Fonzworth Bentley-11 Fonzworth Bentley-11

A Short Convo with... Fonzworth Bentley

Fonzworth Bentley is better known as the guy who converted thugs to clean-cut chaps on MTV’s From G’s to Gents. Some also remember him as Diddy’s old umbrella-wielding personal assistant or maybe even for shaking a leg in Big Boi’s “The Way You Move” video years ago. But few recall that Kanye West signed the Morehouse alum to G.O.O.D. Music as a rapper in 2005. His debut album, Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style or C.O.L.O.U.R.S. was slated to drop in 2008, but was delayed after several issues.

But this year Bentley's hues will shine bright. Calling VIBE from his home in Atlanta, the E1 Music artist talks about what the holdup was, why people didn’t believe and hopefully hitting the studio with Kanye in Hawaii soon. If his schedule allows.

VIBE: People have seen a lot of you, but really don’t know you. Will you album help?
Fonzworth Bentley: I met a young lady at the Super Bowl and she said, “Every time I see you, I get a different impression of you. I’ve really enjoyed your journey. But a lot of people don’t know much about me. This is going to be an extremely transparent body of work. There have been some incredible mountains that I’ve had to climb. It’s a soundtrack to the movement. It’s eclectic.

You’re style really doesn’t blend well into what people know rappers to be, even as diverse as the game is becoming.
I believe that we’re all wonderfully and purposefully made. So often, there are many distractions and pressures that get us to go this way or that way, trying to fit in and be cool. But the reality is when you take the time and really understand who you are and whose you are, you gain a confidence in that uniqueness. One of the things that this game has always loved about me is that I’ve always been myself and never tried to be anything I’m not. It’s being celebrated. Yeah, I’m different. But we’re all different. The record will ultimately inspire folks to be confident in their own uniqueness. That’s what we need.

Back in 2008, you had a few singles, “Laid Back” and “Everybody” with Kanye West and Andre 3000. Why has it taken so long for the project to release?
A lot of artists support and love what I’m doing artistically. But the labels didn’t understand or believe. I went and played that record for, you name them, and I played it for them and pitched them my ideas. They looked at me like I was crazy and said it was impossible to get done. After Sony Urban dissolved, different folks did deals at different places. I had to give the game a phenomenal, historic moment. That was the first time Andre 3000 and Kanye had ever been on a record together. I had to let people know that I’m here, I’m working and this is going to happen. It was still G.O.O.D. music, but I had to put that out to secure distribution. Folks think that when you’re on TV, it should be easy. It’s not.

And I’m sure since you’re not the typical rapper, it was a bit tougher to find and open mind.
Another part that people need to understand is that I am a rebel. I have a rebellious point of view. But people don’t look at it like that, because the status quo is so potent. People think it’s rebellious to say, “I’m dropping out of school.” Or “I’m going to jail.” Or “I have baby mommas.” That’s not rebellious! That’s the status quo, brother. I’m sitting here writing the etiquette book. I’m telling kids to go to school. There are folks who don’t want to see this point of view come to light. How could you say “No” to something as exciting and as impactful as that “Everybody” video? I shot that with my own money, got a new director from USC film school named Dion Watkins who had never shot a video in his life.

So what can people expect from you this year?
I’m working on a mixtape. I didn’t want to. But I’m working on one so that I can get my art out there and give people something to ride to and understand what to expect from me. And I’ll be putting out a DVD and the record at the same time. They will get Cool Outrageous Lovers of Uniquely Raw Style this year.

Is Kanye still on your team?
Oh yeah. Without a doubt. He was trying to get me to come out the Hawaii last week. That’s where he’s recording. But my schedule wouldn’t permit. I’m going to try my best to get out there before February’s out.

So it’s going to be a Bentley summer?
Why not? [Laughs]. —Brad Wete

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Recording artist D'Angelo performs at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on August 21, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
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D'Angelo & Friends Took The 'Verzuz' Battle Format And Turned It Inside Out

Those that were waiting to see D'Angelo versus a worthy opponent on Verzuz got a little something different for the latest "match" as D pretty much battled himself and had some homies drop in to support. The event—D'Angelo & Friends—held at the legendary Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York on Saturday night (Feb. 27) started off about an hour late. Yet, it wasn't a Keyshia Cole type hour late, as DJ Scratch (formerly of the legendary hip-hop group EPMD) held down the wheels of steel with a strong blended mix set and pre-show that spanned '80s, '90s, and 2000s hits of Black music.

