Kid Ink Full Speed album Kid Ink Full Speed album

In His Own Words: Kid Ink Breaks Down His 'Full Speed' Album

Kid Ink isn't too keen on taking things slow. At least, that's what his third studio album Full Speed is telling us.

The Batgang rapper's disregard for moving at a snail's pace is well-documented on the new 12-track project, as he shines a light on living the fast life: stacks, stunting, smoking, strippers, sex. You know, the usual. For the avid partiers, his voice is a familiar one to eardrums. "Show Me," "Main Chick" and "Body Language" have been mainstays in the infectious DJ Mustard section of club playlists. "Hotel" is slowly starting to pick up steam. From a technical standpoint, he's a rapper. However, he tends to float somewhere in between spitting and singing on Full Speed, riding the beats and melodies produced by the likes of Mustard, Metro Boomin, Key Wane, DJ Dahi and more.

But something's a little different from his last LP, like his feet are more firmly planted this time around. He's not fishing for singles anymore and wants to be known for his own flow, not how much he makes backsides jump in Supper Club (although, yes, some of that is still present on Full Speed). He knows exactly what he wants people to know about Brian Collins, the person.

"My Own Lane was something where I was showing and improving more, putting pressure on making sure my old fans didn't think I changed on them and the new fans knew what I was about based on the whole album and not just one record," he told us. "With Full Speed, the difference is the growth. I had a little bit more confidence and direction. It wasn't really a guessing game. I'm more comfortable with my voice and [I don't] have that pressure of insecurity."

The Cali-bred rapper broke down his album track-by-track, detailing his three personal faves ("Be Real," "Like A Hot Boyy" and "Cool Back"), how the album features came to be and even the key to deciphering a Young Thug verse. —Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x)

"What It Feels Like"
Kid Ink: This was a record I was having fun with because I like the production more than anything. It wasn't a song that was directed towards trying to come up with a hook or anything like that. Just having fun in the booth. I heard this beat and kind of freestyled this idea together. That's what gave it that intro feeling and vibe, because I was just going off of my first [thought] and not really having a direction and kind of going all over the place with it. It wasn't a focus on being the intro until it was done. It was like, 'Yo, this sounds like the intro.' Not because of the beat but because of the energy on it.

"Faster"
Kid Ink: I try to throw people off in the beginning by not going straight for singles on the album. I try to go for the hard-hitting records. It's a stronger song, more hip-hop. They usually expect the "pop-er" singles from me or the radio records that they usually hear. "Faster" is a song I recorded on the tour bus at like four o'clock in the morning. There were only like one or two songs that I recorded on tour that made it to the album. It's a record that people wouldn't expect from me production-wise. The subject matter is just living a faster lifestyle, focusing on what females talk about and trying to be a part of this and that. They really get sucked into it and can't really handle it. Same thing with guys. There's people that want to be a part of this rap lifestyle or the entertainment lifestyle, get into it and really be in it.

"Dolo" (feat. R. Kelly)
Kid Ink: I got off tour and was just going through and recording single records, things that sounded like they could be singles as far as for the radio. This was a record that was in production in the first album. Me and R. Kelly were trying to get a record done for My Own Lane with the same producers but the song just didn't get done in time for my part, the ending and the production. We saved the idea, sending records to each other back and forth during his album process to see if I had any ideas. I just kept that distant relationship with him and reached out every once in a while and from there, they asked if I had anything for R. Kelly and I did. It was new age for him. It had a brand new sound and I thought it was something of a vibe he's touched on before, something he could probably rock with. Instantly we got a response like "R. Kelly's down" and we went over it two times. He had two sessions to record and add more stuff, which was a blessing. I got a verse and a hook, so you know, I couldn't have asked for more. "Dolo" is a common word that I don't think anyone has touched on in a record, so I felt it was an open lane. It's a word that I say all the time more than anything and is part of my regular vocabulary. 

"Body Language" (feat. Tinashe and Usher) 
Kid Ink: The "Body Language" record was tricky because I wasn't really thinking about recording an album or a single at that point. I was just in the studio with Cashmere Cat and Stargate and I was wondering what'd happen, whether it be I make an accidental record for myself or write something for them and the projects that they're doing, because they work with so many big artists. That's how I feel like I got the record, because I did a song in that session with them and they used it. A lot of the songs got around to other people but this one record never got picked up and it was a record I never forced or talked about because it wasn't something I felt. It was just a demo I wrote for somebody else, whether male or female.

Four months goes by and they asked me if I heard it at Usher's new studio and I said, "Yeah man, we need to make that work. I'm down with the Usher feature." And this was before he even had anything out on the radio. He had one single but no feature tracks. I tried to reach out early but didn't explain to them—because I wasn't in the studio with them—that it was a female feature on the record. So from there, the label made me go find a female artist since they were good with the Usher part. At that time, Tinashe wasn't just in my face a lot, just from being in the same circles in the city and working with the same show people and being at the same venues. She beat me No. 1 for the charts and I came in No. 2, so just to congratulate the situation, I reminded her, "Yo, I got this record. I think I played it for you before to see if you wanted it, but I got Usher on it now." She vibed with it so we went to the studio in Vegas and made it happen. 

