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VIBE Exclusive! Bridget Kelly Talks New Music, First Grammy Win, & Learning Patience From Jay-Z

Bridget Kelly is hard at work churning out hits for herself & others. We got a chance to catch up with Roc Nation's other princess backstage at NYC hotspot SOBs—her first headlining show. Just a little over a year ago, the R&B vocalist was embellished under the radar covering tracks like "Thinking About You" (written by Frank Ocean) and Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' city anthem, “Empire State of Mind." However, when it comes to her work, BK plays no games.

In wake of her first Grammy win, we chopped it up with Bridget on the production behind her upcoming album, artist comparisons, and how Hova taught her the value of patience.

VIBE: Congratulations on the big Grammy win for penning Kelly Clarkson’s “Einstein”! Were you expecting that?
Bridget Kelly: It was really unexpected honestly. I wrote the record initially thinking that it would be a part of my project. I don’t really know what I thought. I think, as a writer, you just come up with ideas in songs and you never know what’s going to happen to them—you just do them off inspiration. I didn’t know what kind of life it would take, but I’m really happy it ended up with Kelly & became a Grammy. I’m excited for her because she works really hard and I’m honored to be a part of that project.

Over a year ago, you actually dropped your EP, Every Girl—which was widely received. How does the sound on your upcoming compare against that?
I think this album is much more soulful. With the EP, I experimented a lot with the music part of it. I wanted to do some rock type stuff, a little more alternative more or less. I think with this album, I really kind of matured a lot. Between doing the EP and doing the album I really think I had the chance to get to know myself a little better. I went to studio with different people and got to play around with sounds. What felt the most organic for me was to really doing more of an R&B record.

What was the inspiration behind your single “Special Delivery?”
I tell a lot of stories in my records and I think “Special Delivery” really hit home for me and struck a chord. It’s one of those songs that kind of just strips you down to the basics. It wasn’t dealing with any type of cheating situation or baby-mama drama, it was really about just the lack of communication and that being the reason why the relationship fell apart. I think as an R&B singer, it’s really cliché to talk about how a guy has totally destroyed your life. With “Special Delivery," it was just really a record about foundations, about basic fundamentals of a relationship, and once they break down there’s nothing left.

When you last talked to VIBE, you mentioned that you were extremely impatient—
It gets the best of me sometimes. I’m very impatient. My team is willing to deal with me when I start to panic, but I’ve been so blessed to work with the label that I’m with. They’ve forced me to take my time with things and forced me to completely make sure I’m completely confident and convicted with what I’m doing. [They don't just] let me run rampant putting music out. They’ve really helped me hone in on what I want to say as an artist, who I wanted to speak to, and what stories I wanted to tell from my own life—and also speaking to other women and telling their stories. I think over the course of last year or so, I’ve had to continue to find patience with myself. It’s been a struggle—it’s still a struggle sometimes—but, nonetheless, I’m here. At this point, I’m so happy with where I’m at. The impatience is sort of subsiding a little.

How did you deal with the impatience during this wait for your upcoming album?
I’ve been working throughout, so the time has been passing so quickly with the promo of “Special Delivery," shooting the video, going on tour with Brandy, and having all of these really incredible doors open for me. It's totally distracted me from the fact that we’re now six or seven months into it. As far as I’m concerned, creatively I feel like the album is done. I feel like I’ve recorded everything I need to record for it and it will find its way out this year for sure.

Nice. Being signed to Roc Nation, you work closely to Jay-Z, and even Beyonce to an extent. Do you ever feel like you can go to them for advice, creatively or even emotionally?
Yeah, absolutely. For [Jay-Z to be] the head of my label and an artist makes it so much easier for me to just hit him up and be like, “Yo, what do you think about this?” or “Did you listen to this? What about that?” I can bounce ideas off of him at any time, which is incredibly rare. Most artists don’t even get to meet half of the people that work at their label, and I get to talk to the head whenever I want to. It’s really a gift and a curse, because there is always that fear of him saying “Oh, this song sucks”, or he thinks it’s terrible, shoots it down and there’s no more discussion. At the end of the day, it’s worth the risk.There’s so many times where I’ve said, “How do you feel about this?” or “What do you think about that?”, and he’s like “Yo, it’s dope, why don’t you try something like this and see how it comes out.” It’s fueled my confidence, which is the most important thing.

