Bun B Hosts Redbull's Philly EmSee Battle, With Performances from Joell Ortiz, Redman, Freeway and More

VIBE caught up with Bun B, Redman, Schooly D and Joell Ortiz on Thursday (Aug. 25) at the Red Bull EmSee 2011 battle series at the Trocodero Theatre in Philly, the third stop of the eight-city tour.
 
The invitation-only event provides some of the best freestylers in the country an opportunity to compete for a chance to record in Red Bull's Los Angeles studios with a headlining producer of their choice. Winners from each city will battle for the title in Atlanta this November. Philly's Mic Stew took the crown against the last standing opposer, DNA.
 
Hosting duties went to Bun B , along side Philly rap legend Schooly D, Joell Ortiz and Redman, all of which served as judges. The City of Brotherly Love native Freeway also made a guest appearance and surprised the audience with a performance before the event ended.
 
The competition was heated as it seemed like each battler had a mini fan club in different sections of the theatre rooting them on as they approached the stage for one or more of the following rounds: Visual interpretations, Incorporating a list of given words into their rhymes, and true freestyling (no gimmick, with music and without).
 
Participating veterans in the game lightened the intense mood amongst the separated rooters in the audience, and other small mishaps (girl passes out and hops right back up, guy is removed from judges’ table for pushing his mixtape during the show). Between Bun B's smooth talking that relaxed the crowd, Schooly D's bluntness and jokes, and Redman's comical, yet genuine plea for rematches, the hip-hop lovers filling the theatre became united. --Aliya Faust
 
Check out what the four rappers had to say:
 
BUN B ON:
Being a host…
We really make sure that we touch the hip-hop culture. I try to be as impartial as possible. It's up to me to make sure that they follow the rules of the contest and to control the house. So when you come to Red Bull Emsee, you're coming to my house. Don't disrespect my house, you'll be alright…All of these guys are pretty talented. I'm just happy to be apart of the whole Emsee competition. Just to see these young emcees out here giving it up and to see that the people still love hip-hop. We had a crazy house tonight. I think that was evident.

Favorite part of Red Bull EmSee 2011…
I always loved judges. Every city has new judges. Every city that we've been to so far, there's always been a judge who we thought was just going to be more laid back, then all of a sudden these contests excite them and they really want to speak to what they see and they really want to talk about it. We've had Too Short, Corrupt, and even tonight we had Schooly D. We have been really lucky to have some very strong willed judges that ain't scared to say what they feel. And I think these artists need to hear that. We don't want to get up there and sugarcoat the game. This game is rough and they need to know that.

Upcoming projects…
I'm working on a couple of things. I'm organizing some things right now so we got a lot in the pot. Trying to get ready to start a new movement. I'm moving towards being an artist and helping set up this up-and-coming talent, move it to the next level. So I think you'll see more of Bun B the CEO as well as Bun B the artist. I'll probably drop a mixtape before the year is over just to let people know that Bun B still got it. But definitely a new album the top of the year.
 

SCHOOLY D ON:
The evolution of hip-hop…
I was taught that commercial was selling. It's the business. It's a good part and a bad part. They were saying that sh*t in 1985. I was hardcore and all [while] Heavy D and Salt-N-Pepper were making stuff to play on the radio. I think there's always going to be an element of who's going to stay hardcore and who's going to be more popular. Popular cats want to be known as artists. And the artists want to be popular. Land in the middle.
 
JOELL ORTIZ ON:
Being a judge in the competition…
It's kind of tough because these kids put everything into their dreams so we become apart of making someone's dream come true. Seeing them battle, it's really tough to tell someone, 'You lost.'  I don't like to do that. But I'm going to be fair all the time.
 
REDMAN ON:
Choosing a final winner…
First of all, DNA is nice. I've seen this n*gga battle. It was just about the last round where MIc Stew came in and his confidence made his words sound more like, 'alright I want this,' that 'I'm going for your neck,' kind of sh*t. Instead of trying to hear the hot line, he was going for your neck.

Performing overseas…
I perform a lot overseas. I bring a lot of energy. The overseas crowd appreciates hip-hop more. They have more energy and respect the culture more. I'm telling you, they can have about 1,500 people in the place just for a breakdancing contest. I've heard about some big names going over there and getting boo'd. They don't like that walking back and forth, being cool sh*t. Me and [Method Man] have been going over there since '92. We don't even have to have an album out and could do a tour like everything three months over there, just because they want to have fun.