"Hotel" 
Kid Ink: I was talking about this situation that I believe is becoming pretty common, or more open rather, where people are in these swinger relationships and it made the female more confident to approach couples and be a part of that. I've heard situations where it's peoples' jobs, like they have sex with couples instead of finding boyfriends or anything like that. It was a funny play on the situation where there's a girl in the club and she's into you, then two seconds later, she's into your girlfriend. Whether it be in the strip club and the strippers are only dancing on your girlfriend but she's still giving you the side eye. It had me thinking that like, "Are you having thoughts about… ?" When I played the idea for my boy, Verse Simmons, he had this extra section where he said to throw it on the hook and play it and we'll make it a movie. It's something that's in the entertainment business a lot, so I played on that idea and from there, played it for Chris in the studio. We cut two records that night, but that one I knew it was a guarantee so he rocked with it and I still got the other one off that. I think he has a special plan for it, but we're definitely getting it out there for sure. 

"Cool Back"
Kid Ink: "Cool Back" was a record I enjoyed on a personal level. Being myself, not worried about another radio record for anyone else, just having fun. I was touching on the basis of bringing cool back. Fashion itself was getting to a point where to be dirty is in, it's fashionable. And that's something that I never felt or really understood, so with this record I wanted to touch base on people getting back to being a little clean and not as rugged. I respect it to an extent, but I think it got a little out of hand with everyone just liking to look dirty on purpose. I felt like this was a record that was personal for me and touched home. It might even be picking at some people, but not really.

"Be Real" (feat. Dej Loaf) 
Kid Ink: That record came together by DJ Mustard coming to the studio and dropping off beats. I'm always looking for that one beat that sounds different than any other beat that someone gives me. This was one that felt like it still had his Mustard vibe to it, but when we put the verses on it, it went to a whole other level. The plus side is he gave me this beat that had a hook written by one of his female writers, and she was saying all this gutter stuff about different subjects. All the way from baby daddies to dropping off that child support, and not having no dough or pulling up in a raggedy bucket. She was talking about a lot of real hood shit to where I was like, 'Who can say these lyrics the right way and have it come off directly?'

I thought it could only be Nicki Minaj at this point because everybody else is not going to be believable. Nicki Minaj or Rihanna-type stuff. But I can't go that big right now, those aren't my homie-homies, like [their features cost] $100,000. I remembered how I got introduced to Dej Loaf, my friends put me on her. I just fell in love with what she was doing and how that lane was so open for somebody and then at that time, I felt like she was the one. She came by the radio show and showed a lot of love, asked to come backstage and take a pic and everything, and was always respectful to the grind. I reached out to her and told her I had this one record that was right and she did everything and did her job, made it her own record, switched up lyrics and did all kinds of other stuff. We just put it together and made it into this catchy, amazing record. It's definitely going to be one for the club, but I think it's reaching its commercial status, too.

"Every City We Go" (feat. Migos) 
Kid Ink: The Migos record was produced by one of my in-house producers Ned Cameron, and we had this idea that was written by one of my in-house artists, Bricc Baby. He wrote this amazing hook idea. I couldn't hear anyone [on the record] for a second and then a couple weeks later, we got into the studio with Migos when they came to L.A. I played a record that was more their vibe, then I brought up the other record even though it was a different sound for them. I felt like they could attack it the right way. I left them with the record for a couple of hours and they wrote these crazy verses that I never heard from them on that level and the way they catered to the beat. They were riding the beat crazy. They're more club-driven artists and it seemed like I was using them more so for their sound than they were using me for mine.

So at that point, I cut a verse to this record and kept the other on stash. It's probably the closest to the personal record that I wanted to have. I always try to have a record where I can worry less about the punchlines and more worried about what I'm saying. This is the closest I was trying to spit and earn respect. I was really speaking from and telling the truth about where I come from. People think "Oh, they just gave him that record" or "He was copying their vibes." I try my hardest not to be like that but you still want to try and give the artist something that they can understand and be familiar with as far as the content so they know how to write their verses instead of them talking completely out of pocket. 

"Round Here"
Kid Ink: This one was produced by Key Wane. He gave me this idea and it played off of Deebo from Friday. The word Deebo means strong-armed, to take something away, boss up on somebody. So I used that for a theme, explaining situations where you gotta stunt on people even if you don't want to. You have to show and prove your status. I think ["Deebo"] goes all the way from going to the club and taking the right table to taking someone's girl—which is not my personal thing, but you know other people's situations. Just taking that charge. I didn't try to take it to being on some gangster shit, like I'm taking chains and taking cars and poppin' people. I'm not promoting robbing folks but I'm definitely just stunting.

The other day I had to do it at the club with a table because I walked in and the table they gave me wasn't the table I wanted or where they told me I was going to be. Sometimes I get to the club late, waiting on other people or getting ready to come from somewhere, and they'll give away the table and think that when I get there it's okay. No, I need this table for a reason. For me, it's different. I need to sit by the DJ, sit by this person, so I told them to move that guy. I don't brag about it while it's happening. I'm chill. I let security handle it. I'm not jumping on the table like, "Move out the way!" 

