Nas Life is Good Nas Life is Good

Nas: Why Life Is Finally Good

I have a theory about this new Nas album. I believe there is a Universal Tax.

Just one day before the 2008 Presidential Election--where Barack Obama would make history--he received word that his grandmother, who raised him, died at her home in Hawaii. Similarly, just as Jamie Foxx began his award show run for the film Ray, culminating in an Academy Award for Best Actor, his grandmother (who raised him) died, never getting to see him win. He dedicated all of his awards (24 in total) to Esther Talley, whom he credits with stepping in and making sure he had the life his own mother was unable to give him.

Most recently, 2011 saw the end of what Kanye West described as the darkest period of his life--the sudden death of his mother, public breakdowns. He and Jay can joke now about the infamous "I’m a let you finish," but the actual backlash and death threats were enough to drive him to Rome and then to Japan and then finally, after he’d stewed and distracted himself enough, to Hawaii to record unarguably his finest solo effort to date: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

Yesterday, as I listened to "Bye, Baby" off of Nas' forthcoming album Life Is Good, I began to think about the Universal Tax. Buzz on the album is high. Early critiques place it amongst his finest after a long string of misses; that’s evident in the exhausted resignation of Nas’ voice as he chronicles the undoing of his marriage to Kelis. Here is a man who has nothing left which is often the perfect time to win.

Closer to home, some of my biggest personal victories only followed by my most painful losses.

In 2009, one year to the day after the death of the woman who raised me, I found myself covering my very first red carpet at the BET Awards. Michael Jackson had just suddenly died, so my minimal press room coverage was beefed up to report first hand the entertainment community’s reaction to his passing. That four hours worth of work became a working audition.

Later that year, following another familial crisis, I chose to move to New York. I hit the ground running and never looked back. I could give you dozens of other more personal examples, but the point is that I believe that the Universe requires each of us to pay our taxes. Life must take from us before it gives.

The Universal Tax is this...

Life will give you a dream and the winds to start the race, but in the midst, life is going to test you to prove how bad you really want it. In the end–after all of the blood, sweat and tears–you will know that the victory is yours to keep because you have earned it. It’s a universal theme of light and dark. Christianity defines it as good and evil, Eastern philosophy calls it the Yin and the Yang, but the basic principle is the same: without darkness, there is no light. Life is about balance and contrast, and it’s impossible to recognize, appreciate and sustain the ups if there aren't any downs.

Your darkest hour is often your greatest gift, but whether it’s what does you in or pushes you forward is solely up to you. It’s so easy in the midst of the storm to think you’ve failed. The rapper from Queensbridge had become a living meme, the phrase "smarten up, Nas" used as a cautionary tale for anyone on the downswing.

But he didn’t smarten up. He picked himself up. One of my favorite sayings is: "When the mason finally broke open the stone, he knew that it wasn’t the final blow that did it but instead all the many blows that came before it."

Nasir used the many challenges to fuel his creativity and tell the story that only he could tell. Then he had sense enough to title it Life is Good, because it is, even the parts that don’t seem like it. After a very public and bitter divorce, in which he lost half of his net worth, then a seven-figure tax lien and a daughter publicly spiraling, could it be possible that a great album–one that fans have been waiting years for–was inevitable? Perhaps, this is just the long-awaited return on his taxes.

What do we take away from this – in addition to some great music? You might be in the thick of the pack right now, there are many ahead of you and you can’t quite see how you will get to the front. Consider this the period where you pay your taxes. The race isn’t over and you never know where you’re going to place until you cross that finish line, so keep running. --JasFly (@JasFly)

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Vivica A. Fox Explains Past Hesitance Behind 'Two Can Play That Game' Script

In a new interview with Essence, actress Vivica A. Fox discussed how she initially turned down her role in Two Can Play That Game based on the script. The established entertainer said it's her mission to ensure that black people are positively portrayed onscreen, and noticed the aforementioned film's prose didn't live up to those standards.

"I think the reason why—no I know the reason why—I've been doing this for such a long time is that I fight," Fox said. "When we did Two Can Play That Game, I fought for the way we talked, walked, the way we loved each other." The Set It Off actress continued to state that she consistently declined Two Can Play That Game before signing on to play the lead role. "Because the script, when I first got it, I turned it down three times because it just wasn't a good representation of African-Americans, so I fought them on everything," she noted. "I want to make sure that the images of African-Americans are as positive and as true as they can possibly be."

In 2001, the romantic comedy debuted to fanfare, boasting an all-star cast of Morris Chestnut, Mo'Nique, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown, Gabrielle Union, Wendy Raquel Robinson, and more. Directed by Mark Brown (Barbershop, Iverson, How To Be A Player), Fox plays a career driven person named Shante Smith who navigates a curveball when her boyfriend Keith Fenton (Chestnut) cheats on her with a co-worker.

After its release, Two Can Play That Game raked in over $22 million at the box office.

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Actress Gabrielle Union attends the Being Mary Jane premiere, screening, and party on January 9, 2017 in New York City. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
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BET To Unveil Edible Billboard For 'Being Mary Jane' Wedding Finale

As Being Mary Jane comes to an end, BET is willing to offer fans a taste of what's to come in the series finale.

The network has enlisted the help of Ayesha Curry, celebrity cook and cookbook author, to create an edible billboard that also doubles as a wedding cake. The sweet treat will commemorate Mary Jane's (played by Gabrielle Union) nuptials in the two-hour series finale.

On April 20 from 1:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Brooklyn's Atlantic Terminal in New York, fans will be presented with the edible billboard. At the intersection of Ashland Place and Hanson Place, the closer Being Mary Jane enthusiasts get to the billboard the quicker they'll notice that the four-tiered wedding cake is created from individual boxes, each containing a slice of Curry's prized wedding cake.

