R.I.P. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, Boxer Whose Murder Convictions Were Overturned

Denzel Washington, Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and Evander Holyfield at 1999 premiere of "Hurricane"

Denzel Washington, Rubin “Hurricane” Carter and Evander Holyfield at 1999 premiere of “Hurricane”

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter, a star prizefighter whose career was cut short by a murder conviction in New Jersey and who became an international cause célèbre while imprisoned for 19 years before the charges against him were dismissed, died on Sunday morning at his home in Toronto. He was 76.

The cause of death was prostate cancer, his friend and onetime co-defendant, John Artis, said. Mr. Carter was being treated in Toronto, where he had founded a non-profit organization, Innocence International, to work to free prisoners it considered wrongly convicted.

Mr. Carter was convicted twice on the same charges of fatally shooting two men and a woman in a Paterson, N.J., tavern in 1966. But both jury verdicts were overturned on different grounds of prosecutorial misconduct.

The legal battles consumed scores of hearings involving recanted testimony, suppressed evidence, allegations of prosecutorial racial bias — Mr. Carter was black and the shooting victims were white — and a failed prosecution appeal to the United States Supreme Court to reinstate the convictions.  Denzel Washington was nominated for an Academy Award in 2000 for starring in “Hurricane”, a film about Carter’s fight for justice.

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FILM REVIEW: Nas’ Essential Contribution to Hip Hop Highlighted in Documentary “Time Is Illmatic”

Nas Time is Illmatic

It’s unlikely that hip-hop documentary “Time Is Illmatic” will have many showings as thrilling as its opening-night slot at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it preceded an impassioned live performance by its subject, the artist born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones and better known by his stage name: Nas. Still, this brisk, stylish and extremely heartfelt portrait of Nas’ rise from the housing projects of Queensbridge to the heights of hip-hop royalty ably stands on its own, marked by an admirable focus on the man and his music rather than hype and hagiography. Sure to be embraced by fans (but also a fine primer for neophytes), “Time” should have a long home-viewing shelf life following additional fest and select theatrical bookings.

In his feature directing debut, the former graffiti artist and graphic designer One9 smartly avoids trying for a comprehensive career portrait of Nas, instead centering on the rapper’s humble origins and the making of his landmark 1994 debut album, “Illmatic.” Comparable in its impact on hip-hop to that of Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings on the art world, “Illmatic” seemed a prodigal work, constructed of airtight rhythms and intricate rhymes, steeped in the violent realities of ghetto life yet far-reaching in its lyric and musical allusions (including “samples” that ran the gamut from jazz to Michael Jackson), as intimate as a diary while also serving as a very public statement of artistic intent. Nas was all of 20 at the time, and best known for his electrifying guest rapping on popular singles by Main Source and MC Serch.

Two decades later, Nas is close to an eminence grise, but the figure who appears onscreen for much of “Time Is Illmatic” appears humbled by his massive success and is quick to acknowledge those who helped pave the way (like the pioneering female rapper Roxanne Shante, who gave the teenage Nas an early break as part of her crew), as well as those (like childhood friend Willie “Ill Will” Graham) who were less lucky at surviving the Queensbridge mean streets. To this, the film adds a carefully selected mix of testimonials from friends, family members, artistic collaborators and assorted lions of old-school hip-hop. But save for a couple of fleeting appearances by Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, “Time” eschews third-party critical analysis in favor of keeping the focus on neighborhood and personal experience, a cinematic “trip down memory lane” to complement the one Nas rapped about on “Illmatic” itself.

The pic’s first half devotes much of its energy to anatomizing Nas’ childhood and early performance career, with particular attention to his parents — the jazz sideman Olu Dara and his wife, Ann Jones — who raised their two sons (Nas and younger brother Jabari, aka “Jungle”) in a bohemian cocoon of art, books and music very different from the Queensbridge norm. After a brief childhood flirtation with the trumpet, Nas had already begun writing rhymes by age 8. Curiously, it was Dara himself, by then divorced from Ann, who persuaded both boys to drop out of New York’s public school system (where he believed they were receiving an inferior, resource-starved education) after completing the eighth grade. He wanted them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams, which was easier said than done in the New York of the pre-Giuliani, crack-besieged late ’80s and early ’90s.

