According to the Los Angeles Times, Compton native and acclaimed hip hop artist Kendrick Lamar has won the Pulitzer Prize for music for his 2017 album “Damn.” It is the first time work outside of the classical and jazz genres has been recognized in that category.
In today’s announcement, the Pulitzer board described the album as a “virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African American life.”
“Damn,” released on April 14, 2017, is Lamar’s fourth studio album following 2015’s “To Pimp a Butterfly,” 2012’s “good kid, m.A.A.d city” and “Section.80,” released in 2011. In January “Damn” won the Grammy for best rap album and was among the nominees for album of the year.
INDIO, Calif. — Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Saturday night.
It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.
And not unimportantly, it obliterated the ideology of the relaxed festival, the idea that musicians exist to perform in service of a greater vibe. That is one of the more tragic side effects of the spread of festival culture over the last two decades. Beyoncé was having none of it. The Coachella main stage, on the grounds of the Empire Polo Club here, was her platform, yes, but her show was in countless ways a rebuke.
It started with the horns: trumpets, trombones, sousaphones. For most of the night, the 36-year-old star was backed by an ecstatic marching band, in the manner of historically black college football halftime shows. The choice instantly reoriented her music, sidelining its connections to pop and framing it squarely in a lineage of Southern black musical traditions from New Orleans second line marches to Houston’s chopped-and-screwed hip-hop.
Her arrangements were alive with shifts between styles and oodles of small details, quick musical quotations of songs (Pastor Troy’s “No Mo’ Play in G.A.,” anyone?) that favored alertness and engagement. As always, one of the key thrills of a Beyoncé performance is her willingness to dismantle and rearrange her most familiar hits. “Drunk in Love” began as bass-thick molasses, then erupted into trumpet confetti. “Bow Down” reverberated with nervy techno. “Formation,” already a rapturous march, was a savage low-end stomp here. And during a brief trip through the Caribbean part of her catalog, she remade “Baby Boy” as startling Jamaican big band jazz.
She does macro, too — she was joined onstage by approximately 100 dancers, singers and musicians, a stunning tableau that included fraternity pledges and drumlines and rows of female violinists in addition to the usual crackerjack backup dancers (which here included bone breakers and also dancers performing elaborate routines with cymbals).
Ellis Haizlip broke the talk show and public television color barrier when he introduced “SOUL!,” the weekly program he hosted during the late ’60s and early ’70s, to PBS. Now, a half decade after the show debuted, his niece Melissa Haizlip (“Crossing Jordan”) revisits his legacy with the documentary “Mr. SOUL!” Deadline anticipated the world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival by unveiling the trailer (above) on April 4.
“There exists, as far as I know, no TV program that deals with my culture so completely, so freely, so beautifully,” the senior Haizlip remarked in archival footage from the trailer. To drive that point home, the trailer incorporates clips of performances from now-renowned Black artists as varied as Maya Angelou, Donny Hathaway and Alvin Ailey. Haizlip also conducted interviews on the show with Stokely Carmichael, James Baldwin and other activists and thought leaders.
Interviewees like Kathleen Cleaver, Sonia Sanchez and Harry Belafonte spoke to the importance of this show, which centered Black culture at a time when the U.S. was waging full-scale war on Black activism. “This is serious business, our lives were at stake!” Cleaver emphasized in the trailer.
PBS/Thirteen noted that Ellis Haizlip fought both on and off camera. He intentionally staffed his production team with Black crew members and publicly criticized the government-created Corporation for Public Broadcasting for pulling funding. “Worse than racism, I see this as the beginning of a systematic plan to remove Black programs from public television,” he told Jet magazine after the show’s cancellation in 1973.
“Mr. SOUL!” debuts at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22.
Chadwick Boseman, the 41-year-old star of Black Panther, may have Oscar-winner and 2018 nominee Denzel Washington to thank for some of his success. While studying at Howard University in the late ’90s, Boseman and some of his peers applied to a prestigious summer theater program at The University of Oxford. The group of students got in, but they couldn’t afford to go.
One of their acting teachers at Howard, actress Phylicia Rashad from The Cosby Show, “pushed for us,” Boseman told Rolling Stone. “She essentially got some celebrity friends to pay for us to go.” It wasn’t until after the program when he got a beneficiary letter and found out who funded the program: “Denzel paid for me. I’m sure he has no idea. … I’ve been waiting to meet him, so I can tell him.”
