had been speculating about for months.
At the MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs), the multiple-Grammy winner romped through a sizzling rendition of her hit “Love on Top,” and ended her performance by unbuttoning the sequined blazer that she was wearing and revealing her “baby bump.” As she stood front and center, wearing a coy smile, the camera quickly cut to Jay-Z, who was grinning broadly as he received hearty congratulations from his colleague, Kanye West. According to her close friend and former Destiny’s Child band mate, Kelly Rowland, Knowles is expected to deliver a daughter in February 2012. “I think her dad is gonna give her everything anyways, all I can give her is love,” says Rowland.
The year began with one of the biggest stories of 2011, with Oprah Winfrey, who in 2010, wrapped production on her popular talk show after 25 years, launching the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) on January 1.
A joint venture between Winfrey’s production company, Harpo, Inc., and Discovery Communications, OWN: THE OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK is a “multiplatform media company designed to entertain, inform and inspire people to live their best lives.” The network debuted in approximately 80 million homes, on what was once the Discovery Health Channel. The venture also includes the award-winning digital platform, Oprah.com. OWN is currently celebrating the overwhelming success of its first African-American series, a reality show titled “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s,” which was recently renewed for a second season.
Locally, Bounce TV, “the country’s first-ever over-the-air broadcast television network for African Americans,” launched in the Philadelphia market on December 1. Martin Luther King, III and Ambassador Andrew Young are among the Founding Group and Board of Directors of the network, now available on Channel 44.2 on Lenfest Broadcasting’s WMCN-TV in Philadelphia.
The network targets African Americans primarily between the ages of 25 and 54 with a programming mix of theatrical motion pictures, sporting events, documentaries, specials, inspirational faith-based programs, off-net series, original programming and more. Bounce TV airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week on the digital signals of local television stations.
Unfortunately, the news wasn’t all good in 2011. The music industry suffered several crushing losses, beginning with the death of Nick Ashford, of the prolific songwriting team Ashford & Simpson, who succumbed to throat cancer on August 22.
The couple has often told the story of their serendipitous meeting in 1964, when Nick, who was homeless at the time, came into a Harlem church to be fed, and first laid eyes on an angelic Valerie Simpson, who was singing with three other young ladies. They immediately discovered their mutual love for music, and eventually for each other. They were married in 1974, and have often recalled with mild amusement, selling their “first batch of songs” for $20.
That love manifested itself in 38 years of marriage, two beautiful daughters and a timeless catalog of R&B/pop classics that includes “You’re All I Need to Get By,” “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” — all delivered by Motown’s Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, the exquisite duo that could very well have been Nick and Valerie’s collective alter ego.
In addition, the music industry also lost visionary Sylvia Robinson, the pioneering “Mother of Hip-Hop,” who died of congestive heart failure on September 29. She was 75. Having achieved R&B success writing romantic hits for the Moments (“Love on a Two Way Street,” “Sexy Mama”), and as a solo artist (“Pillow Talk”), Robinson made her greatest impact in 1979, when she and her husband, Joe Robinson, formed Sugar Hill Records, and legitimized the rap genre, then seen as a “fad,” with the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”
Perhaps the most shocking loss came on November 8, when Heavy D (Dwight Errington Myers), hip-hop’s beloved “Overweight Lover,” died suddenly at age 44. The rapper collapsed in his home, and police found no evidence of foul play, saying that the death appeared to be “medically related.” Fans embraced his whimsical brand of happy hip-hop, and as the front man for Heavy D & the Boyz, he topped the charts with his irresistible dance hit “Now that We Found Love,” penned by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff.
The entertainment world was not without controversy in 2011, and some feathers were ruffled by the hit feature film “The Help,” now nominated for four major Golden Globe Awards and four Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Awards.
Based on a novel by Kathryn Stockett, “The Help” is inspired by the southern tradition of Black women working as domestics — cooking, cleaning and caring for white families, particularly the children. These women would stay with the families for generations, with the children growing up and ultimately supervising the women that raised them.
“The national criticism by many of the so-called ‘thinkers’ and writers is that what you simply have is the liberal white woman — kind of like ‘The Blind Side.’ You know, taking care of the Black people. The frustration is ‘do-gooder white woman rescues the poor Black disenfranchised,’” said Dr. Richard Cooper, host of the WURD Radio talk show, “The Karamu.”
In other movie news, fan favorite Samuel L. Jackson, who has appeared in more than 100 hits, including “Jurassic Park,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Iron Man” and the “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, was named the highest-grossing actor of all time, according to Guinness World Records. Over the span of his career, his films have pulled in $7.4 billion.