Fans of old-school hip-hop will take particular delight in the docu’s evocation of the neighborhood rivalries and MC battles that played out in the form of tracks like Marly Marl and MC Shan’s “The Bridge” and KRS-One’s “South Bronx,” and helped to stoke the young Nas’ creative fires. (The opening cut of “Illmatic” featured a prominent sample of the seminal 1983 hip-hop feature “Wild Style,” also excerpted here.) Returning today to the old neighborhood, Nas reflects emotionally on the devastation wrought by drugs and gang violence and how, but for a few strokes of luck, he too might have become another victim.

In its second half, “Time” shifts gears to the recording of “Illmatic,” with Nas and his quintet of illustrious producers (Nas, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S. and DJ Premier) offering insightful, track-by-track deconstructions of the album’s most enduring cuts: “Life’s a Bitch,” “One Love,” “The World Is Yours” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” with its inspired sampling of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

The documentary occasionally reveals its multiyear gestation period in the variable range of video formats used to capture the interviews, but otherwise sports a polished, professional sheen.

review by Scott Foundas via Variety.com

 

Entrepreneur Dez White Launches “Invisible” Apps to Protect Text, Call & Email Privacy

Invisible Text

Ever sent out a text you wish you could delete before OR after it’s read?  Need to keep details of your business ultra-confidential? Want to make phone calls or send emails completely off the record?  Entrepreneur Dez White has created a suite of applications - Invisible Text, Invisible Social, Invisible Call, and Invisible Email – that accomplish all of the above, and then some.

White, a married mother of two, came up with the idea for Invisible apps initially to address a pressing work need. “I was a journalist and I had to come up with a way to be able to receive clear and exact messages from my sources where they wouldn’t have to give up their email address or give me something tangible that could tie them to giving me the message forever,” White said in a recent interview with GBN.

Invisible Apps Creator Dez White (Photo Credit: ACEOFLA)

Invisible Apps Creator Dez White (Photo Credit: ACEOFLA)

Dez started mentioning her ideas to friends and one introduced her to an app developer who helped educate her on the business.

“From there I basically taught myself what I needed to know and me and him formed a partnership,” White offered.  “He would do the code and show me what the code meant and I was very involved in the nuts and bolts.”

White initially focused on developing the Invisible Text app, but then expanded into developing apps for calling, emailing and social media when she realized how pervasive the need for privacy options had become on every communication format.

The apps do not infringe on any social media host’s trademarks or phone or messaging services, White added, because users directly invite their friends from social sites or their contacts to use the Invisible platform outside of Facebook, Twitter, etc.

With Invisible Call, for example, “We access your phone book.  People have to know it’s important that you have to give us the right to access your phone book.  Once you do, you can invite the person to download Invisible Call,” White explained.  “The person can download it, and then from there you pair your devices and you can sync with them and talk with them as many times as you want to.”

No records of the conversations exist anywhere because, according to White, they bounce right off the server.  The only information Invisible’s server will retain is your contact information, but never how often calls are placed or to whom they are made.

Even if the government requested that Invisible supply text, phone or email records, White says she couldn’t do it because, “I wouldn’t have anything to turn over.”

Invisible Text hit 67,000 users last Monday, and White anticipates it will hit over 70,000 next week. “Business professionals really love it, I know that celebrities really love it – they were our first user base,” White said.  “Right now we’re cracking into the teen market.  My pride and joy is knowing that people are using it and are loving it and their privacy is not in question.”

White also believes it’s important for African-Americans, particularly females, to consider using this technology to protect themselves.

“I don’t think we really look into how much of our privacy is at stake. We don’t really look into how we’re using social media, how it can affect us in the workplace, how it can affect us in regards to potential suitors,” White offered. “It’s important for us when we’re gauging our reputation and forging our careers.  And I think we need to really get into our young African-American girls’ heads that privacy is important.  Social media is not a playground and we need to just be more private [about what} we put out into the world and the universe.”

