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Gangstas Don't Die, They Write Books: Maino's Little Bro Chats New Book, Becoming An Author

For Brooklyn natives Maino and Mouse, hustling hard is all they know. Hip-hop heads are familiar with Maino’s music but younger brother Mouse is working on his grind in the literary world. Mouse, who is also a rapper, decided that he wanted to make a living by applying his hip-hop and street acumen to books. While in prison, he wrote and studied the publishing business so that he could set up a new career upon his release.

Mouse wrote fervently, which resulted in the creation of Gangsta’s Don’t Die, the first book from his company, Hustle Hard Publishing. VIBE caught up with the young entrepreneur to talk about his fledgling company and why hip-hop and books mix. —Starrene Rhett

What was your inspiration for starting Hustle Hard Publishing and how was the journey to getting it off the ground?

The real reason I started it is because after I wrote the book, it was like what do I do from here? I was locked up when I originally wrote it and I had already studied how the market was, how the game was. I didn’t feel like giving my book up for a price was feasible for me. I felt like if I just sold my book to one of the publishing companies and put it out then it wouldn’t have the life span that I knew it could have, so I figured let me create my own situation that could work for me. It’s been a long journey. This is a whole different avenue for me. With this avenue, your follow up game has to be strong. You set up meetings with these bookstores and wait for them to call back and they don’t call back so you gotta go and search them out it’s a real grind.

You’re also rapper as well so why didn’t you go the same route as your brother?

Either way, rapping or writing a book–that’s my thoughts coming out so it didn’t really matter. It’s like my brother’s a rapper and in the hip-hop game it’s a little harder to come behind a sibling so I went through another lane that was open for me that no one was doing. I still do my rapping though. You’re gonna hear my thoughts whether it be a book or my beats, it’s just me expressing myself out here so I’m gonna be doing both.

How has becoming an author instead of a rapper impacted your life?

Being an author is some good shit to be out here! [Laughs] I say I write books and I get a whole different look as opposed to saying I rap. That’s a whole different look and it opened up a whole lot of doors for me. I’m going today to meet with someone who writes plays on Broadway. They want me to help them out. It opened up a lot of doors. A lot of people want me to f--k with them on some different shit. I’m about to start writing screenplays once I see the format.

What’s the book about?

I can’t give too much away. If you look at the back of the book, I don’t even have a synopsis on there. I leave you clueless because with the book name itself, Gangsta’s Don’t Die, you gotta figure out why I’m saying that. Yeah gangstas die but the terminology, the persona never dies. It’s always gonna be some type of gangstas out here but the book is based on relationships. It’s a relationship about a mother and a son, a relationship among friends and a relationship between a man and a woman. It takes place in an urban setting so you get to see everything else that’s going on but it’s just a book about relationships and how these relationships get tested. It’s a real deep book. It’s almost like a cautionary tale without me saying it.

The title actually sounds like a movie.

That’s the next step, that’s what I’m doing right now. I shot a two-minute movie trailer for the book. Everybody thought it was a movie when they seen the trailer. Not too many people are doing commercials for their books. We kinda set up. I got some sales. I’m making a little bit of money off this. I just feel like this whole process is promotions. We’re not even gonna kick into the next gear until after the summer. I got NY locked down but I gotta get into these other states. Barnes and Noble is not really the bookstore that caters to us. they’ll put us on their website but it’s a hard time getting us into their stores.

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Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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Wendy Williams Postpones Show Return Due To “Complications” From Graves’ Disease

Wendy Williams is promising to get back to The Wendy Williams Show by the end of January, after delaying her return two previous times.

Williams announced another extended hiatus from her talk show as she continues recovering from a shoulder injury and recent “complications” brought on by Graves' disease, according to a statement posted to the show’s Instagram account Friday (Jan. 18).

“Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment,” reads the statement. “Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being.

“Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time.”

The statement included a message of support from Debmar-Mercury, the company that syndicates The Wendy Williams Show. “We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready.”

Williams will return with new episodes the week of Jan. 28.

 

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A Note from The Hunter Family As Wendy Williams Hunter previously shared, she fractured her shoulder and has been on the mend. Over the past few days, Wendy has experienced complications regarding her Graves’ Disease that will require treatment. Wendy will be under the strict supervision of her physicians, and as part of her care, there will be significant time spent in the hospital. Despite her strong desire to return, she is taking a necessary, extended break from her show to focus on her personal and physical well-being. Wendy thanks everyone in advance for their well-wishes and for respecting her and The Hunter Family's privacy during this time. Statement from Debmar-Mercury For over ten years, Wendy has been a vital part of the Debmar-Mercury family. We wholeheartedly support Wendy in this decision to take the time she needs and we will welcome her back with open arms the moment she is ready. The Wendy Williams Show will air repeat episodes the week of January 21st and will produce original episodes with a variety of hosts starting the week of January 28th.

A post shared by Wendy Williams (@wendyshow) on Jan 18, 2019 at 9:34am PST

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