Beyonce 4 Beyonce 4

Five Years Of '4': Creatives Reflect On Their Time With Beyonce At Her Boldest

Symbolyc One and Luam open up about sharing the same creative space as Beyonce during the age of '4'.

Beyonce's 4, her straightforwardly-titled fourth studio album, was unleashed for the world to hear on June 24, 2011. As her first solo album independent from her former manager and father Matthew, Beyonce experimented with more intimate themes and eclectic sound stylings, setting the album apart from her first three LP’s. 4 seemingly serves as the catalyst for her musical journey of deeper, more personal themes displayed in her self-titled fifth album and her recent sixth opus, Lemonade.

However, we know a ship needs a strong crew behind it to keep it afloat. Beyonce meticulously chooses to work with a select team of creatives who she believes will give her work that certain je ne sais quoi, and develops professional relationships with those who focus on the art as a whole. We thought it would be interesting to get a behind-the-scenes look at the album from some of the people who were immersed in its development. Read on to see what it was like to work with Bey both in the booth and in the dance studio from colleagues who aided in the sonic and visual success of this project.

Symbolyc One (S1) was a co-producer on “Best Thing I Never Had.” A Very GOOD Beats signee, S1 has produced for Kanye West (“Power”), Eminem (“Bad Guy” from the Marshall Mathers LP 2”) and The Throne (“Murder To Excellence”).

VIBE: Before you worked on 4, have you ever worked with Beyonce before? And if not, how did she initially get a hold of you?
S1: So, this was actually my first time working with Beyonce, on the 4 album. The way I began a working relationship with her was that I worked with Kanye [West] on the My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album, and I had the honor of going to London and Australia to work with him and Jay Z on Watch The Throne. So, while we working on the Watch The Throne album, Beyonce was out there of course, so that's when I really started to build a relationship with her. On our second trip—we went to London first—so on our second trip to Australia, we really started to build a working relationship. We were in this mansion together that they built that had these three studios, and they built a studio for Beyonce on the third floor. She invited me up to her floor to listen to some songs that she was working on for 4, so I went up, listened to some songs and gave my critique on some of them.

There was one particular song that I thought the drums could be better on, and she gave me the section and was like "go re-do the drums." I took the session downstairs, re-worked the drums and she loved it. She was like, "At the top of the year, I wanna bring you out to New York to help me work on 4." January 2nd, I got that call, "Yo, Beyonce wants you in New York tomorrow. Can you come out for a week?" I wound up going out there and I bought one of my production dudes, Caleb McCampbell [Caleb Sean], and Beyonce played us seven records that she loved, but she didn't like the production on them. We picked out five records, "Best Thing I Never Had" being one of them, and we re-worked those records the whole week while we were out there with her. That was my first introduction to actually working with her, in New York.

Was she someone who you've always had an interest in working with?
Oh, absolutely! What's crazy is, me and my partner who I took out there to work with me on the album, Caleb Sean... this was 2010, so I'd say maybe two or three years prior, we did her "Single Ladies" track. We wanted to do our version of it, so we took the a cappella and re-worked it. We started getting really good buzz because we put it up on YouTube, and people started loving this remix! It ended up on a mixtape, and I actually got to play it for her [Beyonce] when we first met. She loved it, she was like "Man, I think I wanna use the track for another song!" [Laughs] We were really big fans prior to actually working with her, so just being able to work with her, being in the studio with her, was just a dream come true. Truly a blessing.

Was there a specific style that she was going for when you were coming up with the song at first?
No, actually it wasn't. There was never a case where she was like, "I want this to sound like this." It was just, "Take these songs and make the best possible production that you guys can do with it." We got in our room and it was like, what's the best possible way that we can showcase these songs...? We kind of just did what we felt. She would just come in the room and listen and be like "Yo, I like this," or "Change this part, I think this could be better," or "I really really like this section." It kind of just built into what it is today.

When you're watching her in her "zone," when she comes in and she's kind of feeling out the music, what is she like? Is she vocal? Hands-on?
Very. Oh, she's incredible. Like, I've never seen anything like it. And she's so precise! Seeing her in the booth? It's crazy, because she nails stuff to where you can tell she's practiced and prepared up until that point to where it's automatic for her, and she doesn't have to think about it. She's just knockin' it out, knockin' it out, and knockin' all her vocals out, and then it's done. And it sounds so good! Like… flawless! [Laughs] You can tell she's worked for that up until this point, so when she's in that moment, she's not thinking about it, it's automatic, first instinct.

