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Q&A: Yandy Smith Talks New Label, Dealing With Mendeecees Being Locked Up And Jim Jones

Named one of Billboard Magazine’s Top 30 Executives under 30, there isn’t much Yandy Smith hasn’t achieved in her career. She has worked alongside some of the greats including LL Cool J, Missy Elliott and 50 Cent during her tenure in the music biz and is now about to embark on a new record label venture with fellow Love and Hip Hop NY cast member Rich Dollaz named Lenox Avenue Records.

The mother/ mogul started as one of the producers of Love and Hip Hop but joined the cast in season two as Jim Jones’ manager. The two have since parted ways after a fallout by the season's end. After the season four premiere of LHHNY made waves on Monday (Oct. 28), Yandy faces a new set of challenges: dealing with her fiancé Mendeecees Harris being held in custody under conspiracy charges and raising Mendeecees’ son Mendeecees Jr and their new baby Omere. VIBE caught up with her at the official screening to get the low-down on her burgeoning label, baby daddy issues and more.—Megan Saad

VIBE: You and Rich Dollaz are starting your own record label. Was this something that had been in the pipeline for a long time or was it a spur of the moment thing?
Yandy: Well I’ve been wanting to do a label for a very long time. When I had a baby I realized that the whole sitting in the studio, or going to the club getting DJs to play my records just wasn’t going to be my thing. I knew that was Rich's thing. He can find a great record, goes to the clubs and promotes music. Rich can knock on the DJs’ doors because he knows all of them; he’s done radio for years. So Rich has become the ying to my yang with this label. I can sit in an office and I can close the deals. I can make sure our bottom lines and our income is being generated. I’m great at that, so I think it was the perfect combination.

Last season everyone was shocked when Mendeecees was taken into custody straight after your engagement and new baby. What has been the hardest part about him being away for so long?
I think the hardest thing is him missing everything. He’s missing Omere’s birthday, he missed little Mendeecee’s birthday; even him seeing little steps that the kids are taking. But then also, I just miss my best friend. I speak to him on the phone all the time, I see him every other week but actually having him there to go through raising the boys and just doing the things we like to do.

In this episode we saw that little Mendeecees overheard you guys talking about his dad being in jail. How do you plan to break it to Omere when the time comes?
Hopefully I won’t have to break it to Omere. Hopefully his dad will be home before that even happens.

A lot of women wouldn’t stick around if they found out their man was about to get twenty years in jail. Are you prepared to stay in that worst case scenario?
The thing is when I said that, I was kind of speaking out of place. That was something that I was reading and listening to the blogs and trying to do research to find out conspiracy charges, you know, what are the time frames? But that’s absolutely not the case. I’ve gotten a lot more information now and hopefully he’ll be home soon.

Are you still in contact with Jim Jones?
No. I’m not, not at all.

Photo Credit: Getty

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Watch Daniel Kaluuya As Fred Hampton In ‘Judas And The Black Messiah’ Trailer

Daniel Kaluuya transforms into Fred Hampton in the powerful new trailer for Judas and the Black Messiah. The nearly two-minute long clip shows Kaluyaa as the Black Panther Party leader delivering a powerful speech to a group of party members. Lakeith Stanfield, who portrays FBI informant William O’Neal, is also featured in the short teaser.

Directed by Chaka King and produced by Ryan Coogler, Judas and the Black Messiah tells the story of Hampton, who was assassinated by the FBI and Chicago Police in 1969, at the age of 21. Born in Chicago in 1948, Hampton mobilized a generation and became the Chairman of the Illinois chapter of the BPP. Hampton was so influential, that the FBI conspired to silence his voice. O’Neal was hired by the FBI to infiltrate the BPP, and rose up the ranks to become a sergeant in arms within the Party.

O’Neal became so close to Hampton that he provided the FBI with the floor plan to his apartment to carry out the fatal raid in 1969. He befriended Hampton only to betray him in the end. The film explores that dynamic and O’Neal’s fear that his cover will be blown.

After Hampton’s death, O’Neal went into infamy. He passed away in 1990o of a reported suicide.

Judas and the Black Messiah is slated to open next year.

Watch the trailer below.

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Keke Palmer To Host 2020 MTV VMAs, Joins ‘Proud Family’ Reboot

Booked and busy! Keke Palmer will be hosting this year’s MTV VMAs, she announced on Thursday (Aug. 6). The 26-year-old actress made the big reveal with a creative throwback to her character True Jackson.

“I heard y’all was tired of 2020, let’s go back to 2008,” Palmer captioned a video conversation featuring a split screen of herself in character as Jackson.

I heard y’all was tired of 2020, let’s go back to 2008 😩🤪🤩. Join me as I host the 2020 @vmas on August 30th on @MTV! #VMAs pic.twitter.com/cl5TcUrxnm

— Keke Palmer (@KekePalmer) August 6, 2020

Also on Thursday, Disney announced that Palmer has joined the cast of the forthcoming reboot of The Proud Family. Palmer will voice a new character named Maya Leibowitz-Jenkins. “Dreams do come true,” she happily tweeted.

The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder is slated to debut on Disney+ sometime soon. Show creator/executive producer, Bruce W. Smith and executive producer, Ralph Farquhar, are back on board, as well as original cast members, Kyla Pratt, Tommy Davidson, Paula Jai Parker, and Jo Marie Payton.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ DREAMS COME TRUE! https://t.co/vgwmibrurS

— Keke Palmer (@KekePalmer) August 6, 2020

As for the 2020 VMAs, Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande top the nominees' list with nine nominations, followed by The Weeknd and Billie Eilish with eight nods each.

The show airs from Brookyln's Barclay's Center on Sunday, Aug. 30 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

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Issa Rae To Produce HBO Documentary Exploring History Of Black Television

A documentary on the history of Black television is headed to HBO with Issa Rae as one of its executive producers. Seen & Heard, a two-part documentary, will explore the history of Black TV as told by those who created, and starred in groundbreaking series from the past and present, the cable network announced on Wednesday (Aug. 5).

In addition to showcasing archival material, Seen & Heard will offer up cultural commentary on Black representation in storytelling, featuring interviews with writers, showrunners, actors, celebrities and other “notable influencers.”

The participants will reflect on their personal experiences with Black representation on television, and share insights into their current creative ventures, inspiration, and experiences.

Seen & Herd will be executive produced by Rae and Montrel McKay’s Issa Rae Productions along with award-winning teams from 3 Arts Entertainment and Ark Media, including Phil Bertelsen, the latter of whom will direct and produce the film. Bertelsen's credits include the hit Netflix documentary, Who Killed Malcolm X?, Madam President, and The Legacy of Barack Obama.

“Black people have such a rich, but often unacknowledged history in Hollywood," Rae said in a statement. “We have defined American culture and influenced generations time and time again across the globe. I'm honored to pair with Ark Media to center and celebrate the achievements of those who paved a way for so many of us to tell our stories on television.”

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