Sam Dew
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Rising Roc Nationer Sam Dew Talks Soul, Love & Artistry

Expect the unexpected from rising neo-soul singer Sam Dew.

Sam Dew is not your average punk rock soul singer. In fact, any singer behind that sort of genre mesh isn’t average at all. You may have heard his neo-soul croon assisting Wale’s "LoveHate Thing" or opening the stage for the sultry Wildhearter Miguel. But you’ve never heard him like this.

Embarking on UK tours and serving his own umbra of soul essentiality through his latest EP, Damn Sue, “emerging” is an understatement for the breakthrough of Roc Nation’s signee and wide-ranged Chi-Towner. During his performance at Red Bull’s Sound Select, a monthly concert series hosted by Red Bull and top music fest curators such as Afropunk, Dew’s potent vocals matched with the coalescence of rock-soul instrumentals captured the audience. His dynamic tonality dominates the mic and sways fans into an obscure, yet pleasurable sense of musical bewilderment.

VIBE caught up with the man behind the madness as he explains his resurfacing to new artistry and what fans can expect from his slow but sure soul establishment.

VIBE: What most inspires the soul in your music?
Sam Dew: I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I think that’s the part I don’t have to think about. It really just came from listening to my parents’ music and it’s what I grew up on. I think soul will always find its way into what I’m doing. It just comes from my root.

What about the inspiration from your former rock band, Cloudeater? How did you dabble into rock music as a soul singer?
We all came from different backgrounds in that band. I was coming from soul, one guy was coming from hip-hop, another guy did drum and bass and another came from jazz. When we came together we had no idea what we were going to get, and that was then of it. Trying to figure out where the pieces fit.

What’s different when you write for yourself as opposed to writing with a band, like Cloudeater, or even for other artists?
It’s way easier to write for other people. Yourself isn’t in it. When you write for yourself, you overthink and you become paranoid. When you write for others, it isn’t about you. Especially when they’re big artists because you think of the fans and you’re aware of their career. It’s easy to get in their head— at least for me. I have a lot of fun writing for artists, but I’m learning to apply that fun to myself.

Was that how you did so well with Damn Sue? What adjustments will you make from learning how this project went?
Yes, we’re still learning. It just came out this year, so we’re kind of gauging reactions. I don’t think it’s going to have a lot of say in what we do or change in our music though because we have an idea of what we like to do. Hopefully, people will like the EP.

READ: Premiere: Sam Dew Longs For The Past On ‘Rewind’

Some artists tend to transform their music and image based on what they see their fans picking up on. Do you see yourself adjusting in that way?
It depends on how fun the fan-base wants to get with me. If there’s room to make a record every year and it sounds nothing like the old one, I might do that. It’s easy to get in and have fun. To me, if it feels right, that’s all that needs to be done.

You also discussed that as an artist, you wanted to constantly focus on taking away and adding layers to your sound and music. What did you mean by that?
I think at times it can be really easy to complicate yourself. Lately, my writing has gotten simpler and I think it’s better. If you can find a strong message that is the most minimal, nine times out of ten, it resonates. It will resonate longer than a complicated message. Like “LoveHate Thing” with Wale, I kept that simple. It wasn’t really room on that song for people to gauge what I do, which I liked. I love that song for that reason; it felt like fragmented space in time.

What energies do you want your fans to receive from you at Afropunk this year?
With the EP, I was feeling a lot of catharsis and introspection. I found ways for people to process their lives through me. I think that’s how people feel when they listen to me. I want them to see themselves in the music and process themselves in a positive way. I want people to also process love differently. I think there’s a hilariously wrong thing that’s happening with love in this generation. Everyone being desperate to find their soulmates, and I think we are going about it the wrong way. We are facing new issues we didn’t have before like technology. Hopefully, the music makes you question how you process that love.

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Chiwetel Ejiofor Proves The Real Star Of The 'Lion King’ Is Actually The Villain

The bad guy makes the movie what it is. He tests the parameters of your empathy, understanding, and grace, forcing you to see what you’re made of.

This particular bad guy lets resentment fester and rumble in his belly, as his mighty and righteous brother merits admiration and reverence from faithful servants. When it comes to brains, he knows he has the lion's share, but it’s the permanent mark in the shape of a dagger slicing above his left eye that reminds him his brother is the sole proprietor of brute strength.

It's this same villain who deputizes himself among the others also tired of begging for whatever's left to orchestrate a felony so sorrowful, it plucks at your Adam’s Apple, pushing your screams and cries back into your throat because what’s done cannot be undone.