What were some of the tools that you used to create the sounds and the beats for the song?
It was just a matter of how I do all my production. I go through sounds, and if there's a certain sound that triggers or inspires me, I'll pull it up and I'll start building around that sound. It was the same thing for "Best Thing I Never Had." The tone was amazing, the vocals were amazing. How can we make sure the production compliments what's already great? It was a matter of going through sounds, and Caleb Sean is an incredible musician. He started playing certain chords around it, and I was like okay, this is it. The intro of the song was the very first thing that he started playing, so once we locked that it, it was like, "Yo, this is it right here!" and we started building around that. We got the song to a certain point, and my dude Shea Taylor came in and he put the finishing touches on the song, and "Best Thing I Never Had" was birthed.

It's beautiful work. And I know Shea Taylor had a hand in a lot of the stuff on 4.
Shea is incredible, that's one of my brothers. He's just an incredible dude and an incredible producer. He came in and put his touch on all the songs to make it what it is today.

How do you think that Lemonade differs from her other projects from a production standpoint?
With every album, I think her approach is she always follows the space that she's in. She's always true to that. Lemonade is basically a representation of where she is now. When we were working on 4, that was a representation of where she was at, at that point. She's always able to capture where she's at, and present where she's at to the world through her albums.

In what ways have you seen Beyonce grow as an artist and a performer?
Man, she's a constant growth, a constant evolution. I would say that in all aspects, in artistry and as a business mogul, period. She's top-tier of what she does in all aspects, and I think that's her being able to... it's her practice. She's constantly trying to push the envelope and better herself as a songwriter, as an artist, as a performer, as a businesswoman. I think she'll continue to get better and better in everything she does. She's very driven and she just has it. She doesn't have to think about it. It's a part of her DNA now, so she'll continue to grow and evolve. She's really amazing, and being around her, her energy, she is everything. Literally the first day in the studio with her, I felt like I had been knowing her for, like, ten years. It was just like that. I'm from Waco [Texas] and live in Dallas, so I'm Texas-born too, and it was just an instant connection, like "Oh, you definitely Texas!" [Laughs]

Luam is an NYC-based choreographer who worked as a co-choreographer for the music video for “Run The World.” You may have seen her choreography for Janelle Monae’s Pepsi commercial before this year’s Super Bowl Halftime show.

How were you approached to work on the video for "Run The World"? Because from what I understand, there were several choreographers involved.
Luam: Yes, there were several amazing creatives a part of this. Jeffrey Page and Sheryl Murakami contributed a great deal in particular, and there were choreography contributions by really great folks to complete the full story. Frank Gatson, who was the director of her choreography, pulled us in. He pulled me in while we were working on Beyonce's "Move Your Body” campaign, the Michelle Obama exercise & dance initiative for kids. We were in rehearsing for that and he said, "Hey, we've been workshopping this song in L.A. and other places, and she's looking for some fresh movement for this." I had an opportunity during the those campaign rehearsals to sit down with her and really understand what she was looking for. She wanted more than just dancing she told me, she wanted something special. She said, "I don’t want just steps. I want them to feel something, to get up and want to do the dance with me.” I really felt that she cared about her fans, her audience, wanted to make sure it was accessible. That it's not about just impressing folks, but including them, and saying, hey, the little girl in Houston who's eight years old is gonna see this and want to try it out, or that 36-year-old professional in the office of her building is going to go into the bathroom and see if she can do the moves in the mirror. [Laughs] That's the type of inspiration I think she likes to engender in anybody listening and watching the music. For me, I just wanted to give her something special, something that wasn't just a step, but that meant something to me as well. If it's important to me, then it's going to resonate with her. She always has a great team behind her, and for this, the folks contributing were giving her movements [she] kept her in mind. They could still be genuine in their style but knew how to make her look great. Seeing the whole process come about, it was beautiful to see each person presenting movement that was true to themselves, that came together through her. Really powerful. At the end of the day, you don't get a lot of female anthems like that, but she made it cool. It was a definitely tapestry of movement, of power and... it was just cool!

