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Mad Wednesdays: Maria Davis Gave JAY Z A Chance When No One Else Would

VIBE  profiles a NYC legend who gave Jay Z a chance. 

Reasonable Doubt may have set the foundation for Jay Z's career, but outside of its spellbinding lyricism and immaculate production, one of the most memorable moments came courtesy of a woman named Maria Davis. On the album's seventh track, titled "22 Two's," Hov incorporates the words "two" and "too" in various fashions and although his precision is to be admired, the main draw is the feisty host featured at the beginning of the song, who introduces herself as Maria Davis of Mad Wednesdays. After assuring the crowd that they're in for a good time, Maria spots Jay in the audience and commands him to "put that champagne down and kick a little freestyle."

But Davis is the one who steals the show, delivering the classic line "Who's smoking reefer" when she apparently smells weed smoke in the air and proceeds to admonish the crowd after Jay's impromptu performance. When the supposed culprit gets vulgar and insults her with a curse, Davis promptly orders the club security to escort the disorderly patron out of the venue before paying homage to Jay Z and continuing on with the show without missing a beat. Two years later, in 1998, Jay Z would release his Hard Knock Life album, sell over five million copies, and ascend to legendary status -- and Reasonable Doubt, which had been a mild success upon release, would be hailed as one of the definitive albums in hip-hop history.

Maria Davis, on the other hand, became somewhat of a mythical character in rap lore and has a fraction of the visibility that Brooklyn mogul has on the mainstream radar. If you were to mention her name to die-hard rap fans, most would instantly spout off about her standout appearance on the LP, and ponder what ever happened to her or if she was even a real person. Ultimately, chalking it up to another instance when the lines between storytelling and reality are blurred and moving along with their life. Many casual rap fans would be vaguely familiar, if at all, and fiend indifference before asking what you think of the latest mixape to hit the 'Net. But what both sets of fans should be well aware of is that Maria Davis and Mad Wednesdays is very much real and has played a pivotal role in the careers of many of your favorite artists of the '90s, including Jay Z.

"Well, you know, nobody knew who the hell he was so he was just a regular Joe Shmo to me, he wasn't Jay Z yet," Maria says when asked of her earliest impressions of The God MC. "But he was on his way 'cause they had they own label and I was a part of all of that." Although she will forever be tied to Jay Z, Davis isn't one to live in the past. These days, Davis still does her Mad Wednesdays sessions and had a massive one on November 11 at The Shrine in Central Harlem, during which she celebrated her 56th birthday, as well as twenty years of living with AIDS. "It's an experience and they never experienced what I bring to the table," says Maria in reference to Mad Wednesdays. Despite sounding a tad bit fatigued after a long day of running around the city, her voice lights up when speaking about the event and after getting to know her story, there's no surprise why Ms. Davis holds moments like this close to her heart. After all, it's in her DNA to be an entertainer.

Born Maria Antonnette Davis on November 13, 1959 in Cincinnati, Ohio, Maria and her mother would move follow her father and move from Cincinnati to New York City in 1962. "Well, my mother was only 15 when she had me so she didn't finish high school, but she wound up being a private nurse and my father was 17-years old and he had many odd jobs," Maria says when asked about her parents' occupation. "My mother followed my father here to New York two years after I was born and that's how we wound up in the Bronx. I grew up South Bronx, in Mott Haven Projects." The eldest of nine children, five girls and three boys, Maria describes her childhood as a bit tumultuous due to her mothers love life and the absence of her father, who split from the family when during the '60s, stating "Some of it was troubling 'cause my mother was a single parent and she was very young and looking for love. And sometimes didn't chose the right relationships and later on it affected us and our relationship"

The departure of her biological father from the household also took a toll on a young Maria. "It affected me a lot," she says in reference to the absence of her father. "I always say it's so very important for young woman to have their fathers in their lives because the father is what really sets precedents for their relationships. Your father's your first date. That's who talks to you about who you should be dating and who's acceptable and who's not acceptable and when you don't have a kind of guide or guidance for that because your mother's a single parent [it's hard]." Maria's mother would later marry her younger brother's father, but the wound left from her father leaving would remain a fresh one. "My mother married my brother's father and they were married for a while and he was a great example, but then they broke up but that was in the later years when I was in Junior High school. So he was definitely a great example [and] he was a hardworking man, but you miss your [biological] father, you know."

Despite Maria's less than storybook household, her younger years were also filled with plenty of memories that she speaks of fondly, most of all her mother's influence on the dynamic personality she would become. "My mother loved to entertain, so that's where I got the partying thing from, my mother," Maria explains. "She would always have parties and friends over and cook, she was always a entertainer. She loved music. We would listen to the Jackson 5 to Marvin Gaye to Nina Simone. Patti Labelle." In terms of interests, Davis mentions partaking in a good old fashioned game of the dozens as her main hobbies as a youth. "I loved to be involved in everything, I was a comedian," Maria reminisces. "I always liked attention. I was what they call the class clown [laughs]. And I did a lot of that to cover up the sadness of me missing my father 'cause we didn't get to see our father a lot so being a clown kind of masked some of the sadness I had inside."

That penchant for wisecracks often landed her in trouble among the faculty at PS 49, but Davis looks at her hijinks without an ounce of regret. "I would always hang out and be in the snapping circle and I was always snapping on people. So my mother was always coming to school ‘cause the teachers said I talked a lot, but never did anybody know that my speaking would be how I make my money today."

After graduating from William Howard Taft High School in 1976, Maria delved deep into the intoxicating portal that was Harlem World. According to Maria, a big proponent for what would prove to be a life-long love affair with Harlem was a friend by the name of Sunny Burke, who now goes by Sana Shabazz. "She was from Harlem, she grew up on 127th Street," Maria says of her longtime confidant. "Her and I became friends when I worked at one of my first jobs in an art firm called Collective Guild. She was just a taste of Harlem for me. It was so amazing because her and I crossed paths in everything we did. She's still doing art, and she works in a prison, and I go visit prisons for her so we're still family." She also began looking for work to make ends meet, eventually landing a job at Record King Audio, which she considers the place where she first got her feet wet in the business of music.

"I worked in Record King Audio on 125th Street from 1978 to 1979 and it was run by two brothers, Curtis and Neil. And my girlfriend, Sunny, she dated Curt." Maria continues to wax poetic about lessons learned during her time spent at Record King Audio, as well as mentioning her loose association with one of Harlem's most beloved and notorious gangsters in passing. "I worked with (Russell Patterson and Stewart) from Black Ivory. Both were my bosses, but me and Russell were very close so I got exposed to a lot of stuff," Maria explains before dropping a major tidbit, stating "One of my good friends was Guy Fisher, his sister Florence Fisher was my good friend [and] at that time they owned the Apollo. So I was involved a little bit in the streets but not that much in the streets, but I [just] had a yearning to wanna know people."