Chiwetel Ejiofor’s embodiment of the deceitful Scar is just that: a wondrous amalgamation of pain, defeat, rejection and will bursting onto the big screen in Disney’s live-action remake of the Lion King. Jeremy Irons’ 1994 version of the antagonist, while still deceptive, encapsulated a bit of theatrics and bounce. The only telltale sign of Scar’s venom was his flowing jet-black mane. Ejiofor’s 2019 portrayal is bloated with greed, anger and the need to control. The use of the word “bloated” is hyperbole, of course, as on-screen Scar is thin, almost emaciated and physically hungry for the dominance he feels he’s owed.

There’s no need to rehash the 25-year-old film. Moviegoers can be reassured to know director Jon Favreau stayed true to the movie’s heart. He often replicated important scenes detail for detail, including the quintessential opening sequence with the sun rising over the Pride Lands as zebras, antelope, rhinos and other wildlife assembled to meet and bow to the future king.

And while we know Mufasa dies, his live-action death stings even more.

As Hans Zimmer’s “To Die For” thunders, the wildebeest come running down into the gorge and your 10-year-old self tells Simba to run. Hope is still a possibility after Mufasa saves his cub and leaps from the stampede onto the rocks and climbs to the top. Then your 34-year-old self soothes your inner child, because what happens next—the grave offense Scar commits—is irreversible.

But what most miss about Scar, even after 25 years, is under all of his deplorable ways lies his one admirable quality: ambition.

Scar saw himself among the greats and envisioned a kingdom under his rule. He let nothing get in the way of his chosen destiny, including his weak older brother. Scar couldn’t and wouldn’t settle for being a knight, or a duke or a lord. Scar wanted to be king, so much so betrayal and murder were mere casualties in the race to rule Pride Rock.

Who among us has ever gone after our future with more reckless abandon?

Ejiofor understood this insatiable need to ascend to the greatness Scar believed he possessed, and he channeled that with his voice. The east-London native’s lilt took on whatever emotions needed to give way to Scar's true intentions.

Whether it be the flat, emotionless way he dismissed Simba into the den. (“I don’t babysit,” he sneers) or the way he let his words dangle in the air as he covertly described life as Mufasa's brother ("Others spend their lives in the dark...begging for scraps"), Ejiofor’s reinvention of Scar is more than just a voice over. It’s the inflated and arguably updated blueprint Irons left behind.

Ejiofor showed that to embody Scar meant more than reciting lines from a page. It meant whatever couldn’t be expressed through physical emotion seen on screen had to be demonstrated in the inflections, whispers, and passion of his voice. Scar’s lustful desire to outshine his brother and his brother’s memory was on full display whenever Scar was on screen and Ejiofor zeroed in on that, even from behind a microphone.

With fervor, and indignation Ejiofor’s portrayal of Scar proved why, without him, Simba would be nothing. Without Scar, Simba wouldn’t have to face his biggest foe or know how to. While Mufasa taught him compassion, loyalty, and love, Scar taught him to fight. Scar is a liar and a cheat and will stop at nothing to get what he feels rightfully belongs to him. And yet, as vile as Scar is, he's also the unintended teacher.

Ejiofor knew that deeper than his fury and his jealousy, Scar was more than just a bad guy. Scar was an instructor who made Simba and audiences examine themselves and Ejiofor’s performance underscores that. Does it feel good to give Scar his flowers? Of course not. I wouldn't spit on Scar even if he were on fire. But let’s face it, there would be no Lion King if Simba didn’t have to fight for his throne.

So to Scar and to all the bad guys who help us roar a little bit louder, thank you for the unintended lesson.

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Jonathan Exley

Michael Jackson's June/July 1995 Cover Story: 'ACTION JACKSON'

Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the June/July 1995 issue of VIBE Magazine.

Michael & Me

Reporting By: Omoronke Idowu, Shani Saxon, Joseph V. Tirella, Josh Tyrangiel, and Mimi Valdés

JIMMY JAM, producer/songwriter (worked on HIStory album) Michael's the most intense person I've worked with. For him, everything is about the music and how to make it better. He also makes work a lot of fun. He's a kid at heart—his office is not like a normal office. He has all the kids' toys. A lot of times we'd be in session, in the middle of playing a video game, and he'd be, like, "Well, we got to do this. But go ahead and finish your game, though—I don't want to mess your game up."

The thing about Michael is his talent. If you put Michael onstage without the explosions and the other dancers, he'll still command the stage.