What did you do to draw inspiration for your choreography in the video?
We heard the actual song just a few times, since it was unreleased, but in choreographing I took the rhythm that it referenced and used that as a template for what I could create. I wanted to tap into what was personal, so I went into my culture. I'm Eritrean, born in Asmara, and I just love how our women are so powerful and so feminine at the same time. The movement that they do is beyond intricate. It's beyond story-telling, it's masterful. This isolation of shoulders, these hits, ticks, the popping that they do—there's a style and technique to it that is difficult to learn for any dancer. I did a lot of research and I showed her [Beyonce] these different ways that we swing our hair, that we pop our necks, our chins, that we sway, that we shake and isolate our shoulders, because to me, it conveys feminine power and mystique so very royal and strong. It was also hard! Very technical and intuitive at the same time. I found a way to keep the essence of the style and also fuse it into a sequence that could feel good to her. Working for Beyonce, you want to give her as much as you can, to take the opportunity to have her perform as much of your choreography as possible, but to me, I resolved to give her that one moment. Just the opening sequence. What she asked for, something special and singular, that moment of just "Wow, let me try that." And on the backend, it conveyed the power, the mystery and the strength of this culture of women. There's nothing more personal and more meaningful for me than that. I kind of took off my choreographer's hat for a second and said, "Let me be a fan for a second. What would I want to see?"

What was it like to see Beyonce in action processing the moves and practicing the choreography?
She does not stop working, she owns her vision. To me, owning your vision is not what time rehearsals start and stop; it’s saying, "Do we have it?" You have a horde of amazing female dancers in the room, and the guys she brought over from Tofo Tofo to do their dance [while in L.A.]. They were workshopping that dance for a while. It was difficult to get complete essence of their [Tofo Tofo] dance and not everyone had it, me included! It's simple yet extremely specific in a very controlled way that you don't really realize. And Beyonce was relentless. While people were sitting down on break, she's in the corner practicing. She's such a hard worker, and it was inspiring to see, to witness. That's what happens when you have creative and executive control of your artistry. She's got a mentality of, like, of course, yes, why wouldn’t I keep going until it’s right? Watching her practice the shoulders over and over, I totally got it. She’s done the research, understands exactly what she wants it to look like, and gets it there. She will just continue to practice, making all the elements are perfect and intuitive as they can be. I'm curious to see where she goes next. I feel like there's more, and there's always going to be more.

How was choreographing for this video different from other videos and shows that you've worked on?
Every project is very different, you know? It's really top-down in the sense that it starts with the artist and their choices, and it comes down also through their team. Beyonce’s work ethic and search for the right moment resonates throughout her process. It pulls the best out of everyone, to be at their top game. Also this job was different in the sense that I had no idea how it was gonna come out. We started in a small room in a dance studio in New York, they had been workshopping in L.A, there were different creatives coming together and contributing from coast to coast under Frank’s direction and collaboration with Bey. I was curious to see the finished product. Also this one was very personal for me. It was allowing not the dance or choreography part of me to come through, but the little Eritrean girl who grew up speaking another language at home and living a dual culture. It was the first time in my life that they my two identities had come together. It was the first time ever where I could be all of me in one moment. I was whole. I could be East African, and I could also be American creative. I could bring my history to the commercial world, to this industry as a choreographer, and do it through the biggest artist on the planet. For myself, it was an epiphany. You don't have to leave parts of yourself at the door in your craft, in your art. You can bring all of who you are in what you do.

That's what I think she [Beyonce] does, and that's why she evolves. For me, the last three albums have been so different because she's discovering things about herself and exploring that. I got it. I get it, and also understand it within myself! This is a new place for me that I've never been before, and I can't wait to see what more there is to discover as a woman, as an artist. Without knowing, I think she does the same thing. She's constantly evolving because that's what we do! As artists and women, there are so many different dimensions to discover. Being a woman—a black woman—whatever it is, there is so much to discover later. When you're older, that's when the meat of you comes out, and when you're an artist, that's your canvas. That's where you unleash your exploration.

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Carmen Mandato

Lil Kim Talks '9' Album, Biggie And Rick Ross Comparisons, And Celebrates City Girls' JT's Freedom

This past July, Lil Kim canceled two interviews, citing that the outlets wouldn’t “put respect on my name” and “wanted to be messy.” But the rap legend known as Queen Bee has had plenty of blessings this year. At a dinner honoring their friend Notorious B.I.G.’s birthday on May 21, she and Lil Cease reconciled their strained relationship after not seeing each other in person for 13 years. In September, she received the I Am Hip Hop Icon Award at the 2019 BET Hip-Hop Awards and gave a nostalgic performance with surprise appearances by Junior M.A.F.I.A., Musiq Soulchild and O.T. Genasis.