Upcoming music…
Blackout 3 coming. Hopefully a How High II, but maybe not. Something affiliated, but under our own company—Blunt Brother Cinema. We didn't finish it up, we're still working on it.

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Trailer: 20 Years After His Death, Houston Legend DJ Screw's Life Coming To A Network Near You

There are many stories that define the emergence of styles within the world of hip-hop, yet one of the most influential tales will be told for all to be inspired by, and that story is the life of Houston's legendary Robert Earl Davis, Jr. aka DJ Screw. Known now as the innovator of the "chopped and screwed" style birthed in the 90s of slowing down the speed of hip-hop jams to that of a crawl, where the lyrics drawl out and the beats stretch and your head has no choice but to bob.

The new episodic series, titled All Screwed Up, is directed by producer/filmmaker Isaac "Chill" Yowman and is based on the life of DJ Screw and the happenings of his Screwed Up Click label. The trailer shows the many dramatic points in the young Screw's journey to recognition. From crosstown rivals to police harassment, to building a music empire around talented gangstas, the situations he pushed through created the sound that proved to live on beyond his life.

2020 makes 20 years since Screw passed on from what was labeled a codeine overdose in his studio. There are still street stories about what happened to Screw and all the possibilities, but what is for sure is this man's contributions to hip-hop culture can't be denied. His handprint is all over the slowed down and chopped up productions that permeate all of today's top-charting artists from Drake, to Kendrick, to Future to Travis Scott to name a few.

Watch the trailer above and be on the lookout for the network that will carry this sure-fire hit of a series. In the meantime, check out one of Screw's original tapes with his Screwed Up Click below.

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‘Bad Boys 4’ Is Reportedly In The Works

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith are reportedly returning for another installment of the Bad Boys franchise. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Bad Boy’s 4 is already in the works.

Bad Boys for Life script writer Chris Bremner will return for Bad Boy’s 4, the outlet reported on Friday (Jan. 17). No word yet on when the film will be released, but fans can expect a much shorter wait than the 17-year gap between Bad Boy’s 2 and Bad Boys for Life. The film was delayed due to script issues.

“I just didn’t want to wreck the franchise,” Smith told Elliott Wilson during a CRWN interview last month. Lawrence echoed his words in an interview with GQ magazine.

“The script wasn’t right. And Will, to his credit, refused to do the movie until the script was right. It wouldn’t have been a good movie. We dint’ want that. We wanted to do a sequel where people would go, ‘Oh man, that’s what I’m talking about. It just get better.’”

Bad Boy’s for Life opened on Friday and is expected to bring in more than $67 million in its debut weekend.

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Review: 'Bad Boys For Life' Proves To Be A Promising Crowd-Pleasing Throwback

“We ride together, we die together” never really made that much sense as a slogan, did it? Regardless, the line that epitomized the appeal of Bad Boys, the uber-violent action buddy cop franchise that turned Martin Lawrence and Will Smith into movie stars back in the mid-90s. Smith and Lawrence– now fiftysomethings– are back for a third go-round with surprising and enjoyable new tricks.

In 2003, the eight years between Bad Boys seemed like an eternity. But there’s been seventeen years between Bad Boys II and Bad Boys For Life—the former hit theaters before an iPhone ever existed, just as the so-called War On Terror was hitting full swing and a wide-eyed Beyonce embarked on a nascent solo career. If the buddy cop genre was on life support in the early 2000s, the formula is almost completely post-mortem in 2020; most buddy cop flicks in more recent times have been subversive spoofs (like 2010s The Other Guys) or unfunny one-offs (like the forgettable CHiPs).

This time around, Mike Lowry (Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Lawrence) face the realities of middle age. Burnett is happy to waltz into retirement and into “Papa” territory, exhausted from chasing kingpins. Lowry, on the other hand, is ever more of an adrenaline junkie than in the past; addicted to the thrill and holding on to a “bulletproof” playboy image that’s getting sadder and sadder—particularly when he’s forced to admit he wrecked a promising relationship with fellow officer Rita (Paola Nunez) and every time he peppers his bravado with Millennial-speak like “Turn up” and “One Hunnid.”

Lowry’s disappointment in Burnett’s desire to leave the force turns into something harsher after a shooting forces Mike to take stock and Marcus distances himself from his old partner. Of course, this is all just a set up for the duo to reconnect in the face of tragedy—along with a gaggle of new recruits led by Rita; including a computer geek who may or may not be a killing machine, a young tough guy who hates Lowry for apparently no reason, and Vanessa Hudgens.

Bad Boys For Life has more heart than the lunkheaded Bad Boys II, directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Ballah don’t forego the departed Michael Bay’s formula for punchlines and hyperkinetic violence; there’s an opening knife sequence that’s almost gratuitously graphic, and an action set-piece on a bridge that may be the most ambitious in the series. There’s only a passing mention of Burnett’s sister (played by Gabrielle Union in the previous film) and an obligatory callback to II’s funniest moment involving his daughter, but a lot of the movie’s emotional core sits with Smith’s Mike Lowry. Smith plays his first action star with an almost meta-level of intensity.

He’s the sum of all Will Smith’s Will Smithiness in one character and gets to play with the idea of Lowry’s machismo persona. Together with the recognition that Lawrence isn’t really an action star (the film smartly turns his affinity for sitting and watching as Smith jumps headfirst into heroics into a running gag), it’s a good turn for the characters and helps elevate the second half of the movie after a somewhat rote first half.

As the film’s “big bad,” Telenovela action star Kate del Castillo isn’t given a whole lot to do, nor is Jacob Scipio as Armas, as her son and steely hitman, who is on the hunt for Lowry. Reliably familiar support from Theresa Randle as Burnett’s long-suffering wife and Joe Pantoliano as the perpetually-flustered police captain Conrad Howard reminds everyone that this is a Bad Boys flick, and the actors clearly relish jumping back into their long-standing roles.

But these films always work best when Smith and Lawrence get to quip lines back-and-forth while dodging bullets, and the easy partnership between the two remains intact, even when the film lags under its own clichés or the sentiment borders on silly. There’s a twist that feels especially contrived and so many self-referential moments where Marcus and Mike seem to almost know that they’re in a movie about Marcus and Mike (who say “Bad boys for life” as a wedding toast, really?), but there’s a breeziness to the proceedings that feels more in line with the easy fun of the 1995 original—as opposed to the frenetically hyperactive feel of its sequel.

Anyone who is excited to see Bad Boys For Life wants to go into it for what these movies have always managed to give their fans; just enough comedy sprinkled with just enough to story to justify eye-popping action sequences and RoboCop-levels of bloodshed. The buddy cop genre was always predictable, but the best of it—classics like Lethal Weapon, Beverly Hills Cop and, yes, the first Bad Boys film—has always been a fun night at the movies.

In that regard, Bad Boys For Life doesn’t disappoint. It’s coasting on the easygoing partnership of Smith and Lawrence, as it always has. 25 years ago, they were two of the biggest stars on television, making a somewhat unlikely leap to action stardom in a movie initially written for then-Saturday Night Live comedians Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz that was being directed by a guy most people had never heard of. We may be a vastly different audience today than we were in the 1990s or 2000s, but there’s some fun in watching how different Mike and Marcus are too.

Franchises like Rush Hour and Lethal Weapon seem like big blockbuster brands of yesteryear, as a whole generation of moviegoers have grown up with vast comic book spectacles or rapid-chase car flicks overpopulated with musclebound tough guys. As such, Bad Boys For Life stands as a sort of throwback in popcorn entertainment; that reliable action-comedy that coasts on the chemistry and charisma of its leads—more so than otherworldly special effects or universe-building.

The constant mentions of “One last time” statements remind the audience that this could be the final go-round for Mike and Marcus. Big box office returns can reroute retirements, but if this is indeed the grand finale for Bad Boys, there are worse ways to go out. In a world where Lethal Weapon 4 and Rush Hour 3 exist (with talk of another in the Chris Tucker/Jackie Chan series coming down the pike), Bad Boys For Life should be praised for what it does manage to do so well. It’s fun, violent escapism that doesn’t ask too much of anyone. And sometimes that’s really all we need these movies to be.

Bad Boys For Life opens in theaters Friday, January 17.

Director(s): Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah Starring: Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Jacob Scipio, Alexander Ludwig, Kate del Castillo, Joe Pantoliano, Charles Melton, Paola Núñez, Nicky Jam, DJ Khaled.

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