"About Mine" (feat. Trey Songz) 
Kid Ink: It's one of my favorite street records, especially where I'm from in L.A. We played on this theme with the "Why you bullshittin," which was kind of a play off the record done by Sugar Free, which is a big classic record where I'm from. I figured overall, Trey had this idea but I didn't like the beat it was over so I had to switch it up and tell him I was going to hit Mustard up and get a new beat. But I know how that can play sometimes when you change the beat and it might not sound the same with the cut lyrics and everything gets thrown off, but I'm glad he trusted me with picking the right beat. I know what I'm doing as far as production and knowing the keys and tempos. We found a brand new beat with a new age sound. Not the regular "Mustard sound." We went back and forth with ideas and lyrics and he took it back to his own studio at the crib. I was recording outside of the city at that time but we were definitely communicating, making sure the record came together and that we both felt like it wasn't a feature record. It was a Kid Ink and Trey Songz record. We made that happen as far as hitting the street hard without forcing. I think it's going to be a real big club record even if it doesn't hit the radio crazy, content-wise. It's a little strong for radio.

"Blunted"
Kid Ink: This was the second to last song recorded for the album. It was the point in the process where I'm not focused on singles. I was focused on having fun and it's close to the end time where I'm trying to squeeze records in. We got to the point where I don't want the album to sound like a bunch of singles or radio records. I want to still be me on the songs even though I was recording a bunch of singles for y'all to pick from. Let me just cut some new stuff in the studio and just have fun, go in there and record "Blunted" just off the fact that I haven't had a smoke record for a while and I do a lot of smoke freestyles. So I approached this song like it was more of a freestyle. I was talking about smoking but it didn't sound like the typical smoke record. I felt like only smokers could understand the lyrics. If I played this and people who didn't smoke listened, I'd have to be like, "Nah, if you know what I'm talking about, you'll understand and it will make you appreciate it." If you understand that 1.5 grams is a fat blunt then in the smoker's mind, he'd understand. I wanted to use the word "blunted" because it hadn't been over-stressed and used. I try to always come up with something new for the smoke records because there aren't too many cool smoke words out there. 

"Like a Hot Boy" (feat. Young Thug and Bricc Baby Shitro) 
Kid Ink: Bricc Baby is somebody who grew up with me in L.A. He's family and we're close friends. He was someone who was rapping but was also still in the streets and doing his thing in Atlanta. From there, he ran into [Young] Thug, Migos and all their producers, and was in that circle. He was living that lifestyle for a minute to where he came back to the city and I got him back into his music game. He was bringing these dudes around me. I ended up meeting Young Thug, Rich Homie Quan, Migos and Metro Boomin and all these guys. I got this record and started writing this hook. Then, I had this one line at the end that I was stuck on and was just thinking of a word. I always tell everybody in the studio, "If you got something, go in the booth and say it. Don't be afraid to say it. Go in the booth, because it might be crazy." So he went into the studio and said, "Getting cash money like a hot boy." I was like, that's the hook. We went with that and we wanted to write more to that section.

The whole song became themed around the Hot Boys and we can talk about the new hot boys in the streets and throw the words around. I used to be the biggest Hot Boys stan so it wasn't going too far left for me to come up with the rest of the lyrics, the moments and how I felt at those times. Thinking about the new Hot Boys, I was thinking about Birdman and then Lil' Wayne and Young Thug. Like this could be a cool play on everything and make it seem fun. This was before any of the beef, we were just having fun. I sent it to Thug and he just laid it down like it was his own record. That's really what I wanted. He sent the verse and I said "Nah, I need Young Thug on the hook doing melodies and all that stuff." So he went back in and re-cut it. Right after the show one day we got it back right before the album was done. I remember being in Miami and getting the verse done at four in the morning and being completely wasted but understanding everything that the words said. And then I remember being completely sober and I forgot all the words. I was like "Yo, this sounded way crazier when I was drunk. Like I got everything he said." But when I was sober, I had to really decipher it. If you can't understand Young Thug, you gotta be lit. 

Grab Kid Ink's Full Speed album on iTunes here.

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Beenie Man (L) and Bounty Killer (R) in 1995.
David Corio/Redferns

A Look At Beenie Man And Bounty Killer's 'Verzuz' Battle Scorecard

Why was this night different from all other Verzuz battles? Streamed live from Kingston, Jamaica, the Memorial Day “Soundclash Edition” of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s flagship IG Live series was easily the most exciting and entertaining yet, as well as the first to delve into dancehall reggae.

Considering the fact that Jamaican sound systems pioneered the sort of “beat battles” have made Verzuz a social media sensation well over half a century ago, the creative decision was more than fitting. By pitting two icons of the genre, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man, in head-to-head competition, this Verzuz battle did not just showcase two of its most respected lyricists ever to hold a microphone, it also tapped into an epic rivalry that stretches back more than a quarter of a century.

At that time the youth born Moses Davis in the Waterhouse section of downtown Kingston was already on the second leg of his career -- having released his first album a decade earlier at the age of ten. Young Rodney Price, formerly known as Bounty Hunter, had just started to make noise under his new artist name Bounty Killer, recording hardcore hits for the legendary Waterhouse-based producer Lloyd “King Jammy” James.