Once D'Angelo sat behind the piano and thanked everyone for coming through, he played a song that set the tone that many didn't know (I still don't know that one), before easing into the familiar tracks: "Me And Those Dreamin' Eyes Of Mine," "Lady," and "Left And Right," with the latter punctuated by a surprise funk performance by the duo of Redman and Method Man. The smoke twins Red and Meth came out hyped as always and did their street version of the uncles at the BBQ doing the two-step. Many of the comments on the Instagram Live comment feed were filled with "Black don't crack..." and "Those guys are aging backward." Red and Meth were fire and showed love to the furry overcoat and wide brim-wearing D'Angelo. "Legends," is how D dubbed the duo when they walked off the set.

DJ Scratch continued to control the energy of the night as his cuts weaved in and out of D's storied favorites and the banter between the two was light and hearty. D'Angelo told the story of how he first came to Harlem and the Apollo as a teenager to compete on the famous Wednesday's Amateur Night. DJ Scratch asked, "So what happened?" D'Angelo sharply replied, "I won!" They laughed and D expressed how that's how he got his start in the music industry.

What was special about the night was how D was really surprised by the "Friends" that showed up for him. He seemingly found out who was on the bill with him at the same time as the live viewers. His moment with the songstress H.E.R. was so genuine as they turned their cordial fandom for one another into the coolest tune performance of "Nothing Even Matters." H.E.R. exclaimed, "I'm singing with D'Angelo right now! What is life?!"

Knowing that D'Angelo isn't much for the fanfare and bright lights of stardom, to see him perform for the Verzuz crowd sans a worthy opponent was a rare treat that we didn't know we needed. Normally everyone wants to see some musical bloodshed with a head-to-head battle, but it was good to see soul music just be soul music and that be the focus rather than the "Who won..." convo was a nice break in the Verzuz series. Even though D' didn't have someone to battle, the star of the night was his full-length, dark brown sheared mink coat. Look up the convos about it on various comment sections and you'll know why.

You can watch the full event down below or on Apple Music...or if you just want to run those incredible D'Angelo vintage vibes back, you can create a playlist with the songs he and his friends performed down below.

Interesting Fact: In a post-Verzuz live chat between Swizz Beatz and Timbaland, Swizz shared that D'Angelo was supposed to go against Maxwell on Valentine's Day, but it didn't work out.

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D'Angelo and Friends Set List (Unknown Song) (feat. Keyon Harrold) Cruisin’ Alright Lady Me and Those Dreamin’ Eyes of Mine Left and Right (feat. Method Man and Redman) Method Man's “Break Ups 2 Make Ups” 1000 Deaths Back to the Future, Part. 1 Sugah Daddy Devil’s Pie One Mo’ Gin Chicken Grease Feel Like Makin’ Love Jonz in My Bonz Really Love Another Life Send It On Spanish Joint H.E.R.'s Best Part Nothing Even Matters (feat. H.E.R.) The Root Brown Sugar Untitled (How Does It Feel)

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Kelly Rowland Drops 'K' EP And "Flowers" Music Video

This is a Kelly Rowland appreciation post. We repeat: This is a Kelly Rowland appreciation post. Better yet, nah. we'll just save it for the day she releases a new studio album. Y'all are not ready. For now, let's rejoice in the fact that Ms. Kelly dropped a new EP, titled K, to hold fans over.

Weeks after birthing her second son, Noah and days after celebrating her 40th birthday, Ms. Kelly is back with a short and sweet, 6-track project under her independent label KTR Records and new management family, Roc Nation. A mixture of new and previously released tunes, the extended play opens with "Flowers" produced by NEZ, before going into Afrobeats-infused songs like "Black Magic" and "Hitman," produced by Sak Pase and Oak, respectively.

"There's definitely a piece of my marriage on there [the K EP]. I mean just relationships, period," explained Kelly in an interview with AP. "I just feel like when it comes to love and when it comes to telling stories, I had to put a little bit, well all of it on the record. 'Cause if you don't...it wouldn't have been me."

To add to the musical moment, Rowland released a new music video for the opening track. Surrounded by a group of seven expressive dancers, a very pregnant Kelly stuns in all her effortless beauty as she dons vibrant dresses accenting her baby bump. Directed by Lloyd Pursall, the "Flowers" music video reminds us just how flawless Ms. Kelly is. Simply stunning.

Watch the music video down below as well as the visual for the second track on the EP, "Black Magic," starring a very happy Kelly and her two sons. We love to see it!