Did he touch on a lot of that work for this album coming up?
Man, he forced me to be so patient with him [Laughs]! It was no joke. He was like, “Just chill out, just calm down” and, Lady Gaga didn’t put her album out until almost six years after she was signed, so take your time—it will be worth the wait.” The promo we've done with all the fans that have come out, all of the new fans I get to meet, and all the fans that have been checking for me since way back when I was doing “Empire State Of Mind”, it’s very encouraging. I feel like the more I’m out there and performing whatever records there are—whether they're EP records or album cuts—I feel like my fans are really supportive. That feels awesome.

Some people have frequently compared you to artists like Alicia Keys, or even Joss Stone. What are some of the most outrageous comparisons you’ve received as an artist?
I haven’t been compared to anybody [recently], thankfully. The Alicia Keys comparison is really flattering for me, because she is somebody I really look up to a lot and whose albums I’ve completely played out in my iTunes. To be compared to her, of course is a complete honor. I think as more time goes people compare you to artists they either like or don’t like, and I’ve never got a comparison to anybody that somebody didn’t like. If it’s an Alicia Keys comparison, it’s because Alicia Keys is dope. It’s not because they are hating on her or whatever the case is. I’ve never got any comparison where it’s not positive, so I appreciate that.

Who are some of your favorite songwriters or producers who have been your go-to?
Crystal [Nicole] is definitely one. She wrote “Special Delivery." Same Dew is another one. He wrote actually half of my album. He’s phenomenal, and also in a band called Cloudeater—which I like. James Fauntleroy is another favorite of mine. Red Styles, Eric Bellinger, Shae Taylor producer-wise, and Jerry Wonder. Of course, Ne-Yo, The-Dream—you know we’re scraping the barrel [Laughs]! Those are my favorites; I’ve been really blessed to work with them on this first project.

Look out for Bridget Kelly's new album soon, but check out the video for "Special Delivery' if you haven't already seen it:

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Kentucky Catholic School Faces Backlash After Students Berate Indigenous Peoples March Protesters

Representatives from Kentucky's Covington Catholic High School have confirmed plans to look into their student body after several of their students appeared in a viral video harassing and mocking protesters at an Indigenous Peoples March.

The viral video above spread around the web Saturday (Jan. 19) a day after the protest that took place in Washington, D.C. Teens in the video were rocking "Make America Great Again" to support President Donald Trump and the anti-abortion March for Life demonstration that was also taking place on Indigenous Peoples Day.

The Cincinnati Enquirer reports  Laura Keener, the communications director with the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, released a statement about the video: "We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place. We are looking into it."

In the video below, Indigenous elder Nathan Phillips of the Omaha tribe was reportedly performing a song meant to calm down the crowd when the large group of teens surrounded him, with one eye to eye as he and another elder chanted.

https://twitter.com/2020fight/status/1086476619877765120

In tears, Phillips recalled the incident, calling for an apology and that the teens would "put that energy into making this country really great." The teens also got their messages mixed up when they also screamed "build that wall" toward him.

"I heard them saying 'build the wall, build that wall,'" he said.  "This is indigenous land. We’re not supposed to have walls here. Before anyone came here there were no walls, we never even had prisons. We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children. We taught them right from wrong."

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#ipmdc #ipmdc19 #indigenousunited #indigenouspeoplesmarch #indigenouspeoplesmarch2019

A post shared by KC🇬🇺🌴🌴 (@ka_ya11) on Jan 18, 2019 at 4:42pm PST

Speaking to The Enquirer Vincent Schilling shared how Phillips has been attacked in the past for standing up for indigenous peoples. Schilling, who is a member of the Mohawk tribe, said Phillips was pelted with trash just a few years ago by Eastern Michigan University students who hosted a Native American-themed party.

"As a Native American journalist, I find this to be one of the most egregious displays of naïve – I can’t even say naïve. It’s racism. It’s blatant racism," Schilling said.

"The guy has just been through a lot. To see Mr. Phillips treated this way is an incalculable amount of disrespect, and it's absolutely unacceptable in Native culture. As a Native man, I’ve got it countless times myself I’ve been mocked, I’ve been teased, my culture has been ridiculed. This is just another brick in the wall. I wanted so bad to walk up to those kids and say, 'You know this is a Vietnam veteran, right?'"

Director Ava DuVernay slammed the teens for their behavior as well as a number of indigenous social justice figures.