Like all young aspiring artists, Killer had looked up to Beenie as an inspirational figure -- until he felt that the artist had borrowed his style. Beenie and Bounty’s face-to-face clashes, especially their Boxing Day battles at the storied Jamaican stage show Sting in 1993 and 1995, are the stuff of dancehall legend. Despite whatever differences may have existed between them, both artists channeled all that energy into great records -- many of which were played in the heat of the Verzuz battle.

Arguably the most exciting and spontaneous edition of Verzuz yet, the Beenie and Bounty battle was not a “clash” in the traditional Jamaican sense, but it was hardly a conventional beat battle either. Predictions that the island’s WiFi might not be able to handle the strain were soon dismissed -- in keeping with Jamaica’s long tradition of raising the bar when it comes to using technology to create next-level musical entertainment, this was the best-produced beat battle of them all. On the other hand, this was also the first time a Verzuz competitor has had to take a break in the action to negotiate with police officers.

This was surely also the first Verzuz battle to be live-tweeted by a prime minister: PM Andrew Holness took to his official Twitter to declare “Jamaica’s culture is global” and share a screenshot of the action. In keeping with the national pride, the battle opened with a rousing rendition of the Jamaican National Anthem.

When Beenie and Bounty came through VIBE’s IG Live one day before performance, they both declared that they would not be preparing for the battle as the art of war should be spontaneous. This has had people on tender hooks as no one really knows what would happen on the night. But of course all celebrities were out in full force for this highly anticipated battle, as everyone from Diddy to Swizz to Rihanna came through to catch the vibes. It was the only place to be if you were on IG, with more than 400K people checking in at the event's peak.

Here’s Billboard's tune-for-tune breakdown from the top to the very last drop.

ROUND 1: Beenie Man's “Matie” vs. Special Ed feat. Bounty Killer's “Just a Killa”

Beenie kicked things off with his first No. 1 hit (on the Jamaican charts) in honor of the late great Bobby Digital, the legendary producer of this song and countless more, who passed away May 21. Bounty opted to open on an international note, leading with his first hip hop collaboration, a 1995 single by Brooklyn rapper Special Ed featuring a guest verse from young Bounty.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 2: Beenie Man's “Memories” vs. Bounty Killer's “Suspense”

Sticking with the hardcore dancehall, Beenie reached for one of his fan favorites, a mid-’90s banger on the “Hot Wax” riddim that was recorded during the height of his great lyrical war with Bounty Killer (and sampled by Drake on the album version of “Controlla”). Killer responded in kind with a track on the same hard-hitting riddim, making this round feel like a flashback mid-'90s dancehall session.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 3: Beenie Man's “Slam” vs. Bounty Killer's “Living Dangerously”

Shifting into another gear, Beenie drew for his first Billboard hit, a tribute to the sexual prowess of “ghetto girls” recorded on Dave Kelly’s irresistible “Arab Attack” riddim. Bounty responded with one of his most popular songs for the ladies, a collaboration with reggae vocalist par excellence Barrington Levy. Counteracting a classic with another classic, this round was too close to call.

WINNER: Tie

ROUND 4: Beenie Man feat. Chevelle Franklin's “Dancehall Queen” vs. Diana King feat. Bounty Killer's “Summer Breezin’”

Keeping the energy high, Beenie unleashed this soundtrack cut from the movie Dancehall Queen (in which he also appeared). Bounty responded with a relatively obscure guest verse on a record by Jamaican pop hitmaker Diana King.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 5: Beenie Man feat. Lil Kim's “Fresh From Yard” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Jeru the Damaja's “Suicide or Murder”

For his first international selection, Beenie chose a DJ Clue production featuring the Queen Bee in her best Brooklyn Jamaican patois mode. Killer kept it BK with a grimy Jeru collab produced by New York’s own Massive B productions.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 6: T.I. feat. Beenie Man's “I’m Serious” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Mobb Deep's “Deadly Zone”

Sticking with the hip hop collabs, Beenie dropped T.I.’s first major-label single featuring a hard-as-nails Neptunes beat and a street-certified Beenie Man hook. But he should have known that badman business is the Killer’s wheelhouse. Bounty clapped back with a grimy Mobb Deep collab off his My Xperience album and took the round.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 7: Guerilla Black feat. Beenie Man's “Compton” vs. Bounty Killer feat. The Fugees' "Hip-Hopera”

Beenie dropped his third straight hip hop crossover track, this one a guest verse for Biggie soundalike Guerilla Black over a bouncy Stalag Riddim. Bounty brought out the big guns, returning fire with a Fugees collab. As the Warlord would say, “People dead!”

