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Eminem On His Love For Tupac: "He Was A Superstar In Every Aspect Of The Word"

"Tupac was the first one to really help me learn how to make songs that felt like something."

Almost 20 years after his passing, Tupac's influence is still as palpable today as it was when the passionate, charismatic and fiery wordsmith was alive. And while the hip-hop community hasn't quite been the same since his untimely death, 'Pac's music and art still act as a guiding force for up-and-coming lyricists as well as the more seasoned emcees of the game.

For the second installment of Paper magazine's Nowstalgia segment, the outlet taps Detroit's finest, Eminem to speak openly and honestly about the influence Tupac had on him as a teen and as artist. Eminem, who is arguably one of hip-hop's greatest, recalled the first time he heard 'Pac and the massive impact it had on him, way before signing with Dr. Dre.

"The first time I ever heard Tupac was his verse on "I Get Around" with Digital Underground. I was 18 or 19 years old and I remember thinking, "Who is this?" He stood out so much. Once I heard that, I got his first album, 2Pacalypse Now. I saw the video for "Brenda's Got a Baby" and I remember thinking, "Holy shit."

The Academy Award winner said growing up he studied rap pioneers such as Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Rakim, NWA and Public Enemy, but it was something about Tupac that helped Marshall become the rap giant he is today.

"Tupac was the first one to really help me learn how to make songs that felt like something," he said.

Eminem also praised 'Pac for his intelligence and being in awe of Tupac's ability to hold his own in interviews with reporters.

"I used to be fascinated with his interviews like, "Yo, what he's saying is so true." He would also be able to trump people who were interviewing him when they would hit him with hard questions -- it was incredible. He was a superstar in every aspect of the word. You just wanted to know that guy. Like man, I wanna hang out with Pac."

Em closes out his letter by giving credit where credits due and says Tupac's uncanny ability to make people feel anything wasn't done by happenstance.

"He was just so good at evoking emotions through songs and I picked up so much from that. Biggie had that as well. It was that same kind of thing... he was so good at putting the right words and music together. I would have a hard time believing that they didn't know what they were doing when they were putting certain words on certain chords of the beat. I would have a hard time believing that it was all accidental. It was true genius."

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Nicky Jam: A Love Supreme

Love has neurological effects similar to those of cocaine. That’s what researchers from Syracuse University discovered in a study called "The Neuroimaging of Love.” According to science, falling in love triggers the same feeling of ecstasy experienced by people when they consume the drug.

What’s more, the withdrawal of love—or the emotional mourning that transpires after a serious breakup, for instance—can result in what is called Broken Heart Syndrome, also known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy. The chest pain, characterized as sudden and intense, can rear its ugly head no matter how healthy one might be.

So when one of the biggest reggaeton singers to ever walk the planet tells me he resorted to the use of narcotics after an unexpected breakup during his formative years, I was all but flabbergasted. A 15-year-old Nick "Nicky Jam" Rivera Caminero had slipped into subterranean levels of depression in the face of cyclical family trauma, maternal abandonment and, ultimately, adolescent heartache.

“That’s when I touched cocaine for the first time,” and Nicky experienced a coke-induced euphoria that he spent the following 15 years trying to reproduce. Not long after recording his first album in 1994, ...Distinto A Los Demás, Nicky set on a path of years under the devilish grips of chronic addiction that saw him rise to teen fame in Puerto Rico and practically fade into oblivion by his mid-20s.

A considerably brief, yet successful stint as one-half of Los Cangris with reggaeton compatriot Daddy Yankee during the late 90s served as a precursor to Nicky’s solo career in the early 2000s. After the two parted ways professionally, Nicky went on to release a pair of studio albums, Haciendo Escante and Vida Escante between 2001 and 2004. By 2010, Nicky—now a struggling addict and self-described embarrassment of the Latin Caribbean music industry—relocated to Medellín, Colombia.

It was there in one of the most criminally notorious Latin American cities where Nicky Jam was able to produce a cadre of concerts and hit singles— “Voy A Beber,” “Tu Primera Vez,” and “Juegos Prohibidos,” to name a few—that helped revive his once-dwindling career. A city he feels indebted to for nurturing him when he most needed it, Medellín would also go on to backdrop the near overdose that almost took Nicky’s life before he made the radical (and perilous) decision of going clean.

