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Vixen Initiation: Essence Rap Diva Demands Her Own Spot In The Game

Business-savvy vixen Essence isn't just coming for her spot next to regining rap veterans, she's making it known that it's already her time. With her first EP, Fame On, dropping in a few months, the Connecticut-bred, self-proclaimed diva is steadily building her own empire, De Essence Entertainment, LLC, and building with heavy hitters in the music biz. Since penning her first rhymes at 14 years old, the business owner never let up on lyrical growth or deserted her passion for music leading her to where she is today. Without further ado, VIBE Vixen would like to introduce the "Unorthodox" emcee who discussed her trek into the music biz, why relationships aren't on her grind radar and her upcoming music projects. -Niki McGloster

Who is Essence Rap Diva?
When I started I was really hardcore, just going at the rapping really hard lyrically. As an artist, I’m really organic, I’m original, I have a fusion sound now with my sound and my voice. I’m just that female artist all around that makes the music relating especially to females in all aspects of our lives, so you’re going to be able to relate to my music whether you’re sad, happy, making money, just an all around female movement. I can even call myself Rap Diva because I grew into myself, I found my femininity and I believe that as female rappers, we can still be feminine and sexy and have that elegance to us.

You’re an attractive emcee. Do you think that takes away from people paying attention to your raps, and how do you balance the two?
It’s very evident that sex sells in the entertainment biz, but I think my music speaks for itself. There’s content in my music, but at the same time I’m a female and I’m comfortable in my skin, you know. We all want to feel sexy, so I feel there’s an equal balance in my whole image.

Well since we’re talking heavily about women, what’s your opinion on the state of female emcees as a whole, and, of course, the female artist in the forefront right now, Nicki MInaj?
With Nicki Minaj, I feel like she’s opened the lanes back up for female rappers period. She’s got her own thing going on, her versatility, her personalities going and just her whole fashion statement, so I think she’s doing her and that’s a great thing. She’s on the highway and there’s so many lanes, and that’s when I’m coming in and picking whichever lane I want to go in. As far as female emcees, people don’t realize how many female emcees [are out there]. I just hosted The Female Of The Rap Game Vol. 7, an underground mix CD, and when I actually sat down and listened to all the female rappers, everybody had talent. Lyrically, content… it was ridiculous. I had to vouch for the CD, and I was really happy that I did it. I mean, one or two needed a little work, I’m not gonna lie. It wasn’t one hundred percent perfect, but the talent that’s out there... I remember Lil’ Mama being in one of the cyphers that we did and there was so much talent from everywhere. New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and there’s a lot of female emcees out there. I think gradually it’s going to become a bigger category in the industry, especially when I’m around because I definitely want to make some type of unity and put female rappers together.

As far as being a female emcee, do you want to get into the game and supersede that title? For interview purposes and to explain who someone is you have to tag it “female rapper”, but when you label someone as that, others believe that it is inferior to or less than a male emcee. What are you thoughts?
I definitely feel like my delivery and my rhymes represent me and are strong enough to hold me. I feel like us as women, we can definitely hold our spot at the top next to these males rappers. I don’t necessarily want to depend too much on that lyrical strength like that because, yes, I hold it, but I’m very versatile. If it’s one of those tracks where I’m laid back, I’m just laid back on the track. That’s one thing I want the fans to know; I have many layers to me as an artist. I’ve grown to just want to make records, songs and a variety of songs that will just touch other people.

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Jordan Peele’s ‘Us’ Is Expected To Make $64 Million Opening Weekend

Thanks to Us, Jordan Peele has another blockbuster on his hands. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the highly-anticipated horror flick starring Lupita Nyong’o, Winston Duke, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Evan Alex, is expected to have a $64 million opening weekend at the domestic box office.

Peele’s sophomore horror film earned an impressive $7.4 million on Thursday (March 21) night previews, and is forecasted to take in about $27 million from Friday sales. The film is also on pace to knock Captain Marvel out of the No. 1 spot at the box office.

Once final numbers are tallied, Us will likely snatch the third-best opening weekend record for an R-rated horror film behind It, which brought in a whopping $123.4 million, followed by Halloween’s $76.2 million opening weekend last year.