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 8: Beenie Man's “Romie” vs. Bounty Killer's “Worthless Bwoy”

Returning to straight-up dancehall, Beenie served up one of his worldwide club classics, a song about a girl named “Romie” set to Shocking Vibes’s hard-driving version of the Punany Riddim. Killer replied with a Dave Kelly banger burning out the guys who lack the stamina to satisfy their significant others.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 9: Beenie Man “Old Dog” vs. Bounty Killer “Stucky”

Beenie Man has plenty of classic dancehall joints, and this Dave Kelly sure shot is one of the most ubiquitous. “Old Dog” recounts his exploits with the opposite sex, shouting out female dancehall stars Patra and Lady Saw along the way. Bounty replied in kind with his own kind of “gyal tune,” more rough than sweet, just the way Killer likes it.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 10: Beenie Man feat. Mya “Girls Them Sugar” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Nona Hendryx & Cocoa Brovaz “It’s a Party”

Beenie closed out the first half of the battle on a strong note with one of his most beautiful records, a Neptunes remake of one of his immortal dancehall classics adorned with a sweet hook sung by Mya. Bounty’s response was strong, but the Wyclef-produced party joint (with a hook by the former member of Labelle and bars from Boot Camp MCs) fell just short of Beenie’s selection.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 11: Beenie Man feat. Wyclef Jean's “Love Me Now” vs. Bounty Killer feat. Swizz Beatz' “Guilty”

Flipping catchy lyrics over Naughty By Nature's classic “O.P.P.” beat, Beenie sounded strong on this Wyclef collab, but Bounty countered with a hard-hitting Swizz Beatz track featuring a blazing guest verse from the Killer.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 12: Beenie Man feat. Barrington Levy's “Murderation” vs. Bounty Killer's “Look”

The vibes were sweet right up until the moment when officers of the Jamaican Constabulary Force interrupted the action. Beenie took care of the situation, informing the police that there were hundreds of thousands of people watching internationally. He then asked his DJ to run one of the hardest tracks in his catalog, a song about the abuse of authority in the ghetto streets. It was such a perfect segue the whole thing almost seemed planned. Killer had no choice but to counter with one of the most powerful songs in his catalogue, another Dave Kelly masterpiece, just barely winning what was arguably the strongest round of the entire battle.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 13: Beenie Man's [Showtime Juggling] vs. Bounty Killer's “Fed Up”

Still charged up by the unexpected visit from the police, Beenie felt a vibe and decided to perform his next song live. Starting out with “Hypocrite,” a blistering broadside against haters on Dave Kelly’s “Showtime” riddim, Beenie’s performance inspired Bounty to join in for what became a multi-song medley that included snippets of Killer’s “Eagle & The Hawk” and “Bullet Proof Skin” as well as Beenie Man’s “Done Have We Things,” “Badman Medley,” “Bury Yuh Dead,” and “Fire Burn.”

After they wrapped up their explosive tag-team performance, Beenie calmly stated “My song dat,” indicating that he wanted the whole extended set to count as one song. Bounty retaliated with “Fed Up,” one of his signature reality tunes that cemented his reputation as Jamaica’s “Poor People Governor.” Another close round, and highly unorthodox. Advantage Killa.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 14: Beenie Man's “World Dance” vs. Bounty Killer's “Gal” 

Beenie Man took it back with one of his biggest early hits, a “buss the dance” selection on Shocking Vibes’ Cordy Roy Riddim. Killer’s response was another hardcore tune for the girls, explosively energetic and lyrically intricate.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 15: Beenie Man's “Modeling” vs. Bounty Killer's “Model”

Taking it back to the early days of his career, Beenie served up a song designed to inspire all the “bashment girls” in the dance to show off their freshest outfits and dance moves. Killer responded in kind with a similar type of song, every bit as lyrically precise as Beenie’s was melodic, making this round a dead heat.

WINNER: Tie

ROUND 16: Beenie Man's “Oyster & Conch” vs. Bounty Killer's “Benz & Bimma”

Sticking with the “gyal” segment, dancehall’s “Doctor” prescribed a musical aphrodisiac, stressing the importance of seafood in your diet. Killer responded with a dancehall smash likening his appreciation of the female physique to his fondness for expensive European automobiles.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 17: Beenie Man's “Dude” vs. Bounty Killer's “Greatest”

Beenie delivered yet another Dave Kelly sureshot, this time on the festive Fiesta Riddim. Killer responded with a little-known 2003 track on the “Hydro” radio, basically conceding this round.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 18: Beenie Man's “Mm-Hmm” vs. Bounty Killer feat. Cham's “Another Level”

As the battle neared its final rounds, Beenie played this hard-hitting Tony Kelly production and grabbed the mic to chat his lyrics live and direct, showing that dancehall artists of a certain age are still in top form lyrically. Bounty replied with a musical killshot on Dave Kelly’s Clone Riddim, joining forces with Cham to take things to “Another Level.” Feeling the spirit, Beenie grabbed the mic and spit a verse over Bounty’s record.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 19: Beenie Man “Nuff Gal” vs. Bounty Killer “Cry For Die For”

Beenie changed up the pace with a jazzy tune for the ladies featuring a swinging horn section. This 1996 Jamaican single could have been a bigger hit for Beenie if it had the right promotion, and still sounds great all these years later. Bounty Killer responded in similarly eclectic mode with a jaunty track on a Riddim based on The Champs' 1950s rock chart-topper “Tequila.”

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 20: Beenie Man's “I’m Drinkin’ (Rum and Red Bull)” vs. Bounty Killer's “Smoke the Herb”

Beenie closed out his regulation 20 rounds with one of his biggest crossover hits, a collaboration with Fambo that somebody at Red Bull should probably sign up for an endorsement deal. Bounty Killer responded with perhaps his greatest ganja anthems. This one was too close to call. Pick your poison.