The year’s worth of positivity culminated with the release of 9, Lil Kim’s long-awaited fifth studio album that pairs her raunchy, street-oriented bars her fans love with guest appearances by Rick Ross, City Girls and Rich The Kid. While Kim has released several mixtapes over the past decade, 9 is her first studio album since 2005’s The Naked Truth, which she released days within beginning a prison bid. And her fans were patiently waiting: the day of the release of 9, Lil Kim was trending nationwide on Twitter.

In a conversation with VIBE, Lil Kim speaks about her new album, weighs in on comparisons between Biggie and Rick Ross, and rejoices the City Girls’ JT newfound freedom.


VIBE: Your last official album was The Naked Truth, and you had a lot to say on that album because of what you were dealing with. What made you decide to make a new album now?

Lil Kim: Why not? I’m a beast, I love music. Why not? I love music, I’m good at what I do, and my fans want it. As long as my fans want it, I’m going to keep giving it to them and doing what I want to do.

Your fans definitely want it. You were trending worldwide today on Twitter when the album dropped. What’s it like to see the interest that high so far into your career?

It’s amazing. Not only was I trending, but I was number one in so many different countries. Number one, number two. Number 16 on all genres since last night, before the album even officially dropped.


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You guys are doing EXCELLENT! 🙌🏾 Beehive don’t let the devil deter you from the greatness that is happening and the history that is being made. Ya’ll keep going because there’s so much history to be made and we’re just getting started. ❤️ We outside fr, the streets have spoken 🔥 #9️⃣

A post shared by Lil' Kim (@lilkimthequeenbee) on Oct 21, 2019 at 5:52pm PDT

The album sounds current, but it still sounds like you. Was there a dedicated effort to make it sound current and like what's already out there?

It was actually a dedicated effort to do what I wanted to do. To be the classic Kim I am, and be in the now and to be in the future.

One of my favorite songs on the album is “Pray For Me.” How did that come together?

That’s one of my favorite songs, too. I wrote that song right in my kitchen. I thought about it when I was going through a lot of things. I’m a very spiritual person, I’m big on energy and spirit. The energy I was feeling when I heard that beat, that’s where I wanted to release the energy and the things I was going through in that song. The song came like that, we didn’t add that in the beat in there. So I felt like the beat was laid out for me. I already saw Rick Ross, and I already saw Musiq Soulchild, and I saw myself setting the song up.

A lot of people, I believe including Diddy, have said that Ross reminds them of Biggie. Do you agree with those comparisons?

I think he has some similarities, yeah. You can tell that Biggie’s influence is there, and that’s amazing. There will never be another BIG, period. But I don’t think necessarily that Ross is trying to be BIG or anything like that. I think that he just has big love for BIG, and he has a lot of similarities, and I love it. His style is super dope. I’ve always loved him, and I think he expressed that from the moment he came out.

Another favorite is “Auto Blanco.” On that record you said, “BIG and Pac be alive if you niggas ain’t gas shit up. If I knew who did it, I’d personally wrap their caskets up.” It’s been a while, but are you still actively mourning?”

All the time I’m mourning his death. All the time. But as far as trying to go to the end of the world to find out who did it, no, I just let God work that out. Because sooner or later, everything from the dark will come out. But at this point, all I can do is live for him.

Tell me about the significance behind the number nine as this album's title.

Nine is my spiritual awakening number. There were nine members in Junior Mafia, my baby was born June 9, Biggie passed on March 9. It is 2019. My birthday is 7/11, seven plus two is nine. When you get a spiritual awakening, you have to act on that moment. And there you have it… Something that’s a spiritual awakening can’t be negative. With every rise, every level you go to, with every win when God is working on your life, the devil’s gonna come. But nine is all positive.

The Naked Truth is an angry record, and you had plenty of reason to be upset. After you got out, how did you get to the point where you were able to grapple with what happened and move forward with your life?

Because it wasn’t what people thought. I met some of my best friends inside. I got a lot of rest the first two weeks, I was tired because I was working. I learned a lot. It was like going to a very, very, very, very bad boarding school. (laughs) I learned a lot, and I got to get closer to God. It wasn’t as bad inside as it was when I came home, the things I had to go through, to be honest with you. I had worse times outside of prison than I did in prison. I had to go through some really really dark, deep things.

