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Two young Chicano men ride on the hood of a car and raise their fist during a National Chicano Moratorium Committee march in opposition to the war in Vietnam, Los Angeles, California, February 28, 1970. (Photo by David Fenton/Getty Images)
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Formation: The Little Known History Of The Brown Berets

What they didn't teach you in school. 

On June 16, 2015, GOP front-runner Donald Trump delivered a pompous presidential campaign announcement during which he made some dangerous and equally heinous claims about Mexican immigrants. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best,” he said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” His hate speech would herald one of the most scandalous primary elections of our time, stoking the anger of Latinos around the country.

The largest Latino civil rights organization in the United States, the National Council of La Raza, passed Trump off as a “silly man” and one with a “pathological need for attention.” What’s more important, however, is for us to recognize that Trump’s anti-Mexican rhetoric is not without historical context and perhaps denotes a darker chapter in the story that is America.

In the 1920s, the Los Angeles Police Department created the Red Squad Unit to help Capitalists suppress labor union organizations and ensure the Mexican people did not gain any economic mobility or equality. This marked a tension between the Mexican community and the city's police, who were a part of a political machine and engaged in corruption, extortion and brutality.

As the influx of Mexicans expanded in Los Angeles, their Anglo counterparts became visibly threatened. A wave of fear took over the city, causing police officials to increasingly engage in brutal and harassing acts against Mexican immigrants, all the while exploiting their cheap labor, despite consequences.

Enter Trump’s predecessors and the Mexican racial theory of crime that would become a part of the American mentality. According to University of Wisconsin Sociology Professor Jennifer G. Correa and her graduate dissertation centered on Chicano nationalism and The Brown Berets, “Starting in the 1930’s, criminology was emerging as a discipline and various scholars in the area were interested in linking race and criminality. Criminologists were not sure if Mexican criminality was biological or social, but the overly-sensationalized concerns developed the notion within the Anglo community and the LAPD that Mexicans were criminally inclined.”

In the mid-1960s, a group of Mexican youth leaders dedicated to education reform and community service, called the Young Citizens for Community Action, emerged. Over time, the group would inevitably broaden their focus and probe issues of police brutality/harassment within their communities. Soon, they’d adopt the term “Chicano” in place of “citizens” as a form of identity and solidarity among Mexican-Americans.

In a symbolic rebellion against the Anglo community and mainstream America, YCCA original member David Sanchez took a page from the Black Panther Party and began to change their appearance by donning brown berets and military style pants and jackets. Sound familiar?

As police brutality continued to plague black and brown communities, YCCA became more and more politicized, joining protests surrounding anti-Mexican acts. The organization eventually became known as The Brown Berets to the LAPD, a gesture that prompted the YCCA collective to assume the name and make it their own.

The organization fought against inequality in schools and mainstream white society. They joined school walkouts, often staged by high school students in response to inadequate teaching facilities. They also created a newspaper called La Causa (The Cause) to help spread awareness of the Chicano plight and keep the Chicano nation informed on the latest news surrounding politics, activism, racism and police brutality.

Circa 1972, The Brown Berets occupied Catalina Island off the coast of Los Angeles to protest the United States illegally seizing and occupying Mexican/Indigenous land. Today, the Brown Berets continue to arm themselves with the power of knowledge and community in the fight against white supremacy and oppression. And, in a time riddled with anti-blackness and anti-immigrant rhetoric, campaigns like #BlackLivesMatter only further inform modern movements of Chicano radicalization.

“We are fully supportive of the Black Lives Matter Movement. It is extremely important that the world understand that we are in a fight for human dignity and basic human rights,” said Chimalli Cuetlachtli, current National Commander of the National Brown Berets. “When Black people say 'Stop killing us' and the only response that White America has is 'BUT…' there is a huge problem. This country is [still] steeped in racism, oppression, and colonialism and movements and organizations that are fighting for the rights of people of color are necessary.”

Cuetlachtli, who isn’t afraid of reminding us that America “is a country built on the mass genocide of tens of millions of my ancestors, slavery, and the theft of an entire hemisphere,” declares the mission of the Brown Berets as critical and relevant today as it was 50 years ago.

“We serve our communities and organizations as an auxiliary organization providing them with resources and assistance in their events, protests, and activities,” he said. “Sometimes it takes a very practical role, with us helping with basic human needs like food drives, clothing drives, volunteering in community clean up and beautification projects, youth outreach, etc. Our soldiers are members of various organizations and hold various jobs so their commitment as Brown Berets allow them to use whatever opportunities they can to fulfill their duties to serve.”