All fans have to do is pull a box from the billboard, snap a picture for the 'Gram, take a bite and enjoy. Although lovers of the show won't be able to celebrate with Mary Jane herself, biting into a slice of her wedding cake, for free, is the next best thing.

Don't forget to tune into the series finale of Being Mary Jane on Tues. (April 23) at 8/7 c.

Also, check out what's to come on the series of Being Mary Jane below.

Save the date! 👰🏾It'll be worth the wait. Join us for the series finale of #BeingMaryJane TUES APR 23 8/7c only on @BET! pic.twitter.com/jEwkbC71OW

— #BeingMaryJane (@beingmaryjane) March 29, 2019

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The North Face

Ella Mai On The North Face's 'Explore Mode' Campaign, New Music And Living In The Moment

Ella Mai is in her own age of exploration. Her eponymous debut album scored her a platinum plaque with her breakout hit, "Boo'd Up" earning her a Grammy for Best R&B Song. But the accolades aren't driving her creative path. The arc in her compass is all about the places she's traveled, the people she's met and the lessons learned along the way.

"To be honest, personally, exploration is like growth. I feel like if you don't explore new things, whether it's going outside, meeting people or trying new food, you won't ever grow because you're just stuck in your little comfort zone which can be super scary to come out of," she tells VIBE at The North Face's Explore Mode event in New York on Monday (April 15). The singer is one of three women (including model-activist Gabrielle Richardson and chef Angela Dimayuga) who teamed up with the brand to share a message of enjoying the outside world without digital confinement and the global initiative to make Earth Day a national holiday.

The London native's urge to explore came in handy over the weekend when she performed in the brisk desert of Coachella. Inspired by artists like Rihanna and Ms. Lauryn Hill, Mai helped fans enjoy the hazy sunset as she performed hits like "Trip" and her latest No. 1 song, "Shot Clock."

"It's such a good feeling, especially when it comes to radio," she shared about her track reaching No. 1 on the airplay chart. "I wasn't even sure if people listened to the radio because people have so much access to streaming platforms, but obviously having all three of my singles from my debut album, go number one on urban radio is incredible."

That energy was brought to the Coachella stage with the festival being her biggest artistic exploration so far.

"My favorite part of the performance would have to be when I performed "Naked" and because it was dark, and I performed when the sun went down, I couldn't see how far the crowd actually went back. But during "Naked," it was such an intimate moment I asked everyone to put their lights up (phones) and when I saw how far it went back I was like, "Woah." That moment sealed it for me."

"Even there were two people in the audience, I still would've done my best," she added. "But just to see the crowd be so engaged, even if they didn't know the music, was a really good feeling. I had so much fun."

As the festival energy in Indio, Calif. continued to thrive, another rested on the streets of Los Angeles following the loss of Nipsey Hussle. With the singer having ties to those close to the rapper like DJ Mustard, she says the shift in the city was hard to ignore.

"As weird as it sounds, you felt it," she said. "Even in the weather, it was super hot and then everyone got the news and it started raining. Just a weird energy shift." As a new L.A. resident, the singer says Nipsey's influence cannot be denied.

"I feel like the energy shift went both ways; everyone was really sad, grieving and mourning but everyone feels more inspired by what he was doing that they want to go out and do something and change in their community. It's still a very touchy subject in L.A., especially the people that I'm around since they were very close to him. I think everyone is super inspired to do better and try to be more like him, which is great to see. YG's whole set at Coachella was dedicated to him, I know Khalid had a dedication to Mac Miller. Everyone is super aware of what Nipsey was trying to do and how he wanted to change the world."

Engaging in The North Face's mission to explore seemed to be in the cards for Mai. Like many of us, Mai was familiar with the brand's effective coolness factor. "I remember running home and telling my mom that I needed a Jester Backpack because my cousin had one as well, and it's similar to the other stories, I wanted to be like my older cousin (laughs) so my mom ended up getting me one." But there's also the incentive to showcase the importance of stepping away from the phone screens and into leafy green forests.

"I'm such a live-in-the-moment person," she says of her lack of identity on social media. While she might share a thought or two on social media, Mai is interested in appreciating the world around her. "I feel like everyone is so consumed about documenting the day, you don't really get to live the day. You just watch it back but I like to have the memories in my head. Of course, sometimes, I'll take out my phone but I try to live in the moment as much as possible."

Part of that mission is ensuring Earth Day is celebrated the right way. With the support of Mai, Richardson, and Dimayuga, The North Face officially launched a petition to make Earth Day a national holiday.

“The North Face is no stranger to exploration and this Earth Day we are proud to join our partners and fellow explorers in a global effort to make Earth Day a national holiday,” said Global General Manager of Lifestyle at The North Face, Tim Bantle. “We believe that when people take time to appreciate the Earth, they feel more connected to it and are more likely to protect it. Explore Mode urges us to unplug from our digital lives to connect in real life to the world, each other, and ourselves in the effort to move the world forward.”

Mai hasn't hit her all of her exploration goals just yet. "I really want to go to Indonesia or Bali," she said. "That's one of my Bucket List places I really, really, really wanna go." For her essentials, the singer knows she has to bring along a windbreaker set and of course, a jester backpack. "I think the backpack is the most important thing."

In addition to a few trips around the globe, one destination includes the studio for new music. While she hasn't had time to lock down a moment to record, the inspiration is sizzling.

"When I work in the studio, I like to be like there for a good amount of time," she explains. "I like to block off two to three weeks at a time, I don't like to go to different studios and different places, it's just a comfort thing but I'm very excited to get back cause I have a lot of talk about. I've seen so many different places and met so many new people and a lot that I didn't get to experience last year."

Learn more about The North Face's petition for Earth Day here.

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