There are those who find success in this here thing of ours, and the minority who discover it tomorrow. So for VIBE's 17th "Juice Issue," we've concentrated the farming process to only produce those who live their riper moment today. We clearly prefer ours fresh-squeezed.
Writers: Tracy Garraud, Clover Hope, John Kennedy, Adelle Platon and Bonsu Thompson
Photography: Sumner Dilworth
Charlamagne Tha God
Guest List Should Read: Will Bite
I.D. Please: Radio and Television Personality—New York Radio Station Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, MTV’s Hip Hop POV, MTV2’s Guy Code; 31
VIP Status: Whether it’s roasting Drake’s emo mannerisms or questioning Lil’ Kim’s facial features (to her face), Charlamagne keeps it realer than most via an infinite supply of ballsy perspectives. And like his frank forerunner, Wendy Williams, the South Carolina native is now pimping his big mouth between radio and TV with no muzzle in sight.
“I have a lot of politically incorrect views and potentially dangerous rhetoric, but I’m not afraid to be transparent,” says Charlamagne. “My father used to always tell me, ‘Be 360 percent honest and talk that shit.’ That’s what I do, and I guess it works for radio and television. For me to have this cosmetically challenged face work on television… I must have some kind of talent.”
Invited By: Tiffany Williams (MTV’s Vice President of Series Development): “Charlamagne’s a great personality across the board. [He] has the most amazing work ethic I’ve ever seen. When making the transition from radio to television, the most important thing is being your authentic self. And that’s what he does so seamlessly.”
Arrival: “You don’t just jump into the New York market. That takes time. Wendy saw my interviews on the Internet, heard what I was doing in South Carolina. And it just so happened that she was looking for a cohost at the time. That doesn’t happen for everybody. [Then] I was a part of the best talent available to assemble Power 105.1’s new morning show. I’ve been fired four times, but every time I get fired I get a better job.”
Plus 1: Bootleg Kev
“My guy’s got next. Not just on the personality side [of radio], but the
programming side—he’s got a great ear for music, and his digital game is
Chef Roblé (Roblé Ali)
Guest List Should Read: Sous Swerve
I.D. Please: Owner of Chef Roblé & Co., Reality TV star of Bravo’s Chef Roblé & Co.; 27
VIP Status: Any kitchen floor that Ali graces should come lined with red carpet. Abandoning caloric concerns and slapping savory eats on eats has attracted celebrities of all tiers (Nicholson, Depp, West) to the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., native’s cuisine creations (even President Obama has sampled his roasted pheasant). Though he cooked couture for exclusive socialite eateries like Abigail Kirsch, Mojo and Avenue, his catering company Chef Roblé & Co. turned him prime time.
“My approach to cooking is just put a bunch of stuff that tastes good all on top of each other and it’s going to taste good,” says Ali. “When I was like 10, my sisters would do my chores for me if I would make them a breakfast sandwich. I would do a bagel, egg, cheese, a little bit of jelly, turkey ham and cream cheese—just decadence!”
Invited By: Chris Santos (Executive Chef of Beauty & Essex): “Roblé is one of those chefs that’s not by the books. His personality comes through in his food with bright pops of flavor. His food tends to be simple in up-scaled versions,
like my own.”
Arrival: “It’s hard to get clients, especially being younger and blacker than your competition. But I said, ‘You know what? I’m going to start my catering company, and I want to have it on television,’” says Ali. “I don’t have investors; I didn’t get a loan from the bank. I put my money into it, my blood, sweat and tears.
And it worked out.”
Plus 1: Angelo Sosa
“Sosa is really good. He has a couple of places in New York, like Social Eatz. He was actually on Top Chef and Top Chef All Stars.”
Guest List Should Read: Balls So Haute
I.D. Please: Celebrity Lifestylist, CEO of Thomas Faison; 38
VIP Status: Transforming NBA All-Stars (Amare Stoudemire) and champions (LeBron James) literally into fashion forwards, Rachel has revolutionized the relationship between luxury style and pro hoops. With “courageous designers” such as Givenchy, Tom Ford and A.P.C. striding shotgun with her vision to flatten sample size hurdles, the 6-foot Englewood, N.J., native can be blamed for today’s press conference doubling as runway exhibition.
“I’m ecstatic and humble that something LeBron and I started has turned into a league-wide event,” says Johnson. “I felt that fashion had excluded men who weren’t a certain size, and I wanted to begin a program of inclusion. [Now] these young gentlemen are understanding the impact that their presentation has on other people; [they’re] recognizing the power of style!”
