Eddie Huang

All Eyez On Eddie Huang And ABC's New Game-Changer 'Fresh Off The Boat'

Eddie Huang makes waves with ABC's new show Fresh Off The Boat

Eddie Huang is remixing the American dream. The celebrity chef has turned his 2013 best-selling manifesto into ABC's new series Fresh Off The Boat, the first show in over two decades to spotlight an Asian-American family since Margaret Cho's 1994 All American Girl. On the small screen, Lil' Eddie (played by Hudson Yang) is in search for self while growing up in Orlando with his Taiwanese family. From coping with cafeteria drama over smelly lunches to an intense mom constantly on report card-watch, F.O.B. resonates with a demographic that is rarely heard or seen. Before opening night (Feb. 4), the self-proclaimed Chinkstronaut told VIBE the network version won't mirror the pages. "It’s never going to be the book," he says of Fresh Off The Boat. "The show is incredible but you have to understand the show has a different purpose than the book. We do it for a reason, to get people excited and curious about Asian America. ABC’s a huge platform so inevitably the things I wrote in the book are going to be not just family-friendly, but dominant culture-friendly. It’s like Mary Poppins. The book is the medicine and the show is the sugar. Hopefully, together, America will accept and listen to this story." While Huang's tale during the two-episode premiere resonated on Twitter (the hashtag #FreshOffTheBoat trended for four hours), it's the immigrant experience in America he's trying to make real-er. "I just try to explain this immigrant experience, how we’re psychologically homeless in a way. I’m not trying to appropriate the word 'homeless.' We don’t have a brick and mortar presence, so to speak. We have a lot of cultural things in our mind, but you can’t say 'This is my home' or 'That is my home,' so you’re in the middle. You’re neither." Even as a little boy well-versed in hip-hop and sports lexicon, Eddie lived on his own terms, often challenging his parents, teachers and societal norms. Still, it was his fiery personality and unique perspective on life that made him a standout success. Besides running Baohaus, he has clocked in time as producer and host of Vice's Huang's World, is a former TED fellow, an ex-lawyer and founder of the now-defunct Hoodman clothing label. Here, Eddie lets it rip on racism, growing up in 'Murica, ABC's new show and more.—Adelle Platon (@adelleplaton)

Cast of Fresh Off The Boat (Photo Credit: ABC)