In 2015, Nicky earned his first Latin Grammy Award in the category of Best Urban Performance with Enrique Iglesias for “El Perdón.” By 2017, Nicky had effectively kicked a deadly habit, resurrected his career, and from the ashes emerged with Fénix, an award-winning and Latin Grammy-nominated studio album that gathered collaborations featuring everyone from Sean Paul and J Balvin to El Alfa and Kid Ink.

Lead singles “El Amante” and “Hasta el Amanecer” would go on to receive their respective billions in views on YouTube, while a spot on Jaden Smith’s “Icon (Remix)” sparked the beginning of a collaborative relationship with the rapper’s father and Hollywood veteran, Will Smith. The Lawrence, Massachusetts born singer was tapped to play the official 2018 FIFA World Cup anthem, “Live it Up,” featuring Big Willie himself and Albanian singer-songwriter Era Istrefi.

In the same year, amid an afrobeat wave, Nicky released “X” with J Balvin, under Sony Music Latin. The song would go on to rule Billboard’s Latin Pop Airplay charts and, as of today, its accompanying music video has accumulated nearly 1.8 billion views on YouTube. In the time “X” took to climb the charts and make a home on the global dance floor, Nicky conjured thoughts with Will about possibly starring in Bad Boys For Life, the third installment of the classic movie franchise.

On January 17, 2020, Nicky then made a memorable return to the big screen alongside Will and on-screen partner-in-crime Martin Lawrence for the big-budget film. Playing one of the villains, Zway-Lo, Nicky’s dedication to his role went as far as him learning to perform a majority of his own stunts. Bad Boys For Life topped the box office for three straight weekends, raking in approximately $168 million in revenue and a total of $338 million worldwide. In the thick of it all, the father of four managed to drop a seventh studio album, Íntimo, and go on a U.S. tour to promote it.

To call Nicky’s story a comeback would be an understatement. Reggaeton’s reigning cupid is a dissertation on transnational redemption and personal resilience, despite falling victim to the social, psychological, physiological, and financial ramifications of inherited drug abuse.

On March 5, 2020, Nicky Jam will enjoy the homecoming of a lifetime, as he's honored with the Special Achievement Award at this year’s Premios Tu Música Urbano at the renowned José Miguel Agrelot Coliseum in Puerto Rico. His former Los Cangris partner Daddy Yankee is the only other recipient to have taken home the same accolade. The greater accolade will be receiving his honor in the company of the new leading lady in his life.

Love is, indeed, in the air.

But no amount of emotional ecstasy was going to see Nicky through to the other side; it was the deliberate act of love that would save him. “I knew I had to break these chains,” he says. “To fix my life and my family.”

Bring me to the moment that made you feel you needed drugs.

I think drugs sometimes make you think it can be the fix of a lot of your problems. The problem with drugs is that you go to drugs because in your mind you don't care anymore about dealing with the troubles that you have. You need something to make you feel good.

What were you feeling bad about?

I lost my mom. My mom wasn't with me. In my mind, I was abandoned by her since I was eight-years-old. Then I had a close girlfriend who left me when I was 15 years old. That’s when I touched cocaine for the first time. ‘Cause in my mentality, nobody was stable in my life. Nobody was sticking around. I felt a lot of betrayal from my own mom and from the girl I loved.

I thought, “Why am I going to take care of myself? My dad didn’t handle his drug problems. My mom did drugs too, so why not me?" I mean, I had drugs all around me, and the foundation of everything is your home. It's your family.

The absence of someone you loved, is that at the root of your past drug abuse?

Yeah, basically.

What was the moment you knew you had to stop and that your life needed radical change?

Years and years after the fact. Imagine, I started at 15 years old. So it was about 15 years later around the time I was 30. I said I gotta break these chains. I almost died from an overdose. I knew I had to break these chains. My mom was doing drugs, my dad struggled with drugs—I gotta break these chains! I needed to fix my life and my family. And that's what I did.