Still not one to rest on his laurels, on Oct. 14, Jackson made his Broadway debut in the Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” playing at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre through Jan. 22. Directed by Kenny Leon and co-starring Academy Award-nominee Angela Bassett, the drama “re-imagines” events the night before the 1968 assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
On a lighter note, engaging TV personality Kevin Frazier, formerly a correspondent for “Entertainment Tonight,” was named co-host of “The Insider,” making him the first African-American male to host a daily entertainment news show on a major television network.
Conversely, the embattled R&B star Chris Brown’s drama continued in 2011, coming to a head on March 22, when he sat down for an exclusive interview with “Good Morning America” (GMA) co-anchor, Robin Roberts.
During an appearance to promote his new album, Brown became agitated when Roberts continued to press him about the legal troubles stemming from his 2009 altercation with ex-girlfriend Rihanna.
The incident escalated when Brown stormed off the GMA set and back to his dressing room after performing his new song “Yeah 3X,” and the show’s staff heard loud noises coming from the room and called security. When Brown and his entourage departed a short time later, the staff discovered that a window in the dressing room had been smashed.
At the time, and ABC spokeswoman said that the network did not plan to press charges against Brown over the damage, which might have affected his probation if police had gotten involved. Brown reportedly apologized in a “rambling message” that aired on BET’s “106 & Park.”
The Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.
LOS ANGELES — Singer Chris Brown has logged more than 1,400 hours of community service for the 2009 beating of former girlfriend Rihanna, basically completing his sentence. The Associated Press has learned that one-third of those hours were recorded at a rural Virginia daycare center where the singer spent time as a child and his mother once served as director.
Brown’s service records have come under scrutiny by a prosecutor and a judge, who are trying to ascertain their accuracy. At a Monday hearing, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Patricia Schnegg called the accounting of Brown’s community service by Richmond, Va., Police Chief Bryan T. Norwood “somewhat cryptic.”
Brown pleaded guilty to felony assault in June 2009 over the beating incident. Before this week, he had received praise from the judge and had never been in danger of violating his probation. But that could change if the inquiry the judge ordered turns up irregularities with his service.
An AP analysis of the work records indicates that Brown’s labor credits in the last seven months increased by four times from what they had been during the previous two years. He was credited for working 701 hours — a feat that previously took him 28 months to achieve.
Yet through it all, Brown hasn’t stopped being an R&B superstar, performing worldwide, releasing an album and even getting injured in a nightclub brawl.
In recent months, the logs show Brown has essentially been working three jobs — performing cleanup duty in Richmond police precincts by day, janitorial chores at the daycare 45 miles away by night, and hit songs for global audiences in between.
Ida Minter, the administrator of the Tappahannock Children’s Center, said Brown attended the nonprofit facility “off and on” for more than 12 years and his mother was employed there for 24 years, including as director.
Brown’s community service at the center began in January 2010, but work entries dramatically increased in March of this year. Most of his shifts were logged between 6 p.m. and 2 a.m. and were typically listed as “general cleaning,” with some entries describing him painting or stripping and waxing floors. It is unclear who supervised him.
Brown’s attorney Mark Geragos said Monday that he welcomed inquiries from Los Angeles probation officials and said he urged Brown to work double shifts so the lawyer wouldn’t have to keep coming back to court.
Minter described Brown’s work at the daycare center favorably.
“I think Chris always goes beyond because he always wants to give back to where he grew up,” she told the AP. “And this was a part of his home because his mom worked here full-time.”
“If you’ve ever been involved in stripping and waxing, it’s hard,” she said. “It’s a lot of work.”
Minter said Brown was always accompanied by someone while working at the center, but she said she couldn’t discuss who it was.
The singer only worked at night and on weekends when no children were present, Minter said. That is supported by the logs, which also showed that Brown only worked one other weekend shift that wasn’t at the daycare center.
Brown has been busy in recent months, releasing his new album “Fortune,” traveling to France for a video shoot, winning a Grammy Award, performing at other award shows and resuming his friendship and music collaboration with Rihanna.
He has also drawn negative attention for being present at a bottle-throwing brawl at a New York City nightclub that left him with a cut chin. And in February, a woman in Miami accused him of taking her cellphone to prevent her from snapping pictures of him.
It was after that incident that Brown, 23, accelerated his work schedule, according to the records filed Monday.
The singer is not the only celebrity to perform community service for an entity with which they have close ties. Mel Gibson and Sean Penn had similar arrangements.
Both actors had received permission in advance for the assignments in misdemeanor cases. Before Monday’s filings, there had been no mention of Brown working at his boyhood daycare center in probation reports.