Invited By: Rachel Roy (Fashion Designer): “Rachel has the foresight and vision to see beyond the stereotype,” says Roy. “Her look, whenever her client is smart enough to allow, is clean, smart, sharp, yet individual. We speak the same language.”
Arrival: “I was in Jay-Z’s [Def Jam] office one day and LeBron’s manager was there; Jay introduced us and made a recommendation on the spot,” says Johnson. “So when I got LeBron as a client my main goal was for him to be on red carpets or in a photo shoot wearing the same designers that any other celeb had on. I didn’t want him relegated to one tailor or some [designer] that no one had heard of.”
Plus 1: Christian Choy
“I’m impressed with stylists who understand the business of styling as well as styling. [But] I’m obsessed with Christian.
Guest List Should Read: Sing It Wit’ Ya Chest
I.D. Please: Singer; 28
VIP Status: By the time you hit the 39-second mark on Luke James’ breakout single “I Want You”—having been lashed by his brow-raising falsetto belts—it’s clear that soul music has found a new preeminent voice box. Beyoncé and Robin Thicke agree, both having tapped the New Orleanian, whose debut LP Made to Love drops later this year, as an opener. Good luck convincing Luke, though.
“I don’t feel what I do is soul—I just sing [with] feeling,” says James, before noting that his “alternative R&B” blend of funk, rock, hip-hop and gospel best frames his pristine voice. “That’s where [I’m] going to make it more magical and really be the vocalist I claim to be. I like music that makes you feel. [Emotional] depth, highs and lows—we have all those.”
Invited By: Melanie Fiona (R&B Recording Artist): “Luke is the real deal. His energy is wonderful. He’s so passionate, talented and humble. And he’s handsome—girls love him! I see him being the next real R&B male singer, because it’s a dying breed.”
Arrival: “I learned from Beyoncé, watching her [on] the video set for
“Run the World (Girls).” It’s her vision—she sees it all the way through. I’ve [also] learned from watching her rehearse for shows how to make the people say wow.”
Plus 1:Kevin Cossom
“He’s underrated. People really don’t know exactly what that dude can do.”
Guest List Should Read: Leading The Race
I.D. Please: Host of Melissa Harris-Perry, Political Science Professor
at Tulane University; 38
VIP Status: Not a pundit nationwide betters their viewer with a sociopolitical curriculum as racially responsible and pop culture palpable as Mrs. Harris-Perry’s. Via multi-culti engagement (enlisting a deported teen to address immigration; referencing “Lace Fronts” while discussing societal reaction to kinky hair), the mother of one has doubled MSNBC’s weekend morning ratings within the 18 to 34 demo. The Virginia native, though, will only praise her recruitment kudos.
“I have journalists [on staff] who are thinking about what happened today, this hour. But I’m an academic, so everything is always hinging back to [history],” says MHP. “So I have these journalists pushing this moment; I’ve got my own historical reservoir; one of my staff members came from BET... So what you’re seeing is this mash-up.”
Invited By: Rachel Maddow (TV Talk Show Host of MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show): “Melissa has never uttered a boring word in her life, and she [communicates] with uncompromising academic rigor. Add her human feel for people, sense of humor—she’s absolutely unique. MSNBC is so lucky to have her.”
Arrival: “I had done Rachel’s radio show, Air America, a lot. When she got the TV show, I called up her producer and said, ‘Hey, Rachel and I have good chemistry. We’ve got this Black guy running for president, I wanna be Rachel’s race chick. If you ever have a topic on race I’d like to get a call.’ Not only did they let me be Rachel’s race chick, but gave me a shot at doing stuff around gender, queer politics and religion.”
Plus 1: Joy-Ann Reid
“It’s weird to think of her as the next me because I might be the next her.”
Guest List Should Read: Stand-Up Guy
I.D. Please: Comedian, Cohost of The Eric Andre Show; 29
VIP Status: Last May, the former Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock writer dropped a double-double when his Comedy Central special Animal Furnace aired the same night he debuted as cohost of Adult Swim’s The Eric Andre Show. Credit the scores to Buress’ knack for brewing hilarity with his favorite ingredients: travel, food and rap (ex.: Young Jeezy would make a horrible real estate agent:
“‘My rooms got rooms’”).
“It’s just how I see the world,” says Buress. “I do jokes, but it’s me talking about what I think of stuff; almost the way I would talk to friends about something or tell a story. Sometimes I’ll tell a story and add in stuff I didn’t say just to make me sound smarter.”
Invited By: Paul Mooney (Comedian, Writer, Actor):“This nigga [was] on Letterman! David only picks the best and the funniest you know. So it’s really great to see ‘us’ up and coming.”