In addition to her sharp tongue and charisma, the almond complected beauty could also make waves with her looks, leading to a lucrative career as a model during the '80s. "I had a modeling career for a long time, I made a lot of money," Davis boasts. "I was one of the first models on the box of a perm called Optimum. I did the ad and everything with a woman named Olive Benson, she passed on, but I was the first Optimum hair girl. I was a Budweiser Superfest girl. They would have posters every year and one year I was the poster person." The MTA, McDonalds, and Ebony were just a few of the many companies she posed for, but what really took her career to the next level was when her first child, Joshua, was born. "I had my son in '82 [and] I made a lot of money when he was born. Before, I was struggling, giving little parties here and there, fashion shows, and then when he was born, I started getting a lot of work."

But aside from modeling, she was also building an interest in a burgeoning sound coming out of her native Bronx called Hip-Hop during those years. "I guess that kind of started when I was modeling and I was bartending," Davis says when asked about the root of her love for the genre. "The Cellar on 95th and Columbus, that's when I started getting into Hip-Hop. I bartended and waitressed there. And then I wound up giving parties there. Rod Strickland's party was my first party. You couldn't even get in."

Maria's answer is simple when asked about the motivation behind her plunge into the party promoting game. "Just getting a group of people together and starting with my friends," she says. "And being at fashion shows and seeing other peoples different parties. I just liked getting people together. I always had functions at my house. I lived in a house in Newark, New Jersey, always had parties there. I always organized family get togethers, liked to cook, and that all stemmed from my mother."

What started off as a way to spend quality time with family and friends soon evolved into a full-blown operation for Maria. "Early '80s I started doing little parties here and there, nothing big though. My big stuff came right before whenI was pregnant with my daughter [at] Terranova. That was kind of toward the end of me deciding I didn't wanna model no more 'cause I started knowing so many people in the music industry and hanging out with them and everything so I would find out when everybody's birthday [was]. It started with birthday parties. I said "oh, what could I do," and I combined peoples birthday parties and I found DJs that nobody was using and I created a whole movement with DJs. I had Funkmaster Flex, Chuck Chill-Out, Luv-Bug Starski, Hollywood, everybody played for me."

"I started looking for venues," Maria says of her subsequent moves. I did a lot of basketball parties at Kilimanjaro. I did a lot of parties at Terranova with Allison Williams, Guy, Russell Simmons, Andre Harrell. All of them were my friends. I did parties for Charles Oakley, I did some Knicks' parties." Her connections from Cellars was paying infinite dividends for Maria, but little did she know that her love for entertaining was about to become her claim to fame and make her one of the hottest party promoters in all of New York.

One of the facilitators of this ascension was Bob Tate, a local impresario and member of the Uptown Chamber Of Commerce, who would take a liking to Maria and become a mentor during this period. "He had all of these business ventures going on and one of them was promoting parties. "Bob Tate kind of spearheaded and pushed me into another realm of partying because I would watch his money for him. He worked with a man named Leo and they ran a club called on 23rd Street. Bob Tate asked me to watch his door and he would give me a ridiculous amount of money to watch his money all night cause he would get half the door."

Another invaluable guide was presented to Maria in the form of a friend named Shelly Brook, who would also play a key role in her development as a force in New York's urban nightlife scene "I was still working at Cellars for a little bit and I was the coat-fit model on 7th Avenue and a good friend of mine, Shelly Brook, she was running the waiters at Mikells Restaurant, came to me one day. She had Whitney Houston [as a client] and was handling a lot of talent and she said to me "Listen, I got a venue, Maria, why don't you put something together?" And I dilly-dallied for months and then finally I said, "Yeah, let me do Mad Wednesdays," and that was in 1994."

According to Maria, the name Mad Wednesdays was partly by chance, as well as actual fate. "I was throwing parties, but I didn't really have no names for the parties; they were just [the] 'Maria Davis Party.' And Mad Wednesday came up because Shelly wanted me to take a Wednesday. So MAD is Maria Antonette Davis, my initials, so that's how I came up with Mad Wednesdays." The first official Mad Wednesdays showcase in March 1994 took place at hot spot called Sweetwaters on Amsterdam Avenue and would be immortalized as a landmark in rap in little more than two years and change by a certain Brooklynite.

But by no means did that occurrence birth the relevance of Mad Wednesday because if you were to ask those that were around at the time to know, Mad Wednesdays immediately became one of the most star studded events in Harlem. And Maria Davis seemed to be going through all the right avenues to make what would be a half-court shot to most seem like a layup. "It was good 'cause I was getting up and coming artists like Horace Brown. Usher was there. I had Quo, Michael Jackson's group. Mary J. [Blige] was there. Soul For Real came there for my birthday party. Keith Murray. Jay Z started out at Sweetwaters. Missy Elliott, Brian McKnight, Case, Mike Epps, Bill Bellamy. The list goes on." With A-List hip-hop and r&b talent in close quarters during a time when New York was known more for crime. "I had Kwame perform there and Biggie Smalls came to beat Kwame up at Sweetwaters," Maria recalls. "That's when the polka dot thing was going on and Biggie snapped on Kwame and then Kwame quoted him back so Biggie came there and found out he was performing. I had to take Kwame out the back door."

She also admits to being nervous at times about throwing her events due to being independent of any major companies, unlike a few of her contemporaries. "Yeah, you had the Tunnel. You had the Red Zone when Puffy decided to do stuff there. You're always nervous trying to get people through the door and back then I was the only black female promoter. There uwas nobody else doing it the way I was doing it, it was just me and Jessica Rosenblum. Puffy, Russell and all them used her [to work their parties]. They used her and God used me." While that assessment can be taken a myriad of ways, but what cannot be ignored is its plausibility due to all three's tight relationships being directly involved at the upper echelon of the '90s New York rap scene. But when prodded, Maria maintains that she feels no ill will towards Jessica, but stands her ground on the fact that she was the underdog out of that particular pack.

"We were cordial. I went to some of her events and she went to some of my events," Maria says of Rosenblum. "I mean, they had the upper-hand on me. They had their hands in the record companies. Jessica Rosenblum was very good friends with Russell Simmons and then Lyor [Cohen], you know. So where I had to fight for Mad Wednesday, they didn't have to fight, you know, they got it easy. They was there already, they could go pick up the phone and call people. I mean, I had great people that was in my corner, too, like OJ Wedlaw and Mark Pitts so I had a machine too, I had God. And that's the best one that you can have. So even with all of the adversity and people not giving me the artists like they gave Jessica, Mad Wednesdays was still very important in the music movement."

