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V-Exclusive - Music Rising Star Ben Moon Q&A + Stream New Music

An artist on both the canvas and records, Ben Moon has a vision and message he wants to share with the world. Working to find the balance in all walks of life - home vs. work, celebrity vs. reality - VIBE talks with the DJ/producer/painter to reveal some of the truths he has discovered within his many journeys.

Listen to his new track below FIRST on VIBE.

VIBE: First off, is Ben Moon a stage name? If so, where did it derive from?
Ben Moon: Yes and no. "Moon" is my middle name, but it's a name that I chose after a near death experience I had several years ago which profoundly changed my life. In a way, all the art I've made is an attempt to reconnect with that feeling. Like seeing all of history and the future flashing before your eyes in an instant.

Living in New York, what would you say are some of your favorite nightclub spots in the city?
At the risk of sounding uncool, I've been spending more time than ever in "workaholic" mode. The greatest thing about building the perfect home - studio set up is that you never have to go anywhere. As it turns out, that's also the worst thing about it. I go through phases where all I do is go out. I love to experience good music and art in any style. I feel like its all part of the creative cycle. There is a time to go out and gather inspiration, then a time to take it all back to the lab and rearrange it to create something new. I'm still trying to find the perfect balance between work and play, but then, aren't we all?

Being a fine arts major at Tulane University, what inspired you to take the dive into dance music?
I realize now that the time that I spent in New Orleans was a truly unique period. I always regretted being too young to participate in the whole underground thing when it was at its height in New York. But in the south, these parties had just started popping up and gathering steam. As the only "proper" city in such a large area, New Orleans was a natural meeting place for freaks, deviants, and party people of all stripes looking to escape the sleepy conformity of their quiet little southern towns. During this time there was actually a renaissance of dance music, but like everything in New Orleans, it just kind of blended into the mix.

You studied in New Orleans. Do you find yourself integrating some of the city’s lifestyle and culture into your music?
Absolutely. A night out in the French Quarter is like one big live mash-up. You've got every style of music imaginable, all within walking (or stumbling) distance. So you can actually hear the reggae fading into old school jazz, into dance music, like a never-ending pulse, as you move through the night.

If you can describe your music in one sentence for someone new to the genre, what would it be?
Whatever works best, from wherever I can find it.

Have you’ve ever looked to the hip-hop/rap community for inspiration? Are there any artists from that genre you would want to collaborate with one day?
The original aesthetic of hip hop involved creative people rearranging the things they had around them to create new works of art that is expressing their unique truth. What I do utilizes the same aesthetic of "cultural collage". There are so many talented people doing amazing things. I can't wait to see what possibilities present themselves.

Are there any DJs in the dance music industry you would want to work with? Who and why?
I've been listening to a lot of DJ Arty lately, as well as Tritonal, and Zedd. I have a lot of respect for the way deadmau5 handles his business. Having had the opportunity to team up with Spinnin Records on my new single has been huge. The amount of craft that goes into making music on this level is truly awesome. The more I learn, the less I realize I know.

Your most recent music video “Celebrity” seems to be a commentary on America’s obsession with the celebrity culture. Are there any other messages in the song and video that you were trying to give fans and listeners?
I became fascinated by this need the "celebrity" seems to fill within the context of our culture. I wanted to understand the source of this seemingly odd, yet universally human practice of conferring on certain individuals a "Supernatural" power to the point we feel that by the mere act of repeating the words that individual said, or touching something that they touched, there can be some mystical transmission of power, or blessings. Why do we have this insatiable need to literally consume them until they no longer amuse us, then take just as much pleasure in tearing them down and resenting them for the very notoriety we bestowed upon them in the first place? As I investigated this phenomenon further I realized that the celebrities of today have simply filled the void left by the "Gods" of traditional societies. Once you start talking about sacrificing yourself for the "sins" of all humanity, or "this bread is my flesh, this wine is my blood", at a certain point it becomes hard to tell whether you're talking about Jesus Christ, or a good night out on the sunset strip. Perhaps this is because they have more in common than we may initially realize?

What’s your take on today’s celebrity culture, and the people Americans have chosen to worship this day and age?
In a certain way, this is the truest form of democracy we have. When someone chooses to consume one piece of media over another, they are individually engaging in a behavior which, collectively, results in a process of "natural selection" through which the things that are found to be most interesting to the greatest number of people are elevated to the top of the "trending" list until it is replaced by something that people find newer or more interesting. I make no particular value judgement on who society chooses to represent it at a certain point in time. I look at it instead as more of a point of sociological interest. It seems natural that the same "Changing Demographics" so clearly demonstrated by the last presidential election will undoubtably select their own set of celebrities to represent them.