What were the key decisions you had to make in order for you to be successful in your sobriety?

Every pain that I had while I was trying to get clean made me not want to come back to this ever again. When you go cold and try to break drugs, you start to get back pains and bone pains and it's cold all the time. Every time I was going through that process I thought, “This is me breaking this evil, this curse. Am I really going back to this curse?” I had to go through it.

Anything that you have to suffer physically for in that way is the only red flag you need. That right there was letting me know, bro, I was a slave to drugs. I didn't want to be one anymore, so I said I'm not going back to that again. I want to live like normal people. I don't want to work so I can maintain an addiction. I'm seeing that I haven't even been successful enough just because I've been stuck in this cycle. I didn’t want the story of my family and my life to be drugs. I didn’t want to die that way.

One of my favorite songs by Kendrick Lamar is called “i.” That song let us know he was someone who battled with suicidal thoughts and urges. I like to think it’s a love song that he dedicated to himself and others like him. The song is about coming to this radical understanding that despite what the world has to say about you and where you come from, you are enough and worthy of all the good things life has to offer. Talk a little bit about your relationship with self when you were on drugs.

I felt like s**t. I felt like my soul was dead. I didn't care about nothing. It got to a point where I loved living that life, that miserable life and that darkness. I enjoyed hanging around people that lived that same life as well. I enjoyed not having responsibility. I enjoyed just hiding away from everything. You know, one of the big problems of leaving drugs is not just leaving drugs. It’s going back to the reality of what made you turn to drugs in the first place. All those skeletons that you have in the closet. That was my problem.

What else don’t people get about drug addiction?

Another thing people don't know about drugs is that you are a slave to your first high. That first high is always the best high in the world. You're always looking for that same reaction and you never find it. You find a lot of good ones, but never like that first one. You could say that is love at first sight. The [high] is like love at first sight. This is what you feel in a moment where you fall in love or something like that. It’s the only thing similar to having something so good in your life. But it’s not good. Not good at all.

In another interview, you talked about the first time you saw people dancing reggae. It was at one of your parents’ house parties, I believe. You also compared that moment to love at first sight. What was it about reggae that immediately caught your attention?

It was just the Caribbean, you know? In the Caribbean you will see people dancing reggae like normal, but in the States you didn’t really see that. Now, yes, but back in the 80s? It was just MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, A Tribe Called Quest. People danced to hip-hop, obviously, but not so together. It wasn't really that grinding present. So when I saw people dancing reggae like that in Puerto Rico, and how sexy it was with that Caribbean vibe…

Is that what sparked your love for music?

Yes and no. My love for music began really when I saw the “Thriller” video by Michael Jackson. I remember seeing the premiere and I said I want to do this. I knew automatically when I saw Michael Jackson do “Thriller” as a little kid that I wanted people to fall in love with my music.

What other artists or genres did you consume that helped mold you into the artist you are today? Because you're lauded for bringing romance or the romantic flair to reggaeton.

Yeah, melody wise.

Are you a hopeless romantic?

I'm romantic, for sure, but it's also that I have a beautiful voice. My voice happens to work for that kind of material. So it's not only about my personality; I have a voice that helps create that type of music. What I did was take advantage of that.

I see.

But to answer your question, you can say a lot of music made me who I am. I'm talking about Prince, JAY-Z, Jenni Rivera. I’m talking about country and rock and so much other music that made Nicky Jam. I love that soul—that feeling. That’s what I’ve always been about.

Who taught you how to love?

Who taught me how to love?


My kids taught me how to love. They’ve shown me what love really is. Colombia, believe it or not, showed me how to love. Because when I most needed love, they gave it to me. And God taught me love. Por encima de todo, God. God gave me that second opportunity in life where I really recognized that I was loved. I had my doubts.

What is your relationship with God?

God is everything. My respect to God is everything. I’m probably not the best church person in the world, but my connection with God is crazy. He knows that I have conversations with him. We can probably agree that I should maybe pray a little more. [Laughs] I get distracted a little bit because I got A.D.D., you know what I'm saying? But I love God.

You lit up when you mentioned your kids earlier. Who are they?