The rat race to dominate the NYC urban nightlife landscape was in full swing and Maria was a top contender, but tragedy would alter her course near the end of 1995 when a club patron was killed inside Sweetwaters, the venue that housed Mad Wednesdays.

"Sweetwaters got shut down in 1995 right before Christmas," Davis says, explaining the incident. "A guy got shot in the head at a party. Back then you had the promoters and then you had some of the hustlers that was throwing parties and the hustler's parties made mad money 'cause they sold bottles. That's when champagne - Dom P, Moet and all of that - was famous. And this particular party, the week before that Christmas, they had had a little scuffle in the party and I said 'this is not a good look, you can't take every and anybody's money.' And sure enough, I was bartending that night at Sweetwaters and a guy came in and shot a man in the head right there on the dance-floor." The setback may have put a damper on Maria's streak of good luck, but would prove to be a pivotal moment in the growth of Mad Wednesdays as a brand.

"I went to the Country Club on 86th [after Sweetwaters shut down], which catapulted Mad Wednesdays to a whole 'nother level. [The Country Club] was on 86th [Street], it took up a whole street between 2nd [Avenue] and 3rd [Avenue]. But now it's a pool hall." Maria details the period with the type of awe as if it just occurred yesterday. "I mean, I had lines outside," she says. "That's when the jazz mobile at Grant's Tomb up there on 123rd Street was big and popular because I was doing parties at Perks too. Perks was over there on Manhattan Avenue so I had a little short run of doing parties there; I did some record company parties that I set up in Perks." She also lets me in on how she finagled those parties and other connections she had made into her claim to fame. "How I became famous with getting these artists too was because I had so many friends in the music industry. I knew artists that were trying to get in the music industry so I would say 'well, why don't I put the new unsigned artist together with the record label's signed artist and create a buzz.' So my friends would say 'Maria, we got so-and-so in town, can you put something together' and then the little artist that I knew, I would put them on that same show. So I developed relationships with all my friends that they needed so anybody that had a new artist would give me the new artist to work in."

Mad Wednesdays soon became THE place to be Uptown, eventually finding its way in the raps of the game's hottest stars of the moment. "Mad Wednesdays became famous because The L.O.X. got me in their song [when they said] 'Ask Maria How I Blew It Down Mad Wednesdays,' they got a verse [with me in it]. And then Jay Z put me in his, "22 Twos," Reasonable Doubt, so Mad Wednesdays became very popular."

Which brings us full circle. While Maria Davis would've went down as a legend in Harlem regardless of meeting Jay Z -- we would be lying if "22 Two's" isn't the reason she appeared on many folks outside of New York City's radar. Maria is forthcoming about the whole process that got her on what many rap fans deem as one of the top ten albums of all-time. "Damon had heard of me," Maria says, matter-of-factly. "I didn't particularly know him and one day he came into my life and he never left. Jay Z didn't really know who I was, it was Damon Dash because I had something valuable, I had a venue." And Damon Dash had an artist whose face and music he needed to get out in the world, so the alliance was a match made in heaven. While Maria doesn't speak in mesmerized tones when speaking of Jay, she let's it be known that she was definitely a fan of his. "Well, he was coming to Mad Wednesdays and he did this song and it was "22 Twos" and that was like my favorite song," she says. "And every time he would come I was like 'no, Jay, you gotta do that 22 Twos thing."

Responding to a question about how the actual skit even came about, Maria attributes it to her no-frills shenanigans as a promoter. "I was famous for throwing people out of the club when they didn't act right and they loved that so they wanted that on the record," she recalls of Jay and Dame's reasoning for tapping her to hop on the album. She also takes full ownership of the commentary she spewed on that record, accrediting it to herself and explaining the thought process behind it. "So that whole skit, I adlibbed myself. They didn't write none of that, I wrote it, it came off the top of my head. Cause I would go in bathrooms and they would be like "Oh, Miss Davis is here, Miss Davis is here" and if I found or smelled anybody smoking weed, oh my god, party would get shut down, n----- would have to hear a whole Black History Month speech. So they got used to being like 'yo, don't come in her spot smoking weed' 'cause they was having such a good time and if I smelled weed, shit is shut down. That's why I been in the Shrine for seven years now. I don't even play with people. Go downtown to the white man, go give Bloomberg, the police, and 'em a hard time, don't do it to me."

Despite feeling honored to be asked to appear on one of her Mad Wednesday alum's album, her expectations for what her fifteen minutes of fame in the vocal booth would turn into were lukewarm to say the least. "Yeah, we knew it was gonna be on the album, but we didn't know how successful it would be. Nobody knew." She also makes it a point to digress that her appearance on the record was strictly organic and more of an extension of their relationship outside of the music. "I was a part of their family. We was doing the barbecues in the park and the this and the that and I know all the kids. I know Biggs' family, I'm still friends with his brother, his children, his sisters. Dame's brother Bobby, all of them. I just saw Biggs' brother the other day."

Some fans have claimed to have been present during the recording of "22 Two's," but Ms. Davis' recollection of the events seem to make that theory a farce. "They took me in the studio, but everyone thinks it was done at the club and people be like "I was there, I was there," they was not there. We did it in D&D Studios and I don't even think they exist no more. They asked me to come in and I did the whole skit. And at that time Jay Z was having problems with the law so I threw that up in there, "Jay Z, I heard you've been having problems with the law, but I know you're innocent." I was just adlibbing cause that's what was happening at the time. And I'm like 'put that champagne down and kick a little freestyle.' Who knew that would be so big." She also vouches for Jay Z's street credibility pre-fame, but prefers to shed more light on his present than his past, stating "He was a hustler, but he turned his hustling into something different absolutely."

Admitting she's not going as far as saving press clippings of him, Maria reveals that her and Jay's relationship may not be nearly as hunky dory as it was twenty years ago, but his team has taken the time to keep in touch with Maria over the years. "I just had his little nephews and all of them, they come to my shows, perform and bring artists. His secretary, Shaka, gave my daughter 10,000 to go to school from the Shawn Carter Foundation. And when they had the B-Sides concert, I was invited to come. They played the whole skit and then when they opened up the Barclays, everybody was calling me saying "Jay just gave you mad shoutouts, oh my god, Maria!" And Jay Z said that he's traveled all over the world and he started saying all the foreign countries that gave him love and then stopped and said, "You know what, I do have to say, next to the foreign countries was Maria Davis Mad Wednesdays."

