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Blast From The Past: El Debarge On Comeback, Prison Stint & Working With RZA

El DeBarge speaks just like he sings. Controlled yet passionate. Whispery yet cool. Soft yet confident. Such attributes were front and center during his astonishing performance at 2010’s BET Awards. There he was, making one of television’s most memorable comebacks. During a medley of some of the biggest hits of DeBarge, the vastly underrated family group he fronted, the 49-year-old’s voice resembled the same heart-stirring falsetto that made such ’80s and ‘90s staples as “I Like It,” “All This Love,” “Rhythm Of The Night,” and the Quincy Jones’ produced “The Secret Garden” indelible numbers. The hip-hop generation knew every word written by the singer/songwriter/producer (the Notorious BIG’s mammoth 1995 hit “One More Chance/Stay With Me Remix” was just one of many songs that has sampled from the DeBarge catalogue over the years). And no one was more humbled by the standing ovation he received that evening than El.

Following several high profile run-ins with the law, in 2008, El DeBarge was sent to prison on a two-year bid for drug possession of crack cocaine. Battles with substance abuse have played a dark role in the otherwise rich legacy of the DeBarge family from late big brother Bobby to the youngest sibling Chico. But El plans to make the most of his return. The re-energized and clean performer is set to release his first new album in 16-years Second Chance. For El, the aptly-titled Geffen set, due out September 28, is bigger than music. It’s a resurrection. VIBE gets the story from the man himself.—Keith Murphy


VIBE: Take us back to your surprising comeback at this years BET Awards. What was going through your mind as you were performing some of those classic DeBarge songs?

El DeBarge: What was going through my head? The awesome responsibility that God had placed in my hands to bring love again to the world through music. I felt so privileged and honored that God has given me a second chance. Here I am, 22 years later, given a second chance after all of my struggles and obstacles. I just felt so blessed that night to be able to do that.

You named your upcoming album Second Chance. What is it about that title that symbolizes your struggles with drug abuse and the other personal issues you’ve faced over the years?

Like everyone else in this world, I have had struggles. There’s disappointment and obstacles in everybody’s life. I feel like I was writing Second Chance not just for myself, but also for the people who have struggled. My own personal struggles with drugs and heartbreaks in relationships are no different than what’s going on out in the world where people are losing their homes in this great recession that we are having. It’s about people wanting second chances in life. People’s children have been taken away because of their own personal issues…they want a second chance again to be good parents. The people losing their jobs, they want a second chance at life…just to live better. That’s what my album title symbolizes.

Throughout your career, you've written and produced some of DeBarges’ biggest hits as well as your own solo material. But on Second Chance you're working with a diverse range of talents from Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis and Babyface to Ron Fair, the Avilia Brothers and Michael Angelo. Were you looking for something specifically from your collaborators?

It was important when I was choosing the producers and co-writers for this album that they all had a passion for real music. Babyface brings a lot of passion to this project. We worked together in the early ‘90s. I know what he brings to the table: real music and a level of professionalism. He reminds me of myself. Next to him and Ron Fair, I’m probably the greatest perfectionist [Laughs]. But Babyface just has a different swagger about him. I think that his style of writing blends very well with mines because he is a singer as well as a songwriter. All of the people that I worked with know how to cry; how to get emotional. They know how to let music just flow from them without holding it back. These are people who are ministers of music, not just songwriters. There’s one other name you forgot…Theron Feemster. We call him Nephew [Laughs].

One of the more surprising aspects of your career is your willingness to work with hip-hop artists. 50 Cent is set to appear on Second Chance and over the years you have collaborated with the likes of DJ Quik and RZA.

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Dreamville/Roc Nation

Back Like He Never Left: J. Cole Drops New Song "Middle Child"

After posting pictures of famous middle children throughout media history (like Michael Jordan, Britney Spears and Lisa Simpson to name a few), J. Cole dropped his latest song "Middle Child" on streaming services on Wednesday (Jan. 23).

The over three-minute song was produced by T-Minus, who previously linked up with the KOD rapper on the songs "Kevin's Heart" and 6LACK's "Pretty Little Fears." Those who attended the high-profile Dreamville Sessions got to hear the new song before the public, including producer Illmind, who wrote "U know what? I don’t even have words...I’ll just leave this here," with the mind-blown emoji to end off his tweet.

Heard “MIDDLE CHILD” at the Dreamville sessions and trust when I say..........

U know what? I don’t even have words...