I have four kids. One is 18 years old and her name is Yarimar. My 17-year-old is Alissa. The 16-year-old is Luciana and my boy, Joe, is the youngest. He's 14 years old.


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A post shared by NICKY JAM (@nickyjampr) on Dec 22, 2019 at 8:40am PST

“La Promesa (La Calle)” is a standout cut for me off the new album. Considering some of the things you’re saying here, what was the writing process like?

That's the kind of song I wanted a lot of people to relate to. It’s saying I’m not giving up and I'm just going to do this. My situation is music, but somebody else can want to be a lawyer. Someone might want to be a journalist, a firefighter or a cop, who knows. But you’re saying, “I’m doing this.” I told my mom I'm not gonna stop. I'm gonna work my ass off and I'm gonna do what I'm gonna do so I don’t go back to that dark place. A lot of people hate me, but I see them. I see through them and I keep pushing anyway. I’m not stopping for nobody. That's the type of song that has a good vibe, but carries a strong message.

Would you say music helped save you?

Did music save me? Let me see, ‘cause I know a lot of people say it just to say it, right?

For sure.

Well, I gotta say that music did save me because it's really the only thing I had. I didn’t graduate from college, you know? I knew I had a voice and I knew I had the power to make people listen to me. So obviously music gave me hope and it gave me faith. It also made me want to be somebody and then it made me believe I was actually going to be somebody.

Music, then, also gifted you a world of people who love you, irrespective of your past or shortcomings.

It did. It gave me a platform, it gave me faith, and it gave me people that love me. Music saved me and my family, to be honest. Today my family lives good because of the music. Today my sister got her house because of the music. My mom got a home because of the music. My dad has his house because of the music. My kids got their college funds because of the music. Music saved the lives of my whole family.

What are your fears?

My fear today is not being with my kids when they need me. My fear today is that one of my kids will go through drugs. Because I know today the youth is crazy. My fear is not seeing my grandkids, stuff like that. I'm not saying I'm scared for my life. I'm saying that those are the things that I want to be here for. I want to make sure that I live a healthy life so I can be around for all of that.

You say that you work like you're going to lose everything at any given moment. Do you also love that way?

Of course. I try to give love to everybody that's next to me in the best way I know how. I try to share my life with them in a way that makes them feel like they have everything. That’s just how I operate. I focus on giving love and I focus on ensuring that [whoever is in my life] can walk away knowing that Nicky is a good guy. That I loved them and respected them. I'm the type of guy, I know when I go with God and I'm no longer on this earth, people gonna say, “I miss Nicky.” And that's when you know you made your legacy. When you make people miss you, you make people want to be with you. You make people want to say good things about you. That’s a legacy.

What’s your love language? How do you express your love to someone you care about?

I think the way I show love is by doing whatever it is I need to for my girl or for anybody that I love. You know what I'm saying? “What do you need?” I don't act like I'm this kind of guy, or that I can't do certain things. I don't have any limits when it's about showing love. It’s in the details, the stupid stuff. You want something? I’ll go get it for you. You want coffee? You hungry? You want me to get you anything? I got you.

You like to serve.

I definitely serve. I’m a server. It’s funny ‘cause I know I might not look like it, but that's who I am. That's how I show my love. And I think it's a good way to show it, ‘cause you know it when it’s gone.

And you brought your partner with you. How did you meet her?

I was doing a video called “Atrevete.” I called her agency and I thought she was the perfect girl for the video. It was just love at first sight. [Laughs] I just saw her come in the restaurant and I said, “Wow, that's a beautiful girl right there.” Then we started talking and it was just instant.


I had never seen eyes like that before. I just went crazy. Yeah, there's a lot of blue eyes, but something about her eyes drove me crazy. We were flirting around and everybody started to watch, and we just didn't care that people were there. We were just at it and it didn’t matter who was in the room. The video was about us. About me trying to win her over, and it worked. [Laughs]

Do you see a life with her?

Yeah. You also have to understand my background, where I come from and how I lost so many people in life. So my mind doesn’t necessarily… I try not to really think about it like that. I just try my best to enjoy [the present].