While organizations like Black Lives Matter continue to go against the abuses of police brutality, systemic injustice, racial inequality, and agencies like DREAMers take on the inequities and obstacles faced by immigrants and undocumented youth, The Brown Berets continue in the act of raising awareness via protests, social events, community workshops and conferences.

When asked how he saw white supremacy being dismantled for good, Cuetlachtli suggested a global undertaking. “We need a worldwide revolution,” he said, before stating that people of color will experience true emancipation only when they “are empowered and liberated in all countries throughout the world.”

 

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10 Most Important Hip-Hop Artists Of 2018

We’ve reached another end to an eventful year in hip-hop. From rap beefs to new music releases and milestones, 2018 has been forged in the history books as a year to remember. But more important than the events that happened over the span of 12 months are the people who made them happen.

While fans received a large dose of music from our favorite artists and celebrated some of the most iconic album anniversaries, there are a few names that stood out as the culture pushers, sh*t starters, and all-around most significant artists of the year.

For your enjoyment, VIBE compiled a list of the top 10 most important hip-hop artists of 2018 based on a series of qualifications: 1) public actions - good, bad, and ugly; 2) music releases; 3) philanthropic/humanitarian work; and 4) trending moments.

Be clear: This list isn’t about the most influential, the most talented, who had the best music or tours. While we are commemorating artists for the work they’ve contributed to this year’s music cycle, we’re looking beyond that and evaluating how these particular artists have shaped conversations and pushed hip-hop culture forward.

READ MORE: 15 R&B Songs We Obsessed Over Most In 2018

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: Intent On Impact, Kiana Lede Is Ready To Leave Her Mark

After learning The Alphabet Song as a little girl, Kiana Lede would always “get in trouble” for singing during class. “My mom was like, ‘why can't you focus?’” she laughs while reminiscing on her career’s formative years. “I was like, ‘I don’t know! Songs are just playing in my head all the time!’”

Whilst sitting in a shoebox-sized room at Midtown Manhattan’s Moxy Hotel on a humid September day, the now- 21-year-old Arizona-bred R&B songbird, actress and pianist speculates that she “may have had ADD.” However, she settles down after taking off her white cowboy boots and flops down on the ivory-clothed bed, demonstrating that her fiery Aries energy can be contained. Cool as a cucumber, Lede shuffles between chewing on banana candies and blowing smoke rings after taking drags from a pen, all while musing about her journey to becoming a Republic Records signee.

“I just grew up singing and doing musical theater, and reading a lot of books, and playing piano way too much in my room by myself,” she says, pushing her big, curly brown hair out of her face. Her expressive green eyes widen as she grins. “It was my thing. Nobody in my family does music, just me.”

After winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest at 14 (which her mother secretly entered her into), Lede was signed to RCA Records. She was released from her contract and dropped from the label three years later. However, thanks to guidance and friendship from the Grammy-winning production duo Rice N’ Peas, (who’ve worked with G-Eazy, Trevor Jackson, and Bazzi), she released covers of songs such as Drake’s “Hotline Bling” while working to get her groove back. The latter rendition resulted in Republic Record’s Chairman and CEO Monte Lipman flying her out and signing her to his label.

“I got a second chance, which a lot of people don't get,” she reveals. “So I'm really happy that that all happened. I wouldn't be here right now in this room if that didn't happen.”

Thanks to the new opportunity she was given, Lede’s sound has evolved into something she’s proud of—equal parts soul, R&B and bohemian. As evidenced by the aforementioned ensemble, glimmers of each aesthetic can be found when observing her personal style as well. She released her seven-song EP Selfless in July, which features the bedroom-ready “Show Love” and “Fairplay,” which manages to fit in the mainstream R&B vein while also showcasing her goosebump-inducing vocals. The remix of the latter features MC A$AP Ferg. What pleases her most is that it not only garnered a favorable response from fans, but that those listeners found it so relatable.

“As an artist, it's really nerve-wracking for someone who writes about such personal things all the time,” she says. “Just the fact that it is my story… It's good to know that other people know that there's somebody on their side, and they're not the only ones going through it. A lot of people obviously feel this way, and have been through this same thing that I've been through. So I think that's cool.”

