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VIBE Cover Story: Django Unchained

Despite the site-unseen criticism of Quentin Tarantino’s latest film rebellion, Django Unchained isn’t a blaxploitation slavery flick. Jamie Foxx, who plays a gun-slinging slave on the warpath, reunites with Kerry Washington for the epic tale, while Leonardo DiCaprio finally puts on his black hat and goes dark. Gathered at a Manhattan studio, the big three explain how they mastered the art of telling this historically hot-button story. —Erik Parker

JAMIE FOXX knows what you're thinking when you see him as a shivering slave in the trailer for his latest film, Django Unchained. This is no Roots. It's not like he didn't know his role in Quentin Tarantino's latest backslap to Hollywood conventions would confuse some and infuriate others. He's smirking atop a horse in a powder blue costume while going all badass on white folks like some Dolomite slave fantasy for goodness sake. But according to Foxx, 45, and key members of the all-star cast–Leonardo DiCaprio and Kerry Washington–they half-expected the verbal lynching.

With Django Unchained, Tarantino adapts his familiar revenge themes (Kill Bill, Inglourious Basterds) to the story of a slave gone rogue in the name of love. In this flick, the genre-splicing director tracks Django (Jamie Foxx), a slave who is recruited by a German bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who happens to be hunting the men who sold Django's wife (Kerry Washington, 35) to the most wicked of all plantation owners, Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio).

While Tarantino was awarded Screenwriter of the Year for Django by the Hollywood Film Awards in October, black Hollywood had a different take. Nate Parker (Red Tails, Red Hook Summer), who was also considered for the role of Django, called the script ‘‘upsetting.” Tyler Perry, who wrote the Madea series, raised questions about Tarantino's screenplay (more on this later). But the actors in the film, which also include Samuel L. Jackson, stuck to their guns.

‘‘I wanted to go in there and try to embody somebody and an attitude that is so foreign to me and go the distance,” says DiCaprio, 38, who had his own reservations about the language and imagery. While at the photo shoot for VIBE, the most revered actor of our time puffs neat circles of smoke from his electronic cigarette. Not look-at-me plumes. More an absentminded exercise to pass the time and focus his thoughts. ‘‘I think it took me to places I didn't even imagine,” he continued. ‘‘It really took on a life of its own.

When Foxx, DiCaprio and Washington finally sit for a chat about the film, the conversation also takes on a life of its own. Here is the story behind the story.

VIBE: Before Django was even completed, the screenplay and the trailer received criticism from black people who objected to the treatment of slavery, suggesting it is not serious. It is a spaghetti western not a heavy drama like, say, Roots or The Color Purple. Were you prepared for this type of scrutiny?

LEONARDO DICAPRIO: We knew there was going to be controversy. The question is: What is not a realistic depiction? I would argue that it is. It is Quentin's re-creation; this character doesn't exist. There's nobody that is documented to do what Jamie's character has done at the time. But the documentaries I saw went even further.

JAMIE FOXX: Put it this way: I completely understand what you're saying. 'Cause as black folks we're always sensitive. As a black person it's always racial. I come into this place to do a photo shoot and they got Ritz crackers and cheese. I'll be like, ain't this a bitch. Y'all didn't know black people was coming. What's with all this white shit? By the same token, if there is fried chicken and watermelon I'll say ain't this a bitch? So, no matter what we do as black people it's always gonna be that. Every single thing in my life is built around race. I don't necessarily speak it because you can't. But the minute I leave my house, I gotta put my other jacket on and say, ‘‘Hey, Thomas, Julian and Greg.” And I gotta be a certain person.

DICAPRIO: Thomas, Julian and Greg?

VIBE: Those are white people.

FOXX: No some of those people are black. But when I get home my other homies are like how was your day? Well, I only had to be white for at least eight hours today, [or] I only had to be white for four hours. Everything we do is that. When you're talking about the script, of course it's going to be controversy. I remember talking to Tyler Perry about it. [In Perry's very serious voice] ‘‘Ah man, the script, man. Have you read it?” When I finally read it, I called Tyler and we had a conversation. I said, ‘‘I got a different take on it than you did.” And we shared. And I called Tyler while we were shooting it. I said, ‘‘Do you know that Quentin Tarantino knows all of your shit on TV. I don't even watch all of your shit.” He said, ‘‘Really?” The difference is the Quentin Tarantino Effect. I ran into Spike Lee at the BET Awards. You know Spike, he'll let you have it whether it's good, bad or ugly. And he said, ‘‘I'm not going to say anything bad about this film. It looks like y'all are getting it

KERRY WASHINGTON: This is not a doc. This is a Quentin Tarantino film. But I remember there was this one moment in the script where Jamie's character was put in an awful crazy medieval metal mask. I said, ‘‘That's some sick thing Quentin thought up.” And when I went to the production office to meet about my wardrobe, I saw into the research office. Twenty photos of real masks like that. It made me sad. I realized as much as my degrees and everything I've read on slave narratives [should have informed me], I didn't even know that they wore masks like that, that people did that to us. It took a Tarantino movie for me to know that that's not some crazy thing out of his imagination. That's how it went down.