"22 Two's" may have been a major coup, albeit unknowingly -- for Maria Davis' legacy in the greater hip-hop conversation, but she kept on trucking and conducted business as usual, continuing to put on dope showcases that included everyone that was hot on the streets at the time. Comparing the climate then to the game now, Maria seems to think that the decreased interaction between the fans and the artists at parties today is disheartening.

"It was different [back then]. You didn't have to be roped off [and] there was no such thing as bottle service," Maria laments. "You know, the Spanish people were doing it, but we weren't doing it, that was not popular. When you came to my parties, you was partying right with Jodeci and everybody. I didn't have no special section where I took them to seat and rope them off. Nah. These are your fans. These are people that made you, these are the people that you gotta have connections with them. That's the difference between the music industry now and back then." Davis continues, even pointing out the disparity between how people behind the scenes were accessible during different eras. "Back then [you could go to labels]. I had friends at MCA so I was always up at MCA Records. Cold Chillin' Records with Fly Ty. Nobody was like 'I'm this, I'm that,' everybody was struggling, trying to make it."

The struggle of trying to stay afloat amidst the murky waters of the music industry may have been a grind, but Maria Davis was about to stare in the face of the kind of adversity that many fail to survive. And the opponent would be AIDS, which she was diagnosed with in 1994. Soon, the dream that Maria Davis was living in quickly transformed into a nightmare.

"Absolutely. Definitely a shocker," Maria says of her reaction to the news. "Nobody takes being diagnosed with HIV in stride. That changes your entire life, your dating life, your life period. That's like a life altering disease. I took it like anybody else would take it if they found out they had HIV, devastated." The revelation must have been even more of a crushing blow given the manner in which she was delivered the news. "In the Post Office opening up a letter, that's how I found out," she says as she relives that fateful moment.

Suddenly, the same people that had once wanted a piece of everything she was doing slowly strayed away from Davis and acted as if she was a modern day lepper. "Absolutely, nobody knew what HIV was when I was diagnosed in '94," Maria says while reliving that trying time. "They kept a distance [from me], they was calling it The Monster. There was a stigma around anybody that had HIV or AIDS. And back then they didn't even know that it was HIV. HIV as a word didn't come around until '96." She continues taking me through the chain of events, stating "I remember the first person I told was my sister, Brenda and then my spiritual sister named Deidra Fisher," she reveals. So they were the first two that I told." Her emotions were a wreck prior to delivering the news. "I was absolutely afraid." She tells these tales wearing her poker face and without any subtle attempts of a pity party, fore those are not the celebrations she tolerates, in turn leading me to become a tad bit taken aback by her frankness.

But those that are familiar with Maria Davis wouldn't expect anything different. She's always been one to take the bull by the horns and give the sassiest sneer known to man while overcoming the odds. So after wiping her tears, she got to work. Maria's first step to adjusting her lifestyle was "getting educated and knowing what you're suffering with." She drives home her point about being responsible as someone spreading awareness. "I can't talk to anybody about anything until I'm educated about it. Because that's how misinformation is given. So I was working at Harlem United as a pre-educator. I had a phenomenal doctor, Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, that was on the cutting edge side of AIDS and HIV when it first started."

Mad Wednesdays would continue through the late '90s, until a series of violent at The Country Club and Essos would impede Mad Wednesdays' potential progress.

"I did Monday Night Madness because I became very ill and I was hospitalized in '99 and one week stay turned into twelve and I never thought that I would give parties again. And then my good old friend Shelly, who started me out at Sweetwaters who is now at Soul Cafe came to me and said 'Maria, please, would you just host my show once a week' and I was like "nah, people are already talking bad about me, saying I'm strung out on drugs 'cause I'm so skinny and then one day she convinced me, in 2000, so I started hosting for her once a month with her son. So Monday Night Madness was like my introduction back to a life that I never thought that I would never see again. And I was still skinny and very fragile" And then from there, I threw a party and I did one party, two party, three parties and I was there for four years."

Maria looks back at her decision as one that was essential to truly begin living her life in the public again. "It helped my healing process, getting back to what I knew and what I love to do and every time that I came to host, I felt myself getting stronger and stronger. And then I was able to incorporate my story cause in 2000, I wound up being in a book called Souls Of My Sisters: Black Women Break Their Silence, Tell Their Stories And Heal Their Spirit. So being in Souls of My Sisters is what kind of took Mad Wednesdays from being just a musical showcase and an event to a movement 'cause now I was incorporating HIV Awareness along with Mad Wednesdays. And the same young people that would come through my doors to showcase their artistry would also leave out educated about a disease that's killing our people. For a long time, I wasn't gonna change it back to Mad Wednesdays, I said Mad Wednesdays is dead, it's old. But one day when I wasn't in the Sugar Bar no more (Between Broadway and West End), that's when I renamed Mad Wednesdays."

"I had to get my strength back, so by May 2007, I was at the Sugar Bar," Maria says in regards to her second comeback following a bout with PCP Pneumonia. "I was at the Sugar Bar for about three years. But just when it looked like Mad Wednesdays was regaining its stride, another setback appeared unexpectedly, leaving the showcase without a home yet again. They wanted to change and do something different," Maria says of The Sugar Bar's decision to break ties with Mad Wednesdays. After inquiring on The Sugar Bar's reasoning behind their change of heart, Maria points to differences in philosophy and approach rather than anything malicious. "Well, mainly because Valerie Simpson's brother didn't wanna do tracks and some of the artists had tracks. Not because it was no trouble or nothing," she continues. "R&B artists had tracks and everybody doesn't know how to work the band and he wanted everybody to because Sugar bar is Val Simpson [and] it's Ashford & Simpson, they wrote a lot of hits."

After splitting with the Simpsons, Davis was left without a venue to house Mad Wednesdays. But a helping hand appeared again in the nick of time, saving Mad Wednesdays from going on an extended hiatus. "Well, one of my girlfriends, Rain Torae, she was doing showcases there, open mic, on Tuesdays. And I let her know that I didn't have a place to go and Sugar Bar didn't want me no more and she said 'well, let me talk to the owner of The Shrine, Abdel Ouedraogo, and she spoke to him and they agreed and I'm here several years later."

Mad Wednesdays is back in effect and after several years without a glitch in the system, seems to have found a permanent home at The Shrine, giving a whole new generation of fans the chance to experience what drew artists and audiences of past to frequent Maria Davis' shindigs. She remains a proponent of young talent, but has her disagreements with the way some of the current artists on top of the game operate, particularly the females. "It's interesting because people always think that Nicki Minaj is the end all of end all. I mean, I like her and all that, but [back then], you had Yo-Yo, you had Da Brat, I mean, you had so many different styles. Nicki Minaj is great, but she's very very commercial. I mean, she's got it easy compared to what these women had to go through." When asked why she thinks this generation doesn't make a better effort to reach back to the old guard for guidance, Maria pegs it simply as a sign of the times we're in.