JT of City Girls just got out of prison, and you had them on your album on the song "I Found You." Do you have any advice for JT?

I haven’t spoken to her yet, but we’re trying to set up a call so I can talk to her. That’s my girl, I’m so happy that she’s home. I know that feeling. Ain’t nothing like your freedom. I love that girl, I love them, I love Miami…I think everybody who just comes home renewed with how they move and live at that point, because you’re free. You use your own discrepancy. Everybody has their own different climb that they’re going to.

At the Biggie dinner, you were reunited with Cease. What has it been like to have that relationship mended?

It’s a beautiful thing. As you can see, nothing but greatness and beautiful things have come out of that. Look at the BET [Hip-Hop] Awards! That shit was fucking nostalgic! That shit was fucking amazing. Junior M.A.F.I.A. came out and the crowd went nuts. Sometimes when people realize things they have done and they apologize sincerely, that is worth more than gold. That’s a family member. Family fucks up, that’s it. We do that in our family and relationship. But when it’s family, especially for someone like Biggie, we have to come together and we have to let Biggie live the way he’s supposed to. That was my way of mending his broken heart.

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For Us By Us: 8 Things To Know About The Black News Channel

A network for us by us is heading to a television near you. The Black News Channel, a network dedicated to quality news and original content for African-Americans, will see the light of day next month.

BNC has been over a decade in the making thanks to J.C. Watts, the former Oklahoma congressman who wanted to create a platform similar to CNN with only news and insight by people of color. Networks like BET and TVOne have respectfully released similar programming in the past with BET Nightly News and News One Now hosted by Roland Martin, but this new network plans to run on a 24-hour news cycle while tying in programs that will benefit teens, women, and HBCUs.

It was recently announced that Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan made up a large part of the investment pool, with many wondering just how the network will be run. Khan has reportedly voted for President Donald Trump but has continuously slammed his tenure as commander-in-chief.

According to BNC's website, their mission statement is "to provide intelligent programming that is informative, educational, inspiring and empowering to its African-American audience." They also hope to "preserve a proud black American heritage" and inspire viewers with uplifting and spiritual content daily.

The network will launch across over 30 million households on Friday, Nov. 15. In the meantime, here's everything you should know about the Black News Channel.


1. The BNC Was Co-Founded by J.C. Watts, A Former Athlete Turned Republican Congressman

Watts has worn many hats in his life with most of them existing in the business space. Some of his endeavors include a public affairs consulting company as well as director seats at companies like retail giant Dillard's, CSX Corporation and ITC Holdings.

Before jumping into the business world, Watts played college football for the Oklahoma Sooners and later, the Canadian Football League. After becoming a Baptist minister in the early '90s, he ran for Congress and served four terms.

During that time, Watts worked alongside Capitol Hill with former Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush. During the late '90s, he was elected to the chair of the House Republican Conference. He also co-founded the Coalition for AIDS Relief in Africa and helped develop legislation with Congressman John Lewis to establish the Smithsonian Museum of African American history.

The idea for BNC came in 2004 with the intent to provide quality news and original programming to African-American households. "The Black news channel is culturally specific to the African-American community," he told The Street earlier this month.

"You've got 200 plus stations on any cable system. We are the one location that you can come and find out about wellness culture, current affairs as it relates to African-American communities." He also stressed the need to provide a safe space for black wellness earlier this year on Power 105.1's The Breakfast Club.

2. The BNC Was Almost Based On FAMU's Campus

Before setting up shop in Tallassee, Florida, Watts was interested in filming on the campus but decided against it. Instead, the network will work closely with Ann Kimbrough in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication at Florida A&M University and other Historical Black Colleges & Universities across the country.

3. It Will Serve Over 30 Million Households

BNC will operate as a 24/7 news channel and will launch to an estimated 33 million households. A reported 23 million are satellite owners while the other 10 million are from cable TV households in cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Atlanta. A studio was also built this year for the network in New Orleans.

In the early stages of the network, the company created "on-air programming trials" that served 8 million people. The project helped the company with the type of content they wanted to create and the content viewers wanted to see.