Boseman wrote Washington a thank-you letter, but he didn’t tell anyone else about it for two decades. “I’ve basically been holding this secret my whole career,” he told Jimmy Fallon on The Tonight Show, explaining that he didn’t want Washington to feel like he owed him anything else.
Boseman wanted to meet Washington in person before saying anything. He hadn’t met him before the Rolling Stone interview but, after 20 years, he figured it was OK to reveal the detail. As Boseman told Fallon: “I think I’ve made it to the point where he’s not going to think I’m trying to get something from him by saying it.”
Coincidentally, just before the Rolling Stone feature came out, Boseman got to meet his benefactor. Washington came to the New York premiere of “Black Panther,” and, “I met him, before the article came out,” Boseman told Fallon. “So I actually lived up to what I originally wanted to do. It was amazing.”
When Fallon asked how the introduction went, Boseman recalled how he thanked him for paying for Oxford a while back, to which Washington jokingly replied: “Oh, so that’s why I’m here. You owe me money! I came to collect!”
The cultural impact of Black Panther has continued to increase in magnitude since its Feb. 16 release. Shattering records with each tick of the clock, the Marvel film gained historic steam with praise from moviegoers and positive reviews. Now, while the superhero reel plans to surpass the Titanic, it aims to break yet another record, this time in Saudi Arabia.
According to Variety, Black Panther will premiere on April 18 in the Middle Eastern country, dissolving its 35-year ban on movie theaters. The debut will be accompanied by a gala and take place in the newly-constructed AMC theater, based in Riyadh.
A plan to cease the cinema ban occurred in Dec. 2017, CNN reports. The Saudi Ministry of Culture gave AMC the green light to begin rolling out 30 theaters across the country, possibly projecting a $1 billion revenue stream for Saudi Arabia’s economy.
The billion-dollar movie currently holds the title as the highest-grossing superhero motion picture. Upon its release, director Ryan Coogler wrote an open letter thanking fans for their insurmountable support. “For the people who bought out theaters, who posted on social about how lit the film would be, bragged about our awesome cast, picked out outfits to wear, and who stood in line in theaters all over the world,” he wrote, “all before even seeing the film.”
With successful podcasts going mainstream like 2 Dope Queens, a show that was recently picked up by HBO, Spotify sees a clear market opportunity when it comes to this new space for content creation. Even with the success of the show, a recent study showed that only 22% of podcasts are hosted by women, and the number’s even smaller when it comes to women of color. Spotify wants to change that.
The company is hosting Sound Up Bootcamp, a weeklong intensive program for aspiring female podcasters of color. The event will take place June 25–29, 2018, at Spotify’s New York City offices and Spotify is hand-selecting 10 attendees who will learn about the art of podcast creation, from initial ideation to editing, producing, and marketing from experts in the field.
Spotify is covering all expenses from the five-day workshop, which will include panels, and activities around podcasting, led by experts and professionals. Travel to New York City, six nights of hotel, and breakfast and lunch each day are all included.
According to a recent release, attendees will have the chance to pitch their podcast ideas to a panel of experts and professionals on the final day and the top three pitches will have the pilot process funded, up to $10,000. All expenses for the week will be paid by Spotify.
Training for the week will be led by radio and podcast veterans Rekha Murthy and Graham Griffith. According to Spotify, the two hold combined experience of decades working with the industry’s top shows in both radio and podcasting. They want to help discover new voices, and aid podcasters in reaching new, large, and loyal fan bases.
Spotify is specifically targeting anyone who self-identifies as a woman of color, is passionate about podcasting, and has a great idea. They do not require prior experience, in fact, they are leaning toward first-time and amateur podcasters. “We’re looking for the best ideas,” they said in a statement. Attendees are required to participate in all five full days of programming, as well as after-hours events on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, including mixers and dinners.
All applications are due by 11:59 p.m. EST on April 10, 2018.