Aside from rave reviews and a genius promo run that included simultaneous screenings in major media markets, Us earned a 95 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The film, set in the mid-1980s centers around a family of four who set off on a vacation that finds them confronting some familiar faces.

Peele recently spoke to VIBE about casting Duke (our April 2019 cover star) in the role of patriarch, Gabe Wilson. “I have to have somebody voice what the audience was saying,” he said. “In the case of Get Out, it’s Rod, like, ‘How have you not left yet?’ [In Us], Winston is largely that voice. There’s one moment where Lupita [Nyong’o] takes a step into the unknown, where black people [will think], ‘I don’t know.’ But to have Winston say, ‘Aaaand she left. Your mother just walked out of the car.’ That’s all we need.”

Duke also opened up about the intricacies of his character. “His function isn’t to see through the veil. His function is to tell the absolute truth how he sees it,” explained the 32-year-old actor. “He’s sometimes there to say the things that other people don’t want to say, but he’s also there to make fun of things to keep it from not getting too heavy, even though it’s real. That was my job. [Peele] respected that. I like to lean into functions. If I’m going to be your antagonist, I’m gonna really push you. If I’m gonna be your clown, funny guy, I’m gonna do that.”

Click here to read VIBE’s April 2019 cover story.

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Cardi B Explains Why She Wants To Trademark “Okurrr”

Cardi B hopes to secure as many “bags” as possible. In response to backlash and burning questions surrounding her decision to file to trademark “okurrr,” the 26-year-old rapper took to social media Friday (March 22) to defend her latest money move.

Since people tend to ask Bardi to use what has become her signature catch phrase, she figured that it was time to cash in. “You think I ain’t gonna’ profit off this sh*t? B*tch white folks do it all the motherf**king time,” she said. “So you gon’ be mad at me ‘cuz I want to get some motherf**king money?

“While I’m still hear I’ma secure all the fucking bags,” Cardi continued before adding that there are a “lot of ways to get rich” in 2019.

The Bronx native caught heat for wanting to trademark the word because she wasn’t the first to say “okurrr.” Cardi already revealed that she started using it after she heard Khloe Kardashian saying it, but the word was originally popularized in drag culture -- most notably by Rupaul’s Drage Race contestant Laganja Estranja, in 2014.

However, Rupaul attributed the word to Broadway actress, Laura Bell Bundy, who used it in YouTube skits dating back to 2010. In the skits, Bundy pretends to be a hairdresser named “Shocantelle Brown.”

Although Bundy caught criticism for her little character, which was deemed racist, she typically gets credit for bringing “okrrr” (different spelling) to the internet a full decade before Cardi made it mainstream.

No matter the origin, it looks like Cardi will be the only one profiting off of “okurrr.”


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#CardiB on why she decided to trademark “Okurr”

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Kanye West, EMI Working Towards Private Settlement

Kanye West and EMI could be close to settling their legal drama. Each party filed documents requesting a stay of the case to “explore the potential for a resolution,” The Blast reports.

West sued EMI in an effort to “gain freedom” from his contract, and to own his publishing. In the lawsuit, ‘Ye argued that his contract ended in 2010 under California law, which bars entertainers from being tethered to an agreement for more than seven years. The multi-Grammy winner, who signed the deal back in 2003, also accused the company of slavery because the contract doesn’t allow him to retire.

“Even if the contract were not lopsided in EMI’s favor (it is), even if its terms valued Mr. West’s artistic contributions in line with the spectacular success he has achieved for EMI (they do not), and even if EMI had not underpaid Mr. West what it owes him (EMI has), he would be entitled to be set free from its bonds,” the lawsuit reads.

EMI hit back with a countersuit filed in New York, instead of California. The suit pointed out that the 41-year-old rapper signed multiple contract extensions, in addition to accepting millions in advances.

According to The Blast, West and EMI now feel that putting a hold on the legal proceedings will be beneficial to both sides “and the Court by enabling the parties to engage in meaningful discussions in an attempt to resolve this action without having to incur the burden and expense of litigation and motion practice.”

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