They say the world is going to end on December 21. Where would you want to be if the Mayans turn out to be right? What if they're wrong?
I've always held the conviction that I was meant to contribute something to the greater fabric of human culture. All the paths that I've taken, and work that I've done has been in the hope that I was moving towards this goal. My latest environmental art piece "ROKLYFE" is the full realization of my attempt to share the near death experience that changed my life so profoundly. Whatever happens on 12/21/12, my goal was to be able to face it with the peace of mind of knowing that I proved what I needed to myself. If that is all I'm able to do before it all ends, then that is enough. But if we are lucky enough to have the opportunity in 2013. I can't wait to prove it to the world.

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Watch Snoop Dogg and Legendary Go-Go Band Rare Essence "Hit The Floor"

Dubbed "The Wickedest Band Alive" by Doug E. Fresh, Chocolate City Go-Go legends Rare Essence have been doing their thing for 45 years and counting. Like the late Chuck Brown, Black Heat, the Young Senators, and other stalwarts of Go-Go, the musical subgenre that was officially designated Washington D.C.'s "sound of the city" earlier this year, Rare Essence made their name with marathon live shows featuring funky percussion, hella cowbell, and lots of call-and-response vamping to keeps the dance floor percolating till the break of dawn. Along the way, Rare Essence appeared as Aretha Franklin's backing band in her "Jimmy Lee" music video and hit the charts with their 1992 single "Work the Walls." They've also collaborated with a host of hip-hop superheroes including Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and Biz Markie, not to mention D.C. native Wale.

Back in August 2018, Snoop Dogg posted an Instagram video showing Tha Doggfather smoking to "Hey Buddy Buddy," a signature Rare Essence jam recorded live at Washington D.C.'s Club U. That IG post kick-started a collaboration.

"I approached them like they approached me," Snoop recalled. "I want them to know that I love their music and I love what they stood for and the feeling was mutual. That's why we went right in. It wasn't no management or none of that shit. We just basically made it happen. It was like, What's happenin'? Where y'all at? Where I need to be? Around the alley? Around the corner? OK, I'll pull up."

"Having a hip-hop icon like Snoop Dogg on a song is definitely one of the highlights of our career," said Andre "Whiteboy" Johnson, who co-founded Rare Essence when he was an 11-year-old student at St. Thomas More elementary school in SouthEast Washington. "A lot of bands don't make it to a milestone such as 45 years and to have a song released with Snoop makes this year that much cooler."

Today VIBE proudly premieres the result of their collaboration, "Hit The Floor," on which Snoop jokes about pissing on the White House lawn. (Take that Donald!) The track was produced by Chucky Thompson, whose credits include Craig Mack's "Flava in Ya Ear," Notorious B.I.G.'s "Big Poppa," Faith Evans' "Soon As I Get Home," and "One Mic" by Nas. "This has been one of my favorite bands from the beginning," he says. "So this is like a dream come true for me."

During a Black History Month performance earlier this year at Washington D.C.'s Kennedy Center, Rare Essence member Jas. Funk revealed that Go-Go music was named after the venues that the bands used to play in. "Just like Smokey Robinson said back in the day." While Go-Go is most definitely a Black music form, the influence of Latin percussion is undeniable. "Music is universal," says Jas. Funk. "[Go-Go] started in the black culture and it kept neighborhoods combined. Just like in the '60s in the Civil Rights era. It was something that kept us bonded together even though they was trying to break it up."

"Go-Go is one of the greatest forms of music ever created and I've always been a fan of it," Snoop adds. "So anytime I can become a part of it and connect the dots and put my voice on it and lend my spirit and my awareness to it, I've always been down with it... I'm honored to be a part of this."

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Courtesy of Biz 3 / FCF

Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

From their penchant for popping tags and name-dropping designer brands in their rhymes to the obsession with diamond-encrusted neckwear, the Migos are the modern-day poster-children for decadence and opulence. But when it comes to balling, group member Quavo is a seasoned veteran, literally and figuratively. Notorious for his appearances in NBA all-star celebrity games, where he routinely dominates the competition, Huncho has built a rep as one of the athletically gifted hit-makers in music today.

Although he's known for his skills on the hardwood, football is definitely among his passions. His newest endeavor, an ownership stake in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the first professional sports league to put the viewer in the coach's seat and the general manager's office, in live time, finds him putting his focus back on the gridiron. Having inked an exclusive, multi-year streaming broadcast partnership with Twitch, the FCF will be the first professional sports league to be fully integrated with the streaming platform with the potential to explode in the digital age, where user interest and participation is the main recipe for success.

Having tossed the pigskin around as a Georgia high school football star, to Quavo, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the innovative league on the ground level. “We are building a brand and something different in our league – with the fans. They are in control and get to pick the team names, colors, logos, and more,” said Quavo said in a press release. “I’m really excited because FCF is fast-paced, high-scoring 7v7 football and you are in control. You go from sitting on the couch watching TV and pressing buttons on the remote to actually pressing the buttons on the plays.”