When were you first aware that you were Asian? Eddie Huang: (Laughs) That’s a really good question. It’s very funny because people usually ask me, 'When did you realize you had a relationship to black culture?' Especially with Asian people, they find it very interesting how I grew up on and am very informed by black culture just as much as I am Asian, American and other American culture. But the first time I figured [I was Asian] was when I was five-years-old in the grocery store. I would bruise fruit and my mom would slap me. I always saw the other white kids, who could literally walk by the apples and oranges and throw them on the floor and their parents are like 'Go away. It’s fine.' But I would see black parents hit their kids in the produce section and I was like, 'I must have something in common with these people because their moms are doing the same thing to us.' I saw it as I grew up with Middle Eastern and Indian kids and I think experiences like that made me realize I was different like a lot of people, but specifically Chinese. I actually don’t remember not being aware of it. Would you say those experiences in school or the supermarket made you realize there’s a difference among races? Yeah, absolutely. The grocery store was one of the first places I realized there was a lot of differences between races. As a kid, you notice a lot of these little mundane things that parents may gloss over and forget. Most of my writing comes from these childhood experiences, looking at things where I didn’t really understand how the world worked but I could see examples. As I grew up, I started to piece things together. When was your first experience with racism and how did you cope with it? Kids would always do the 'Ching Chong Eddie Huang' thing just because my last name rhymes with 'ching chong.' There was always kids pulling their eyes back but the first moment I really dealt with racism that forced me to say something was my first year in Orlando in third grade. My mom would pack me Chinese lunch and it always smelled crazy. Every time I opened it, people would laugh and they’d give me a hard time. I had one Italian friend, Chris Nostro, who's still my friend and then this black kid, Edgar. That was it. Everyone else was like white Baptist and super funky so no one really hung out or wanted to eat lunch with me. I went home and I was like, 'Mom, we need white food. I can’t keep bringing this shit to school everyday.' And my mom was like, 'Why? Your food is good. You love this food. You eat it at home.' I was like, 'I know but no one else gets it, Mom, and everyday, I get made fun of and have to explain it and fight and I’m sick of it.' She was like, 'Fine. I’ll take you to the white grocery store. What do they eat?' I’m like, 'Lunchables, sandwiches. They eat cold shit,' and she was laughing. She was like, 'They bring cold food?' And I was like, 'Yeah, it’s cold shit. Everybody eats cold shit because it doesn’t smell.' This is the one passage in the book that I wrote where I literally cried writing it. When I wrote it, I was 29, 30-years-old and now, I’m like I can’t believe I asked my mom to put away her food, our culture and basically yield to dominant culture and eat this shitty cold sandwich situation. I was like I must’ve been really ashamed of who I am to ask my mom to do that. For my mom as an adult to hear her kid say that must’ve really hurt and she hid it from me. She made fun of me but she still ended up taking me and I remember it meant a lot because I was like my mom has got my back. Even though she really loves being Chinese and this food that she spent so much time and energy making, she’s okay letting it go, as long as I’m happy. We went through the aisle and I found this Kid Cuisine thing and there was a penguin on it with chicken tenders, mash potatoes, peas and carrots. I was like, 'Mom, I got to get this. This is super cool, there’s a penguin and kids will want to hang out with me so get me this thing.' We bought a few of them and she goes, 'I want you to eat hot food' because Chinese people try not to eat cold food and drink cold liquids because it fucks up your body temperature. So she was like, 'Bring this to school and put it in the microwave and you’ll have hot food everyday.' I was like, 'Okay cool.' I got in line and as I’m getting towards the end, about to put my food in the microwave, this one kid behind me, Edgar, who just happened to be the black kid, pulls me down by the back of my t-shirt neck, throws me to the ground and goes, 'Chinks get to the back.' I knew what the word meant and I was fucking pissed. I knew what it meant but I didn’t know what to do, but I freaked out because I knew my dad had told me if anyone calls you this, you fight back. I threw his arm in the microwave, and closed the microwave door on it. I didn’t break anything but it was pretty dramatic. He fell out and started crying and screaming on the floor. I just stood over him, took my lunch and I remember putting it back in and just heating it like nothing happened. That situation really changed me. You started owning who you were. Yeah, definitely. From that moment, I owned who I was. I remember my dad took me out to eat that night and he was like, 'I’m proud of you for sticking up for yourself. I’m upset that this happened to you but you have to be proud of who you are. You have to stick up for yourself because America is going to chew you up.' My parents are really fucking cool because a lot of other parents, even my cousins’ parents, would never condone their kids fighting. My parents were like, 'We’re here. America is supposed to be fair.' One of the things I really liked about my parents was they weren’t unrealistic and when things were not fair or equal, my parents had no problem saying something about it. When did you realize what your “American dream” was? I remember distinctly that it wasn’t always perfect with my parents because I saw a lot of issues with America. But then I also saw a lot of issues with the way East Asian parents brought up their kids. There’s a lot of domestic violence. I don’t want to get into it because it’s so complicated, but overall, I feel like I understand why parents hit their kids and I think sometimes, it’s warranted but other times, it goes too far. There was a lot of times when [social workers] came to my house and my mom and dad got to a level that was not healthy to be around. There were times where my mom put all of us in a van and drove the van through bushes and into the side of the garage to scare my dad because my dad wasn’t paying attention to my mom. I was like, 'This is psycho. You may have an issue with Pops but you can’t drive a car full of kids into bushes and a garage, even though you know you’re not going to hurt us.' It mentally fucked me up. What would your advice be to the little Eddie Huangs in school right now, still searching for their identity? I would just say what 'Pac said: keep your head up man. I know his song was towards women, but whether it’s women, gays, immigrants, whatever, you have to keep your head up and you have to know your life is worth something. You may not agree or understand now but your life is worth something and worth you trying to figure it out. It doesn’t fall in your lap. You have to go figure it out, dig for it, excavate it and uncover it. I would just tell kids I meet when I speak on the road and in colleges that are really stressed and don’t know where their place is in this world that it's natural. You have to own that, you have to accept that and you have to know what your purpose is. Not in anyone else’s context, but your own.