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My goofball ❤️

A post shared by Cydney Moreau (@cydrrose) on Jan 31, 2020 at 1:11pm PST

Is that what your “Life” tattoo is about?

It’s the only thing that matters, life and living it to your fullest. The word is a beautiful word. I don't think there's a more beautiful word. Other than God, maybe.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photographer: Jason Chandler, Finalis Valdez

Art Designer: Nicole Tereza

Videographers: Dexterity Productions

Wardrobe Stylists: Norma Castro

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Premiere: J. PERIOD Rereleases 'Best of Lauryn Hill (Vol. 1: Fire)' Mixtape With Apple Music

In many hip-hop circles, Ms. Lauryn Hill is regarded as the best woman rapper of all time, and one of the greatest MCs period – and with the release of Best of Lauryn Hill (Vol. 1: Fire) on Apple Music, J. PERIOD shows why. The first segment of a two-part mixtape dedicated to the music icon will satisfy longtime fans and serve as a lesson for young'ns looking to learn up.

For years, J. PERIOD has collaborated with multiple legends in music to make mixtapes that chronicle their careers. By combining their most notable songs, unreleased tracks, rarities and exclusive interview footage from the artists themselves, J. Period created mixtapes that worked more like musical storybooks, artifacts that showed their talent while also providing the context behind their work. This year, J. Period has been rereleasing those mixtapes through Apple Music, including tributes to Nas, The Roots and Q-Tip. Best of Lauryn Hill: Fire And Water is a two-part project, with Fire paying homage to Hill's raps and Water showing her vocal versatility. Fire drops today, and Water touches down on Friday, Feb. 21.

Today's release also marks the beginning of Ms. Lauryn Hill's tour, which starts at the Wellmont Theater in New Jersey and continues through July, including a date at the Kennedy Center and Black Girls Rock. It also comes after stars like Drake and Cardi B have sampled her work in recent years.

“For me, this mixtape represents not only a tremendous moment in my career, but the force that created everything that follows,” J. PERIOD told VIBE. “This tape sparked my collaborations with Q-Tip, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, and The Roots, all creative relationships that continue to this day. I’m deeply grateful to Ms. Hill for her support, and I’m extremely excited to introduce this project to a new generation of fans. Reimagining an artist’s catalog in new context gives the music new life. That’s always my goal with my mixtapes. It is my sincere hope that, through this project, fans will come to appreciate Ms. Hill’s incredible talent and amazing catalog of music, all over again.”

Listen to Best of Lauryn Hill (Vol. 1: Fire) below on Apple Music.

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Derek Blanks

K. Michelle On Being A Monster: “We Have Different Faces For Different People”

For Kimberly Michelle Pate, also known as K. Michelle, the concept of having a filter and self-censorship is nonexistent. You can always count on the Memphis-bred singer to speak her mind, and she doesn’t care who takes offense.

On “Just Like Jay,” the opener of her fifth studio album All Monsters Are Human, K. Michelle sings like the open book the world knows her to be. In just under five minutes, listeners are updated on a whirlwind of tabloid-worthy news that led to her first album in two years. The song’s hook –– “maybe I should walk away, Fade To Back just like Jay” –– alludes to Jay-Z’s 2004 concert documentary following his first retirement announcement.

“I ain’t even wanna do this album,” confesses a somber K. Michelle, the natural twang of her singing voice radiating alongside the keys of a grand piano. From there she talks about battling depression, leaving Atlantic Records to go independent with eOne Music, a series of health struggles and scares following her surgeries of illegal silicone butt implants, and her ex’s philandering betrayal.

For K. Michelle, the last two years have been a rollercoaster of learning from past mistakes, but ultimately celebrating the wins. In front of millions, the artist has amassed a decade-long career that’s secured three No. 1 R&B albums (well, four, now) on the Billboard charts and additional notoriety thanks to show-stealing and memeable moments on Vh1’s reality TV franchise Love & Hip Hop. Witnessing K. Michelle in person, it’s clear that she loves drama and the heat that can come along with it.

