LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER Los Angeles Premiere, Hosted By TWC, Budweiser And FIJI Water, Purity Vodka And Stack Wines - Red Carpet
Getty Images

From East To West: Tyler Lepley Rises To His First Lead Role On TV One's 'Ringside'

During a press run for the newly released TV One film 'Ringside,' Lepley discusses changing gears on his career.

Life has a funny way of pointing you towards what and where you are destined to be, and in this actor’s case, his dream led him to pursing a career outside of the square we’re sometimes too focused and comfortable in, refusing to venture away from opportunities that’s calling our names.

One would never imagine that the streets of Philadelphia held a young man by the name of Tyler Lepley who knew life had more in store for him. Interested in its physicalities after partaking in several sports growing up, Lepley was mean with the hands and swift with the feet. He knew the 9 to 5 he was working right after college wasn’t where he was destined to be, and in order to receive the change he wanted, he had to get up and go for it.

Moving to what’s known as “the better coast” helped jumpstart the star’s career. You could find him at Glove Works in Santa Monica, Calif., before he made his way to your television every Tuesday night at 9 p.m., after landing a recurring role as Benny on The Have and The Have Nots on OWN. You might have seen him all over your news feed, explore page, and timeline, with almost every woman around the world obsessing over his talented acting skills, built figure, and appealing appearance that’s easy on the eyes, but he continues to stay humble and always references back to his sense of self before the stardom he’s gained.

Being granted the opportunity to showcase his talents on national television, portraying such a complex character, led Lepley towards his first leading role on TV One’s new movie, Ringside, produced by Swirl Films. Written and directed by radio personality Russ Parr, Lepley’s character, Jaxon, is an undefeated boxer that’s preparing to fight against a champion. He treads lightly, swimming around the core issues he faces at home and with his manager on a daily basis, ensuring not to sink in the midst of it all by finding a way to get out of the rut and continue to strive for greatness.

During a press run for the newly released film, Lepley discusses changing gears on his career, his experience working with Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey on The Haves And The Have Nots, and working with Sevyn Streeter on Ringside.

Starting off with your career, you began heading in the route of personal training and you moved from Philly to L.A. to pursue that dream. Why L.A. of all cities?
Tyler Lepley: I didn’t actually start training ‘til I got here. It was actually just something that I kind of fell into. I left Philly and I came to L.A. because I didn’t like my 9-5 job. I wanted something more. I’m a little intellectually curious when it comes to life, and once I graduated I just felt a little bit stuck, almost like I was in a midlife crisis at 23, which makes no sense. The reason I came to L.A. was because I had two cousins that lived here. One of them had worked at the gym. I wasn’t promised a job right then, but it was really just about having that support system. If they were in Florida, I was going to move to Florida, and if they were in Dakota I would’ve moved to Dakota. I just wanted to start something new and it just so happened that this is where a little bit of my support system was.

How did you end up leaving training behind to enter the acting field?
I actually got approached, or you can call it discovered, inside the gym. I moved here and maybe within three months of working at the gym, I grabbed the job, just from being a gym rat, hanging out at my cousin’s gym, probably within a month of moving here. I was working at that gym for about three months and I had someone come into the gym that said I want you to audition for this. I went in and I booked it. But it wasn’t until about two years after that point that I was a full time actor. And I think what makes that domino fall is when you have enough money to actively pursue this full time. When you’re doing work here and there that’s not enough, you know? You have to have a survival job to keep food on the table while you chase the dream. And it wasn’t until I had the volume of work, from a show like The Have and The Have Nots could I actually go ahead and pursue it full time. So that was the determining factor.

Is attending the gym still one of your daily routines?
Yeah, definitely. Absolutely. I think if you want to look a certain type of way, it has to be a staple in your daily routine. But for me, I come from playing football in college and I used to box growing up, so I have lots of scar tissue and my body feels old sometimes so it’s important for me just in terms of my longevity, to stay loose, stay flexible. It’s definitely still a part of my everyday regimen, for sure.

What age did you start boxing?
I actually got into karate first. That’s the first place I ever threw my hands. My dad probably got me started around four or five, and I dibble and dabbled with it, and it wasn’t until I got serious with football and then I got a scholarship for football that it was kind of sitting on the back burner. Just because I had to go to school and I wasn’t getting a scholarship to box, I was getting it to play football. So when I got serious with football is when I hung the gloves up for a while.

Me w the Stunt Coordinator and Fight Choreographer of #Ringside @thebadboyroy @gloveworx @leyonazubuike93

A photo posted by Tyler Lepley (@tylepley) on

What was your first reaction when you heard you landed a recurring role on The Have and The Have Nots with Tyler Perry, and also that you would be airing on Oprah Winfrey’s network?
Well it was crazy. Excited doesn’t even describe it because you have to understand at the time it was Mr. Perry’s first drama series ever and it was Ms. Winfrey’s first scripted series ever. So this was like four years ago. To start off as a series regular, man, it was just like a dream come true. And then now as I look back on it, it was great then when I found out that I was going to have a job and be able to work with these people. But as I been working with them, up until this point, as I look back at it, the biggest lesson that I have was not just a job and being on the TV and stuff like that, which is all great, but to have those types of role models, and to be able to watch Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey in an intimate setting, you can’t even pay for that. I could give all the money in the world and still wouldn’t be able to have access to that. So to be able to have accessibility to greatness is what I really thank God for everyday, because these are trailblazers. Billionaires for crying out loud, just as humble as ever, and it’s a great example of not only how to get there, but how to stay once you get it.

And you and Tyler Perry share the same first name. What is it like being on set with him at the same time? Is someone given a nickname?
(Laughs) