rakim

Rakim Talks Kanye's Influence on Hip-Hop: "You've Got To Appreciate An Artist That's Really Outspoken"

One could call it an honor when a rap legend such as Rakim expresses respect for your craft, and that’s exactly what happened to Kanye in a recent interview with The Atlantic’s David Samuels. The outlet had the opportunity to chat with Rakim about the evolution of hip-hop and more, and he had positive things to say about Chi-Town’s rebel. Check some excerpts below. ­—Stephanie Long

On what separates Kanye from Jay-Z and Nas:

“I love Kanye for that. Being a producer, making beats, and being a rapper. He does it all. Now, sometimes somebody can give you a credible track. But when you're searching for records or samples, only you know in your mind, in your intuition or your first instincts, what you need. When you hear that record, there's no denying it—‘Oh my God, I've got to sample this.’ And he has that situation where he's lucky enough to love rhyming but can make his own beats, and that's like the perfect match. When he plays a record, his mind is on it right away.

So, being able to do that and the way he does it, Kanye is not afraid to reach. If you listen to his work, he did a lot of different type of music. He is not scared to just go where the track takes him. Like, ‘Jesus Walks’ is one of my favorite Kanye songs. To this day, that song comes on, and I want to turn it all the way up. I don't want nobody to talk to me. I just want to enjoy that track, you know what I mean? A lot of tracks he does, he's not afraid to go out the box where a lot of rappers might say, ‘Oh, I'mma do my 16 bars.’ Kanye just does whatever the track tells him to do—and that comes from being a rapper and being a producer at the same time.”

On the intensity Kanye brings to hip-hop:

“At the end of the day, you've really got to appreciate an artist that's really outspoken and feels like his music can change the world. Don't even go to the studio if you don't think that your music's going to do something. You're wasting your time and my time.

You feel that in the award shows stuff where Kanye has these episodes, right? It's because he's passionate. If a lot of us don't take it that serious, then it's not going to be serious no more. People say, ‘That was his opinion, but he was so passionate about it,’ like that's bad. You've got to say, ‘Well, really?’ We need that. We need the media to know that some of us are really passionate about music.”

On what Kanye is doing as an artist:

“So I guess Kanye is living, like you said, the good life. The same amount of B.S.—being an entertainer and being a rap entertainer, there is much good stuff that comes, but sometimes the negativity comes right along with it.

Kanye is living both sides and realizing, ‘Shit, I love that new car that just got out.’ At the same time, ‘I've got a headache,’ you know what I mean? So, it's both sides of the coin. And Kanye lives hard. He wants to be in control of the moment.

I think he's maturing, and I think he wants other people to see it, too. That kind of helps explain Kanye. I kind of hear in his rhymes. He's living hard, and he's maturing now, and I think he's seeing both sides of the fence. We need a few more Kanyes, people that's really passionate about hip-hop and who keep it alive.”

 

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Drew Botchery/Night After Night

Martell And BET Team Up With Quavo For NBA All-Star Weekend

For the first time since 1988, the NBA All-Star game invaded the winter solstice of Chicago. With the influx of athletes, celebrities, and socialites, several brands took advantage of the opportunity to create various events throughout the city. Amongst the high activity, Martell produced a four-day experience for guests to enjoy. One being in partnership with BET on Saturday night (Feb. 15), with a live performance by Quavo.

“Martell is all about making a statement and pushing boundaries,” Quavo shared. “If you’re looking to have a good time, then the Martell x BET H.O.M.E. is where it’s at. It’s all about drinking Blue and celebrating with the friends and athletes.”

The H.O.M.E. by Martell x BET Experience included interactive activities in the city’s West Loop neighborhood. The day kicked off with a six-part live podcast series featuring Kenyon Martin, Nick Storm, Sarunas Jackson, Nick Young, DJ Whoo Kid, Shaheem Reid and Robiiiworld. Each episode also included special guests Terrence J, Lala, Jadakiss, and many more.

“It’s always a privilege to be able to work with brands that not only build out dope experiences and throw parties, but care to create content and conversation around the culture and things that matter,” said Hustle Simmons, Culture Manager, Martell.

Later into the evening was the highly anticipated Grits & Biscuits function with a special performance by Quavo. Hundreds of patrons gathered outside the venue, standing parallel beneath the famed CTA Lake Street rails, as the trains and cold winds blew past. Once inside, guests were warmly greeted by the vibes of a live DJ, complementary Martell cocktails and gourmet popcorn. The layout included a built out Celebrity Freestyle Booth, which featured a 10’ x 10’ monitor with explosive visuals illuminating the room. There was also an open-air photo booth set, which included a basketball rim, Martell jersey and basketball rack, perfect for solo and large group photo opportunities.

Around midnight, as the crowd imbibed, collectively harmonizing and dancing at the mercy of Grits and Biscuits DJ’s Alzo Slade and Maurice Slade, DJ Durel was on deck preparing to transition the night over to Quavo. In addition to performing some of his and Migos’ highly acclaimed hit songs, “Narcos,” “Ice Tray,” and “Bad and Boujee,” Quavo also incorporated their newest single “Give No Fxk” featuring Travis Scott and Young Thug. The single was released on February 13 with a music video that has already raked in more than 5.1 million views.