Stream K on Apple Music and/or Tidal

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Rest In Peace Daddy U-Roy, The Original Dancehall Teacher

The race is not for the swift, but who can endure it. And Jamaica’s foundation deejay Daddy U-Roy is still setting the pace. Ewart Beckford, O.D., known to lovers of Jamaican music as U-Roy aka Daddy U-Roy the Teacher, passed away on Wednesday night (Feb. 17) at the age of 78. As a pioneer of Jamaican deejay music, aka toasting, aka the birth of dancehall, U-Roy's impact on popular music worldwide cannot be overstated. Upon the news of his passing, Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson paid tribute to U-Roy as "The god of toasting," adding that "w/o him we wouldn't have the concept of hip-hop."

In the video for Rah Digga’s “Imperial,” Busta Rhymes shakes his locks into the camera and proclaims that “This station rules the nation with version.” Ardent students of reggae roots will recognize the line as a direct lift from “Rule the Nation,” a musical blast from 1970 that forever changed the soundscape of Jamaica, sending tsunami-sized ripples out from the little island that rocked the world. Never before had an instrumental “version” of a popular song been combined with straight-from-the-dancehall microphone toasting to create a hit single. Working with legendary rock-steady producer Duke Reid, a smooth-talking called U-Roy scored not one but three big tunes. “Wake The Town” and “Wear You to the Ball” completed U-Roy’s six-week lock on the top three positions in the Jamaican charts, and proved that deejaying (or, as Yankees would rename it, rapping) was here to stay.

U-Roy’s phenomenal debut came a full decade before MCs from the Bronx started complaining that the Sugar Hill Gang had bitten their style. So if you’re looking for the forefather of all rap stars, look no further. Though he is quick to credit Jamaican pioneers like Count Machuki, King Stitt, and Lord Comic, Daddy Roy is the one whose cool jive slang and hit records busted the dancehall style wide open, paving the way for untold generations of microphone chanters at home and abroad.

It's been more than 50 years since this Rastafarian welder from the Kingston ghetto took up the microphone to nice up the dance for Doctor Dickies’ Sound—later progressing to Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat and King Tubby’s Home Town Hi-Fi—U-Roy is regarded as a living legend anywhere dubplates rotate. Now in his late 50s, he continues to tour and record when he’s not operating his own sound system, the mighty Stur-Gav Hi-Fi, rolling with an awesome crew of lyrical masters that includes Brigadier Jerry, Josey Wales, and Charlie Chaplin. U-Roy’s latest CD, Serious Matter, released by the French label Tabou, features duets with a who’s-who of classical reggae vocalists, from the late Dennis Brown to Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, Israel Vibration, and Third World.

How can one man be worthy to spar with such a powerful range of talent? As Shabba Ranks put it in his song “Respect”—“Just cool, cool. U-Roy done rule. U-Roy a godfather of the deejay school.” Or in the words of another foundation deejay, Tappa Zukie: “U-Roy is like a battery to me. Whenever I see U-Roy is like I charge up. Y’unnerstan? Him just give me the vibes to work. He’s like showing me back the real style. Working with U-Roy is like back in school. He is still the teacher.” If the latest graduating class of MCs and deejays should choose to listen, the Teacher has some valuable lessons to share. But as the old Jamaican saying goes, who can’t hear must feel.

 

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Teacher, what do you think of the state of dancehall reggae right now?

Hey—there’s a lot of changes in the dancehall ting right now. The music change a little bit an tings. The singers and deejays is like playin’ some different ting, so it’s different from when we started. There’s more slackness now an stuff like that—X-rated stuff.

But this dancehall ting been going on for years. Some people make it look like it’s just since Shabba Ranks and some other youth come that this dancehall ting come around. This ting’s been going on for years. The dancehall type of music was some music weh it’s like you’re too hardcore for the radio play. So a lot of songs, when the radio station hear them, they already been a hit. Because the sound system dance make them be a hit before they even get release. Caw we used to have things like music on dub plate, this is what you would call exclusive pre-release, yunno? Most sound been playing dubplate at dance for years. The radio station can’t afford to play those type of music, because—according to them—it’s not up to their standard. So nowadays these people make it look like “Hey dancehall business just come around yesterday.” Them just acknowledge it now.

You yourself have been making music since when, the 1960s?

From that time up to this, me play sound system. I wan’ tell you me a play sound system from like from ’65. But ’69 was the time when I kinda get more popular to all the Jamaican public.

When you were coming into your own, who were the deejays you looked up to?

There was Count Machuki, Lord Comic, people like that, King Stitt, yunno? Count Machuki used to be my favorite deejay. I think that is one of the most… educated deejays that one can ever listen to. He don’t crowd his music. Whenever he talking on sound system he don’t crowd the singer or nothing. He just space his words, yunno, and he don’t have a whole lot to say so that he crowd tings up. This was one man that really surprise me how he never do a lot of recording. He start recording long after I start record. And I surprise how this man really have no hits—I don’t know why.

