Riding Shotgun: 'The Streets' Brings New Eyes To The Gangs Of New York City's Chinatown

Through a series of online episodes, 'The Streets' aims to tell the real stories of Chinatown gangs in the Big  Apple.  

VIBE recently spent an afternoon with rising actor Richie Ng, one of the stars of the new online drama series, The Streets. He acts, yes, but he isn't your average, run-of-the-mill thespian. As a teen, he spent the majority of his adolescence behind bars, and has never set foot in an acting school. These might sound like roadblocks to most, but the charismatic New Yorker has never let anything stand in the way of his dreams.

Richie is a presence wherever he goes.

He can't really help it, but when he steps into a room, everyone takes notice. The upcoming actor doesn't even need to open his mouth to catch the attention of overs. There's an aura that follows him, and it does all the talking for him when need be. So when I left him waiting in his Beamer for more than five minutes on Saturday (Sept 26), I don't know why, but I felt like I did something wrong.

"Were you waiting long?, I asked as I analyzed the Merlot colored leather interior of his car. "Yeah," he replies sternly before mashing the gas for Chinatown. He's one of the most compelling characters starring in The Streets, which actually features former gang members from New York City's fabled Chinatown.

When you really break it down, there are actually three Chinatowns in the Big Apple. For most, it's just the one located next to Little Italy in downtown Manhattan. However, two other thriving Chinese communities exist in Sunset Park, Brooklyn -- and largest of them all in Flushing, Queens. The Streets combines similar stories from each place told by people who actually lived the Asian gang life -- so often misinterpreted in Hollywood movies.

We have about an hour to eat at the hustling and bustling Manhattan Dim Sum restaurant, Golden Unicorn. In the lobby, over a dozen groups waiting for their number to be called so they can be seated at a table in the main dining hall walk around impatiently. "I'm not about that life, not in Chinatown at least," Richie says with a laugh as he zooms past a group of suits and straight into the elevator. They look puzzled, but Richie is hungry and we're pressed for time.

"One hand washes the other but it takes two to wash the face," Richie quips as I notice him stuffing cash into the hands of the servers who took care of us. Thirty minutes later and full of Chinese dumplings, we're now speeding across the Brooklyn Bridge into Bushwick. Old Kid Productions, the producers of The Streets, have arranged a private screening of episode 1 at the IMAGE Gallery. When we get there, a majority of the cast and crew are already waiting for us. Of course when Richie walks up, the place starts to light up.

The first episode starts with a pretty heavy scene. We see one of the main characters, Benny Chung, as a child. But this isn't an ordinary situation for a young boy. Tied up in a chair is his biological father, who has been severely beaten. Several older Chinese gangsters are surrounding him as they instruct young Benny to shoot his own dad -- under the pretense that he is nothing but evil. As the dialogue continues, the boy is left with no choice but to obey his new family's orders.

Cut to the present day where we see Benny as a twenty-something-year-old, trying to live a normal life. It appears as if he's trying to put the crime life behind him to provide his younger brother with a opportunities that he missed out on. Benny has a normal office job now, and has to deal with being put into the stereotypical Asian work-horse role at the company. But as we'll see, leaving the lifestyle and breaking a blood oath doesn't come easy.

Five minutes into the first episode, and we finally see Richie's character on the screen. I also know this immediately because I can see the huge grin on his face from the corner of my eye. His character appears face-to-face with Benny in a local Chinatown park -- both parties have their crews with them and things are heated. Benny is apart of the American-born-Chinese thugs and Richie is with the F.O.B.s -- the Chinese born clique. And, both parties feel they deserve to call the shots around here.

After squabbling and arguing back and forth, there's nearly a shootout, but it's quickly diffused when Richie finds out the hard way that the younger A.B.C. crew (American Born Chinese) won't back down as easily as expected. As the debut episode comes to an end, we find out that there's about to be Big Trouble In Little Chinatown. Will Richie make it? Does Benny kill him?

Watch the inaugural episode below and stay tuned for more from season 1 at Old Kid's official Youtube channel.

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Bill Cosby Receives Backlash For "America's Dad" Father's Day Post

Bill Cosby caused quite the frenzy on social media this past Father's Day (June 16). Although the comedian and actor is currently sitting behind bars, he managed to make a number of people upset with his latest Twitter message.

"Hey, Hey, Hey…It’s America’s Dad," he tweeted. "I know it’s late, but to all of the Dads… It’s an honor to be called a Father, so let’s make today a renewed oath to fulfilling our purpose —strengthening our families and communities. #HappyFathersDay #RenewedOathToOurFamily"

Many Twitter users took issue with Cosby labeling himself, "America's Dad." While he has previously been considered as such due to his pivotal role on The Cosby Show, many felt it was inappropriate due to the countless accusations of rape and sexual assault made by more than 60 women throughout his career. Furthermore, Cosby is currently serving a three to 10-year prison sentence for three counts of aggravated indecent assault.

So, between Cosby's Father's Day post and O.J. Simpson's newly-launched account, it's turning out to be a weird month for Twitter. Check out Cosby's full message and the reactions below.

Hey, Hey, Hey...It’s America’s Dad...I know it’s late, but to all of the Dads... It’s an honor to be called a Father, so let’s make today a renewed oath to fulfilling our purpose —strengthening our families and communities.#HappyFathersDay#RenewedOathToOurFamily

— Bill Cosby (@BillCosby) June 17, 2019

Bill Cosby, disgraced father and husband, still in denial that he got busted. Maybe he and OJ could get a shared account.

— Fif de Florence (@DrFifiRx) June 17, 2019

— Michael Peters (@peteydallas) June 17, 2019

— Posa (@justposa) June 17, 2019

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Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

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Birdman and Benny Boom To Produce Indie Nigerian Film 'Tazmanian Devil'

Benny Boom's extension into feature films continues with help from the Cash Money honcho Bryan ‘Birdman’ Williams with the two producing Nigerian drama, Tazmanian Devil. 

According to Deadline, the project comes from Solomon Onita, Jr. The budding filmmaker previously submitted a pitch for his film to BET's ProjectCre8 Filmmaking Contest. While it didn't take the winning prize, the film will still see the light of day thanks to financial funding by Boom’s Groundwurk Studios and Williams’ Cash Money Films. Boom previously directed All Eyez On Me and episodes of Empire, Black Lighting and Tales.

The indie film centers on a young man who moves to America from Nigeria with his estranged father but the two are at odds over the student's decision to join a college fraternity. The coming of age drama will highlight the cultural differences between black lives and how fraternities are seen from unique perspectives.

Birdman expressed his excitement over the film and working with longtime collaborator Boom. "Benny and I have often discussed making films together and this project presented us with the perfect opportunity to produce a great movie," he said. The duo has worked together on other projects circling music dating back to the early 2000s, they have also collaborated on music videos for Hot Boyz, Juvenile, Big Tymers, Lil Wayne; recently Jacquees, Nicki Minaj and Drake.

"I have been creating visuals for Cash Money artists for decades and I am excited about this next phase of our collaboration," says Boom.

Groundbreaking actors/actress Abraham Attah (Beats of No Nation), Adepero Oduye (When They See Us), Ntare Gunna Mbaho Mwine (The Chi) and Kwesi Boakye (Claws) are cast to star in the film.

Birdman's first film was the documentary entitled, Before Anythang: The Cash Money Story. The film was produced out of Cash Money Film's division of Cash Money Records.

Onita Jr. also has produced two short films, Two Hand Touch (2017) and Witch Hunt (2016). He was the writer for the short film Joy (2015).

Tazmanian Devil is currently in post-production with no official release date.

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