Indeed, Quavo is multi-talented beyond his musical gifts. Quavo has an ongoing partnership with Martell as an ambassador and example of boldly following his dreams. “I’ve partnered with Martell because we’re both leaders in our fields. We’re innovators,” stated Quavo. He has also starred in the past three NBA Celebrity All-Star games as one of the leading scorers, and even won MVP during his celebrity-game debut in 2018.

For more information and upcoming events, visit Martell and BET.

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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - FEBRUARY 15: Designer Don C attends The American Express Experience at NBA All-Star Weekend 2020 on February 15, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois
Barry Brecheisen/Getty Images for American Express

Don C Discusses Exclusive Sneaker With American Express And How Chicago Informs His Designs

NBA All-Star weekend returned to Chicago for the first time in more than 30 years. In celebration of the exciting festivities making its way back to the Windy City (Feb. 14-16), American Express teamed up with Chicago designer, Don C, to launch a limited-edition sneaker. The Nike Air Force 1 Hi Just Don pays homage to his Chicago roots with the “Amex Blue” custom sneaker resembling the blue and red found on the city’s flag. The blue appears on the smooth leather on the uppers while a tumbled blue leather is on the strap. Hints of red can be found on different areas of the shoe, including the Just Don heel branding.

To commemorate the sneaker’s release and the unique collaboration, Don C sat down for an intimate chat with former SportsCenter host Cari Champion. During the American Express Experience complete with an exclusive menu and cocktails, Don C expressed his excitement around sneaker life reaching the point of doing collaborations with a major brand such as American Express and big businesses respecting and recognizing the work of small businesses. A small group of about 150 guests also learned more about his streetwear background and how his upbringing in Chicago played a major part in his work, especially his latest sneaker.

Don C first began his streetwear brand and store, RSVP Gallery, with fellow Chicago designer Virgil Abloh (Louis Vuitton’s Men’s Artistic Director) 10 years ago. The brand’s apparel was based on the designers’ experiences while traveling the world alongside Kanye West. They wanted to give back to their city and offer Chicagoans a taste of what they were exposed to in other parts of the world. Through the power of social media and “community members” as he considers his customers, the brand has grown tremendously through the years and is a staple in the Chicago area.

Then, in 2017, Don C was tapped by Nike to design a luxury limited-edition sneaker for the brand’s Air Force 1 35th anniversary. He gave a nod to the Buck 50 hats, a popular accessory in Chicago, with the Just Don x Nike Air Force 1’s touches of gold hardware and snakeskin. Since that time, Don C has collaborated with Nike on other designs including the Air Jordan 1, but he has returned to the iconic Air Force design with the latest offering, once again taking inspiration from Air Force 2 and 3, since in his words “the 1 gets enough shine.”

The Nike Air Force 1 Hi Just Don, which retails for $200, were available exclusively online to American Express Card Members on Thursday (Feb. 13), and sold out in just three minutes.

 

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To celebrate @nbaallstar weekend, I’ve collaborated with @americanexpress to present this limited edition Nike Air Force 1 Hi 🥶 - Growing up in Chicago, basketball has always been a huge part of my life so I’m excited the sports biggest weekend is back in my City! #nbaallstar #amexambassador

A post shared by DC2 (@chicagodonc) on Feb 13, 2020 at 11:01am PST

With the success of his sneaker partnerships, he continues to focus on building up the Just Don brand and dropping more exclusive apparel and sneakers for “community members” to love and enjoy. Sports, style, heritage, and good principles are his current focus areas as he works to bring exclusivity to the community and make the community feel special. When asked what’s on the horizon, he said “using the growth that I’ve learned from entities bigger than my own to apply to my own organization and growing my organization to an entity as big as American Express.”

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Multi-platinum rapper and entrepreneur Pusha-T partners with Courvoisier Cognac and performs during Maison Courvoisier on Saturday, February 15, 2020. Maison Courvoisier is an immersive luxury experience that pays homage to the brand’s Chateau in France and showcases the power of shared success by partnering with talent at the top of their game to spotlight their favorite artists in the areas of fashion and art.
Jeff Schear

Pusha T And Courvoisier Welcome Chicago To Maison Courvoisier Experience

As the festivities from the bitterly cold 2020 NBA All-Star Weekend in Chicago brought nearly the whole Midwest and beyond to the city, Courvoisier Cognac left everyone with a glowing warmth as strong and hearty as the liquor itself this past Saturday, Feb. 15 at the Morgan MFG. The esteemed brand opened the gates to its Maison Courvoisier Experience with Pusha T, featuring the artwork and fashion of Rhuigi Villasenor and Al-Baseer Holly, with surprise sets from Gunna and Tory Lanez.

For Push, teaming up with Courvoisier is all about staying true to their sacred moral codes, as he embraced their story of how the brand continued to prosper over the many years.

“We’re sticking to the mantra ‘honor your code’ and we’re living by that. It’s amazing to be partners with Courvoisier,” said Push.