4. Religion And Faith Might Play A Role In Programming

Under the site's goals for the Black News Channel, the company notes how they've built strong relationships with African-American figures from the clergy, media, and politics. While it isn't known just how faith will play into BNC's ideology, there seems to be something there.

5. One of Their Biggest Investors Has A Fickle Relationship With President Donald Trump

Jacksonville Jaguars owner Shad Khan wants Black News Channel to reflect the views of African-Americans but critics aren't thrilled about his political ties. Khan reportedly voted for Trump and donated $1 million to his inauguration. During an interview at Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit this month, Khan explained his appreciation for Trump's economic retort but a distaste for his social policies around immigration, religion and civil rights.

Khan was one of the first NFL owners to famously lock arms with players in solidarity for Colin Kaepernick who was slammed for kneeling during the National Anthem. “Those were human causes that [the players] brought a lot of attention to," he said.

"And since then, the league has done a lot. We’d need a special program with you to go through all the stuff. And the players have done a lot. That was the time for talk and symbolism; since then, it’s been time for action. And there’s been a lot of action. Local communities, prison reform, a lot of those things that impact not only minorities but other people.”

But when it comes to his investment in BNC, Khan wants to change the narrative in media about black lifestyles. “I believe there is an undeniable calling for everything the Black News Channel will deliver to African-American television audiences, who have historically been underserved, in an era where networks have otherwise successfully targeted news to specific demographic groups and interests,” Khan told WJCT, adding, “My decision to invest is an easy one, because we get to answer that call.”

6. Original Programming Will Cater To Black Women and Teens

An estimated 12 hours will be dedicated to the news while the rest will focus on content dedicated to women and teens. Other programs will also shed light on alternative sports like MMA, Muay Thai and the NBA on a global level.

Some standout program synopses include:

Being a Woman

This daily one-hour hosted talk show is dedicated to topics of interest to women of all ages. Show topics will range from childbirth to caring for elderly parents, business to politics, and entertainment to hair care. No topic is too big or too small for this woman-to-woman discussion. The show host will select distinguished women from the vast array of academic experts and alumnae professionals associated with our Historical Black Colleges & Universities to co-host each day’s program.

Getting Ready With Jane: Today's Teen

In this show, family therapist Jane Marks gets real with teens and speaks a language they can understand. With more than forty years of experience helping families and young people in crisis, Marks offers helpful and timely advice to young African Americans about coping in today’s world. This one-hour weekly program is family-friendly and offers a message of hope. Today’s Teen Talk series is definitely “must see TV.”

My Money

This daily half-hour business show will examine best practices for wisely making and managing your money, as well as news and information about what is happening in the financial markets at home and around the world. This format will include a host and financial experts as studio guests.

7. HBCU's Will Have A Great Influence On The Black News Channel

BNC's relationship with Historical Black Colleges & Universities will run deep. Not only will aspiring journalists have an opportunity to work at the network but they will also have exposure to media training and state of the art production.

The series Living Social at HBCUs will also explore life on HBCU campuses and the intersection of education and cultural development.

8. Larry Elder Will More Than Likely Ruffle Feathers

Everyone loves a wildcard and BNC has found one in Larry Elder. The radio staple and attorney has over 25 years in the industry from news programs on NBC and ABC News & Talk. He also starred as a judge on Moral Court, an early production by TMZ creator Harvey Levin in 2001.

Elder's views have been seen as conservative but he reportedly identifies as a Libertarian. After walking away from the news show sector, Elder made his way to digital radio and podcasting where he's led conversations on topics like "Unwed Fathers" in the NBA, education, and criticism of the early presidential candidates of the 2020 election. He's also a frequent user of the #HillaryUnhinged hashtag that criticizes the former presidential candidate.

Larry Elder NEW Video: Why Won't The 'Woke' @NBA Take On The 800lb Elephant On The Court--UNWED FATHERS?!?

— Larry Elder (@larryelder) October 21, 2019

School Choice, Pt. 2

Larry Elder VIDEO: Black and Hispanic Democrats WANT Choice in Education--White Democrats DO NOT!

— Larry Elder (@larryelder) October 20, 2019

A program hasn't been shared on BNC's website but Elder is listed as a "Show Host/Commentator." We're sure many will tune in to hear about today's culture from his perspective.

Learn more about the Black News Channel here.