"You have to remember what this generation is about. What do they call it, selfie, everything is about self, so the next man ain't trying to be humble or give the next man recognition. These young people been sampling all of these r&b artists forever and they never - not many of 'em - look back and say 'well this is where the music comes from. They just sample the music and then they get hit later with a lawsuit and they really think they made that song." With social injustice being a hot topic these days, Maria Davis' believes the artists and fans of today need to put the onus on themselves more. "A little bit, but more still needs to be done," she assesses when asked if the two groups are doing enough to raise awareness on issues affecting the urban community. "All of them songs about strippers and throwing money in the air and disrespecting young women. Disrespecting men towards each other and [concentrating on] all of the unnecessary shit that don't even matter 'cause at the end of the day, if you're not educated, you're going nowhere. How do you obtain your information if you're not around things to inspire you and inform you?"

The question is one that has been asked for centuries, but in the meantime, Maria Davis is content with living in the moment. With more than thirty years of experience in New York's nightlife scene, Maria is as exuberant as those half her age and continues to tend to the artists and causes that often go unsung. When asked if she ever feels she gets lost in the shuffle in comparison to her contemporaries from her heyday, her response is one that is seeped in the type of wisdom and clarity that you can only get by traveling this weathered road called life. "You know what I learned and I learned this from being diagnosed with HIV and AIDS. The world is a stage and everybody's an actor and everybody has a different role to play and you're as good as your last scene. So if you're last scene was ten years ago, nobody know about your. But if you keep yourself relevant and you keep yourself in the community, everybody doesn't have to know your name."

She continues with her sermon. "Let me tell you something, when you die, life goes on and it's unfortunate, but the way you live your life will speak for you after the death. So if you lived your live doing nothing for no one but yourself, no one will remember you. But if you lived your life trying to help people and give back to the community, those people that you touched and you reached, even if it's ten or fifteen of them, those fifteen people, you're in their hearts and that's the most important thing. We're not put on this earth for everyone to say our name because that's selfish. I want people to say my name because 'Maria helped me. Not Maria Davis because she's the baddest promoter and she was on Jay Z's album. I don't look for man to glorify me because if you wait for man to glorify you, you'll never be glorified."

The words hit you like a ton of bricks, much like the letter that Maria read at that Post Office some twenty years ago. When asked how she continues to cope and live with AIDS, Maria's response let's you know exactly where her mind is these days. "I have a regular life with medication for the rest of my life. I graduated from college at the age of 56 from the College of New Rochelle, I'm being honored on November 24. as a servant of the community. I started taking swimming lessons, so I swim now, whereas I used to be afraid of the water. I'm doing HIV/AIDS awareness, just [being] more community involved. A little politics. I'm the County Committee leader for the district here. They put me on the ballot and people voted for me. And a little TV because I've said I've always wanted to be an actress. I wanna go back to school to perfect myself even more. So I lead an exceptional life. And someone asked me the other day 'now that you're living with AIDS, how has your life been' and I said 'my life is better than it's ever been."

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(L-R) Cynthia Erivo at the 25th Annual Critics' Choice Awards on January 12, 2020; Scarlett Johansson at Netflix's 'Marriage Story' L.A. premiere on November 05, 2019.
Matt Winkelmeyer and Kevork Djansezian

Cynthia Erivo, Scarlett Johansson And The Oscars' Ongoing Whiteness

The 2020 Academy Awards nominations were announced Monday, Jan. 13 and, after a few years of glad-handing their supposed embrace of diversity, the Academy’s nominees were once again a distressingly predictable bunch—particularly amongst the major award categories. Bemoaning lack of diversity at the Oscars has become a punchline unto itself, but, for an Academy that is suddenly so image-conscious, this was a step backward. Alongside a Best Director field made up exclusively of men, Black actors were almost totally shut out in the top categories. Strong performances from previous Oscar winners/nominees like Lupita Nyong’o, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Foxx seemed to be likely contenders for a nomination but were snubbed. There is the notable exception, of course, of Cynthia Erivo. The Tony-winning actress received an Oscar nod for her turn as freedom fighter Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, a film that seemed to engender both praise and derision well before it opened in theaters in November 2019.

The British-born Erivo was at the center of much criticism when it was announced that she would be playing the legendary Tubman, the escaped slave born Araminta Ross, who led at least 13 trips along a treacherous journey from Maryland to Pennsylvania to free first her family, then others in bondage; she also became an officer in the Union army and an activist for women’s suffrage. The casting of Erivo as Tubman became a flashpoint after tweets from the actress were widely publicized in which she appeared to mock Black Americans in a Twitter exchange with actor Joel Montague after he asked her to sing a song she’d written.

“@joalMontague (ghetto American accent) baby u know I gatchu imma sing It To you but I still gatta do wadigattado, you feel me #scene xxx.”

The tweet was screenshotted and popped up on countless media sites, as the public criticism of Erivo grew. As she began making media rounds in the lead-up to Harriet, she addressed the issue.

"I would say it took a lot of hard work to get to this place [of playing Harriet Tubman] and I didn't take it lightly," Erivo said in an interview with Shadow And Act back in October. "I love this woman and I love Black people full stop. It would do me no service, it would be like hating myself.

“As for the tweets, taken out of context without giving me the room to tell you what it meant—and it wasn’t mocking anyone really. It wasn’t for that purpose at all. It was to celebrate a song I had wrote when I was 16.”

But the bad will had taken root. Harriet had a successful opening and a strong showing at the box office, but it was met with derision on Twitter as rumors swirled about various aspects of the film’s plot and historical inaccuracies. The word of mouth reception was far from glowing, but the borderline smearing of the film on social media was more scathing than the actual reviews once the movie hit theaters. But while the critical reception to the film itself was lukewarm, Erivo’s performance was consistently praised. “The British singer and actress…nails [Tubman’s] thousand-yard glare with a furious and mournful eloquence,” wrote Owen Gleiberman of Variety; and The New York Times’ A.O. Scott felt that “Erivo’s performance is grounded in the recognizable human emotions of grief, jealousy, anger, and love.” In an age when Black pain on the big screen can make for predictable platitudes from pundits, there is an ongoing question of who such a film as Harriet is meant to speak to and speak for. In the case of Erivo, you have more than a strong performance in a middling film. You have a performer who has, in many ways, lost the audience that would’ve been most invested in that performance.