Catch more Fresh Off The Boat every Tuesday at 8pm on ABC.

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Derrel Todd

Music Sermon: Forget The King of R&B, Raphael Saadiq Is The Son Of Soul

#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

This week, Cash Money artist Jacquees set off an internet firestorm when he proclaimed himself to be the “King” of R&B “for (his) generation.” The comment led artists, executives, music fans and #BlackTwitter in general to debate: who is the King of R&B? (Spoiler alert - it’s not Jacquees.)

While a consensus was never reached, the heated discussion illustrated how much the definitions and ideas of R&B and R&B stars varies between age groups. Ironically, one name that seldom appeared in the convo belongs to one of the most consistent and prolific presences in soul and R&B music for the last 30 years: Raphael Saadiq.

Saadiq has become like a stealth superhero of soul for the last several years of his career, moving to the background as more writer/composer/musician, so the impulse for many might be to label him as an “old school” artist. But that’d be a misnomer, as he’s still had his hand in some of the most influential music for the current generation. Perhaps he transcends a simple R&B conversation as a self-identified Son of Soul (the difference between R&B and Soul is a topic for another day), but however you want to categorize him, he is not widely-enough acknowledged for how he’s kept us jamming, constantly, for three decades.

Let’s explore the iterations through which “Ray Ray” has blessed us over the years.

TONY! TONI! TONÉ!

During the birth and rise of New Jack Swing and then the subsequent evolution to Hip-Hop Soul, Tony! Toni! Toné! was one of the last of a dying R&B breed: the band. They – and a few years later Mint Condition - were standouts as live musicians in an R&B landscape turning to sample-based production. This set both groups apart, establishing them early on as serious soul acts, and making them forerunners of the neo soul sound to come in the late ‘90s.

Like almost every black musician and/or producer of note in his peer group, Saadiq developed and honed his musical chops in the church. Exposure to Motown and Stax by his blues singer father led him to the bass and served as inspiration for his future style. But he, brother Dwayne and cousin Timothy Christian received their formal Tony! Toni! Toné! training on the road: Raphael and Christian toured as part of Sheila E’s band on Prince’s Parade Tour and Dwayne with gospel great Tramaine Hawkins.

Having been properly trained, educated and tested in blues, soul, gospel, and funk, the three formed Tony! Toni! Toné!. Their first album was a modest success, achieving gold status from the RIAA, but wasn’t a standout. The trio started taking the reins on writing and production on their sophomore effort, and the Tonys as we now know them showed up. They announced both their musical background and intentions with their album titles: The Revival, Sons of Soul, House of Music. They were not there for catchy, formulaic R&B. They developed a signature blues, soul, gospel and funk hybrid, rolled up in modern R&B and hip-hop fusion.

The Revival is arguably a new jack swing album – “Feels Good” is a must-have on any new jack playlist – but they were taking the existing marriage of R&B and hip-hop and adding an even deeper soul element, reaching back to ‘70s sonic roots. It was the sonic equivalent of taking new jack swing chicken and shaking it in a paper bag of old-school musically-seasoned flour.

The group still had the kind of jammin’ uptempos found on their debut, Who?, but started to establish themselves as producers of some of the greatest R&B ballads of the ‘90s.

When you think of the Tonys’ music, aside from “Feels Good,” the first song that comes to mind is probably a slow jam. Most acts are fortunate to get one true signature song in their career. Tony! Toni! Toné! has several, and they’re timeless. Put them on today and see if you don’t hit a body roll.

