Ron Isley Talks Tax Evasion, Prison, Mr. Biggs & More

Today’s generation of music fans would probably prefer Trey Songz to Sam Cooke and can barely recall the days when you could actually walk into record stores. Yet, they’d also likely be familiar with Mr. Biggs a.k.a Ron Isley. The veteran crooner introduced his signature falsetto to the world in the late '50s, when he and his brothers (The Isley Brothers) released records⎯vinyls⎯like “Twist and Shout” and “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You).”

Over the years, the Isley Brothers' music was sometimes funky, sometimes mellow and smooth but always soulful. With classic love songs like “Between the Sheets” and “Living For The Love of You,” they were probably responsible for population spikes⎯ie, you can thank the parents of various producers who sampled the Isleys for iconic rappers like Biggie, Ice Cube, etc. By the mid 90s, Ronald Isley had reinvented himself with an edgier, almost mafioso appeal that fit in with hip-hop heads, thanks to his affiliation with artists like R. Kelly and Lil’ Kim. Under his new moniker, Mr. Biggs, he gained mass appeal with his “Down Low” series collaboration with Kells and cemented his status as hip-hop soul's Godfather.

However, he wasn’t untouchable. In 2006, he was sentenced to a 37-month federal prison sentence for tax evasion. Isley served about two years and luckily for him, the prison was more like Martha Stewart’s Incarceration Day Camp. According to Isley, he is innocent and ready to put the past behind him. The 69-year-old singer has plans to release an album, Mr. I, in September for which he's recruited Lauryn Hill, T.I., Aretha Franklin and more on an effort he says fans old and new will appreciate. Don’t expect him to retire any time soon. VIBE caught up with him to talk legacy, prison and the future of R&B. They don’t call him Mr. Biggs for nothing. ⎯Starrene Rhett

VIBE: How’d you bide your time while you were incarcerated?

Ron Isley: My job was to work in the chapel. I sang for them every Monday and I was watching all kinds of spiritual movies and singing for the guys. I had high respect for anyone there.

Was it a recognition thing?

Yeah. When I came there, what Johnny Cash meant to the authorities is what I meant to [the inmates]. But it was a camp. It wasn’t a prison with a wall around it or nothing. You could get in your car, drive off and go home [but] you would get in a lot of trouble for leaving without permission. They had other rules where you couldn’t have a cell phone but everybody did.

So despite being held there by law, it was a breeze considering where you could have been?

Oh yeah.

Word on the street is that your fly young wife was coming to visit a lot.

Oh yeah. She was there four times a week with my baby. It was regular visits from 9am to 3pm and on all the holidays⎯Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday. My daughter and my brother came to visit too. That made it go real fast for me.

A lot of black artists went to jail in the 60s, did you ever get locked up then?

Nah, never. This is the first time where, it wasn’t jail but it was the first time I ever been locked up somewhere where couldn’t come home.

How, after all these years, did you fall behind on tax payments?

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Dr. Dre Released From Hospital, Will Receive 24-Hour Home Care

Dr. Dre was released from L.A. Cedars Sinai Medical Center on Friday (Jan. 15), nearly two weeks after he suffered a reported brain aneurysm. Ice T confirmed the news tweeting, “Just FaceTimed with @drdre. He just made it home. Safe and looking good.”

The 55-year-old music mogul will remain under 24-hour care for the next few weeks as medical professionals continue to monitor his progress. Doctors are still unclear on what caused the aneurysm.

Dre’s hospital release comes days after new details were revealed in his divorce from estranged wife, Nicole Young. According to court documents publicized this week, Nicole accuses Dre, birth name Andre Young, of putting a gun to her head in 2000 and 2001. She also details other alleged abuse incidents in 1995 (before they were married) and in 2016, when he allegedly punched her in the face and kicked down her door.

The Grammy winner has denied Nicole’s abuse claims.

Nicole and Dre tied the knot in 1996. The pair share two adult children, Truice and Truly. Nicole filed for divorce last summer.

In addition to demanding that Dre cover her legal fees, Nicole wants the court to take the abuse allegations into account when “awarding support and fees.” Dre has already agreed to pay $500,000 of Nicole’s legal bills and $2 million in temporary spousal support.

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Cardi B Lands Leading Role In Comedy ‘Assisted Living’

Cardi B is making her way back to the big screen. The Bronx native officially landed her first leading role in the upcoming Paramount comedy, Assisted Living.

According to Variety, Cardi will play a small time crook struggling to find a hiding place after her latest heist fails. Her character, “Amber,” disguises herself as an elderly woman and hides out at her grandmother's nursing home. The film is described as a “raucous comedy” similar to Mrs. Doubtfire and Sister Act.

Paramount acquired the rights to Assisted Living in 2019. The film’s script was penned by This Is Us writer, Kay Oyegun.

Cardi, 28, made her film debut in the 2019 celeb-heavy stripper flick, Hustlers. The “WAP” rapper appears to have hinted at her Assisted Living role in a recent interview with Billboard where she dished on filming scenes for Fast & Furious 9.

“After ‘Hustlers’ I filmed a little bit for 'Fast & Furious' so I felt like ‘I’m ready for this,’ I knew what to expect,” she explained. “But the characters were a little different so I was like ‘Oh wow, I’m going to need more acting classes.’ I’m planning on doing a movie this year and I’m going to be the lead role so I’m like ‘I need to execute this flawlessly.’”

Besides film, Cardi was a judge on the Netflix completion show, Rhythm & Flow, and landed her own Facebook Watch series, Cardi Tries.

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Wendy Williams Reveals She Was Date Raped By ‘80s R&B Singer

Wendy Williams revealed that she was date raped by  ‘80s R&B singer, Sherrick, early in her radio career. The talk show host shared the story with reporters while promoting her Lifetime biopic Wendy Williams: The Movie on Tuesday (Jan. 12).

“He mesmerized me with his twinkling eyes,” she recalled. “He flipped the interview around to where he was interviewing me — I was just gaga over this man and he asked me to go to an album release party with him that night.

“Before the party, I was date raped by him,” said Williams.

Sherrick, born Lamotte Smith, was a member of the group Kagny, whose song is featured on The Last Dragon soundtrack. He signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1987 and scored a marginal hit with the single “Just Call” off his debut self-titled album. Sherrick struggled with sobriety but declared himself “drug-free” before dying of unknown causes in 1999.

Williams says that she was raped in Sherrick’s Washington D.C. hotel room and it, unfortunately, wasn’t her first time being sexually assaulted. The New Jersey native had been date raped in college. “Those types of things happen to girls all the time and they’ve been happening a lot, to a lot of our mothers, grandmothers, great-grandmothers, and their great-great-grandmothers too.”

From the sounds of it, Sherrick's widow doesn't exactly believe Williams' story. She not only questioned Williams' account but wondered why she waited so long to go public, and why she didn't call police at the time of the incident.

“As I will never minimize or dismiss the horrid actions of sexual assault, I am saddened that Ms. Williams feels the need to publicly make these allegations when the man she is accusing is no longer on this earth to defend himself,” Lynne Conner Smith said in a statement to Page Six.  “Our family does not know Ms. Williams and are not aware of any relationship or encounter they may have had.”

The sexual assault will be chronicled in the film, as well as other details from Williams' life -- like her rise to talk show fame, her battle with drug addiction, and marriage to ex-husband Kevin Hunter.

Wendy Williams: The Movie premieres on Lifetime on Jan. 30.

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