WINNER: Tie

EXTRA TUNES

After running a couple of exclusive dubplate specials -- “War Uno Want” by Bounty Killer and a Buju Banton and Beenie Man collab on the M.P.L.A Riddim -- Beenie and Bounty served one final tune. ”Why Beenie saved one of his signature songs, 2004's "King of the Dancehall," for the 21st round is anybody’s guess. Bounty’s response ("Nuh Fren Fish") was something for the hardcore fans only.

Winner: Beenie

BONUS ROUNDS

Wider Catalogue: Beenie Man

While both artists did a good job displaying the breadth of their respective repertoires, blending hardcore dancehall hits with international collaborations, Beenie Man showed off his versatility with a mixture of old and new dancehall hits as well as mixing moods and tempos.

Biggest Snub: Beenie Man (Point to Bounty Killer)

Beenie Man opted not to play “Who Am I” (aka “Sim Simma,”) perhaps his best known international hit. Not to be outdone, Bounty Killer also neglected to play “Hey Baby,” his high-profile collaboration with No Doubt from their Grammy-winning 2001 album Rock Steady. Still Beenie’s oversight was the more inexplicable of the two.

Best Banter: Beenie Man

When police stopped by in the middle of the session and Beenie Man somehow kept his cool telling them “Officer, the whole world is watching… do we have to do this right now? Do you really wanna be that guy?”

Biggest KO: Bounty Killer

Not long after the police stopped by, Beenie and Bounty joined in on an eight song freestyle, venting their frustration at the police. But Bounty’s response, “Poor People Fed Up,” trumped an extended live performance, demonstrating just how much of a punch that song still packs.

People's Champ: Bounty Killer

While Beenie proved the more strategic selector, Bounty Killer’s off-the-cuff adlibs an manic energy -- especially when he noticed Rihanna in the IG audience -- kept the mood up. Even when he played unexpected selections, the Warlord’s respect levels were on 11.

FINAL SCORE: 13-10-3, Beenie Man

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This article originally appeared on Billboard.

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Jonathan Mannion

Iconic Photographer, Jonathan Mannion, Details Shooting Eminem's 'Marshall Mathers LP' 20 Years Later

This story, in its entirety, is posted on Billboard.com and is written by Carl Lamarre.

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Saturday (May 23) marks the 20th anniversary of Eminem's third album, The Marshall Mathers LP. His magnum opus not only shattered records on the Billboard 200 (debuted at No. 1 with a whopping 1.78 million copies its opening week) but highlighted his abilities as a raw and gifted storyteller. With Em looking to shed light on his real-life persona of Marshall Mathers, he hired famed photographer Jonathan Mannion to help capture his vision.

Mannion, who previously shot legendary album covers such as Jay-Z's 1996 Reasonable Doubt and DMX's 1998 Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, relished the task of teaming up with one of rap's polarizing acts because of their commonalities. Like Eminem, Mannion was a young, hungry creative from the Midwest, whose affinity for hip-hop ran deep, dating back to DJ Quik's debut single, "Born and Raised in Compton." 

Em and Mannion's tag-team expanded to over two continents. Not only did they shoot photos for MMLP in Amsterdam but also Detroit. From the pizza shop that Eminem used to work at to even his old childhood home where he sat on the steps for the album's classic cover art, nothing was off-limits.

READ MORE 20 Years of 'The Marshall Mathers LP': Ranking Every Song From Eminem's Third Album"

It was great," recalls Mannion of the shoot in from of Em's old house. "It was him in his element and delivering his journey. You know, the humble nature of him and his process of getting to be this megastar, which is rooted so clearly in talent. His talent and his relentless drive was it.

"Mannion spoke to Billboard about the 20th anniversary of The Marshall Mathers LP, where the album cover ranks in his collection and Em's dedication to delivering the best shots. 

What does the number 20 mean for you having been involved in the Marshall Mathers LP?

It's really hard to put into words how important this album is for the world, for Eminem (and) for me. There's an endless amount of stories. We shot in Amsterdam and Detroit. Originally, this album was meant to be called Amsterdam. I was like, "We have to go to Amsterdam. We have to all get on a plane and go there. That's the only way we're doing this album." He happened to be performing out there and said, "This is going to sync up perfectly.

"We did a phenomenal session out there -- really poured out hearts into it. Then, I think there was a realization that he wanted to present this trifecta of who he was: Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers and Eminem. This is how genius this guy is. He's thinking farther down the road to be able to craft these versions of himself. Slim Shady was the gimmick to get everyone's attention, which was still rooted in something phenomenal.

Then, he was like, "Let me tell you about my journey. Let me allow myself to be vulnerable within the space and deliver 'me' and how I really got here [with] my struggles, my pain," and I think that's when everybody really connected with him on a different level. It wasn't just this pop phenomenon that he was rooted in reverence for the culture. He obviously felt like he had to prove himself probably more than the next MC just because he was from Detroit and a white boy. He had something to prove and he was clinical on the album, delivering masterpiece after masterpiece.

READ MORE20 Years of 'Stan': How Eminem’s Epic 2000 Hit Relates to the Fan Culture It Inspired

When it was time to dig into who Marshall Mathers was, we had to do another session in Detroit. So we flew to Detroit to kind of continue [the shoot]. It kind of became this nice balance of Amsterdam and all of these lax drugs laws and all of these experimental moments that he was pursuing at that time to kind of ground himself. We shot outside the pizza shop that he used to work at with people that he still knew from there.