Erivo's nomination for Harriet comes alongside a double-nod for Scarlett Johannson, another actress who found herself embroiled in controversy in 2019. Of course, ScarJo is much more high-profile than Erivo, an A-lister who finds herself in any number of prestige pictures and major blockbusters. But ScarJo’s defense of Woody Allen, at a time when Hollywood is at least attempting to come to grips with how it has enabled abusers, drew gasps and derision when she made press runs for her role in the acclaimed Netflix film Marriage Story. She told Vanity Fair in November:

“I’m not a politician, and I can’t lie about the way I feel about things,” she said. “I don’t have that. It’s just not a part of my personality. I don’t want to have to edit myself or temper what I think or say. I can’t live that way. It’s just not me. And also I think that when you have that kind of integrity, it’s going to probably rub people, some people, the wrong way. And that’s kind of par for the course, I guess.

“Even though there’s moments where I feel maybe more vulnerable because I’ve spoken my own opinion about something, my own truth and experience about it—and I know that it might be picked apart in some way, people might have a visceral reaction to it—I think it’s dangerous to temper how you represent yourself because you’re afraid of that kind of response. That, to me, doesn’t seem very progressive at all. That seems scary.”

Johansson’s controversial statements surrounding Woody Allen (and earlier comments about her playing trans and Asian characters) were met with widespread criticism that was subsequently muted by the acclaim following her turns in both Marriage Story and the WWII-set period comedy JoJo Rabbit. They weren’t misguided or misrepresented tweets from six years ago, they are her expressed positions on the subjects; she’s announced that she doesn’t intend to continuously apologize or even recant where she stands. And at the end of the day, she’s now a two-time Oscar nominee.

Obviously, Erivo is also basking in the recent glow of Academy recognition. This isn’t a case of a white actress bouncing back from backlash while a Black actress fades into obscurity because of it. But when Scarlett Johansson walks the red carpet on the night of the Oscars, if she takes the stage after her name is read as Best Actress or Best Supporting Actress or both, she won’t have to contend with the idea that those who have given her the award stand in stark contrast to those for whom she wanted the film to resonate. Scarlett Johansson also wouldn’t have to wrestle with the idea that she’s only the second woman of her background to win an Academy Award for Best Actress. She won’t have to face the hurt that she and others like her were shut out in her native country’s biggest movie award. She won’t have to think about all the criticisms of “slave movies” and being nominated for being in one.

Whatever criticisms there may be of Cynthia Erivo, whatever criticisms there may be of the film in which she starred, there’s always a softer landing for those who don’t have darker skin; simply because being Black on the whitest of nights means that all eyes are on you. It also means you have to carry so much more than your white counterparts will ever be asked to shoulder. Oscar or no Oscar; criticism of Cynthia Erivo never required condemnation of Cynthia Erivo. But on a night when white actresses will once again be widely represented, from the reliable grace of Little Women to the martyr-making propaganda of Bombshell, it’s disappointing that this one Black actress being amongst them is going to be picked apart.

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Shawn Wayans and Marlon Wayans during The 2004 Teen Choice Awards - Backstage and Audience at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California, United States.
KMazur

10 Most Memorable Episodes Of 'The Wayans Bros.'

If you're a product of hip-hop, the '90s was a glorious time for television, with a plethora of shows being introduced to the public that helped inform and reflect the culture, from music to fashion and every aspect in between. One program that embodied the raw essence of hip-hop was The Wayans Bros., which made its debut as the first sitcom to air on the newly launched network, The WB, on January 11, 1995. Created by Marlon and Shawn Wayans, Leslie Ray, and David Steven Simon, The Wayans Bros. put the focus on the two youngest brothers in the Wayans clan, both of whom had tasted fame alongside their elder brothers when their appearances on In Living Color and in films like Mo’ Money putting them on the radar. Set in Harlem, the show revolves around the Williams brothers' ill-advised attempts at turning a quick buck, maintaining their romantic relationships, helping out their father, Pops Williams (John Witherspoon), and assisting friends and family in their own times of need.

While Lela Rochon (Lisa Saunders), Paula Jai Parker (Monique), and Jill Tasker (Lou Malino) were all main cast members at some point during the show's first two seasons, the core cast was comprised of both Wayans brothers, Witherspoon, and Anna Maria Horsford as Deirdre "Dee" Baxter, the latter of whom made her debut appearance midway through the show's second season. Recurring characters included Thelonious "T.C." Capricornio (played by Phil Lewis), White Mike (Mitch Mullany), Dupree (Jermaine 'Huggy' Hopkins), and Grandma Ellington (Ja'net Dubois), all of who left their own imprint and were instrumental in some of the show's most memorable moments. In addition to the core cast, The Wayans Bros. also presented additional star power in the form of cameos, with athletes (John Starks, Kenny Lofton, Hector Camacho) actors (Bernie Mac, Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Elise Neal, Shari Headley, Gary Coleman, Pam Grier, Antonio Fargas, Monica Calhoun, Garrett Morris, Garcelle Beauvais, Richard Roundtree, etc) and musicians (Busta Rhymes, Keith Sweat, En Vogue, Missy Elliott, Paula Abdul) all appearing on the show, as well.

The Wayans Bros. show's run would be cut short after five seasons, with its final episode airing on May 20, 1999, marking the end of an era. However, the show has continued to entertain a new generation of viewers through syndication and is one of the definitive television shows from the '90s that spoke to and for the culture. In celebration of the show's 25th anniversary, VIBE looks back at ten of the most hilarious and entertaining episodes of The Wayans Bros. Show that made it one of the most beloved sitcoms of the hip-hop generation.

Season 1, Episode 1 "Goop-Hair-It-Is"

Our introduction to the zany hijinks of The Wayans Bros. came via the show's pilot episode, which found Shawn and Marlon attempting to cash in on a half-baked foray into the world of cosmetics. After accepting a proposition to become the manufacturers of a new hair product called Goop, Hair It Is, Marlon creates a homemade concoction that appears to work wonders for his follicles, prompting Shawn to create a scheme to sell it via an infomercial. Enlisting the help of Gary Coleman, the brothers and their new pitch man go live on air to wax poetic about the goop, but their presentation goes awry when Coleman's new hairdo goes ablaze, resulting in an impromptu fire drill that gives "Stop, Drop & Roll" a whole new meaning.

Season 2, Episode 4 "Two Men and a Baby"

Brotherhood may be second nature to Shawn and Marlon, but fatherhood is a whole different story, which we find out during the course of this classic from the show's second season. After discovering an abandoned baby that's supposedly Shawn or Marlon's kin outside of the front door of their apartment, the bros get into a heated rivalry over who's the biological father of the child. With little background information other than a note from the child's mother to go off of, the Williams' take matters into their own hands, stepping up to the plate to provide a nurturing environment for the newest member of the clan. The responsibility of parental duties prove to be too much for either brother to handle on their own, but they’re bailed out when the mother returns to recover the child after realizing a mix-up in her delivery process.