Thank you to @VinceSchilling of @IndianCountry and many others who identified the proud Native man who is being harassed. He is Mr. Nathan Phillips. I’m reposting this video from “ka_ya11” on IG. This man’s words pierce my heart. The grace. The wisdom. The hope. pic.twitter.com/BKOA40SVq5

— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 19, 2019

Thank you for the kind shout-out @Ava

Nathan Phillips and I have shared in a sacred pipe ceremony to honor Native American veterans.

He is a Vietnam veteran, such behavior is terrible.

Again, thank you for your support. https://t.co/RRaQeEJFku

— Vincent Schilling (@VinceSchilling) January 19, 2019

The teens in the video haven't been identified.

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Carlos Osorio/AP

Man Exonerated After Serving 45 Years Forced To Sell Prison Artwork For Money

A Detroit man who served 45 years behind bars for a crime that he didn’t commit, is forced to sell his personal collection of artwork that he made in prison. Richard Phillips, 72, doesn’t have steady income at the moment, and his lawyer is currently battling the state of Michigan to get him compensated for the wrongful conviction that stole his freedom.

"I don't have an income right now," said Phillips while showing off his paintings to Fox 2 Detroit. "This is my income."

In the early 1970s, Phillips was wrongfully convicted for the murder of Gregory Harris. He was sentenced to life in prison but always maintained his innocence. “I would rather died in prison than admit to a crime I didn’t do,” Philips said.

Phillips was convicted through an eyewitness account implicating him and a second man, Richard Palombo. In 2010, Palombo admitted that Phillips had no involvement in the murder and that he didn’t even know him. A new investigation was launched in 2014, nearly 20 years later Phillips appealed his murder conviction.

Last March, Wayne County Prosecutors Kym Worthy dropped all charges against Phillips, officially freeing him from prison. “There’s nothing that I can say to bring back 40 years of his life. The system failed him. There’s no question about it,” Worthy said at the time. “This is a true exoneration. Justice is indeed being done today, but there’s nothing that we can do ... to bring back those years of his life.”

Art played a big part in helping maintain his sanity through the sentence. Though he remained optimistic, Phillips admitted that he never truly believed he would be released. To pass the time, he began painting. He pulled inspiration from everywhere: his favorite artists, photos and even tapped into some of the loneliness that he felt in prison. "It was created in a harsh environment. But it goes to show you that beauty can come from something ugly."

Last year, Detroit's Demond Ricks was awarded $1 million for spending 25 years in prison on a wrongful conviction. As it stands, Phillips is the longest-serving wrongfully convicted former prisoner in U.S. history.

Phillips' artwork will be on display at Michigan's Ferndale's Level One gallery beginning Jan. 18.

See more on his artwork in the video below.

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Gladys Knight Defends Decision To Perform National Anthem At Super Bowl Amid Criticism

Glad Knight says she wants to “give the National Anthem back its voice.” The music legend released a new statement defending her decision to sing  the National Anthem at the Super Bowl in Atlanta, next month, amid criticism from fans.

Several artists turned down offers to perform at the Super Bowl in protest of the league’s treatment of Colin Kaepernick. Knight clarified that her choice to sing has nothing to do with Kaepernick, and she doesn't exactly agree with the anthem being "dragged into the debate."

"I understand that Mr. Kaepernick is protesting two things and they are police violence and injustice,” Knight said in a statement to Variety. “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone.”

The 74-year-old singer also noted that she has been on the forefront of social justice issues for much of her career. "I am here today and on Sunday, Feb. 3 to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words,” Knight said. “The way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life, from walking back hallways, from marching with our social leaders, from using my voice for good.

"No matter who chooses to deflect with this narrative and continue to mix these two in the same message, it is not so and cannot be made so by anyone speaking it,” she continued. “I pray that this National Anthem will bring us all together in a way never before witnessed and we can move forward and untangle these truths which mean so much to all of us."

Knight isn’t alone in catching heat for joining the Super Bowl lineup. Travis Scott and Big Boi, both of whom will perform with Maroon 5 at halftime, received backlash as well.

Earlier in the week, reports surfaced claiming Scott had a meeting with Kaepernick that ended with “mutual respect” and “understanding.” Kaepernick’s girlfriend and Hot 97 DJ, Nessa Diab, denied the report tweeting, “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying.”

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