There's a song called "Childhood" on the new album, and I think for the first time, Michael has put a lot of his feelings on record. That song, for right now, defines where's he's at—the way he feels about himself and the way people feel about him.

HEAVY D, MC/label executive (rapped on "Jam," 1991) I was in California the first time I heard Michael Jackson wanted to record with me. I was, like, Nah, no way, he's too big, it can't be true. Then I got a call from Michael's people at my hotel telling me he was interested. But I still wasn't believing it—I thought they were setting me up for a TV practical jokes show.

So me and my partner go to the place, and while we were waiting we were talking and cursing up a storm—I was thinking that if it was a blooper show, they wouldn't be able to use it. Then Michael called and said he was on his way. When he got there he was just, like, 'Hey, how ya doin?'"

Michael's just as regular as everyone else. We talked about all the normal stuff guys talk about. He's real smart. People forget that he's the most incredible entertainer we've seen in our lifetime. His name is Michael Jackson, not Super Michael Jackson. He makes mistakes just like all of us.

My favorite Michael Jackson song is "Music and Me." It's an old one, about him and his music, his love for music, and the time they've had together. It's like a song that would be sung to a girl, but it's all about music.

R. KELLY, singer/songwriter/producer (worked on HIStory album) I thought it was funny when I told Michael Jackson I didn't want to fly, and he was giving me reasons why I should. I kept looking him in the eye, and I kept saying "uh-huh, uh-huh" and "oh, I see," knowing all the time that I would not be getting on a plane.

Working with Michael was definitely not just another day at the office.

KENNY GAMBLE AND LEON HUFF, producers (the Jacksons' Destiny album, 1978) Gamble: When we took Michael in the studio to overdub his voice, he had so many different ideas about songs, writing, and producing, I told him he could really record himself. He was very curious about a lot of things. He's a creative, spiritual, caring person.

Nineteen eighty-one's "Rock With You" is the most what Michael's about. I really believe he and Quincy have a magic together. Michael is a miracle.

Huff: When Michael and his brothers first came to Philadelphia, Gamble decided to walk them from the hotel to the studio. As they were walking, they were rushed by a group of girls. The brothers escaped by going into a movie theater. Once they made it to the studio, these girls camped outside the studio—and this was for a six-month period. To see 100 girls laying outside a studio at 3 and 4 in the morning for Michael and his brothers was something else.

My favorite Michael song? Nineteen eighty-seven's "Show You the Way to Go."

NAOMI CAMPBELL, supermodel/actress/singer (appeared in "In the Closet" video, 1992) Michael is very involved and on top of everything he puts his name on. He's shy and sweet, considering all he's accomplished, but he's a prankster. When I was doing the video, we had water pistol fights. He's a perfectionist.

TEDDY RILEY, producer (worked on Dangerous and HIStory albums) He's the greatest. Innovative. Black.

SLASH, Guns N' Roses guitarist (played on Dangerous and HIStory albums) He's a fucking brilliant entertainer, a complete natural. He's the only guy I've ever met that's real—for that kind of music. I grew up listening to the Jackson 5. I used to love "Dancing Machine."

We've been friends for a while, so he just lets me do what I want to do. I get a basic framework, and I just make up my part and they edit it. I wonder sometimes what it's gonna sound like, [Laughs] but every time, they do a great job. He's very shrewd. He's got a great, sarcastic sense of humor. People always ask me, "Is he weird?" Well, he's different. But I know what it's like to be weird, growing up in the music business.

I have to admit working with Michael Jackson is different than working with your basic, gritty rock 'n' roll band. One time when I went to play for Michael, he walked in with Brooke Shields, and there I am with a cigarette in one hand, a bottle of Jack Daniel's in the other, and my guitar hanging low around my neck. And he doesn't care. That's not the way he is, but I don't have to change for him. He accepts me for what I am.

TATUM O'NEAL, actress/friend I never worked with Michael, but he and I had a really wonderful friendship when I was 12 and he was 17. He used to dance with me, we'd talk on the phone all the time, and he'd say how funny it was that I was 12 and I could drive and he was older and couldn't. Michael used to come to my house when I was living with my dad, and I remember him being so shy. Once he came into my bedroom, and he wouldn't even sit on my bed. But another time when he was over, he played the drums, my brother played guitar, and someone else played another instrument, and we had a jam session. I had the tape of it, but I lost it somewhere.

