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An Activist And A Poet Open Up Their Miami Home To Local Musicians

umi selah and Aja Monet build a recording studio for artists with a message. 

Musician and social activist umi selah has always wanted a studio in house. With the help of his partner, educator and poet Aja Monet, selah’s dream to live together as innovative artists has blossomed into a movement that is sure to change the atmosphere of the artist community in Miami for years to come.

As one approaches their modest, two-bedroom house centered in Little Haiti, a scene of lush plants and trees set the mood for any unsuspecting, music virtuoso looking for inspiration. Upon walking through the front door, their beautiful humble abode transforms into Smoke Signals Studio, a visionary space that any artist would feel comfortable in.

"Your home is a very intimate place," said selah after giving us an informative tour of their property. "It’s a place where, to a larger degree, you can control the vibe and create a culture. We wanted that for the studio space. It’s a community studio space where we believe really powerful things can happen and most of those things happen around the kitchen table or in a home environment. It’s actually a really cool place."

The lovestruck activists began to construct their dream after Monet migrated to Miami from New York City to help launch their exciting studio and embrace umi’s work in the community as the face of his communal activist group, the Dream Defenders. As a native of Brooklyn, an educator and a skilled poet, the Afro-Cubana knows the struggle aspiring musicians go through in order to properly embrace their artistry.

"Growing up in Brooklyn, you don’t have space," said Monet. "When you think about the power of art, our art has been the place where folks who are frustrated or outraged by the injustices that are taking place, often times that’s where people go. That’s where they find solace.”

In a city where homemade studios are the norm, musicians, visual artists, poets and other creators in Miami will find more than solace on umi and Aja’s sacred stomping grounds. Inside the studio, the walls are covered with legendary vinyl covers and visual works of art from local artists like Marcus Blake. Along with a soundproof recording room, Smoke Signal Studios also includes a living space to brainstorm, a kitchen to cook up any nutritious substance, and a backyard equipped with a stage ready for live performances.

Although the studio hasn’t officially opened to the public yet, top-tier artists like David Banner and Monet's previous mentee Vic Mensa have already paid a visit. Banner allowed the couple to hear songs from his upcoming album The God Box, while the Roc Nation signee played them unreleased music that has yet to surface the ‘net.

Music enthusiasts may quickly fall in love with the couple’s outstanding contribution to Miami’s indie music scene, yet skeptics are left scratching their heads. What’s the catch? The “catch” to use their “shrine to sound-cology” is more revolutionary than one might assume.

“One of the things we want to do is transform the value system," explained Monet. "So how do you do that? For every hour that someone spends in the this studio to record to make music, we hope for them to give an equal amount of time doing radical, political education or giving a training or workshop to other folks with the same skill set that they can provide. Let’s say you’re a really good guitar player, and you’re here for an hour to use the studio. You could give an hour of guitar lessons to the community or to our young people.”

The couple's plan to rework the barter system for artists definitely calls for a celebration. Last week, umi and Aja held their first communal event at Smoke Signal Studios and welcomed everyone to probe inside their musical safe haven. Their spacious backyard was populated by members of the Dream Defenders, musicians, visual artists and photographers, all of whom could be seen networking and socializing in honor of their new creative space.

In between impromptu live music sets, Monet broke the ice by delivering her impactful words over the mic, which further encouraged others to step up and perform their own pieces. As the crowd began to gather to listen in sync, the ultimate meaning of the name of their communal studio manifested itself.

“The name is a way to signal to people that there is a community of people that are either in danger or have something to say and other people haven’t taken notice for a very long time,” said umi.

 

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Courtesy of Universal Music Latin Entertainment

Karol G On The Magic Of "Tusa," Working With Nicki Minaj And New Album

Karol G's devoted intentions have kept her ahead of the history books.

As Women's History Month comes to a close, the reggaeton titan solidified her position just weeks prior on Internation Women's Day as Spotify included her in their list of the Top 10 Most-Streamed Female Artists. Others included were Billie Eilish, Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande in addition to iconic women of color like Nicki Minaj. But Karol's presence on the list proves just how she's been able to bridge the gap between Latin and pop music as the only woman on the list who primarily performs in Spanish.

It's something Karol, born Carolina Giraldo Navarro, has done since coming up in the male-dominated reggaeton scene. While plenty of her hits over the years have earned a coveted spot in the hearts of millions, it was her recent recording with Nicki Minaj that reminded everyone of her power.

"I grew up listening to her and we were sitting at the table across from each other," Karol says of "Tusa" and its insanely popular video that has 669 million views and counting on YouTube. "That was an iconic moment for me."