I’ll just leave this here -> 🤯

— !llmindPutTheLoopOn (@illmindPRODUCER) January 22, 2019

The track features trumpets in the production, and features the North Carolinian spitting lessons to the younger set of MCs as well as some choice words for the older rappers in the game. While he may not be the middle child in his family, the term "middle child" here appears to be a metaphor.

"To act like two legends cannot coexist, But I never beef with a ni**a for nothin'," he raps. "...If I smoke a rapper, it's gon' be legit, It won't be for clout, it won't be for fame..."

What do you think about the new track? Let us know in the comments after listening to the song below.

pic.twitter.com/fmDiHYC2ff

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

🐐 MIDDLE pic.twitter.com/8GNUDbQJZE

— J. Cole (@JColeNC) January 24, 2019

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10s, 10s, 10s: Teyana Taylor Gives Us Life In Her "WTP" Visual

Teyana Taylor’s long-awaited video for “WTP” has finally been released.

The video, which features inspiration from the cult-classic documentary Paris Is Burning and ballroom culture as a whole, follows members of different Houses headed out to a ball. Teyana, who is from the “House Of Petunia,” appears to be in distress as she tries to figure out why she’s not invited to get 10s across the board with the other Vogue houses. However, thanks to her “fairy c**t motha" and some serious Cinderella vibes, Teyana is whisked away to to the ball, where she performs for the crowd. The video features appearances by Lena Waithe as well as Taylor’s husband, basketball player Iman Shumpert.

The eight-minute long visual was directed by Taylor, Gregory Jones, and was produced by The Auntie Production. On Twitter earlier this week, Taylor wrote of her issues with her label Def Jam delaying the release of the visuals. Originally, the video was slated to drop on Jan. 19.

“My [Instagram] page is gone because I’m upset at @defjam for not dropping my damn “WTP” video on time, per usual,” she wrote.

We’re glad the video is finally out, and fans of the KTSE musician are singing the video's praises on social media. What do you think? Check out the video above and let us know.

I’ll tell you why you’re GAGGING.💅🏾 WTP MINI MOVIE 3PM #WheredSheGo pic.twitter.com/uZclYhed1c

— TEYANA M.J. SHUMPERT (@TEYANATAYLOR) January 23, 2019

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Courtesy of Project Girls Club

D. Woods And Shanell Share Details Behind Project Girls Club: Exclusive

There's power in numbers, especially when it comes to black women. YMCMB songstress Shanell, former Danity Kane star D. Woods, Princess of Crime Mob and platinum-selling songwriter Mika Means have merged their talents together to form Project Girls Club, a group that not only boasts big female energy but also a sisterhood like no other.

The ladies' first single "Run Up" is all about the girl power while playing with boastful 808s. The video does the same with the ladies turning up industrial style as their colorful personalities bursts out on every verse.

The group's origins were planted in Atlanta over a decade ago with the women acting as supportive cheerleaders as they moved in their previous groups. After moving on to solo endeavors, the ladies decided to add a music component to the group which also includes mentorship of young girls.

Speaking to VIBE Tuesday (Jan. 22), Shanell and D.Woods, the sisters of the group, shared the creative process behind the first single.

"We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first."

The ladies know a little something about girl groups. At the start of their careers, three of them were apart of the biggest groups in hip-hop and R&B. Shanell was the sole female vocalist in Lil Wayne's Young Money group comprised of Nicki Minaj and Drake, D. Woods was famously in the platinum-selling girl group Danity Kane while as a teenager, Princess was apart of Atlanta's Crime Mob.

The ladies plan to hit the ground running with more new music and their upcoming album this year.

Check out the rest of the interview below.

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I love the fact that "Run Up" is a confident track as opposed to a love song. Was that a conscientious decision to make the first single more braggy than a love ballad?

D Woods: I think that is just how we are as people. We didn't really have to think about it or make any type of strategic decision of what kind of subject matter. It just came out of how we really talk in every day in conversation.

Shanell: We put the track on and each girl just went in," Shanell explained. "We kind of feed off each other and that was the vibe. We are a little different than your normal girl group. We feel like power rangers and superheroes so we have that tough exterior. We're still women so we still have a softer side but the tough side is what you might get first.

If you could label each woman as a superhero who would be what?

Shanel: I can kind of give you the personalities of each one of us. Like Minka is the party girl, myself, I am like more of like, "Here is the plan," D keeps everybody organized and on task. Princess is our hood spiritual advisor. She's gonna give us a crystal and try and throw you a shot of jack at the same time.