That’s why her decision to host a ball on a Thursday night for her album release party at the House of Yes in Brooklyn seemed like an appropriate move. Standing tall in thigh high black boots and a sequined dress accented by feathers at the hem, K. Michelle instructed the audience to “just love on each other tonight.”

Her team Rebellion would end up crushing Big Freedia’s team Bounce in five total categories of “face,” “runway,” “best dressed,” “sex siren,” and “dance battle.” As songs like Teyana Taylor’s “WTP” and her own “V.S.O.P.” played through speakers, K. Michelle sat calmly, smiling away. Underneath a black hat fitting enough for both the ball and the Kentucky Derby, she sipped on a cocktail while observing the battles. For once, she didn’t have to perform on stage, and there was no added pressure for her to be at her absolute best.

Two days prior to her album release party, a different side of K. Michelle shows. She’s agitated as we wait outside the elevator at VIBE’s office in Times Square. Before arriving, someone was “hounding” the star for a favor that she offered — obviously working her nerves in the process. She tells her large entourage which includes her bodyguard, an assistant, her publicist, and two videographers that she’s in no condition to take photos. She gave razzle-dazzle for her fans at the ball, but at the office interview, it was a stripped-down look of a t-shirt and jeans topped off by a fur jacket.

“I picked the title All Monsters Are Human because I feel like we all are a villain to someone,” reveals the singer. In 13 tracks, K. Michelle delivers the straightforward R&B that she’s known for. She connects “Can’t Let (You Get Away)”— a lustful song written more than two years ago— to the smooth sway of Jagged Edge. “OMG” taps into the singer’s Florida A&M University-trained, yodel vocals over a trap 808. The lyrics of All Monsters Are Human are frank, and for the first time K. Michelle’s in complete artistic control.

“This is the first time I ever got to pick a single. I never got to pick a single. [The label] always picked them for me.” Her choice to select “The Rain”— a mellow, lovemaking number produced by Jazze Pha, which samples New Edition’s 1988 quiet storm staple “Can You Stand The Rain”— is paying off as the song is currently peaked at No. 17 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and No. 8 on the Adult R&B Songs chart, which measures airplay on Urban Adult Contemporary radio.

“People like to throw shade and say ‘she got dropped,'” says K. Michelle while making a funny face at her IG Live, which she set up at the beginning of the interview. “No, I didn’t get dropped. Me and Atlantic are in good standings.” She, however, had a puzzled reaction when finding out that an Atlantic Records ad banner was at the bottom of her “Supahood” music video on YouTube. Most likely the case since Yung Miami from City Girls (who is featured on the trap&B jaunt alongside Kashdoll) is signed to Atlantic.

“It’s better for me to be somewhere that’s going to let me do the music. These people [eOne Music] haven’t told me nothing and they’re ready for my country album. And they paid for everything. So when people say 'independent' it’s kind of crazy because I haven’t had to come out of pocket for anything.

“eOne and [the independent record distributor's president] Alan Grunblatt have been good to me. They believe in me. So I’m going to stick with the team that rock with me. I’m never going back to no major. I’m going to stick right there.”

Sonically, All Monsters Are Human contains superheroine vibes that take listeners back to the 80s. In addition to the New Edition sample, “All The Lovers” finds K. Michelle wailing “where do they go” over new wave synths á la Tina Turner during her Private Dancer era in 1984. Another potential single option, “Love On Me,” recalls the radio feeling of post-disco.

Utilizing those 80s sounds has become a conduit for K. Michelle to access her brand of “real R&B.” “I’m an 80s baby and I love the music of the 80s,” she further explains. “[That period of music] was about the musicality. It’s about lyrics. It’s about not mumbling.”

Her frustrations on the present state of modern R&B lash out: “These motherf**kers listen to people who got balls in their mouths, who don’t even open their mouths. These people listen to people that’s going to put you to sleep. It’s like one big long lullaby.” On the contrary, she does believe that Ari Lennox is the representation of real, soulful R&B. “She just has it! I look at her and feel R&B.”

