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Remembering Nick Ashford: Solid Gold Soul

First off, my heart goes out to Nick Ashford's wife Valerie Simpson and their daughters, Nicole and Asia, as well as the host of family and friends that are near and dear to them.

I can truly state that I've been in the company of black culture's royalty when I say that the R&B duo of Ashford and Simpson allowed me to know them. I say it like that because legends of their caliber do not have the luxury of letting non-family in their circle, for however long or short the time may be.

Just last week, I was privileged enough to be a speaker to the graduating class of young ladies in the 2011 WEEN Academy program, headed by Valeisha Butterfield. The graduation was held in the same building of Grace Jones' chariot scene in Eddie Murphy's movie, Boomerrang. While walking through that area, I started to reminisce with friends about VIBE Magazine's 1997 Music Seminar finale party, which was held in the same place. Being a young budding freelance writer, fresh off intern status, I indulged in the celebrity atmosphere a bit too much. Long story short I got so drunk that my good friend from around my way, Groove, grabbed me up and threw me in a limo with him and some friends. All I remember is waking up hours later, with my mind in a haze, my shoes off and pictures of Ashford and Simpson with world greats all around me.

Photos of the long-time married couple with Bill Clinton, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones and many others, adorned the walls and sat atop the grand piano. On my way to the bathroom to freshen up I saw even more greatness, plaques for their numerous musical accomplishments and various proclamations for charity work and such were displayed.

In my foggy state I knew I was in a historic place of love and warmth. I could just feel it. It was also the first time I saw an elevator in a brownstone building. Yet knowing these incredible people through what was shown really solidified my love for the song "Solid As a Rock". Their living space was a testament to their commitment to each other and the work they produced as a union. It showed me that through hard work, creative genius and togetherness, higher heights could be reached.

Maybe two years later, I was invited to their sprawling Connecticut home for their legendary family picnic, which was around the Fourth of July. The dress code was all white and most everyone abided by the rule. The sun was blazing, the food was sizzling and the event was filled with love and music. While taking it all in, I saw Maya Angelou, sitting regally and holding court at a near-by table. She somehow was able to hold the ears of both young and old at the same time. I still marvel at that moment. Everyone wanted to get a bit of her wise words, including me. Mr. Ashford saw my interest; he introduced himself and welcomed me there. He and family also announced that this year's performance was a wild surprise. After a few hours of mingling, the stage was soon bustling with family doing every dance imaginable, in costumes mind you. Laughs were everywhere while the crowd wondered, "Where is Nick?" Just then he strolled out of nowhere in a Spiderman like outfit and ran around the area, straight clownin' the scene. Showing off his fun loving side I took cue and often do the same type of craziness when my wife and I host functions. I saw how much fun he had in letting go, regardless of his status as a Motown legend.

I won't speak on the music that he created because you'll most likely get that rundown everywhere else. But I will speak on how he would sing at the drop of a hat. He sang at his home that day and the few times I saw him at the Manhattan restaurant he owned named, Sugar Bar. He hopped on stage and did a few notes with up and coming talent and wowed the patrons, who more than likely didn't expect to witness history in motion at that moment.

Although my time with Mr. Ashford was short when we did talk, he had a profound effect on me as a man that was pure hearted and kind beyond words. And to get that feeling from people like him, you only need a moment to meet them. I've been lucky to have a little more than that. —Datwon Thomas

R.I.P. Nick Ashford

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But all that glitters isn't gold.

FYRE FRAUD, the new documentary streaming on Hulu, takes an intimate look at the scam that left thousands stranded on the island. Directed by Jenner Furst and Julia Willoughby Nason, the dark-comedy interviews whistleblowers, victims, and the convicted con-man himself, McFarland.

In a press release, Fraust and Nason said the goal isn't to make light of those who were scammed.

"Our aim was to set the stage for a strange journey into the moral abyss of our digital age, going beyond the meme to show an ecosystem of enablers, driven by profit and willing to look the other way, for their own gain.

"We draw on countless cultural references, on true crime tension, and on humor - but we did not intend to create a toothless comedy about the Fyre Festival. We hope this film can pierce our collective apathy and disrupt our own millennial peers, if only for an instant - to look at these stories for what they truly are, and to halt this algorithm before it devours us whole."

FYRE FRAUD is now streaming on Hulu.

 

 

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Dave Chappelle Isn't Sure His R. Kelly 'Chappelle Show' Skits Were Insensitive

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Director dream hampton took to Twitter during the airing of the Lifetime documentary and spoke honestly about the several celebrity men she contacted in hopes they'd speak on camera about R. Kelly and the years of sexual allegations that have shadowed him. Among them was Dave Chappelle.

The beloved comic famously made a music video entitled "Piss On You" mocking the real-life video of R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. During the Chappelle Show heyday, he used R.Kelly's legal woes as material for years.

TMZ caught with Chappelle in West Hollywood and asked him if he regretted not being featured in hampton's series and instead he dodged the question.

"Jesus Christ, I just had dinner," Chappelle said in between taking a drag of his cigarette. "I just ate. Strop bringing that motherf**ker up."

When pressed about whether or not he thinks his old skits were insensitive, the 45-year-old said "I don't know. I'd have to watch it again."

D.L. Hughley joined Chappelle for dinner and commented on R.Kelly and the forthcoming Michael Jackson documentary, Leaving Neverland, which outlines sexual assault allegations against the late singer.

"If you can be mad at R. Kelly, you should be mad at Michael Jackson," Hughley said.

 

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Andre 3000 Stars In New Space Thriller 'High Life'

A new space thriller is coming to theaters this year. Andre 3000 will star in the new film alongside Twilight's Robert Pattinson in High Life, and the first trailer looks pretty intense.

The feature focuses on a group of criminals who are coerced into a mission to travel towards a black hole to find an alternate energy source. They are also forced to undergo sexual experiments while in outer space. The 2-minute preview features Pattinson and Andre 3000 as they struggle to survive on the spaceship.

High Life originally premiered at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival in Sept. 2018. It received positive reviews from numerous film critics.

"High Life is as visually arresting as it is challenging, confounding, and ultimately rewarding - which is to say it's everything film fans expect from director Claire Denis," Rotten Tomatoes said of the film.

The film is written and directed by Claire Denis. High Life will hit theaters on Apr. 12. Watch the new trailer in the video above.

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