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10 Facts (So Far) About The Making Of 'Beyoncé'

When an artist like Beyoncé drops an album that becomes arguably the biggest of the year and a game-changer for the music industry, people start scrambling to figure out how it all came to be. Two years in the making, Beyoncé’s self-titled album has dominated water cooler convos since its Dec. 13th digital release. “My message behind the album was finding the beauty in imperfection… Growth, love, happiness, fun,” Beyoncé says in the mini-doc released with the album. “Enjoy your life. It’s short. That’s the message.”

Since Bey's big bang, there’s been tons of info and interviews floating the Net and it’s hard to keep track. Below, a cheat sheet of what we’ve learned so far about Beyoncé’s visual album.

1. Team work made the dream work, but the visual album was primarily Beyoncé’s vision.
"I didn’t want to release my music the way I’ve done it. I am bored with that. I feel like I am able to speak directly to my fans,” she said in the doc. “There’s so much that gets between the music, the artist and the fans. I felt like I didn’t want anybody to give the message when my record is coming out. I just want this to come out when it’s ready and from me to my fans."

2. The release date changed multiple times.
According to Hits Daily Double, Columbia Records (led by Rob Stringer) and Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood, worked with iTunes to make sure this CIA-style operation went smoothly and without leaks. In the days leading up to the album’s release, the original cast of four people evolved into three teams.

3. Beyoncé requested all black models for the “Yoncé” video.
“Beyoncé wanted to push that angle — that was her request and concept initially. I think any time you can promote a sense of community and unity and that is natural, you should,” the video’s director Ricky Saiz told New York. “All the girls are friends and it was so friendly and there was no ego on set. Everyone was so happy to be there. The girls were incredible. What a great cast. It was spontaneous and not at all contrived.”

4. But it was Joan Smalls’ idea to lick Beyoncé’s chest.
“We were going through takes and it was her and Joan and they were close. And Joan went for the lick and we got it,” said Saiz.

5. Justin Timberlake helped out with the “Yoncé” beat.
“I love it because it’s really organic,” said Bey in her doc. “The drumbeat was actually done in the studio by Justin Timberlake. He just started beating on this bucket.”

6. Some participants signed non-disclosure agreements...
For the "No Angels" video, producer Ben [Solomon] worked with Beyoncé's company to wrangle cameos from Houston rappers like Paul Wall. "It was kind of nuts. We're prepped. Everybody's hyped. But everybody knows you have to keep it on the low—what record we're doing and what's actually being done," the video's cinematographer Shomi Patwary told Complex. "Even I didn't know what the heck was going on, really. The whole operation was a secret. All I know is we had to sign a [non-disclosure agreement] and not talk about it to anybody.

7. ...Ty Hunter, Beyoncé’s fashion director and longtime friend, didn’t sign one.
“People knew things were going on. But the thing is, we’re such a tight-knit family," Ty told Elle. You had to put your phone away. Beyoncé has always been this person who is super-secretive with the things that she does, as far as with her camp and her family. They’re also very secretive and very intuitive with her vision and keeping things under wraps.”

8. Working with Bey, Ty coordinated with five stylists to compile all the fashion looks, some shipped from overseas.
“I’d have it sent and pray that the pieces and the packages would be received by different hotels in other countries.”

9. Beyoncé probably would have killed someone to keep her album’s opener “Pretty Hurts.”
“It’s really difficult to find a song with such a strong message that doesn’t feel preachy," she said. "[The songwriter] Sia is such a genius. The second I heard the song, I’m like, 'I have to sing this song. I don’t care how hard I have to fight for the song, this is my song!'”

10. Hi haters, this is why Beyoncé released "Bow Down."
“I woke up, I went into the studio, I had a chant in my head. It was the Beyoncé that was angry. It was the Beyoncé that felt the need to defend herself and if the song never comes out – okay, I said it! And I listened to it after I finished and I said, 'This is hot! Imma put it out!’ Anyone who says that is disrespectful — just imagine the person that hates you. Imagine the person that doesn’t believe in you and look in the mirror and say, ‘Bow down, bitch’! I guarantee you feel gangsta!"

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Tobe Nwigwe wowed the crowd with a live musical performance at the McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden experience at BETX.
BET Expereience

Tobe Nwigwe's Southern Raps At The BET Experience Are Marinaded With Purpose

Thanks to Tobe Nwigwe, Houston’s presence could not be denied at this year’s batch of BET Experience events in Los Angeles. Sporting his signature sock/slippers combo and a mic in his hand, the Nigerian-American storyteller took the stage Friday (June 21) to perform some of his most revolutionary and captivating tracks.

There’s the lyrical strike that is “Ten Toes” and “Against the Grain” made popular from his #GetTwistedSundays series, a keen exploration of Houston. With a new batch of ears and hearts open to his music, the Nigerian-American rapper is at ease with his new purpose.

“I understand my purpose now. I understand that to do what I’m doing now is all of my life,” Nwigwe tells VIBE before taking the stage for McDonald’s Black & Positively Golden event which showcases music’s ability to continue the cultural narratives of the Black experience in America.

Before he was shining on BET Cyphers, performing at the Roots Picnic or delivering projects like Three Originals, Nwigwe had dreams of entering the NFL. Those plans were redirected after a physical injury during his senior year at the University of North Texas. The incident served as a catalyst for the rapper to transform his energy into purposeful rap for his hometown, Houston.