Season 2, Episode 5 "Loot"

The fortunes of the Williams family are on the brink of changing for the better after Shawn, Marlon, Pops and the rest of the gang discover a garbage bag filled with $100,000 in cash. A police report is filed, but the Williams' keep their fingers crossed that they'll be deemed the rightful owners of the money when the goes unclaimed. This doesn't stop the members of the family from counting their chickens before they hatch, as extravagant plans and pricey purchases are made in the ensuing days. Greed nearly causes the Williams' to turn on one another, but when an elderly woman shows up to recover her belongings, their dreams at a come-up are quickly dashed, putting the family back at square one.

Season 2, Episode 8 "Head of State"

During the second season of The Wayans Bros., Dee Baxter (Anna Maria Horsford) replaces Lou (Jill Tasker) as the Neidemeyer Building's security guard for the remainder of the series. When the President of the United States comes to Harlem during his campaign trail, Pops' Diner is designated as the location where the prez can relieve himself, which the family considers an honor. With Pops eager to reap the benefits of having the leader of the free world pass through his establishment, and Marlon determined to shake the President's hand, the visit is a pretty big deal to the family However, the Williams' world is flipped upside down when the Secret Service lock down the diner due to safety concerns, infringing on their privacy. In the end, Pops' gets an uptick in business, Marlon gets to shake the President's hand, and Dee gets to experience a bit of sexual tension in her debut appearance.

Season 3, Episode 1 "Grandma's in the Hiz-House"

When Grandma Ellington (Ja'net Dubois) stops in town, Shawn and Marlon are ecstatic to see the family matriarch, even making room for her to stay in their apartment. The decision is one that the brothers will quickly regret, as Grandma Ellington begins to infiltrate their life, from ruining their clothing to chasing away their dates. Shawn and Marlon decide to make things uncomfortable in hopes that she will leave, but the plan backfires, with Grandma Ellington’s discovery of the ruse putting a wedge between her and her grandsons. Realizing the error in their ways, the brothers attempt to win their grandmother back over and get back in her good graces.

Season 3, Episode 9 "The Return of the Temptones"

Pops gets a blast from the past when Shawn and Marlon decide to round up the members of his old group The Temptones for an epic reunion after thirty years. While the gesture is well-intended, things fall apart when the members let bad blood get into the mix, which puts The Temptones' upcoming performance in jeopardy. As Pops and the crew struggle to find common ground, Shawn and Marlon stand-in for the missing members, resulting in a hilariously horrendous rendition of The Temptones' hit, "Bang, Bang Bang." However, the original members of the group decide to put their differences to the side for the sake of the group's legacy, tearing down the stage in one of the more memorable moments in The Wayans Bros. history.

Season 4, Episode 9 "Can I Get a Witness?"

After finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, Marlon becomes an eyewitness to a bank robbery and identifies the criminal in a police line-up. This results in the Williams' being put in protective custody until the case is resolved, but when word gets out that the culprit's brother is on the hunt for them, it appears as if they cannot avoid meeting their eventual fate. However, the criminals' thirst for vengeance gets thwarted just in the nick of time, keeping Marlon, Shawn and Pops in the clear and out of danger.

Season 4, Episode 19 "Talk is Cheap"

Shawn and Marlon are summoned to The Jerry Springer Show to see just how close their relationship is, which leads to a few secrets between the two being revealed. When Marlon finds out that Shawn had paid his girlfriend a visit at her apartment, the two begin to bicker with one another in front of the studio audience, with Pops and Dee getting involved from the comfort of the crowd. As things get heated between the two, the bros resort to throwing blows, hurling insults and embarrassing one another. While the pair eventually come to their senses and patch things up, their dust-up and Jerry Springer's appearance made for classic television.

Season 5, Episode 7 "The Kiss"

Dee Baxter catches up with old friend Missy Elliott, who gives her a pair of tickets to her concert later that night. Deciding to take Shawn as a guest, the two enjoy one another's company to the point that they wind up kissing after a long night of drinking before passing out. Waking up half-naked and in the same bed with one another, it appears as if the two had slept together, making for a string of awkward encounters between the two. However, the potential lovebirds discover that they were victims of a prank by Marlon, which brings Shawn and Dee's friendship back to normal.

Season 5, Episode 18 "Hip Hop Pops"

Shawn and Marlon gather Pops' closest friends and throw him a surprise party to celebrate his 50th birthday. However, while the brothers' efforts were meant to put Pops in good spirits, they actually put him in a depressive and reflective state due to his age and fear of death. Looking to infuse a little fun into their father's life, Shawn and Marlon takes Pops out to the club to help make him feel young again, but the experience inspires Pops to change his wardrobe and slang in an attempt to hold onto his youth. From engaging in freestyle battles to donning iced-out chains, Pops' new style rubs Shawn and Marlon the wrong way, forcing them to cook up a plan to get him to revert back to the man they used to know.

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Che Pope interviews Vincent “Tuff” Morgan, peermusic’s head of A&R urban/pop, on Q&A With Che.
HiStudios

Che Pope Talks ‘Q&A With Che’ Podcast, Kanye West, And Why He Left G.O.O.D. Music

At some point in your career, you want to pay it forward. Regardless of the industry you’re in, there comes a time when you reached a certain level of success and want to groom the next generation with your knowledge and expertise. Che Pope, a Boston native, veteran music producer, songwriter, and former head of Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music, is in a position to do just that. After spending seven years with G.O.O.D., as well as making music with critically-acclaimed artists like Lauryn Hill, Dr. Dre, and The Weeknd, Che Pope has utilized lectures and podcasts to discuss his diverse career, sharing a perspective tailored to young creatives who want some mentoring in their own paths. Pope’s experience allows him to give gems in all aspects of the music business – no matter if you’re an aspiring manager, producer, singer, or artist, he has a piece of advice that can apply to you. 

It’s why he’s finally launching a podcast of his own called Q&A With Che, a HiStudios Original, that’s available on the Himalaya app, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and more. He describes the show as “Ted Talks with the urban entertainment industry,” using his large network of friends for real conversations on how they made it. The format is more for educational purposes and using the platform to expand his Q&A section of his discussions, with each guest detailing what they do, how their industry works, and their take on the future. Che’s first guest is DMV rapper IDK, who is coming off a major 2019 with his partnership with Warner for his label Clue and the release of Is He Real? 

Speaking with VIBE over the phone, Che explains the genesis of Q&A With Che (the idea came after having a convo with Jay-Z), why IDK was the perfect first guest, his thoughts on Kanye and G.O.O.D. Music, and the books he’s reading today.