When I was 12, he asked me to go to the premiere of The Wiz with him, and my agent at the time said it wasn't a good idea, maybe because they felt he wasn't a big enough star yet. He never talked to me after that. I think he thought I just canceled, but it wasn't me at all. I was a child doing what I was told. I want you to print that, because I don't think he ever knew that. I lost touch with him because of it, so I don't really know him anymore. But I love him; he's one of the nicest, most innocent people I've ever met. I love "She's out of My Life" because I think it describes our friendship at that time.

DALLAS AUSTIN, songwriter/producer (worked on HIStory album) Working with Michael is a different type of work. You're pressured timewise, but not by creativity or money. So you're left with mad freedom. You'd think he'd be very controlling, but if he likes you enough to work with you, he wants your expertise, not just another Michael Jackson record.

"Heal the World" and "Stranger in Moscow" from the HIStory record are, like, the makeup of Michael. I think he's taken on the responsibility to make changes in the world. He's the only real superhero. Think about it.

LISA MARIE PRESLEY-JACKSON, former wife Michael is a true artist in every facet of its nature—extremely aesthetic and very, very romantic. This is who he truly is despite degrading comments made in the past by certain larva.

Michael, as well as myself, have been severely underestimated and misunderstood as human beings. I can't wait for the day when all the snakes who have tried to take him out get to eat their own lunch and crawl back in the holes from which they came.

We know who they are and their bluff is about to be called.

QUINCY JONES, longtime collaborator/legendary producer Michael can go out and perform before 90,000 people, but if I ask him to sing a song for me, I have to sit on the couch with my hands over my eyes and he goes behind the couch. He is amazingly shy.

What people forget about him is that for the first time, probably in the history of music, a black artist is embraced on a global level by everyone from eight to 80 years old. People all over the world, especially young people, have a black man as an idol.

Reporting by Omoronke Idowu, Shani Saxon, Joseph V. Tirella, Josh Tyrangiel, and Mimi Valdés

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Courtesy of Disney

From The Big Screen To Hip-Hop: 25 Rap Lyrics Referencing 'The Lion King'

One of the most powerful aspects of hip-hop is the culture's ability to draw from reality and translate those feelings and experiences into the beats and rhymes that provide the soundtrack to our lives. However, in many instances, creatives have been inspired by fictional tales of perseverance and triumph that mirror the everyday struggles in our own lives, giving these stories additional significance and reminding us of our own valor. Twenty-five years ago, Disney's The Lion King would have this impact on a global level, opening a whole new world to people from all walks of life and becoming one of the most beloved films of all-time.

A coming-of-age story, The Lion King is centered around Simba, a young lion set to inherit the throne as King of Pride Lands from his father, Mufasa. In an act of betrayal, Simba’s father is tragically murdered by the cub’s paternal uncle, Scar. Simba, who is made to believe that he's responsible for his father's death, flees the Pride Lands and goes into a self-imposed exile, but is compelled to return to dethrone Scar and take his rightful place as king. Released on June 24, 1994, The Lion King was a massive success, grossing $766 million worldwide and finishing its theatrical run as the highest-grossing release of 1994 and the second-highest-grossing film of all time. It gained a considerable amount of critical acclaim for its score, comprised of original songs written by composer Elton John and lyricist Tim Rice, with a score by Hans Zimmer.

In the aftermath of its blockbuster release, The Lion King was embraced by members of the hip-hop community, with artists paying homage to the film and its characters through song and producers pilfering its score for samples. From J. Cole dubbing himself “Young Simba” and juxtaposing his rise up the rap ranks to the protagonist's own tale of redemption to Jay-Z comparing himself to Rafiki, The Lion King's legacy within the culture is iron-clad and has transcended generations.

To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the film's release, we compiled a list of 25 of the most memorable lyrical references to The Lion King throughout hip-hop history.


1. "How Great" - Chance the Rapper feat. Nicole Steen & Jay Electronica

Lyrics: "I was lost in the jungle-like Simba after the death of Mufasa, no hog, no meerkat/Hakuna Matata by day, but I spent my night time fighting tears back" - Jay Electronica

2. "2SEATER" - Tyler, The Creator feat. Austin Feinstein, Samantha Nelson & Aaron Shaw

Lyrics: "Boy, I'm a king and I ain't lyin', boy, Hakuna Matata/Better watch for them hyenas if you flex then they swarm" - Tyler. the Creator

3. "Don’t Stop" - Wu-Tang Clan

Lyrics: "Hakuna Matata, no Mufasa, I'm not lion/You try to spit on that hot iron, you not iron" - Method Man

4. "Blow (Freestyle)" - Pusha T

Lyrics: "No weapon formed against me shall prosper/Hakuna Matata, feet up sipping java" - Pusha T