The drip from meticulously crafted scenery falls as soon as you enter the make-shift liquor mansion. Between the walls of the rustic yet elegant area, the guests were treated to Al-Baseer’s colorful and eclectic interactive art gallery, Rhuigi’s fashion display, and a mini-tour of the private stock room with a tasting of one of their exclusive blends. Chicago’s own DJ Sean Mac soundtracked the night as the crowd drank barrels of Courvoisier VSOP and their special cocktails, the “King Push” and the Courvoisier French 79, all while snapping flicks at the high-end photo booths.

Meanwhile, the man of the hour, Pusha T blended into the crowd in his all-black attire. He spent part of the evening giving the media a quick tour of both exhibits and taking photos with Rhuigi and Al-Baseer.

After Sean Mac practically turned the building into the club scene from New Jack City with his fully loaded 90s set, the majority Black female crowd flocked to the front of the stage for King Push. Straight out the gate, he had the whole crowd screaming the lyrics of “If You Know You Know” word for word and continued with other deep cuts from his Grammy-nominated album Daytona.

Throughout the show, Push gave the Chicago crowd plenty of musical treats to go with their drinks, starting with his classic verses from Kanye’s “Devil in A New Dress”, “So Appalled”, and “New God Flow” from Cruel Summer, along with more Windy City love like his verse from Yeezy’s “Mercy” and his earth-shaking closer, his 16 from Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” remix. And he kept his foot on the crowd’s neck as he took the room back to ’02 with the Clipse’s claim-to-fame hit, “Grindin.”

Before Pusha T would close the show, he brought out Gunna, to the surprise of the packed and semi-drunken room. Moving off the crowd's warm vibes, Gunna kept a hot hand all night as he rocked the stage with hits like “Speed It Up”, “Hot”, “Oh Okay”, and shut it down with “Drip Too Hard”. The crowd ate it up while he periodically took selfies with fans in front of the stage and rapped some of his verses on a few of their respective Instagram Lives.

After Sean Mac tempered the crowd from another set, an unexpected Tory Lanez ran on stage to “Broke In A Minute” with a hot crowd, and, to his own admission, he was drunk AF on stage. He became a livewire, gyrating to “Talk To Me” and doing tongue-in-cheek call and responses. “If you got an STD then throw your hands up! All their hands mean some of yall lying,” he said in jest.

As the electrifying Lanez spent the whole show singing and getting to know his front row of ladies through singing to them and on their phones, he blew the roof off, wrapping up his set with the fiery “K Oh K”.

Before he hopped on stage, VIBE had a quick word with Pusha T inside the green room during the party and spoke with him about his collaboration with Courvoisier, sharing his love for fashion with Rhuigi Villasenor, and what stands out to him about Chicago’s culture and fashion.

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You’ve been a huge fan of Courvoisier for a long time. What drew you to the brand?

The heritage, man. The heritage, the whole story behind it, the whole idea of shared success and how the brand was birthed by pulling up one another. I see similarities in that and just how I look at life and where I am in music and how I can pull up the next future MCs and the next artists in general.

Or even how you and your brother [No Malice] were able to pull each other up over the years.

Brother, friends, family, everybody. Each one, teach one, that’s what it’s all about.

For decades, Courvoisier has been celebrated throughout hip-hop in songs and beyond. How has it been able to remain such a long-lasting staple in hip-hop?

I think hip-hop is drawn to heritage and things that are luxury. It has a luxury aesthetic to it. The taste level is up there, and I feel like hip-hop is drawn to those things.

What are the common threads that bond you and Rhuigi together, considering your passion for fashion?

I think our love for fashion, him being technically great at it and me just looking at it from afar. Me seeing his rise, him being—I own three stores, so I have my employees clamor over his stuff and I’m like, ‘okay, we gotta get this stuff in here.’ Just watching that fanfare.

How did he change your perspective on fashion, if he did in any way?

My perspective on fashion has always been the same in regard to music and fashion, just that whole fusion. All of my favorite rappers were always fresh, they were always fly. [Big Daddy] Kane, Slick Rick, everybody was always—I always saw it as one. I had to want to be like you in every aspect, not just rap like you.

Since you’re in Chicago during All-Star Weekend, what are some takeaways you got from the city’s fashion scene?

I have to say that there are a lot of trendsetters here. A lot of trendsetters here from Don C to Virgil [Abloh]. Even with ‘Ye, I see—watching them progress in fashion I will say that it’s really dope to watch them still learning and trying to learn. I think their hard work and ability and love of fashion is paying off.

Lastly, what’s something amazing from Chicago that you’ve seen since you’ve been here that you didn’t expect?

Well, I’m from Virginia and when I got here, I didn’t know house music was as big as it was here.

You didn’t know that?!

I did not know! This is the Midwest to us. Until I started coming here as an artist in traveling, that’s when I learned it was a part of your culture.

Since then, who are some of your favorites you may have picked up on?

No, I’ve never known. I’ve never known. Ever [laughs]! I just always knew it was a dance thing where we’re from. And I didn’t know when I came out here that house is like a lifestyle. [In Virginia,] you’ll have a house [music] set at a party, that’s cool. Here you have whole house clubs [laughs]. Things like that.

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