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Issa Rae And Kumail Nanjiani Talk Their Black And Brown Dynamic In 'The Lovebirds'

As our latest op-ed points out, black romance films are having a moment, and The Lovebirds is adding a comedic twist to the matter. Ahead of the MRC/Paramount Pictures' premiere on streaming platform Netflix, VIBE correspondent Jazzie Belle sat down with the film's lead actors Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani to discuss the refreshing black and brown dynamic between their characters.

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"When you see a portrayal of Pakistanis in American pop culture, generally, you're seeing certain lanes. You don't see us being light or funny or fun that often," said Nanjiani. "My family is very, very funny. My friends are very funny, so it wasn't even an attempt to try and show that [brown characters can be portrayed differently]. I just wanted to show how the people I know are. My mom and my dad are some of the funniest people I've ever met."

Watch the full interview above. The Lovebirds is streaming on Netflix now.

Interview's music bed provided by Gus.

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Man Who Recorded Murder Of Ahmaud Arbery Arrested

A third man has been arrested in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. William “Roddie” Bryan Jr., who recorded Arbery’s murder, was taken into custody on Thursday (May 21), the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced.

“The family is extremely relieved,” attorney S. Lee Merritt, who represents Arbery’s mother, said in response to Bryan’s arrest. “We didn’t know if this was going to happen, but we all knew that it should happen.”

Arbery was killed on Feb. 23, while out for a jog. It wasn't until two months later that his story went viral prompting an investigation by the GBI after the local D.A., who was previously over the case, declined to make any arrests.

According to jail records, 50-year-old Bryan was booked into the Glynn County Jail on charges of felony murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment. Bryan made his first court appearance on Friday (May 22) where his lawyer filed a motion for a speedy trial.

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Father and son were arrested for aggravated assault and felony murder earlier in the month. All three men are being held at the same jail.

The mugshots of Gregory and Travis McMichael, who have been charged with the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. pic.twitter.com/O0M6vPMs1Q

— Yamiche Alcindor (@Yamiche) May 8, 2020

Merrit noted that Arbery's family hopes the men will be convicted. “Well obviously we want to see the arrests lead to a formal indictment then a vigorous prosecution and conviction. But there are other people we believe were involved. We spoke with the DOJ earlier today about their investigation into the corruption that delayed these arrests in the first place.”

An attorney for the elder McMichael claimed that the pair are victims of a  “narrative driven by an incomplete set of facts.”

“While the death of Ahmaud Arbery is a tragedy, causing deep grief to his family -- a tragedy that at first appears to many to fit into a terrible pattern in American life -- this case does not fit that pattern,” attorney Frank Hogue said. “The full story, to be revealed in time, will tell the truth about this case.”

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See more on Bryan's arrest in the video below.

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Quavo Talks Earning His High School Diploma At 29

Quavo officially belongs to the class of 2020. The 29-year-old Migos rapper announced that he graduated from high school on Friday (May 22).

“Finally can say I graduated high school class of 2020,” Quavo captioned an Instagram post of himself sporting a blue cap and gown.

 

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Finally Can Say I Graduated High School Class Of 2020 We Lit 🔥 Now What College Should I Go To? 🧐 And To Celebrate We Gonna Drop SMASH TONIGHT 🔥🌊 BERKMAR HIGH NAWFSIDE BABY

A post shared by QuavoHuncho (@quavohuncho) on May 21, 2020 at 4:26pm PDT

Now that he's a high school graduate, the Georgia native is considering attending college, as he shared in an interview with Lil Wayne’s Young Money Radio alongside Migos members, Takeoff and Offset. During the talk with Tunechi, Quavo expounded on his decision to get his diploma.

“I was doing stuff for the community and schools… always involved and just me being considered like a dropout you’re not really like an alumni,” he said before explaining that one of his former high school teachers is now a principal and encouraged him to get a diploma. “He hit me up like 'you should go back and get it.' I went back and got it.”

Quavo added that Weezy was, “definitely one of my inspirations for going back to school.”

The rapper, whose birth name is, Quavious Keyate Marshall, attended Lilburn’s Berkmar High School, where he was the starting quarterback for the 2009 season. Quavo dropped out of high school in his senior year.

Peep the Migos’ Young Money interview below.

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