5. "V. 3005" - Childish Gambino

Lyrics: "Girl, why is you lying, girl why you Mufasa/Yeah, mi casa su casa, got it stripping like Gaza/Got so high off volcanoes, now the flow is so lava" - Childish Gambino

6. "L.M.F." - Smino

Lyrics: Hakuna Matata, I look like my father/You a lion, Mufasa/Said she Rafiki, you a lion, Mufasa/Baby ain't nothing 'bout me PG, rated X for extraordinary" - Smino

7. "Massive Attack" - Nicki Minaj

Lyrics: "So call me Simba, little mama, cause Mufasa couldn't stop a bi**h/I fly in on that chopper, just to buy Balenciaga" - Nicki Minaj

8. "Eggs Aisle" - Mac Miller

Lyrics: "Yeah I'm here, self-claimed deity/Cryin' during the Lion King, that's just the G in me" - Mac Miller

9. "Death Wish" - Jadakiss feat. Lil Wayne

Lyrics: "Big lion growl at you niggas on that Simba sh*t/I'll be on that "F**k yo' clique, I'll kill every member" sh*t" - Lil Wayne

10. "Get Em High" - Kanye West feat. Talib Kweli & Common

Lyrics: "Chimped up with a pimp cup, illiterate nigga, read the infra-/Red across your head, I'm bred king like Simba" - Common

11. "Sideline Story" - J. Cole

Lyrics: "And my lines is designed from the heart/Young Simba been a lion from the start/Dumb nigga’s, y’all been lyin from the start/My life’s like a movie, truly, and these niggas is dyin' for the part" - J. Cole

12. "Grown Simba" - J. Cole

Lyrics: "Hold up now, don’t get it twisted, I ain't hating, do your thing/I was like a young Simba; couldn’t wait to be the king" - J. Cole

13. "APESHIT" - The Carters

Lyrics: "I'm a gorilla in the fuckin' coupe, finna pull up in the zoo/I'm like Chief Keef meet Rafiki—who been lyin' "King" to you?" - Jay-Z

14. "Go Back" - Chris Webby feat. OnCue

Lyrics: "Lion King was the shit yo, enough said/When Rafiki drew Simba got it tatted on my leg" - Chris Webby

15. "Jones Indiana" - Chief Keef

Lyrics: "Get a new bi**h just how I get new clothes, yeah/Two watches, Pumbaa and Timon, yeah" - Chief Keef

16. "I Am Very Very Lonely" - Chance the Rapper

Lyrics: "This is not the castle this is just the casa tonight/Ain’t no Nala so my Simba ain't gon’ be Mufasa tonight" - Chance the Rapper

17. "What Kind of Love" - Childish Gambino

Lyrics: "You like to call me koala/I'll be your Simba, you're Nala/Wherever you go I'll follow—little lies" - Childish Gambino

18. "Track Two" - Ab-Soul

Lyrics: "Can't lose, you niggas must admire defeat/You lyin' like Nala, nigga, you know where to find a nigga" - Ab-Soul

19. "Perfect Imperfection" - Kevin Gates

Lyrics: Aerosmith jaded/She looked like Nala when she got on top me/I gazed in her eyes and responded, 'Can we go half on a baby?'" - Kevin Gates

20. "Work It Like A Pro" - Waka Flocka Flame feat. Giggs

Lyrics: "Call me Lion King, turn Mufasa for it/Wanna sell that pussy? Then I buss her for it" - Giggs

21. "Bosses" - Plies feat. Kash Doll

Lyrics: "I stand by us like a Lion King/She dancing here like a designer queen" - Plies

22. "Better than you ever Been" - Taylor Bennett feat. Young Thug

Lyrics: "She a horse, voice raspin'/Tiger stripes on her booty, call her Lion King/White toes and they tiny/Ask her do she like hoes, she's say 'slightly'" - Young Thug

23. "Ring" - Gucci Mane

Lyrics: "Quarter million dollars, spent that on that one ring/In a ring full of lions, I'm The Lion King" - Gucci Mane

24. "Hollis to Hollywood" - LL Cool J

Lyrics: "Hear it, pull it like strings, got mad cash to swing/When I do my thing my balls is hairy like The Lion King/I'm in the jungle laying down my mack/You brothers need to chill with that" - LL Cool J

25. "Fuck What You Think" - RZA feat. Islord & 9th Prince

Lyrics: "Of the dark ninja, Lion King of the jungle, Simba/Cut the roof to your family tree, timber" - RZA

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