The Invisible apps are all currently free for iOS via iTunes  and for Android via Google Play, or you can find more information and download directly through goinvis.com.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

John Singleton-Directed “Tupac” Biopic Acquired by Open Road Films for Wide-Screen Release

Tupac ShakurAccording to Deadline.com, Open Road Films has acquired U.S. rights to Tupac, the long-awaited feature film on the life of hip-hop icon Tupac Shakur, directed by John Singleton. Written by Jeremy Haft & Ed Gonzalez and Singleton, the movie traces Shakur’s life from growing up as the son of activist Black Panther Party members in East Harlem, to reaching superstardom as a songwriter, music and movie star, to his position in the East Coast/West Coast rap war, to his untimely shooting death at 25 in Las Vegas after the 1996 Mike Tyson bout.

The film is being produced and financed by Morgan Creek Productions and Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films, and one of the executive producers on the project is Tupac’s mother, Afeni Shakur.  It’s a reunion of sorts for Singleton and Tupac, as Singleton directed him in the 1993 film Poetic Justice.

The casting will start shortly, for a late summer production start in Atlanta, Los Angeles and New York.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

New Prince Album Coming Under Warner Bros. Partnership

Prince

A new album, a deluxe reissue of Purple Rain and more unheard music: That’s what Prince fans can expect from his new global licensing deal with Warner Bros. Records.  “A brand-new studio album is on the way and both Warner Bros. Records and Eye are quite pleased with the results of the negotiations and look forward to a fruitful working relationship,” Prince said in a news release.

The deal covers all of Prince’s albums, from 1978′s For You to the new one. The announcement comes two months before the 30th anniversary of the release of his best-selling album, 1984′s Purple Rain, which has sold more than 13 million copies in the U.S. Prince plans a digitally re-mastered deluxe version of the album to coincide with the anniversary.

Other planned projects will follow, according to the press release.

Lately, Prince has been playing with an all-female power trio called 3RDEYEGIRL, occasionally posting YouTube videos and releasing music through the group’s website.

article by Brian Mansfield via usatoday.com

More Than $100,000 Raised for Shanesha Taylor, Homeless Mom Accused of Leaving Kids in Car During Job Interview

shanesha taylorMore than $100,000 has been pledged to help Shanesha Taylor, 35, a single mother from Arizona who was arrested last month after allegedly leaving her 2-year-old and 6-month-old sons alone in a hot car while she went on a job interview because she was unable to find a babysitter.

Taylor was charged with two counts of child abuse. She has pleaded not guilty and was released on bail posted by a stranger, her lawyer told TODAY.com Wednesday. Her two boys are now in state care.  Her tearful mug shot has brought attention to issues facing the nation’s poor and unemployed, especially single mothers.

Amanda Bishop, a New Jersey woman who does not know Taylor, felt compelled to help. She launched an online fundraising campaign in support of Taylor, with pledges now totaling more than $106,000.  “There are some of us that feel that Shanesha was in an unfortunate situation that sadly an economy like ours is putting many single mothers in a position to make terrible mistakes like this,” the fundraising site says.

Bishop, 24, told MSNBC’s Tamron Hall that she launched the fundraising campaign after viewing Taylor’s Facebook page and finding nothing but posts and pictures featuring Taylor’s kids. “That convinced me she wasn’t a bad mom, she just made a terrible mistake,” Bishop said.  

Though there has been some criticism of the effort, Bishop said that it’s easy for people who have never struggled to judge Taylor harshly. Bishop said she herself was raised by a struggling mother.  “Nobody’s saying she’s right for her choice,” Bishop said. “It’s just a matter of what is more wrong here: The fact that she did this or the fact that there are so many people out there put in a position to make this decision or to make risks like this?”

Others agreed, including single mothers who left comments on the fundraising site saying they understood Taylor’s dilemma.

“I understand the struggle, I’ve been there before too. It’s VERY HARD being a single parent and having NO ONE to turn to for support,” wrote Dawn F. Edwards, who donated $25.

“Dear Shanesha, please accept this donation as a sign that you are not alone in this fight,” wrote Lauren Dunne, who donated $5. “Unfortunately, you had no options at this moment in your life… you are indeed a good mother that was only fighting for a better future for your children.” Continue reading