The song's title is Colombian slang for heartache after a breakup. On the regal reggaeton bop, Karol has Minaj rapping in Spanish as they promise to one another to eliminate those feels on the dance floor. The Tusa-terminators made history in late 2019 with the release as the song is the first collaboration by women to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Latin Songs chart.

On the all-genre Hot 100 chart, "Tusa" impressively peaked at No. 42. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, self-quarantines in Panama were recently singing the song together from their balconies.

¿Cómo lleva el #ToqueDeQueda Panamá? Pues que más que con @karolg y #Tusa #COVIDー19 #PTY #QuedateEnCasa pic.twitter.com/jSNsEeaoUW

— errol (@erscr) March 23, 2020

For Karol, success like this has been over a decade in the making since signing her first contract in 2006 under her G stage name. At that time, reggaeton music was reigning over the globe thanks to Puerto Rican rapper Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" setting the movement ablaze in 2004.

The música urbana genre was very much a man's world with a few women who were able to rise to the level of Yankee like Ivy Queen, someone Karol cites as an influence. "With the urbano music I wanted to do, there were not a lot of women," she says. "I love urbano rhythms. They've always fascinated me."

In the early steps of her career, Karol took advantage of the art of collaboration with Nicky Jam on 2013's "Amour de Dos," Ozuna on "Hello" in 2016 and a budding rapper by the name of Bad Bunny on 2017's "Ahora Me Llama." Her method was mindful and direct as she gained new fans in every pocket of reggaeton's wide-ranging cloth.

"They had a big audience and following," she says. "The way I got my opportunity as an artist and was able to be heard more was, in part, thanks to them." Later that year, Karol's debut album Unstoppable landed at No. 2 on the Top Latin Albums chart.

As she became the feature queen in her own right, Karol dropped "Mi Cama" in 2018 which led to her winning the gramophone for Best New Artist at the Latin Grammy Awards that year. "I love to sing in reggaeton, but it's not the only thing I do," she says about her diverse palette. The spirited 2019 release of Ocean showcased the vastness of her artistry with urbano, reggae, and pop influences.

With "Tusa" previewing her third album, VIBE VIVA spoke with Karol about her musical journey so far and what's coming next.

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VIBE: On physical copies of Unstoppable, there's the #GirlPower stamp. What inspired you to include it? 

Karol G: I have that tattooed on one of my arms as well because for me, it was a frustration that people in the media were telling me, "You're a woman. You don't have anything to do here. You can't enter here." There are women that can achieve things around the world. That's where my motivation comes from: to show that we, and myself as a woman, can do it. That was important for me to put on the album to show my support for this movement.

"Mi Cama" became one of your biggest hits without a featured artist. What's the story behind that song?

I loved that song because it has the attitude that I feel right now. It's a song about a woman talking to her ex-boyfriend who left her for someone else. It has the attitude to keep going, to keep dancing, or perrear (a twerk-like dance associated with reggaeton). In Mexico, I was in a press conference and a female reporter said, "I don't respect how you as a woman are singing about your bed making noise. You have to think about the children." I said, "This isn't music for children." It's a song that's exaggerated. I'm not swearing on it. I always tell that story at my shows and people love it.

How did you feel to win the Latin Grammy for Best New Artist?

That's one of the top five moments in my career. I dreamed of that moment since I was a little girl. When I was nominated, that was huge. I didn't think I was going to win. When I won, my mind went blank. I took my dad on stage with me because he's been supporting me since the beginning. After winning the grammy, my mindset has been what else I can do in my career that's even bigger.

You have recorded a lot of music with your fiancé Puerto Rican rapper Anuel AA. How do you like working with him?

We're a super team. We complement each other well. We understand each other well because we've enjoyed many great moments together. We've gotten to travel together. We did a tour together. It's a beautiful thing. We keep each other focused and motivated with our feet on the ground.

What do you think about the reaction and all the memes around "Tusa"?

I felt in my heart the song would be successful, but I never thought that it would be a global hit. It opened doors for me in markets where I've never had songs hit before. It's charting in countries that don't speak Spanish like France, Italy, and Sweden. Seeing all the memes from the people has been muy brutal (Puerto Rican slang for "beyond awesome"). It's been incredible to see so many men connecting with it. To see all the people dancing and singing to it has been a surprise. I hope my next single will be like that, but for now, it's nice to enjoy what's happening with "Tusa."

Speaking of men, many gay men been bumping "Tusa" too. I was wondering if you had a message for your fans in the LGBTQ+ community.