Although she moved to various places as a Navy serviceman’s daughter, Lede claims Phoenix as home. This means she hails from the same stomping grounds as rockers Alice Cooper, Stevie Nicks and the late Chester Bennington of Linkin Park. However, growing up in a mixed race household gave way to tons of sonic exploration outside of the rock-heavy scene.

“My dad's black, and both of my parents are from the East Coast,” she says of her musical and ethnic upbringing (she’s black, Latina and Native American). “[My parents] listened to a lot of R&B. My mom listened to a lot of SWV, TLC, Boyz II Men. I didn't realize I knew the songs until I got older. I played a charity show with T-Boz, and I was like 'why do I know these songs?'” Lede also says her father was a fan of neo-soul and gangsta rap, but she personally believes the early-2000s was the best time for music.

“[That era] influences a lot of my music subconsciously, and also, singer-songwriter stuff,” she continues. “I listen to a lot of early-2000s music because I played piano most of my life. I listened to Sara Bareilles, John Mayer.”

An open book, Lede details some of her struggles with anxiety and depression with the utmost candor. After being dropped from RCA, her trust in people diminished, and she experienced long bouts of depression after being sexually assaulted by someone in the industry. The track that she feels most deeply about is “One Of Them Days,” which tackles these issues head-on.

“When I'm anxious and depressed, it's really hard to be happy,” Lede says. “Most of the time, I can do it, but there are just some days where I literally can't separate the anxiety, and I can't tell anybody why, because I don't really know why myself… I was feeling very odd that day, didn't even know if I could write a song. Hue [Strother], the guy who I wrote the song with, he was like 'I totally get you. Lots of people go through this.’’’

As we’ve observed in headlines recently, mental health and being honest about life’s trickier situations can help someone going through the same thing, and Lede hopes her music provides encouragement to those who are struggling. As for how she’s learning to push through her mental health roadblocks, she meditates, runs, and is an advocate for therapy, especially in Trump’s America, where harrowing news reports dominate the cycle.

Another hallmark of Kiana Lede’s personality is her bleeding heart for others. She cites women of color, sexual assault victims and the homeless youth specifically as individuals she feels most responsible to help, since she is personally connected to all three. While she’s aiming to create a project that helps homeless youth specifically, she’s working hard this holiday season to ensure that they have a place to stay “at least for the night” after horrific wildfires displaced many individuals in California.

“My passion is really people. Music is just a way that I can get to helping people,” she says with a grin. “Helping people emotionally and physically are both very important. I never want to stop helping people. I feel if other people can respect me, and I can respect myself, then I'll be happy. Happiness is all that we strive for.”

Recently, Lede played her first headlining solo show, a one-night event at The Mint in Los Angeles. While she was thrilled to see that the show sold-out, she was even happier to see the faces of her audience members, who she said ‘looked like [her].’ “Mixed girls, brown girls, black girls, gay boys,” she explains over-the-phone. Even though she wasn’t in person to discuss her latest huge accomplishment, you could hear the pride and joy through her voice.

As for the future of her career, she’s looking forward to more acting roles. You may recognize her from the first season of MTV’s Scream, and after her recent Netflix series All About The Washingtons with legendary MC Rev Run was cancelled, she has been “reading for auditions” and is “negotiating” for a role in a film set to shoot in NYC. While her time with the Run-DMC frontman was brief, she says he taught her about the importance of “not compromising your art for money.”

What Kiana Lede is most excited about, of course, is making music. She hopes to work on a new EP and then release an album after that. The ultimate goal is to fully realize the dreams in her personal and professional life, and she assures she’s just getting started.

“I want to be able to look back on my career and think 'man, I really poured my heart into this music, and made music that mattered, and made music that made people feel a certain way, whether it's bad, good, sad, anxious, whatever it may be.’”

READ MORE: NEXT: H.E.R. Is The Future Of R&B (And Then Some) In Plain Sight

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Lloyd Pursall

THEY. Break Down The Creation Of 'Fireside' EP And Their Unique Group Dynamic

Dante Jones and Drew Love–equally important, yet separate entities THEY.–arrive comfortably late to the listening of their newly released EP, Fireside. Drew, the more personable member of the group, swaggers into the room in a silk button-down. Failing to fasten the first three of the light brown buttons, his soft mocha chest peeks through. Closely following, Jones saunters in physically present but distant from the world around him, in his Friday's best casual fit. Quickly dividing to greet the crowded room of New York City journalists the pair fan out, taking the east and west wings of Esther & Carroll’s Soho eatery by storm.