I remember you said in a past interview that you shot him in his boxers and trench coat in the freezing cold towards the end of the shoot.

It's dedication. I was with him entirely, pushing and wanting more, but he one-upped me in this session. We did that and I was like, "OK. He's going to be tired." He's in boxer shorts, combat boots and a trench coat being the fullness of the character that he was presenting as this Amsterdam version of Em. He pushed it and I was like, "Man, this is incredible. What we achieved out here was beyond comprehension. I can't wait for when we get back to see the session and go through it."He was like, "Man, I was thinking I want to do one more shot. Can we go back to the hotel? I want to be in my hotel room writing to my daughter." Usually, I'm the one begging rappers to go a little bit farther because I want to give them the world, but it flipped on me. It wasn't begrudgingly that I went there to that place. I was like, "I'm with this. Thank you." It made another really phenomenal image that we got to share with the world because of that effort.

Continue reading the original article by Carl Lamarre at Billboard here.

 

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THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP. Congratulations to @eminem on an absolutely brilliant project that celebrates 20 YEARS today. There were 2 sessions that yielded the campaign around this album, one in Detroit and the other in Amsterdam. It is one of my top 3 covers of all time. Art direction & Photography, @jonathanmannion. Designed with the masterful @morningbreathinc’s own Jason Noto.

A post shared by Jonathan Mannion (@jonathanmannion) on May 23, 2020 at 11:20am PDT

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To get a feel of Mannion's deep love of hip-hop, check out his Spotify playlist of the many legendary artists and their music from the album covers he's shot. "I did a playlist on Spotify based on a random sampling of 65 of my favorite album covers. Pulled 90 tunes that were bonafide bangers and complied a little vibe," Mannion details. Enjoy the vibes!

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Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae in 'The Photograph'.
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Opinion: Black Romance Films Are Having A Moment

It began with a kiss. Just one decade after the birth of cinema, vaudeville actors and dancers Gertie Brown and Saint Suttle gleefully embraced one another on film. They held hands and locked lips, giving the world its very first image of Black romance and intimacy on-screen. 1898's Something Good-Negro Kiss proved that love and affection was at the center of Black life. More than that, intimacy has always been essential to the survival of our people. Now, some 120 plus years later— cinema has finally reached the point where it has expanded to allow complex images of Black love, across time periods, between same-sex couples, and more recently, without being bogged down in trauma and pain.

Before Good-Negro Kiss was discovered in 2018, one of the earliest versions of Black romance in cinema was 1954's Carmen Jones starring Harry Belafonte and Dorothy Dandridge. Filmed in sweeping cinemascope, Carmen Jones follows a soldier named Joe (Belafonte) who gets so enamored with Carmen (Dandridge) that he becomes obsessive, even going AWOL to be with her. Though the film is sexy, and the tension between the actors is palpable — the romance in Carmen Jones is stilted to make white audiences comfortable. Hollywood was only willing to see Black intimacy through the lens of a renowned musical, wrapped in what ultimately becomes a tragedy. By the end of the film, Joe murders Carmen out of obsession and jealousy. Despite Belafonte and Dandridge's determination to showcase their sensuality, the material only allowed them to go so far. This sort of restraint would become the blueprint for generations of Black romance films.

Considering the utter chaos of the 1960s, it's a wonder that 1964's Nothing But A Man was ever made. A decade after Carmen Jones, Hollywood felt it was time to roll the dice on something different. Starring Ivan Dixon and Abbey Lincoln as Duff Anderson, a railroad worker, and Josie Dawson, a Birmingham school teacher, respectively, Nothing But A Man isn't packaged for white audiences like the musicals of the previous decades. However, the burdens and pains of the couple's relationship, namely Duff's flakiness about commitment and the rage he feels as a Black man living in the South, fall on Josie's shoulders. Moving into the 1970s with films like Claudine and Mahogany, and certainly, in the 1990s and early 2000s, Black romance on-screen would either be shrouded in comedic relief, or the relationships became the sole burden of the Black woman to bear. Often, both tropes were present.

Still, Black romance stories were always evolving. The 1980s sparked something new for Black sensuality in the movies. Though these were still heteronormative depictions, (aside from 1984's The Color Purple), films made significant steps forward in terms of diverse images of Black people. However, they still held on to sexist ideals. 1986's She's Gotta Have It used a Black woman's rape as a form of character development while 1988's Coming to America — billed as a comedy, rewarded its protagonist for lying to his love interest. This would become the formula for the many Black romance movies that came to fruition in the 1990s. Cheating, lies, abandonment, lack of accountability, and trauma are all very present in some of our most beloved films. Poetic Justice, Love Jones, Jason's Lyric, The Best Man, and Love & Basketball, all have some form of struggle love embedded within the narrative — typically leaving Black women wielding the shorter end of the stick.

Poetic Justice is riddled in misogyny, The Best Man has a serial cheater as a leading man, and in Love Jones, the lack of communication and accountability from both partners is dizzying. Moreover, women are often asked to overlook cheating, lying, manipulation, or being friend-zoned to present themselves as worthy of their male partner by the film's conclusion. Yet, in our quest to connect and see brown bodies sensually and romantically in cinema, we hold these films close to our hearts, overlooking many of the toxic traits of the characters.