Even a Deejay name King Sporty. He used to play for Duke Reid too. Dem time, I was deejay too, but I wasn’t inna dem class. They was ahead of me inna the sound system business. I was just like a likkle schoolkid, goin’ to school and still ask my grandmother to go out on the weekends. Long before I start holding the mike and stuff like that.

But their style was kinda different from mine because I kinda have this style that I… add things onto things. Like for instance, I used to have my style say “WOW!” Yunno? Style like that. In my talking I’d say “Love in the ghetto baby WOW! you got it” These deejays, they never have that style. (Laughs)

How did your recording career start?

Well, me used to have a biiig crowd that follow me from any part of Jamaica I play. It’s from deh so the people dem really like me. But I never even believe that things woulda go the way that they go for me. At that time deejay business was no business that people really have as anything big. Caw hey—I do a song with Peter Tosh name “Earth Rightful Ruler” yunno and it never got much play. Then I did another one name “Dynamic Fashion Way” with Ken Boothe and Keith Hudson and it never still go too far.

Then about a year after that I did “Wake the Town and Tell the People” and “Wear You to the Ball” and “This Station Rule the Nation” for Duke Reid and it just took off. Believe me, I hear these three tune been played on the radio and it even surprise me. I say “Cho!—these tunes get me really known to the people.“ I had one two and three for like six weeks and number one tune for 12 weeks..

Wasn’t that a revolutionary thing for a deejay to voice a record?

[Laughing] Me tell you—it’s really revolutionary thing, beca’ it never happen before. So my style I think is a blessing. I can only say that. I can’t put it no other way, cause believe me: a deejay have 1,2,3 on the chart? On the top 10? Hey—this used to be mostly foreign music and tings like that weh take up the chart. But they go to different record stores and take up a survey of which is the fastest-selling song for this week. Is just reality, the fastest-selling song, man.

Whose idea was it to make those records?

It was Duke Reid’s idea. He was the producer. You see, we used to play Tubby’s sound system. And Tubby’s used to play a lot of Duke Reid and Coxsone music, okay? So somebody from Duke Reid studio come to a dance one night where I was playing and he heard me talking on one of these riddims. And he go back to Duke Reid and tell Duke Reid hey Tubby have a deejay is the wickedest deejay you could ever hear. Right after that Duke Reid siddown and call me. And when I go down a studio he say, Look, I want you voice even one riddim for me. So we talk about likkle money ting, because at the time is like—hey—nothing big never a gwan. Even comparing to what them youth have been pickin’ up now, is like just cheese money. But at the time still, ya happy.

 

When the song hit number one did you get a little more cheese?

Oh yes [laughing] oh yes oh yes oh yes oh yes, yunno. When the song start pickin’ up, I start pickin’ up same way an’ gettin’ some money from him, money that keep me comfortable around my house for the week. When things start getting good, now, I said to him, Hey my royalties I gwine need to have a little house. And so yunno I buy a little house out of my money because I used to really scared of paying rent and them stuff. One time he offer me a car and I say, Hey—I have a bed and I have a stove, and I have my pot and things like this and I don’t see no car that can hold all these things. Yunno? So I get my house and I comfortable, yeah.



Deejay business was the beginning of rap music, right?

True true.

Do you think people really know and respect that side of the reggae?

I don’t think so. A lot of people do, a lot of people. But a lot still don’t. I just think that the time gone come when people gonna respect that.

What do you think about the rap mixing with the reggae?

One ting with me, I just like the more cultural side of hip hop. Something that send a message. I don’t like some of these hip hop weh talking bout bitch and mothaf**ker and stuff like that. We don’t need to sell these things to kids. Cause young kids is one of the biggest supporter in music, trust me. And if they hear you say something, is like hey—they gonna do exactly that.

As the teacher, what advice would you give to the younger artists of today?

Well… all I can tell them is hey, just be constructive, man. Yeh, just be more straight to the people. Come offa this gun talk an—yunno. We don’t want to hear about your gun and you have your gun pon you and dem stuff deh. Keep that! We don’t want no violence amongst the society. We want some peace and love, no matter what color you are, whether you white, pink, blue—just love. Ease off this war. War don’t make no sense. I don’t see no progress in war. Yeah. Something like that I woulda like tell them.

But I really like rap, becaw look, it keep the deejay business going. It’s the same form of deejay. It’s still deejay, but you call it rap. Singers come in and sing, rapper come in and say something—yunno I mean? It’s the same thing; it no different. Hey, for me, I really love it becaw it make it look like what I was doin’ wasn’t something stupid at all.

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