So how did this group come together?

Shanel: We created Project Girls Club years ago with myself D, and Mika. We were all doing shows and mobs of guys would be on stage and there wasn't enough feminine energy.

So we were like, "Let's band together and do all of our shows together. So when you have a show we are gonna come out on stage; if I have a show you're gonna come and support me," so we kind of built it like that.

Then everybody got their deal and started getting pulled away from doing stuff together so much, me signing to Young Money, D being with Danity Kane and Mika doing her solo project, it was hard for us to keep doing stuff together but now, we're wiser and we're experienced

What would you say is the biggest difference between this and other girl groups?

D Woods: For me personally, these are people that I've chosen to work with instead of being put together with that I didn't know. That's the biggest difference. Shanel of course, is my blood sister and Meeka we've known each other since high school, and Princess, we know we cross paths so many different times in the Atlanta music industry so this is like we're coming together because we want to (laughs). That's the difference between me and anyone else's group experience. I was put in a group with people I didn't know and had nothing in common with before–

Shanel: And they were pitted against each other.

D Woods: We were pitted against each other and then put into a group to act like we're all on the same page. Even during the time I was in Danity Kane, there was Project Girls Club. I wanted to include my group into that but we weren't on the same page.

This is a lot being on the same page because we want to be on the same page and seeing the benefits of being on the same page. A lot of times in groups, people are competing against each other and are pushing out one leader and everyone else has to be background singers or just the backup to that person's vision. With this group, we have a hard time explaining that because we see groups, especially those with females, it's like "Who's the leader? What's the look?"

Everyone in Project Girls Group has their own vibe and we don't make anyone else have to be on everyone else's vibe. We celebrate each other's vibe (laughs). I'm not going to make my dream be your dream. Let's figure how to coexist these dreams and push them to the next level.

Shanell: For me, being a part of Young Money it was mostly men. I had Nikki [Minaj] for a while but then she went and did her own thing. It was a lot of creative things I wanted to but there was no female energy. I felt like I was the black sheep. Everyone was super rap and I was doing rock and R&B so I just want to build a place where all of those parts of me can shine. We've all thrived, we've all seen success and we all get it. This is like a more comfortable, a better space for me to tap into every stream of talent I have.

Can you tell us anything about the upcoming album?

Shanel: That's our timeline so we have to set our set dates so that we work toward those dates the project is going to have our plan is to feature as many female artists as we can and leave enough room for us to be on the records.

Shawna reached out and was like, "I want to be a part of this." Sharaya J who was on The Four wants to be a part. We are going to feature a lot of black women in the game and some new girls and just make it a party, make it fun.

D. Woods: Right now we just see black women fighting on TV and talking about taking each other's men and bend it over, pop it open, buss it open for these real ni**as like okay well we are going to be that other thing, that fun thing.

Do you think that because all four of you have these massive hits in your catalogs already that you will revamp those to fit within the group that you are doing now?

D Woods: I mean, that's an idea. I mean we still perform some of those songs for the audience for the audience that is there that is like can we hear something from Young Money and Danity Kane and Crime Mob, like we tap in and give them a little bit of where we came from but right now my focus is in creating this new sound, this new feel, this new vibe, this new culture of women who aren't afraid of each other, who uplift each other, who congratulate each other. What we are hearing and seeing now.

Lastly, what have learned about each other and the process of Project Girls Club?

Shanel: That is a special thing. Of course, we are positive thinkers, we move positively but being that we are all from different walks of life, different experiences, just learning each other's strengths and weaknesses.

When you say women working together it's easier said than done, just people working together is easier said than done so we have to constantly know that that is what we stand for so when we are challenged.

We argue, we bicker and get upset about certain things but it's like okay so we are learning ourselves how sometimes you just gotta figure out how to make it work and understand somebody else's point of view or show them something they don't know and learn something they can teach you. There has been crying, there has been fighting there have been happy days of celebration but it's all apart of this journey.

D. Woods: I joke and say I know everything because she is my sister but you know when you are around people and have known people for as long as we have known each other you tend to generalize people because you are too close to them you can't see the trees through the forest.

In this new stage of Project Girls Club and us having come back together after we have gone out into the world and fought our own battles, we have relearned each other's passions again and then relearned each other's talents and seeing each other's hearts.

We are here to support each other's vision and execute it together so we are learning each other's hearts again and making each other's dreams come true.

Check out the video above and stream "Run Up" by Project Girls Club below.

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