For K. Michelle, there is no reason to sugarcoat what she has to say. This trait is something that’s been ingrained in her since her start when she was actually signed as a rapper. “When I started people told me female artists didn’t curse on R&B records," she points out. "Now they’re cursing every other word.” Unlike her previous albums, More Issues Than Vogue and KIMBERLY: The People I Used To Know, All Monsters Are Human does not feature K. Michelle spitting a hot sixteen. That material was saved for Not 1 F**k Given, a secret mixtape K. Michelle uploaded online earlier in January, despite releasing a new album.

“This album is a vibey album,” says the singer with pride. “You won’t hear any gunshots or anything going on. It’s not that aggressive of an album. And it’s very emotional. And it’s very soft-spoken but straight to the point. It’s that type of vibe.”

One of those emotional tracks is “Ciara’s Prayer,” a direct response to the romantic love story of the Atlanta singer and her husband, Russell Wilson. In the chorus, K. Michelle sings a tongue twister,  “Ain't no future anyway/pray the prayer Ciara prayed.”

While talking about the songwriting process behind the track, she laughs. “And whatever prayer. Whatever Jesus she talking to. Whatever church. The address of the church. Whatever it is, I need to go to that church. And I need to know the exact words and prayer of her. I wanted to know what prayer she was doing to get that man.”

Michelle has always been a fan of Ciara, who she calls “one of the nicest celebrities I ever met.” Being a vet in the industry, Ciara offered her former Jive labelmate advice during their first meeting: “When you win, everybody wins with you. But when you lose, you lose alone. Just remember that.”

One endeavor that K. Michelle finds herself prepping for is the pending release of her country album. With the industry currently in a state of frenzy with the definition of genres as they relate to race, the star knows she’s in for a challenge. A challenge that she’s been planning to tackle for years despite some record executives’ hesitance. She’s been rallying fans behind her — some as famous as  T.I., Lil Duval, and D.C. Young Fly — by teasing snippets of her yodeling along to some of the album’s tentative recorded material.

“I’m going to need the culture to embrace me,” she says while hugging herself. “To love me. I’m in a battle to put our culture on the map in another genre. I need people to have my back. This is a callout of support to the artist.”

Michelle revealed that she’s in conversations with Billy Ray Cyrus and Babyface to pen some tracks, and that she wants to collab with Dolly Parton. While All Monsters Are Human delivers on R&B, this upcoming album will be traditional country that respects the genre rather than trying to progress it. “I’m not doing no hip-hop country. I’m not doing that mess. I’m not doing none of those gimmicks of country. I’m not playing in that. Country music is solid.”

Towards the end of the interview, K. Michelle is at ease as she discusses what she endures as a Black woman in the music industry. Her body is still healing from her “childish and clueless” decision of getting plastic surgery— and she still has a few more operations to go. She’s currently in the casting stages with Lifetime for a reality series she’s producing that will shed light on other women who are affected by improper plastic surgery.

Aside from that, K. Michelle believes that life is going well for her. Although she’s frustrated and “tired” by the constant demands of some of “her entitled Rebels” [the name for K. Michelle’s fanbase] who want endless amounts of new music. In fact, she’s currently at odds with one of her Rebels, who is pretending to be her on YouTube and Instagram, and is making a profit from fake videos and events under her name.

Michelle also doesn’t take kindly to the mass levels of cultural appropriation and racism in the industry. She’s been vocal about that issue on tracks such as “Kim K” from The People I Used To Know; to outright calling pop star Camila Cabello, a “racist rat” in a since-deleted post on Twitter back in December, following screenshots of the latter’s racist old social media posts. Although her handlers want to skip over discussing that, K. Michelle is very articulate with her delivery.

“She shouldn’t say [the n-word]. You have a problem with us, but then you go get DaBaby when it’s time for a song to hit. Don’t nobody want to be Black until it’s time to get a feature.” Relating to the scripture-like words of Malcolm X, the singer believes that “the Black woman is the most unloved and imitated individual on this planet. The power of Black women is amazing.”

“I’m all for Black women,” K. Michelle says with a stern look before clipping it with yet another controversial but rather truthful statement. In her signature authority— Memphis drawl and all — she closes out with this thought: “And whoever is offended by that can go suck a d*ck!”

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