Tracks from Fireside flow through the speakers like the honest "Broken," a conversational duet with Jessie Reyez and "18 Months," with Ty Dolla $ign. Both songs go further than love at first sight as THEY. speak on the rough parts of an evolving relationship. Overall, the six-track project takes on the progressive side of R&B with a little help from friends like Reyez, Jeremih, and Wiz Khalifa. Inviting outside forces into their world, the musicians are stretching their creative muscles while providing lessons as ear candy to fans.

THEY. is the culmination of a four-year relationship that has left a beast bigger than the fame in its wake. Standing on the precipice of a new subgenre of hip-hop and R&B, the duo has centered their sound around the eclectic flare of rhythm and blues while crashing into a new lane of its own. The members drive down the same road, they ride in two different cars. Fireside’s inspiration stems from the movie The Grey. "[Fireside is] this really interesting scene where all these different people from different walks of life are coming together,” Jones admits.

Much like the exploits of Agents J and K in Men In Black, their collaboration rings true to the futuristic movie series starring Tommie Lee Jones and Will Smith. Easily distinguished by the eager rookie paired with the grumpy veteran, the roles commandeered by Love and Jones can be heard through the cell phone. Cycling through evolution, the self-proclaimed yin and yang constantly battle the forces of dark and light to bring forth harmony in their ever-changing relationship.

At times unable to see eye-to-eye, the East Coast natives have adapted their rocky partnership, fine-tuning the kinks between them, learning to compromise, and most of all made subtle changes to the ways in which they interact with each other. Never expanding on the nature of their true relationship, the past tensions never seep into the conversation. Throwing subtle brotherly love moments during our interview, the artists toss admirable compliments back and forth.

“He understands where I come from because I am very rough around the edges and very abrasive at times,” Love says of his fellow creative. "Dante can be very hard to read at times, but I think it is an ongoing understanding and continual effort to learn to understand the other person and what triggers them and what doesn't trigger them, what their strengths are and what their weakness are. And how to motivate them and how to work together toward the common goal. I think both the work relationship and friendship have continued to evolve in a good way.”

Following the uprising of their movement through the states, their transcendent sound carried them across the pond to New Zealand and Australia, where they were opened for 6LACK earlier this year. receiving a more welcome reception from their overseas counterparts. The good vibes transferred throughout the show brought them one step closer to the aspirations that bond them together.

“The people are beautiful and you know, are not so pretentious and high strung,” Love explained of the best and worst moments in Australia. “The fans are very receptive to any type of music it seems. They just like to go to concerts and have a good time, as opposed to coming to the United States, you'll get someplace that sit there and fold their arms like you are supposed to impress them.”

 

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Melbourne was a movie 🎥 Round 2 this Wednesday at @theoxfordartfactory. Limited tickets still available. 🐺x🇦🇺

A post shared by THEY. (@they) on Oct 15, 2018 at 6:00pm PDT

Just a few months prior, the duo made their first appearance at Billboard’s Hot 100 Festival. The group caught the short end of the festival stick when their set time clashed with hip-hop acts like Rae Sremmurd and Lil Xan. THEY. was subjected to a crowd cross-armed and unwilling to catch the vibes. Pushing forth a strong performance, the group shattered the hard shells of concert goers, changing their crossed arms and intimidating stares to body rolls and kinder eyes.

As momentum continues for the duo, they've avoided the type of burnout establishing acts normally face. From smaller venues to sold-out arenas, the boys have set their sights on performance meccas like Madison Square Garden. But beyond the surface level goals, THEY. seeks to give the outcasts a place to call home. Leaving their mark on all the generations to come after, former victims of bullying illustrate that life has the opportunity to get better.

“At the end of the day, I want to change the world,” Jones explained. “That's really the goal to change the world and change music and really it only takes one moment. It's like the butterfly effect. We were the first few people to put out the idea of 808's, guitars and pop vocals. Now it's out in the atmosphere and we see a lot more people taking that approach. I feel like ultimately it's circling back our way."

Uncertain about the next trends in R&B, THEY. find themselves ahead of the curve. A few years removed from their first album Nü Religion: Hyena, the two have made strides to perfect their music making formula. Naturally, Dante and Drew are striving to leave a lasting impact on as many people as possible.

Stream THEY.’s Fireside EP below

READ MORE: NEXT: R&B Is Taking Many Directions And Music Duo THEY. Is Creating Their Own

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