Played on "a 35-yard x 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones,” the Fan Controlled Football league will kick off in February 2021, with a four-week regular season, one week of playoffs, and a Championship week. The league will consist of former elite D-1 athletes, the CFL, XFL, and the Indoor Football League. Broadcasted live from the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta, each game will be 60 minutes in length and will allow the viewers to play a hand in the final outcome on Twitch.

Aside from sports, Quavo has been relatively lowkey on the musical tip as of late, with two years having passed since a solo release or a Migos album. However, according to him, this delay can be considered the calm before the storm, as he assures him and his brethren are primed for one of their biggest years yet. VIBE hopped on the line with Quavo to talk Fan Controlled Football, what he's got cooking in the studio, and his foray into TV and film.

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You're the newest team owner at Fan Controlled Football (FCF). What about the league piqued your interest and made you wanna get involved?

It's just showing my interest in the game of football and just trying to put a twist to where it's fan-controlled, fan-involved. A lot of times we watch the game, you watch the game, you just have some concerns. Sometimes you feel you can make the plays or call the play, [with FCF], you can sit on the couch and make the play. I just think we came together to make something crazy like that. I feel like it's something hard, it's something new, it's something fresh. It's a new beginning to something, like giving ni**as a chance. Giving D-1 players who couldn't make it to the league a chance, giving ex-NFL ni**as a chance if they still got it, [and] to go with the fans. When we saw the Falcons lose the Superbowl LI, we [fans] just knew what plays to call, we knew to run the ball. We were up 28-3. All we had to do was hold the ball, but we wanted to air it out and we made a mistake and lost to Tom Brady. Just like when Marshawn could've won a Superbowl. If they'd have given him the ball on the two-yard line. We knew that Marshawn Lynch was supposed to get the ball, [but] they wanted Russell Wilson to win it and the New England Patriots caught an interception. So that's how we're trying to shape it, we're trying to make something new.

The FCF will be live-streamed exclusively on Twitch, which has become one of the leading platforms for eSports live-streaming and will kick off in February 2021. Do you feel the FCF has the opportunity to fill that NFL void during the spring, particularly given the fan engagement that FCF enables?

Most definitely, cause after the Super Bowl, it just feels like you just want another game. You feel like you want one more game. and coming from something [where it's] eleven on eleven players to seven on seven, I feel [there’s] still a difference. After coming from watching the game and the regular politics, the regular structure of the game, now you're getting to be involved in a game that you can control. You can pick the jersey, you can pick the helmets, you can pick the jerseys, you can pick the coaches, you can pick the plays. I just feel there are two different dynamics [between the NFL and FCF). You come from sitting on the couch and pressing the remote to actually pressing the button on the plays."

Speaking of fan engagement, the FCF is the only professional sports league that enables fans to call the plays in real-time and puts the viewer in control of a game’s outcome like never before. Have you ever had that experience, as far as fantasy football?

Nah, but I'm into Madden. You can sit at home and pick your plays [with FCF], it's just like the lifestyle of Madden. It's like a reality of Madden. You're playing with people at home, with these unique athletes, and it's seven-on-seven.

As an Atlanta native, how significant was the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility being in your hometown in your decision to come on board as an owner?

It's very important. We got top-tier talent here, so it's opening up opportunities for a lot of guys. We're just glad it's in the south, it's like a hub. Everybody loves Atlanta and everybody wanna be here. Everybody wanna play and the weather is good.

NFL Super Bowl Champions Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and YouTuber and podcaster empire Greg Miller are among the FCF's team owners. How does it feel to be competing against some of the most accomplished athletes and entertainers in the world? Have you had the opportunity to meet with any of them?

Most definitely. I have a good relationship with Mike Tyson. I've met Marshawn Lynch, it's a blessing. I feel like we're not competing right now, I feel like we're building a brand. I feel like we're building a league. I feel like we're trying to make the world understand what we're bringing to the table and what type of game we bring to the table, you feel me? I feel we're trying to create something different. Once we get the ball rolling, it's all together and moving into a real FCF league, then we'll get to compete. Of course, we all wanna win, but right now, we're just trying to get the foundation and the basics going and letting the strength of the owners and the relationships show on the field.

Being that you'll all be working with your respective fan bases in shaping your team’s personality and identity, any thoughts about what the team’s name will be? 

Man, I wish I did, but it's so straight strictly fans that you never know. Just like with music, can have an idea that is a smash, and then the fans don't think it is. You gotta strictly listen to the fans on this one. You gotta listen strictly to how they want it because it's the point of the game, that's the point of the league. We gotta let them control this game and then we the players and we the people that's listening to the people, the culture. FCF stands for culture, too, you feel what I'm saying? We listen to the culture, we're letting the culture run the field.