Brown’s international travel, which must be approved by the judge, has somehow been squeezed around his marathon community service sessions.
In July, for instance, Brown is listed as working 42 hours in four days before leaving for France. Upon his return, he worked 12 consecutive days, logging 164 hours, 100 of which were at the daycare.
March was similarly busy, with Brown being credited for work on 20 of the month’s 30 days. He was approved to travel to Cancun, Mexico, for five of the remaining days.
The judge allowed Brown to perform his work in his home state of Virginia under the supervision of Norwood, but on Monday noted there are discrepancies in the chief’s accounting.
For one, Brown’s work log shows he has put in 1,402 hours, but a couple of errors in the data may push the total up to 1,404. And although Brown was sentenced to perform 1,440 hours of labor, the chief wrote in a letter dated Sept. 14 that Brown had completed all his service hours.
Norwood’s spokesman declined to respond to questions from the AP on the discrepancies. “Chief Norwood has reported directly to the judge, providing periodic updates regarding the progress of Chris Brown’s community service,” spokesman Gene Lepley said.
District Attorney’s spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the office would make all its comments on the case in court.
The judge and prosecution aren’t the only ones concerned. In August, Virginia probation authorities recommended that Richmond police stop supervising Brown after the singer tested positive for marijuana and what they believed was unapproved travel to France. However, they made no critical comments about his community service.
Geragos, Brown’s attorney, declined comment, but he said at Monday’s court hearing that he believes his client has completed all his community service.
Brown’s labors have left a lasting mark at the Tappahannock Children’s Center: a colorful wall mural featuring a huge clown face and splashes of purple, orange, green and yellow. The words “Big Room” — the informal name of the large space amid smaller classrooms — is painted in fat letters along a wall.
Brown approached Minter, who has known Brown since his birth, to ask if he could use his art skills on the walls, she said. -- (AP)
After 14 years working as a celebrity stylist, Davida Colona Roberts has expanded her business horizons and launched a new tea line.
A love of tea spurred Roberts to develop Davinitea – Davida’s Lifestyle Tea. The brand infuses blended tea with the Philadelphia native’s artistic expression.
Developing the tea line gave Roberts the chance to move into what she refers to as “phase two” of her business life.
“I’ve been a wardrobe stylist for the last 14 years and the industry has changed so much with movies being done for low budgets and the music industry tanking and I was thinking what else could I do as my phase two,” says Roberts, who currently resides in Los Angeles.
For Roberts, tapping into the tea business was a natural evolution.
“I’ve always frequented tea bars and made my own concoctions up so that why is was easy for me to come up with it because it’s natural. With me being a wardrobe stylist, I didn’t want to do a clothing line, a T-shirt line or a jeans line. I wanted to do something that didn’t have anything to do with the garment industry. This just seemed like it was just a natural fit,” says the 33-year old.
With an investment of about $30,000, Roberts was able to launch the line of loose and blooming teas that unfurl into flower-like arrangements when steeped in hot water.
The Davinitea line currently offers five flavors including Shrink — an herbal blend of lotus leaf, senna, oolong, marshmallow root and Harmony — a blend containing lemongrass, reishi and jasmine flower.
Due to the holistic herbs that are used in the line, Roberts is hopeful that potential customers will use the teas as a part of their health and beauty regimens.
Roberts says it took about a year to bring the tea line to the marketplace. She developed the tea formulas based on a mixture of her personal taste, talking with friends and working with an herbalist.
“It has a balanced taste. You won’t be overpowered by mint or rose. It’s very balanced.” Roberts says in regards to the tea flavors.
Roberts’ tea business has been influenced by her years in the entertainment industry where she she’s worked with starts such as Chris Brown, Martin Lawrence, Mike Epps, Nas and Jamie Foxx. To that end, she’s encouraged some of her celebrity clients to try the tea line and has designed tea infusers in the shape of music notes.
While the tea is currently sold via the davinitea.com website, Roberts aspires to have the tea carried in upscale day spas, restaurants and hotels.
“We want it to be a high end tea brand. We want it to be a speciality tea all across the board,” Roberts says of the product.
“I want it to be a celebrity-driven brand,” says Roberts, who attended the Moore College of Arts.
“I want this brand to be different than the rest that’s why I refuse to put it in the tea bag form because I don’t want it to be traditional by any stretch of the imagination.”
NEW YORK — Chris Brown is known as a pop singer, a slick bedroom crooner and at other times, a Euro-flavored dance singer. But it’s his rapping that has taken his career to new heights.