“That’s why I’m due diligent, persistent, and focused on what I’m doing because I understand the call of my life,” he added while speaking about his partnership with McDonald’s platform. “I just really like what the Black and Positively Golden theme is. Being bold, being brilliant, being resilient. I like the black community, I love it. I feel like black people are the most influential people in the world.”

 

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HISTORY WAS MADE AT THE @ROOTSPICNIC 🙏🏿 YASIIN BEY - - 📸: @tynie626

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Houston’s re-emergence into mainstream hip hop culture, from a cultural enclave to an emergent regional capital in Southern rap lineage is evident acts like Megan Thee Stallion and Tobe Nwigwe. Draped in diasporic apparel and perched on a horse in the Texas countryside, Nwigwe is representative of the city’s rich ethnic demographic, and fusion of two Black sub-cultures into one told through the oral traditions of hip hop.

Nwigwe is currently dressed in all black, but it wouldn’t be without purpose. In small but noticeable text, his shirt says, “Mental Health is Crucial.” The fit speaks highly of intentions as an advocate for black youth. Nwigwe’s love for his community extends beyond the reaches of rap into the worlds of non-profit advocacy and mentorship. He’s the co-founder of TeamGINI, “Gini Bu Nkpa Gi?,” an Igbo saying meaning, “What’s Your Purpose?”

“I understand what people where I come from need,” he explains. “I feel that. I understand the void, so I do my best to play a role in being a part of the solution.”

His spiritual beliefs were highlighted in The Rap Map: Meet 5 Talented Artists From Houston featured on DJBooth. An ideology rooted in community-based upliftment drew motivational speaker Eric Thomas to sign Nwigwe for ETA Records, and establish a partnership focused on the implementation of solutions-focused rap for youth in neighborhoods across the United States, impacted by the terrors of community disinvestment, and high rates of violence.

Nwigwe recalled the outpouring of love experienced at one of his recent hometown shows. “I had the biggest crowd ever on my court at home," he proudly boasted in a Houston drawl. "I had over 3,000 people at a show with no openers, none of that. The mayor came out and gave me a dap, so it’s just a lot of love at home. There's like nothing better than being received well in your hometown, where you grew up and got all your influence from. It’s, wherever I go I wear Alief, I wear SWAT, I wear Houston on me like a badge of honor.”

His authenticity is felt throughout his setlist, a musical arrangement with a live band, background vocals from Beaumont-raised LHITNEY, and surprise guest performance from NELL, a frequent collaborator and producer on his music projects.

Nwigwe's purpose for the weekend was complete–he brought Houston to Los Angeles. “Make purpose popular,” Nwigwe’s mantra for his musicality sounds like a tagline from your local conscious rapper, but the intention in how the Houston rapper uses music as a space for community messaging is rooted in genuine Houston hospitality.

Stream Nwigwe’s latest release, “Searching” below.

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Queen Of Hip-Hop Soul And Hits: 15 Of Mary J. Blige's Best Songs

Since bursting onto the scene in 1992 asking us What’s the 411?, Mary J. Blige has kept her foot on our necks and provided the soundtrack for most of our lives. Although she’s faced her fair share of heartaches, heartbreaks, and hardships, Mary never let her personal life or the pressures of the music industry keep her from becoming a master of her craft. Who knew the little girl from Yonkers would go on to be not just music but entertainment royalty? She has secured numerous endorsement deals with M.A.C., Pepsi, Target and more while also conquering both the small and big screen, even being nominated for two Academy Awards for her role in the critically-acclaimed film, Mudbound. After countless nominations over the years for categories like Best R&B Artist and Best song, an unprecedented number of Billboard and Grammy Awards, over 75 million records sold worldwide and so much more, she shows no signs of stopping.

This Sunday (June 23), she will add to her repertoire when she’s honored at the 19th annual BET Awards ceremony with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her exceptional body of work across genres and industries. And the undisputed ESSENCE Festival favorite will also hit New Orleans to commemorate the festival’s 25th anniversary while also celebrating 25 years of her iconic 1994 album, My Life.

To honor the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul and her indelible catalogue of hits, let’s take a look at 15 of our favorite MJB songs through the years.

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VIBE

Black Music Month: 36 Best Black Movie Soundtracks You Should Know

Let's face it, the debate for the best movie soundtrack of all time will never end.

There are too many black soundtracks that are beyond icon status. Some include Diana Ross' epic portrayal of Billie Holiday for Lady Sings The Blues, the carefully curated funk and soul collection for Dead Presidents and Whitney Houston's power vocals all over The Bodyguard soundtrack.

Jamie Foxx didn't seem to realize the debate he sparked on Twitter this week when he raised the question about the best soundtracks of all time. It became a trending topic with fans throwing in their favorites like Prince (Purple Rain and Batman respectively), Whitney Houston (Waiting to Exhale), Babyface (Boomerang), Dr. Dre (Above The Rim) and so many more.

Best movie soundtracks of all time? Go... #BeatShazam

— Jamie Foxx (@iamjamiefoxx) June 18, 2019

There are plenty of other movie soundtracks worth noting, but with June being Black Music Month, it's only right we paid homage to some of the most important and underrated soundtracks of all time.

In no particular order, here are some of our favorites.

Additional contributors include Lola Jacobs, Jessica McKinney, J'na Jefferson, Keith Murphy, Xavier Hamilton, Sierra Brown, Beatriz da Costa, and Richy Rosario. 

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