How involved will you be in the drafting and scouting process for your squad?

The fans make the draft, fans get to see everything. Open books, everything. It's an open thing, it ain't nothing to hide over here. The fans control it all.

In addition to sports, you've also been delving into acting, with cameos in shows like Atlanta, Star, Black-ish, and Ballers. Earlier this year, you appeared as yourself in Narcos: Mexico. How did that opportunity come about? 

Narcos reached out. We [Migos] had this song called “Narcos” on the [Culture II] album and we went and shot [the video] in Miami and everybody thought it was a Narcos movie scene and it ended up being Madonna's house. So we just shot that there and then they reached out to us. I think Offset had a performance somewhere and Takeoff had to do something and I just ended up being free that day and I went and shot it in New Mexico. I had fun, I loved it.

Do you have plans to pursue any supporting or leading roles in film or television?

Hell yeah, most definitely. I've been sitting down and having real great meetings with directors and people that got some movies in the works for 2021. I feel like I’ve got some good spots. I don't wanna tell it cause they’re gonna make some announcements. It's coming soon.

It's been two years since you've released a solo project or one with the Migos. Can fans expect any new music from you anytime soon and what are your next plans on that front?

Most definitely, hell yeah, we're shooting videos right now. We’re vaulting up a whole lot of videos so we can give you music and visuals at the same time. “Need It," the song came first and then the video. Right now, we wanna get a lot of videos and a lot records in the vault and smash [them] all at once 'cause it's been two years.

Pop Smoke's passing was one of the more tragic events in rap in recent memory, but his debut album, which you appeared on throughout, has been one of the most successful and acclaimed projects of 2020. How has it been seeing how the album’s been received, especially after you and him developed such a bond in a short time?

I'm happy. I'm proud of him, that was my partner. We did a lot of records, we spent a lot of time together and I feel like the album would've did even more with him being alive. A lot of people's album just go crazy when they die, I feel like his sh*t would've still went crazy. He had the momentum, he had the buzz. He was having fun. He was hot, he was fresh, he had everything ready.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Problem/Laetitia Rumford

New Music: Alicia Keys, Tiye Phoenix, Marc Rebillet & LA's Problem All Drop Heat

Alicia Keys is back with her full length album, Alicia and the wait has been too long for us in music land. After a four year hiatus, Keys returns and her lead off single with Khalid "So Done" has that AK soul that we love. This album seems to find Keys at her most free, as the pressures of making a hit album is behind her. The piano is her companion and compliments her so well, however, lyrics and the songwriting is what AK prides herself on most. Get with her today at 6pm with American Express as she will perform on Youtube here.

For those that still haven't gotten the memo, let me put it in caps...LA'S DOPE MC, PROBLEM IS A HIP-HOP GREAT! Now that we have that out the way, let's get on the line about how his Coffee & Kush Vol. 2 album is even more introspective and transparent than Vol. 1 which was released earlier this year. The song, "Keep Ya Head" is the perfect soul sonic detail for what we have gone through as a society. Letting the listener know to keep their head on in these trying times, while helping those around you that you care about. It's a step-by-step rule book on how to maintain and raise up others. Visually on point video and album packaging wise (big shout to VIBE contributor Laetitia Rumford on the cover art), Problem has us ready for the upcoming final project of the Coffee & Kush trilogy.

To rise through adversity is to prove to yourself that you are built for the game of life that is really no game at all. That's why when people enter industries that don't mesh with their ideals but the spirit compels them to continue...you have to salute them. So here we have a goddess of an MC in Tiye Phoenix, who earlier this year dropped the illustrious 9-track project, The Master's Program. A woman of many words wrapped in astro-heavy flows, she continues to shed light in the dark spaces of your mind with furious rhymes of deep thought and enlightened spirit. To have her still making music that hits with the power of righteous rebellion is a blessing for us all and it's evident on her latest offering, The Glow EP. From the inspiring opening words, TP proceeds to smash track after track with a strong vocal tone that could rival your hardest voiced male MC yet has a honey tone to make the lessons go down smooth. Peace Queen.

The amount of music that gets released these days is so overwhelming that the joy of listening to such quantity turns to anxiety in trying to catch it all...but what a wonderful problem to have. Like just before trying to write this weekly round up, I ran across an IG post by the Triple OG @ICET. He shared the musical genius of the sometimes shirtless, but usually silk robe rocking @marcrebillet. He's made a name for himself on social media by making up super groovy tunes as the DJ entertainment at restaurants and showcasing his beat building skills in his simple audio set up in his Brooklyn apartment. Get a load of the intensely dope space funk jam (I've had it on repeat for the last 30mins) "You And Me." With a co-sign from the Queen Badu herself, trust that he's one to watch folks.

 

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A post shared by Marc Rebillet (@marcrebillet) on Sep 18, 2020 at 7:05am PDT

 

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