Arrival: “I liked writing at 30 Rock and SNL, but I wanted to focus on my stand-up and use my experience to develop my own show. It was cool that those jobs helped me as a comedian and writer, but now I’m focusing on touring full-time and getting my show together.”
Plus 1: Lil Rel
“He’s on the new In Living Color. He’s just funny with a lot of different material and vivid characters. He crushes it everywhere.”
Guest List Should Read: The Black and the Green
I.D. Please: Host of BET’s Don’t Sleep!; 34
VIP Status: As the only African-American anchor treading in the late-night pool, T.J. Holmes’ current MO is to reinvigorate BET’s news programming. The Arkansas-native ran down headlines at CNN from 2005 to 2011, and now will accentuate For-Us-By-Us journalism with his made-for-TV looks and vocals. Infusing witty and easygoing charm, the green-eyed broadcaster aims to keep brown optics ajar just a bit later.
“There’s no [network] where African-Americans can get home at night, turn on the TV and see somebody that looks like them, talks like them, talking about an issue that actually matters to them,” says Holmes. “I’m glad [BET’s] willing to grab a guy like me, with my credentials, for a venture like this. It’s a responsibility that I take seriously.”
Invited By: Stephen Hill (BET’s President of Music Programming and Specials): “Credibility and the belief that he’s on their side oozes from him, and that’s what’s crucial. He’s exactly what I felt BET needed: a smart, intelligent, funny late-night
Arrival: “Stephen Hill saw me host an awards breakfast a little over three years [ago]. He wasn’t that familiar with my background at CNN, but he saw me onstage using my knowledge of current events and personality to call people out in the audience when they did something stupid. He always had this idea for this type of show, but that’s when he looked up and said, ‘That’s my host!’”
Plus 1: Al Sharpton
“He’s not a young up-and-comer, but he’s got his show at MSNBC. It’s unfortunate… I can go through MSNBC, CNN, FOX, they just don’t have those African-American voices.”
Guest List Should Read: Your Fave Actress’ Fave Actress
I.D. Please: Actress; 33
VIP Status: The former premed scholar carpe diem’ed and rose to It chick after a penetrating performance in 2011’s Pariah. The Sundance-acclaimed flick, about a young Black lesbian struggling with her sexuality, earned its brainy leading lady a shout-out in Meryl Streep’s 2012 Golden Globe speech, plus further employment in the upcoming Steel Magnolias remake (Phylicia Rashad, Alfre Woodard) and Twelve Years a Slave (Brad Pitt, Chiwetel Ejiofor).
“The idea that Meryl Streep sat and watched [Pariah], something that I was a part of, I’m still not able to wrap my head around it,” says Oduye. “She was the first woman I saw who, as an actor, I was completely enthralled by. I know now that in spite of the obstacles, what I dream is valid.”
Invited By: Phylicia Rashad (Actress): “She’s as honest in her performance as she is in life. If you sit with Adepero and the food is really good, she’ll start dancing at the table or raise her hands like she’s testifying. She has emotional depth that’s beyond what you see in many people.”
Arrival: “Pariah was an opportunity to sink my teeth into a character that’s well-rounded and meaty,” says Oduye. “I had another theater audition that day, and like 50 million pages of sides. I just knew what this character was about. The one thing that helped me was wearing my little brother’s clothes. I remember walking up to Dee [Rees, Pariah director] afterward and being like, “‘Oh, that was fun.’”
Plus 1: Nicole Beharie
“Amazing actress. I would go see anything that she’s in.”
Tom Lehman, Mahbod Moghadam, Ilan Zechory
Guest List Should Read: Found In Translation
I.D. Please: Creators of Rapgenius.com
VIP Status: A year before Jay-Z scored a New York Times best seller with 2010’s Decoded, Rapgenius.com began decrypting hip-hop’s oft-convoluted rhyme books. Last March, the user-generated site began allowing artists to man verified accounts. Now, thanks to its trio brass, rap fans no longer have to wrestle with Lupe Fiasco’s 16s or question why Waka has a rooster in his ’Rari (it’s a fellatio reference).
“A lot of times when people say there’s nothing to explain, it’s because they don’t get what’s going on,” says Moghadam of rap’s insular slang and poetic complexity. Adds Lehman: “Nas was reading explanations of his own lyrics, and he was like, ‘Oh shit, I didn’t even think about that!’ But the point of the site is not to explain; it’s an artistic medium. It’s literary criticism.”
Invited By: Big K.R.I.T. (Rapper, Producer): “We’ve all had that song that we heard, like, ‘Damn what does that mean?’ People deserve explanations. Words can be taken out of context sometimes; it’s great for an artist to be able to say, ‘This is what I meant.’ It’s great for music.”