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Josias Valdez

SAINt JHN Brings Unwavering Confidence To New York's Experimental Rap Sound

SAINt JHN’s amalgamation of primal energy and eager mosh pits at Rolling Loud are unmatched. A hazy sunset would’ve been a fitting pairing for his rage session, but his early set at New York’s Citi Field Saturday (Oct. 12) gets the job done. While a few curious eyes from VIP are studying the vibes, the trenches are full of fans screaming lyrics to “5,000 Singles,” "94 Bentley” and “Trap” (feat. Lill Baby)—all standouts from his sophomore project, Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs.

The diverse crowd isn’t a surprise to the Brooklyn artist. JHN’s musical ancestry has allowed his vines to branch out to artists like Usher, dvsn and Beyonce; all artists he’s earned co-writer credits for respectively. But then there are those who discovered him through Fortnite or his work on “Brown Skin Girl.” No matter how Ghetto Lenny crossed fans' path, he’s grateful listeners are making the pit stop.

“It's better than anything I could ask for, that’s what I wanted,” he tells VIBE. “I just wanted people to hear the sounds and fall in love and not overthink it. You get a 12-year-old and you'll get a 55-year-old standing next to each other in the audience. They’re from different eras of music but they’ll feel the same way.”

JHN calls his presence at New York’s first Rolling Loud “good timing” in light of his appearances across the traveling festival’s Miami, L.A. and Bay Area staples. But the moment feels kismet since JHN is one of the few surviving New York performers who were able to hit the stage.

Just 24 hours before the festival kicked off, fellow rising Brooklyn acts like Casanova, Sheff G, 22Gz, and Pop Smoke as well as Bronx rapper Don Q were banned at the request of the NYPD because of their alleged affiliations to recent “acts of violence” citywide. While fellow NYC natives like A$AP Rocky, Desiigner, Jim Jones and Fat Joe took the stage, JHN was one of the few acts to represent New York’s new sound.

“Those artists come from the places I come from,” he said of the ban. “In instances like this, you have to separate the art from the incident. Clearly these artists come from different pasts—they talk about it in their music. But the point of the music is to transition out of that.” Many of the artists like Cassanova and Don Q spoke out against the NYPD’s influence in the festival.

"I’m at war with my past and the scars that they still leave on me every day," Casanova said on Instagram. "I will continue to fight against biases and advocate for those facing this same issue."

“You have to give them the opportunity to tell their stories or you further entrap them,” JHN adds about the group of rappers. “They end up stuck in the same positions they’re trying to escape by making a concrete wall around their history.”

JHN’s history is a mix of the power of attraction and community. His early years comprised of creating the building blocks of his label GØDD COMPLEXx and his fashion line Christian Sex Club. While making his dreams a reality, the grind led him to genuine friendships with future superstars like Jidenna, Skrillex and Ski Mask The Slump God. Last year, JHN released his debut album Collection One paired with head-bashing shows across the country.

Ghetto Lenny’s Love Songs takes his sound to the next level with melodic punches on tracks like “I Can Fvcking Tell” and the Lenny Kravitz-assisted “Borders.” With punk and rap flowing effortlessly from JHN, the artist can only attest his glowing confidence to the game of life.

“My journey is where I'm at right? It's the monopoly board of my life, and I'm making my rounds,” he says. Being confident grows every year. So me saying "too lit to be humble" [On “5,000 Singles”] that just means I'm not gonna call it nothing else, I'm just gonna tell what it is. This is who I am, fuck with it. If you don't like it, you can turn left. You can turn around if you want, but this is happening.”

On his collaboration with Lenny Kravitz, JHN looks back with a big smile and several words. “Iconic, outrageous, Ignorant. Three o'clock in the morning of Paris,” he says. “Checkered floors. Space. Leather fixtures, Dark rooms. Lenny Kravitz. SAINt JHN. My nigga, I can tell you anything. I can tell you it smelled like cigars, whiskey, rum, and the Bahamas because in my mind, all that shit happened.”

But in all seriousness, the moment was an indication for JHN that his journey in music is paved with golden intentions.

“It was reinforcement,” he says. “The first time I worked with Usher, I learned that I belonged in the room. You know the first time you get invited into a room you have never been in and you almost feel like you lied your way in? The second time, you don't feel like you lied your way in.”

JHN's IGNORANt FOREVER Tour kicks off Nov. 11 in Miami with stops in Toronto, Los Angeles and New York. See the dates here.

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