I love having part of my following from that community. I love people who can go out into the world and be fearless. I'm very proud of that because the world really lacks people like that: people with personality, attitude, and a strong will. That's something I admire very much from that community. They have a beautiful energy.

What are your plans for the rest of this year?

I'm happy because I'm working on a lot of music. I've gotten great invitations to work on projects with other artists. Right now I'm collaborating with artists in the Latin and Anglo markets. There are songs that are coming out very soon. It's a year for expanding and globalizing my name. We have a tour in Latin America and one in Europe again. We're going to end the second semester of the tour in the US with the release of my next album.

What do you see for the future of women in reggaeton music?

There's things I hope to evolve a little more, but I feel like we knocked over the door. That we've come through and people are hearing us. People are coming to our concerts. Artists are inviting us to their shows. We're here. I try to stick up for myself more as a human being. We're all talented in our own ways. I feel like women are demonstrating that. It's an era where women are taking chances and going for bigger things.

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Bad Bunny performs onstage during Calibash Los Angeles 2018 at Staples Center on January 20, 2018 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Bad Bunny's "Safaera" Inspires Hilarious #AbuelaChallenge

While we're keeping social distancing in mind during the coronavirus pandemic, being at home has inspired families to dive into the unknown–abuelas jamming to Bad Bunny.

Remezcla discovered the very hilarious #AbuelaChallenge, inspired by the artist's latest track "Safaera" featuring Ñengo Flow and duo Jowell & Randy. Although there was a more rump-shaking #safaerachallenge in place, this one is way better as we watch generations bond a very 2020 way.

Originally appearing on Tik Tok, the challenge found its way to Instagram with plenty of elders getting down on the floor...or being completely over it.

Benito recently dropped his sophomore project, YHLQMDLG (Yo Hago lo Que me da la Gana) meaning "I Do What I Want" featuring guest spots by Sech, Anuel AA, Myke Towers, Arcangel and more.

Jam to it here and see our favorites from the challenge below.

 

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A post shared by Yolanda Javier (@experience_24fitmom) on Mar 8, 2020 at 1:09pm PDT

 

 

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A post shared by DAVIANA ✨ (@davi__ana) on Mar 9, 2020 at 6:21pm PDT

 

 

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Jijiji #abuelachallenge #safaera #badbunny #safaerachallenge @yosoymolusco @rockythekid @badbunnypr @jowellyrandy @jowellgram @randynotagram

A post shared by ✨✨ (@babykchic) on Mar 12, 2020 at 1:31pm PDT

 

 

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A post shared by Jowell & Randy (Reggaeton Duo) (@jowellyrandy) on Mar 18, 2020 at 5:58am PDT

 

 

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A post shared by Nelson Jotaa (@nelsonjotaa) on Mar 17, 2020 at 3:09pm PDT

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Rapper Tekashi69, real name Daniel Hernandez and also known as 6ix9ine, Tekashi 6ix9ine, Tekashi 69, leaves after his arraignment on assault charges in County Criminal Court #1 at the Harris County Courthouse on August 22, 2018 in Houston, Texas.
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Fashion Nova Launches $2.25 Million Lawsuit Against Tekashi69

Tekashi69 has an unlikely foe in Fashion Nova. The fast-fashion brand has taken legal action against the jailed rapper after he failed to promote their clothing.

According to TMZ, the brand claims in October 2018 they planned to roll out a series of branded social posts and with the rapper. With over 13 million followers on Instagram, Fashion Nova wanted to capitalize on his rapid popularity with hopes he would mention them in a song or two but was unaware of his legal troubles. During this time, 69, born Daniel Hernandez, was paid a $250,000 advance.

The awkward part comes next. Two weeks later, the rapper was arrested for his sex video case (more on that here), an aspect of his life the brand says they were unaware of. With his criminal troubles more popular than his music, Fashion Nova felt his trial revealed he wasn't the best person to rep the brand.

After his team failed to provide them with this information and return the advance, the brand decided to take legal action. The brand is currently suing him for $2.25 million– just a few months before his rumored released date of August 2020.

On the weird upside, the rapper is expected to release a project the same month. While his Instagram page hasn't been updated in a year, the last post was dedicated to the release of his debut album Dummy Boy. 

 

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YA READY FOR THE ALBUM THIS FRIDAY ‼️ WITCH ONE YOU WAITING FOR❓❓NOVEMBER 23RD 🔥⭐️💕🌈

A post shared by 6ix9ine (@6ix9ine) on Nov 18, 2018 at 2:45pm PST

Read our timeline on the infamous rapper titled Rise To Fame: A Timeline Of Tekashi 6ix9ine's Controversial Moments here. 

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