With his hit single “Look at Me Now,” Brown has dominated more than just the R&B territory: The boastful track, which co-stars Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes, was Billboard’s No. 1 rap song of 2011, and it’s nominated for best rap song and best rap performance at Sunday’s Grammy Awards, where Brown’s competition includes Jay-Z, Kanye West, Dr. Dre and Eminem.
The song is just another example of Brown’s rapping prowess. At last year’s BET Hip-Hop Awards, Brown went toe-to-toe with other hip-hop acts during one segment, and was so strong he left 50 Cent wowed.
“Chris particularly was impressive,” said 50 Cent. “He rapped better than the rappers. I’m going to give it up. I’m watching the show (like), ‘How did they let that happen?’”
50 Cent is not the only member of the hip-hop community impressed by Brown: “(Chris) did a mixtape that really blew my mind, and I didn’t know that was him rhyming,” said Questlove of The Roots.
But Brown isn’t the only singer who has ventured out to rhyming: Usher rapped on his 1998 hit “My Way” and Trey Songz has released rap mixtapes. Others who have spit a few bars in song include Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, Monica, Erykah Badu, R. Kelly, Janelle Monae, Jill Scott, Tyrese, Chrisette Michele and Miguel.
English-based R&B singer Marsha Ambrosius said her first-ever single featured her rapping under the name Ms. Parker, and Brandy — as her alter-ego Bran’ Nu — rapped on two songs from Timbaland’s “Shock Value II” album, and even had plans to release a rap album before she scrapped the project.
Mary J. Blige also has a rap alter-ego: Brook Lynn. Brook Lynn first appeared on Blige’s 2005 album “The Breakthrough.” Blige says she’s not sure other singers will find success as rappers, though.
“I don’t know if it will translate to what a real hip-hop artist would do like 50 (Cent) or Jay-Z or Common or Kanye,” Blige said.
But rappers have had luck with singing over the years, from Nelly to Ja Rule. West used the Auto-Tune on most of his “808s & Heartbreak” album, to mixed critical and commercial success. And Nicki Minaj’s latest hit — the David Guetta song “Turn Me On” — features the animated rapper belting semi-high notes.
There are also acts like Lauryn Hill, Drake and Missy Elliott — arguably the most respected singer-rappers in the game — who are often praised for blending the two.
“I think you have to come out as a hybrid,” said rapper J. Cole, who sings his own hook on the song “Work Out.”
“(With) Drake, some people look at him as a rapper who sings, some people look at him as a singer who raps, but he came out that way so nobody’s really right or wrong, and he can win forever in either world,” Cole continued.
Brown’s “Look at Me Now” spent eight and 10 weeks at the top spot on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap songs charts, respectively. Mark Pitts, the president of urban music at RCA Music Group who signed Brown to Sony at age 16, said he initially didn’t want to see the singer rapping.
“It took me a minute to really appreciate (‘Look at Me Now’). I didn’t want to like it because I didn’t want him rapping,” Pitts said.
Rapping is a departure for 22-year-old Brown, who debuted on the scene in 2005 as an R&B-pop heartthrob. Pitts said that past Brown songs where a rapper is featured most likely had a rap verse from Brown first, but they were never used. Pitts, who has overseen the careers of the Notorious B.I.G., Diddy and Usher, says he once thought singers and rappers should stay in their own lanes.
But Brown helped change his perception.
“It’s a different age now,” Pitts said. “I’m not surprised by anything from (Chris) anymore. He’s not in one category. It works for him, and not everybody can do that.”
Brown’s CD where “Look at Me Now” appears — “F.A.M.E. (Forgiving All My Enemies)” — is nominated for best R&B album at the Grammys; his upcoming fifth disc, “Fortune,” will most likely feature rapping, Pitts said. Brown has received respect from the rap community, and often appears on hip-hop tracks. But not all singers are poised to have a similar triumph.
“It’s definitely difficult for an R&B singer to be accepted as a hip-hop rapper, but I know it’s possible,” Common said. “If you do it well, it will be accepted.”
50 Cent agrees, adding that musicians are often typecast.
“In music there becomes a cut-out of what they’ll accept from you and what they won’t,” he said. “We can take a hit Drake song and I’ll deliver it, and people will be like, ‘Man, get this (expletive) out of here.’ They’ll be like, ‘We want the old 50 (Cent).’”
But Pitts says he’s encouraging his newer singing acts to rap.
“It doesn’t really bother me (any) more. It used to bother me. But why fight it? If it sounds good, it sounds good,” he said. “As long as you’re not trying to be someone else, I’m cool with it.” — (AP)