Recently, Good Black News was invited to cover the launch of “One Strange Rock,” a ten-part space/science series on the National Geographic Channel that premieres Monday, 3/26, and is hosted and narrated by Will Smith. It is director Darren Aronofsky‘s (“Black Swan,” “mother!,” “Requiem For a Dream”) first foray into television, and the series is produced by Jane Root through her production company Nutopia. It is a cinematic look at Earth from a variety of perspectives – from space, from the sea, from the desert – and across all continents.
From the episodes I’ve seen, “One Strange Rock” is a gorgeous, meditative, eye-opening look at our planet, and Smith is a welcome, friendly guide along the journey to get to know Earth and all its ecosystems in ways we haven’t seen or previously considered. But what honestly got me excited about “One Strange Rock” was the opportunity to sit down one-on-one with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to travel into space (and one of my personal she-ros) to speak with her about her participation in “One Strange Rock,” as well as her other current projects (100 Year Starship and Look Up).
As I start to record the interview (this is moments after I fangirl and tell Dr. Jemison I dressed up as her one Halloween, entered a costume contest and won a 25-dollar gift card to Virgin Records), I state into my Voice Memo app the date, time, and that I’m about to interview Dr. Mae Jemison, she charmingly interrupts.
Mae Jemison: How about if we do it in Star Date Time? 2018.01.13, right?
Good Black News: Way better! That’s a Trekkie for you! I appreciate that, thank you, Dr. Jemison. Well, first I want to ask you about your involvement in “One Strange Rock.” Why, of all the different entities out there covering space, space travel, space exploration, did you want to lend your voice to this project?
MJ: So “One Strange Rock” is the story of the extraordinary journey of Earth. It’s about our home planet and how we went from this collection of rock and gases to something that supports life and an incredible diversity of life, and I wanted to be a part of that. When people think about space, so frequently they think about it just as the stars and the pictures and images and the rockets. But actually, space allows us to see our world that we live on. Space allows us to understand that when we look up at the stars, we’re actually made of the stuff of stars. Right? Inside of us is the heart of an old star. Doesn’t that make you feel like you belong to this universe and that you’re supposed to be here?
Absolutely. So is your hope with this particular project that more people will get that understanding that there isn’t a separation?
MJ: “One Strange Rock” does this incredible thing – it takes us from the smallest microbe, or to how oxygen is generated in small bubbles, all the way to the vistas of continents or being able to see our atmosphere, and connects it together. And so for me, one of the things we need to understand at some point in time – we’ve got to figure this out – is that we’re Earthlings and that we’re connected to this planet. So when I went into space, one of the things that happened to me is that I had an affirmation of something that I always believed. You know when people say, “Save the Earth”? They’re mistaken – the Earth will be here. The difference is, can we act in such a way that it continues to support our life form? You see, what “One Strange Rock” shows is how integrated life is on this planet and we as humans are part of that life. If we go to another world – just go to the space station – we have to carry some of the Earth with us. We have to carry that environment with us because this is where we evolved, this is where we developed. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t leave – obviously I want to leave -I want to go and explore other places. But it’s the recognition that there are a… unique series of coincidences, events and everything that led us to this day, to humans, to me sitting talking to you. And they started billions of years ago.
So with all of that, you talk in the first episode about the “Overview Effect” – about seeing the planet and essentially what you just communicated to me. How do you get people who don’t have the opportunity to go into space to understand that boundaries and countries and all of these things that we do as human beings to identify in all these different ways is a way of looking at Earth that isn’t going to help foster the survival of our species?
MJ: So I want to make one thing clear – I know a lot of astronauts talk about the “Overview Effect” – that everything belongs right here on this planet – for me when I went into space… I knew damn well that water crosses from one country to another, that our sky is over different countries and weather affects everyone. What “One Strange Rock” does is help people to understand and feel that. So I can maybe mumble words and give you statistics and stuff, but it’s not the same thing as having that emotional connection. What I’m so proud about with “One Strange Rock” is that it takes images from lots of different countries, from African countries, from South American countries – it goes down underneath the Earth and goes up to the top. And all those things help us to see this planet and the imagery from people, to animals, to… desolate locations. And so, it’s not so much again about mumbling the words, or even saying the words very clearly, it’s about allowing people to see and be there with you. And not just from space, because we get down to the detail. We see kids playing, we see folks who’ve been collecting salt for generations from one location. All of those things are important for us to understand our connectedness to this world. And it’s not about preaching and it’s not about how fast the Space Station is orbiting the Earth or any of that kind of stuff – it’s that vantage point.Continue reading “Pioneering Astronaut Mae Jemison Offers Insight and Forward Thinking to New National Geographic Channel Series “One Strange Rock””→
Director/writer Ryan Coogler‘s Black Panther, as of this weekend, has officially become the highest-grossing superhero film in North America, taking the title from another Disney/Marvel tentpole, The Avengers.