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VIBE: Q&A With Che is going to be part of HiStudios’ original programming slate. You’re alongside sport personalities that also have podcasts like Mike Tyson, Gilbert Arenas, and Caron Butler. If I did my research, you’re the first “music veteran” with a show on HiStudios. Was podcasting a logical next step in your career?

Che Pope: I think it was important for me to share the information. And just really what’s the best way to? Obviously, the lectures are great. That’s like, ‘Okay, cool. I go to Harvard Business School just so those kids get it.’ This was a way to really share it with a wider audience, with anybody. And I’ve been getting hit up on Instagram or Twitter where people are always asking me tons of questions and this was a way for me [to reach them]. So many people would be like, ‘Hey, can you mentor me?’ I can’t mentor all of them. This was kind of my way of like, ‘OK, I can’t mentor all of you, but I can do this.’ I think that is what really attracted me.

I had a really great conversation with Jay-Z about it and he just loved the idea of it and that really put a battery in my back. Because at one point in time, it was this great idea we had, and just getting caught up in work and [being] busy and not pursuing it. Once I spoke with Jay-Z and he said, ‘This is amazing. You have to do this.’ That really put the battery back, and then partnering with HiStudios and Himalaya, it just really gave me the team I needed to really bring it out there in the manner that I wanted to do, the professional level that I wanted to present it at.

So you were already thinking of podcasting back then. When did that Jay-Z convo happen?

That happened about two years ago in his living room.

How’d the convo go? Were you trying to pitch yourself to Tidal?

No, I actually wasn’t. He said, ‘You know, you’re more than welcome to consider Tidal.’ But he was like, ‘I just think it’s a great idea.’ I wasn’t actually pitching anything. We were just having a business conversation. I guess you could say the next step in my career is not only the podcast, but I also have a start-up. I was just getting business advice and out of that meet, Q&A came up.

I’m sure you’re familiar with the hip-hop podcast landscape. We got everybody from ItsTheReal’s, which you were on. The Joe Budden Podcast. Rap Radar Podcast. Do you see the success of those guys as motivation to reach that level or are they competition?

I don’t think they’re competition. We are really two different things. I’m much more like Ted Talks than I am No Jumper, ItsTheReal, Joe Budden. Although ItsTheReal is a little bit different than Joe Budden. Joe Budden wants to be opinionated, sort of controversial at times and really drive listeners on entertainment. Mine is much more educational focused. Entertaining in the fact that people who are going to be on it cause anyone could be on it. It could be anyone from Diddy to someone you haven’t heard of. I think it is entertaining in that [regard], but it is much more educational than I am trying to entertain you and be controversial and all that kind of stuff.

And I think it's really interesting that you chose IDK as your first guest. He’s coming off his Warner partnership for Clue and his album Is He Real? dropped last year. He’s a younger rapper but he has this business savviness to him. Why did you want to interview him?

That’s specifically why. I built a relationship with the kid cause he was in negotiations at one point and time to sign with G.O.O.D. Music. He is from the DMV area originally, which is where my mom is from. So we kind of made a cool connection a few years back when he was still this independent kid coming up trying to figure it out. But he was far more informed than most artists I meet. He was talking to me about his independent promotion and his marketing plan and things of that nature, which he had written himself. And I was like, ‘Wow, this kid is [incredible].’ When he finally did the deal with Warner, he was just the perfect first guest for me cause he is living what these kids want to do, what many of them want to do. His journey is really a testament to educating and empowering yourself and challenging. He had overcome adversity. He had been in jail before. It built himself up from scratch. Really talented story and his story is just getting started. I think the sky's the limit to where he can go.

Before I let you go, I want to talk about Kanye. You’ve been there since Yeezus. You’ve been there since Cruel Summer. Now, he’s on this new trajectory of dedicating himself to God, releasing Jesus Is King and Jesus Is Born. He’s no longer making secular music and is reportedly done performing solo shows. When you were working with him, did you see any early signs that his artistry was progressing towards this?

No, but I would say the thing with him is he is always evolving. I would say you never know what is next, which is exciting. I couldn’t say I saw this coming, at all. You never know what’s next, I will say that, which is one of the exciting things when working with him, for better or for worse, you know? Whether it was a Trump hat or “slavery was a choice” comment or whatever, or those amazing moments like Yeezus or some of the amazing musical experiences I was apart of. You never knew what was coming and that was exciting. I wish him the best on it. When it was time for me to move on? I wish him the best with it.

You were with G.O.O.D. Music for six and a half years?

Yeah, seven years. Since 2011. I was one of the longest running people that lasted the longest with him [Laughs].

Why did you want to leave?

I think for me it was the next progression in my career. To transition from working with somebody and helping them build their stuff to building my own company. I am building a music incubator, start-up. It was really sort of the next progression in my career. I had to take that step as a business owner. And that takes a lot of work, a lot of focus, and a lot of commitment, you know? It’s one of those things. They say that saying, ‘if it was easy, everybody could do it?’ It’s not easy.

You once described your role at G.O.O.D. with Noah Goldstein as “getting shit done.” Now that Pusha-T has taken the role as president, what do you think of his “term” so far?

I think Pusha-T is an artist, and I think he has aspirations of his own label. I don’t know what’s going on with G.O.O.D. Music. It’s kind of like in…what’s the word when something is in suspended in time? Desiigner left the label. I know 070 [Shake] is putting her album out, but that’s more Def Jam. I don’t think there’s really a G.O.O.D. Music focus there.

I think Kacy Hill isn’t there either, right?

Yeah, Kacy Hill left. I do think they still have some artists. I know Teyana is active. I don’t really know much about what’s going on these days at G.O.O.D. Pusha-T is one of my favorite artists, and I think he’s still focused on Pusha-T. I don’t know what his involvement is with the label at all or a day-to-day basis or if he’s still involved at all. 

I think that means we’re going to see something major happen. Big Sean still has his album coming out, so maybe something like that.

Yeah. Big Sean’s coming. I’m sure Pusha’s coming. I know 070 Shake’s album is amazing. I’ve heard it so I’m excited for her because I know it’s a long time coming and she’s great. She’s gonna be on the Swedish House Mafia project as well. I think she could really be one of the next, big young artists.

I saw that books are your thing. What are you reading now?

As far as this year, I want to read as many as I can. I have different people that turn me onto books. You never know what someone is going to refer. Right now, I am reading Ben Horowitz’s new book What You Do Is Who You Are. I think Ben is just a brilliant guy and the fact that he loves hip-hop too, which is really cool. Anytime he drops a book, I try to get it.

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