Arrival: “Getting our first diss on wax from Das Racist was a big moment,” says Lehman of the group’s song “Middle of the Cake” (“Rapgenius.com is white devil sophistry,” Kool A.D. swiped). “I’m like, what are you talking about?” chimes Zechory, “I’m an olive-skin sophist!”
Plus 1: TheFancy.com
Says Moghadam: “All these ladies tell me TheFancy is dope. We’re basically living a Rap Genius–obsessed life, but a lot of people show them love.”
Guest List Should Read: Fashionably Late
I.D. Please: Rapper; 35
VIP Status: Hip-hop’s new mouth of the South has been hiding under your nostrils all along. With a sly moniker switch-up, 2 Chainz—formerly Tity Boi of Disturbing Tha Peace’s Playaz Circle—conquered the trap and beyond with a gaudy fashion sense and catchy couplets. Already a go-to cameo artist, the lanky ATLien will truly stand on his own two once his solo debut, Based on a T.R.U. Story, drops in August.
“I bring a certain level of sophistication, creativity, individuality and swag to this game. I’m definitely a humble man, so I don’t mean it any way when I say I’m starting to hear my flow duplicated. Or my look. Whatever. I appreciate it. It confirms the role I’m playing right now.”
Invited By: Sha Money XL (Senior VP of A&R, Island Def Jam): “I haven’t seen a moment like this since Lil Wayne did those 30 verses in one year, and came with ‘Lollipop’ and went all the way to the top. He has a vision that’s very clear; all I did was amplify it. This guy is here to stay. And he’s going to be a legend.”
Arrival: “I still have moments when I don’t even realize I’ve broken through. If I needed to actually pinpoint a time, it’d be 2011, when I did over 150 shows and a bunch of features. We’re still trying to count the features.”
Plus 1: Cap 1
“I’m watching him get comfortable on the stage, work just as hard as I do in the studio. And buddy is nice. He definitely got next.”
Joie “Joey I.E.” Manda
Guest List Should Read: Def To Haters
I.D. Please: President of Def Jam Recordings; 38
VIP Status: Amid an eight-year ascent from executive VP to head of urban music at Warner Music Group, the ex-party promoter helped alchemize regional treasure into national platinum—securing a deal with Swisha House stars Paul Wall and Mike Jones and later signing Maybach Music Group. Last March, five years after Jay-Z called it curtains, Manda was appointed the heir to Def Jam’s presidency.
“I can’t fill [Jay-Z’s] shoes, but I can work hard to keep the level of excellence he achieved,” says Manda. “My long-term goal is to create the next generation of superstars, hire more young people and bring artist development back. Def Jam should be the number one record label in the world, and it’s going to be again.”
Invited By: Barry Weiss (Chairman & CEO of Island Def Jam and Universal Republic): “Joie is one of the most respected executives in the business. He has great ears, a keen instinct for talent, strong business chops, close relationships with artists and has been immersed in hip-hop for years.”
Arrival: “I’d been with Warner Music Group for eight years, and it was really tough to leave,” says Manda. “But this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down. Growing up in hip-hop and being such a fan of the brand and the music this company stood for, I realized this was something important I really had to do.”
Plus 1: DJ Khaled
“He’s an incredible talent finder and recognizes great songs. He knows what artist to put with what producer and he can orchestrate magic.”
Guest List Should Read: Linds & Losses
I.D. Please: All-Star Point Guard of the WNBA’s Atlanta Dream; 28
VIP Status: In her first season with the Atlanta Dream, Harding seized the PG reins and drove her new squad into the 2011 Finals. Only the second Duke University alum to have her jersey retired, the 5’7” pro co-produced ATL’s most successful year by leading them in assists (3.5 per) and finishing second in points (12.9 points).
“I consider myself one of the best at my position,” says Harding. “Atlanta needed a stronger point guard, and that’s what they did—traded a lot to bring me to Atlanta.”
Invited By: Marynell Meadors (Head Coach of Atlanta Dream): “Lindsey was involved in last year’s [Playoffs as a Dream player] for the first year and was very instrumental to our success; that’s when she really started coming on strong. She won some big games for us last year, especially in the last half of the season.”
Arrival: “In 2007, when the WNBA president came on, announced and said my name, it was like a dream come true,” says Harding. “All the hard work and sacrificing I’ve done as a kid—when my friends were going on vacation and I was going to basketball tournaments—got me the opportunity to not just play in the WNBA but around the world as well.”
Plus 1: Brittney Griner
“She’s probably 6’9” [and] can dunk the ball anytime. She’s going to help continue to change the game and make it more athletic.”