According to hollywoodreporter.com, the Chadwick Boseman/Lupita Nyong’o/Michael B. Jordan starrer achieved the milestone on Saturday after passingThe Avengers, $623.4 million gross from 2012. Black Panther is also only one of seven films to ever earn $600 million or more domestically, finishing Sunday with $630.9 million, putting it at No. 5 on the all-time list.Black Panther finished the weekend with $1.237 billion in ticket sales internationally, surpassing Iron Man 3 ($1.214 billion) to rank as the No. 3 superhero title of all time at the worldwide box office, just behind Avengers ($1.518 billion) and Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1.405 billion).
Black Panther finished in second-place overall in its sixth weekend with $17 million in sales, behind the newly-released Pacific Rim: Uprising, which earned approximately $28 million in its debut weekend.
Producer/director Deon Taylor and his Hidden Empire Film Group have launched a new shingle, Dark Circus, that will produce film and television content aimed towards urban audiences, with a focus on the comedy and horror genres.
The first project set up under the banner is a Snoop Dogg-produced horror anthology series, The Thrill. It centers on a mysterious hotel, The Last Stop Inn, situated on a lonely stretch of foreboding highway, where the unlucky guests who check in each week struggle to understand the supernatural events that unfold during their stay.
The first feature release under the new label will be The House Next Door, the previously announced sequel to Meet the Blacks. Taylor directed the comedy that stars Mike Epps and Katt Williams.
“We have the resources and market expertise to deliver branded content with a unique voice — one that speaks to an urban audience,” said Taylor. “I won’t say that this market is underserved, as there are a great deal of films still finding their way to the marketplace. However, our intention is to raise the bar with Dark Circus and create an enduring brand. Partnering with Snoop on this first anthology series will have us coming out of the gates strong, and we couldn’t be more excited.”
Taylor — who directed and produced the upcoming Paula Patton-starrer Traffik and is attached to direct the police drama .38 — runs Hidden Empire with partners Roxanne Avent and Robert F. Smith.
Adding another pillar to his growing TV and film portfolio, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios has reached a deal to acquire cable’s Weather Channel in a transaction valued at about $300 million.
Entertainment Studios is buying the Weather Group, parent company of the cabler and the Local Now streaming service, from Comcast and private equity giants Blackstone and Bain. That group purchased Weather Channel for $3.5 billion in July 2008. The digital operations of Weather Channel were acquired in 2015 by IBM in a deal pegged at around $2 billion.
“The Weather Channel is one of the most trusted and extremely important cable networks, with information vitally important to the safety and protection of our lives,” said Allen, who is chairman-CEO of Entertainment Studios. “We welcome the Weather Channel, which has been seen in American households for nearly four decades, to our cable television networks division. The acquisition of the Weather Channel is strategic, as we begin our process of investing billions of dollars over the next five years to acquire some of the best media assets around the world.”
The Weather Channel, which made its on-air bow in 1982, is one of cable’s most well-known brands but its linear prospects have been challenged by the ubiquitous availability of weather-related data via digital sources. Nonetheless it’s a big step for Allen’s company, which already operates eight linear TV channels including Pets.TV, Comedy.TV and Cars.TV that target niche audiences. Weather Channel will be the most widely distributed outlet in Allen’s portfolio.
“We are excited to join Entertainment Studios, and we are especially proud to be part of one of the largest emerging global media companies,” said Dave Shull, CEO of Weather Channel. “Byron Allen’s purchase of our innovative and forward-thinking organization will increase the value we bring to our viewers, distributors, and advertisers.”
Allen’s Entertainment Studios has also been moving aggressively in the independent film arena in recent years with the launch of Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures. Last year the fledgling distributor saw respectable box office returns last year from the thriller “47 Meters Down” and the Western “Hostiles.” Allen Group is the sole owner of Entertainment Studios.