Despite the mega success of Black films in the 1990s— following the debut of Gina Prince-Bythewood's Love & Basketball in 2000, Black stories in cinema, aside from a few here and there, were all but erased in Hollywood. Throughout this near decade-long drought, prolific director Tyler Perry was one of the only voices in the game. However, the quality of Perry's storylines, as well as the portrayal of his female characters, have proven to be problematic. These characters are often emotionally broken, angry, and at times unhinged. If and when they do find love in movies like 2005's Diary of An Angry Black Woman, 2008's The Family That Preys and 2009's I Can Do Bad All By Myself, it's after they suffer some dire consequence or horrific punishment. This was particularly jarring during a time when there were hardly any other mainstream film images of Black people on-screen.

Thankfully, as we pressed forward into the second decade of the 21st century, Black filmmakers, writers, and producers were knocking down doors in Hollywood once again. In 2012, Ava DuVernay stepped onto the scene with her stellar film, Middle of Nowhere. The film follows Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) grappling with the choice to leave her incarcerated husband, Derek (Omari Hardwick), to follow her dreams and possibly find new love with a bus driver named Brian (David Oyelowo). Though this was a significant shift in the way Black intimacy, sensuality, and romance was depicted in movies, the real transformation happened in 2016, with Barry Jenkins' Academy Award-winning, Moonlight.

Loosely based on screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney's real life, Moonlight puts the Black male coming-of-age story center stage. However, instead of honing in on the violence and despair of the inner city, like the hood homeboy films of the 1990s — Moonlight focuses on Black love between Black men. First, there is the relationship protagonist Chiron (Alex R. Hibbert) has with his father-figure, Juan (Mahershala Ali). Later, Chiron explores his queer identity with his classmate Kevin (Jharrel Jerome). The film is a sumptuous duality of hypermasculinity against lush sensuality. With this film, Jenkins effectively shattered our expectations regarding Black intimacy on-screen, while unraveling why Black love in all of its varied prisms deserves a spotlight in cinema.

Moonlight would pave the way for 2019's Queen & Slim and 2020's The Photograph. Two vastly different films, one— a harrowing dramatic thriller, centering Queen (Joe Turner-Smith ) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) who are forced together by circumstance. A dull Tinder date paves the way for a standoff with a racist police officer who eventually lays dead, prompting our leads to run for their lives.

Penned by Lena Waithe and directed by Melina Matsoukas — the film is almost an antithesis of what we've seen before when it comes to Black romance in the movies. Instead of the tried and true formula of a meet-cute, conflict, and resolution, Queen & Slim unites a Black man and a Black woman through Black radicalism. They come to lean on one another, inadvertently building a foundation when there is no one else either of them can trust or turn to. The weight of their relationship rests equally on both of their shoulders, as they become each other’s ride or die.

In contrast to Queen & Slim, writer/director Stella Meghie's The Photograph, is a much-deserved presentation of soft Black romance, without the trauma or brutality. The film follows Mae (Issa Rae), an art curator grappling with the death of her estranged mother, and Michael (Lakeith Stanfield) — a journalist who crosses paths with Mae's late mother's work. The film follows the typical romance formula, but the conflict and resolution aren't gut-wrenching or emotionally tumultuous. Mae and Micheal deal with real-life issues without being battered or broken. Both parties —like the lead characters in Queen & Slim, share the weight of their missteps and miscommunication. The Photograph is a recognition of straight-forward Black sensuality and love without the heaviness of Black pain. Despite all of this, the film has garnered mixed reviews. Since there isn’t any toxicity between the main characters or much comedy in The Photograph, it appears foreign to us. As a community, we’ve been conditioned to only recognize Black Love shrouded in chaos. Presently, Black women in particular, are asking Black people to look beyond archaic examples of love that are rooted in sexism, misogynoir, and rigid gender roles. Instead, Meghie presents two grown people who must hold themselves and each other accountable to have a chance at a loving and modern relationship.

Black women are also getting the opportunity to be seen as romantic leading women, in the broader scope of cinema alongside leading men from different cultures. Following the footsteps of the 2006 film Something New, where Sanaa Lathan's leading man was Australian actor Simon Baker, Issa Rae will become a leading lady once more in Netflix's The Lovebirds. The Insecure actress stars as Leilani, opposite Pakistani-American actor Kumail Nanjiani. Rae is a woman who is grappling with her strained relationship with her boyfriend, Jibran (Nanjiani). The couple's commitment to one another is hilariously put to the test when they suddenly find themselves in the middle of a chaotic murder mystery.

Black film, and undoubtedly Black romance film, has come a long way since that very first kiss was captured on-screen in 1898. With more women filmmakers at the helm, diverse projects, and the current wave of Black cinema in Hollywood, Black romance movies have the opportunity to give the next generations more nuanced depictions of connection, sensuality, sex, and intimacy. With films like Queen & Slim, Moonlight, The Photograph, and The Lovebirds — we have witnessed Black people from all walks of life and sexualities dive into romantic relationships with love, accountability, and self-awareness, which are truly the ultimate relationship goals.

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