They also established themselves as formidable soundtrack players (as any 90s act worth their salt did. Remember soundtracks, by the way?). They had cuts on the House Party II and Boyz in the Hood albums.

By Sons of Soul they’d found their pocket, and they pushed the sonic limits of contemporary R&B to the extent that some outlets classified the album as jazz, it was such an outlier. Saadiq recognized that they were doing something important for genre. Something that was connecting old style and new. In an interview about the album in 1994, he expressed what he saw as the group’s role in music. "We've been very blessed to be able to be a group that writes our own songs and people have accepted us from both sides, hip-hop and the R&B…I feel very fortunate to be able to do that here in 1993-94, because like you know, it was starting to be a dying thing that was happening. But I guess we were like the bridge between hip-hop and soul and R&B.”

Going back to the aforementioned King of R&B discussion, Diddy chimed in the conversation (he knows a little something about the topic) to run down some criterion to even be considered. His list included vulnerability and adoration in the lyrics and subject matter, the ability to sing a woman’s “draws” off, and the pen game to write hits. Check, check and check. Sons of Soul deservedly landed at or near the top of a gang of 1994 year-end lists and the Tonys continued to raise the bar for the ballad game. Real talk, the last four and a half minutes of the “Anniversary” album cut are better than some entire R&B albums.

With House of Music, the group sought to even more fully showcase all their influences and inspirations: the Al Green-esque “Thinking of You;” the Stylistics-inspired “Holy Smokes & Gee Wiz;” the Bay Area connect with DJ Quik for some G-Funk with “Let’s Get Down;” the straight-up church moment of the “Lovin’ You” reprise closing out the album, with Christian putting all that good anointing on the Hammond B3 organ. This was our clearest glimpse what Saadiq had in store for the future.

LUCY PEARL

When Tony! Toni! Toné! broke up and Saadiq put together supergroup Lucy Pearl, we realized he was on some other sh*t. First, the very idea to bring En Vogue’s Dawn Lewis, A Tribe Called Quest’s Ali Shaheed Muhammad and Saadiq together was genius. Then, oh…what’s this sound? Tony! Toni! Toné! with a little somethin’ extra on it? Saadiq revealed his ability to reinvent himself, stylistically and sonically, and play in different music spaces. Successfully. Hits, check.

WRITER/COMPOSER/PRODUCER/MUSICIAN

After Lucy Pearl, Saadiq embarked on his first solo projects. We’ll get to those, but the more remarkable part of this era was his expansive work as a writer, producer and session musician for others. As mentioned earlier, Tony! Toni! Tone! was an inspiration for neo soul (a term Saadiq loathes), which pulled from ‘60s and ‘70s influences, paired with the return to live instrumentation, mixed with hip-hop swag. Saadiq was a sometime member of Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad and J Dilla’s Ummah production collective, but had also been working on outside projects since the Tonys were active. Through either the Ummah or alone, Ray was behind hits you may have attributed to someone else.

-D’Angelo, "Lady:" Saadiq co-wrote, co-arranged and co-produced the still-perfect ode to #WCEs (Women Crush Everydays) with D’Angelo.

-Bilal, "Soul Sista:" Soul and R&B great Mtume on the pen, Saadiq on production.

-Angie Stone, "Brotha:" OK, who’s gonna create the 2018 “Unproblematic” edit of the “Brotha” video?

-Total, "Kissing You:" No, this wasn’t Stevie J. Now, imagine this as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song. You can absolutely hear it, right?

-Erykah Badu and Common, "Love Of My Life (An Ode To Hip Hop):" Saadiq again proving he’s a master of the perfect fusion of hip-hop and an old soul groove.

-D’Angelo, "Untitled (How Does It Feel):" Saadiq has admitted he later realized he was channeling Jay Dee’s style throughout the D’Angelo session.

SOLO SAADIQ

As a solo artist, Saadiq has accomplished what few can: continuously evolving his sound and aesthetic while yet managing to still always sound like himself. The retro-influence has been a constant in his work, but that influence ranges between decades and musical eras. He’d given us a taste of solo Ray through “Ask of You” from the Higher Learning soundtrack, but that could easily pass as a Tony! Toni! Toné! song.

With Instant Vintage (again letting you know what he came to do with the title), Saadiq expanded on his existing signature sound of soul, funk, gospel and R&B; a sound he coined “Gospaldelic.”

With Ray Ray, he delivered a modern blaxploitation soundtrack. But then, in 2008, he went all the way back to Motown and the purest soul sound for The Way I See It. Saadiq was committed to an authentic return to ‘60s soul for the entire process. He eschewed slick, modern production techniques for old-school practices, including vintage equipment, all live instrumentation and single-take recordings. He donned slim-cut suits and classic frames for his look, and delivered a retro soul package via the 45 inch LP box set. But it still sounded incredibly fresh and modern, and that is his gift.

His last solo album, 2011’s Stone Rolling, was a progression of The Way I See It, staying in the same retro soul pocket, bringing some funk and rock’n’roll back into.

Or did he?

MILLENNIAL RAY

The thing about Saadiq is that he doesn’t just look a perpetual 30 years old (he’s 52. It don’t crack.). Unlike a lot of “old heads,” he keeps his ear current, as well. Kendrick Lamar, Kamasi Washington, Anderson Paak, and BJ the Chicago Kid are his musical nephews. He praises them and their music often in interviews, heralding them as the current bridge-builders between eras and urban genres. Labelmate Leon Bridges adapted his The Way I See It and Stone Rolling formulas - from the sound to the ‘60s-style dress and imaging - for his own, and had Saadiq’s enthusiastic blessing. He listens to SZA, PJ Morton and Daniel Caesar. And he still has his finger on the pulse of current urban musical movements.

Saadiq was an executive producer on Solange Knowles’ 2016 A Seat at the Table, garnering a Grammy for the anthemic “Cranes in the Sky.”

He’s also helped to bring the full authenticity of the West Coast to Insecure for the past three seasons, serving as the show’s composer.

And he hasn’t abandoned his peers and contemporaries, garnering a “Best Song” Oscar nomination last year with Mary J. Blige for Mudbound’s “Mighty River,” and just recently executive producing John Legend’s first Christmas album, A Legendary Christmas. Only time will tell what he brings on the forthcoming solo album he told VIBE about, titled Jimmy Lee.

Whether his name is included in King of R&B conversations or not, Saadiq has been booked and busy in every area of black music since before 1988, keeping both aunties and nieces grooving, with no signs of slowing or stopping.

RELATED: Raphael Saadiq Talks New Music, 'Insecure,' And Why Tony! Toni! Toné! Won't Reunite

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Nick Rice

25 Hip-Hop Albums By Bomb Womxn Of 2018

The female voice in hip-hop has always been present whether we've noticed it or not. The late Sylvia Robinson birthed the hip-hop music industry with the formation of Sugar Hill Records (and fostering "Rapper's Delight"), Roxanne Shante's 55 lyrical responses to fellow rappers were the first diss tracks and Missy Elliott's bold and striking music and visuals inspired men and women in the game to step outside of their comfort zones.

These pillars and many more have allowed the next generation of emcees to be unapologetically brash, truthful and confident in their music. Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy and Nicki Minaj's Queen might've been the most mainstream albums by womxn in rap this year, but there was a long list of creatives who brought the noise like Rico Nasty, Tierra Whack, Noname and Bbymutha. Blame laziness or the heavy onslaught of music hitting streaming sites this year, but many of the artists on this list have hibernated under the radar for far too long.

VIBE decided to switch things up but also highlighting rap albums by womxn who came strong in their respectively debut albums, mixtapes, EPs. We also had to give props to those who dropped standout singles, leaving us wanting more.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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VIBE / Nick Rice

10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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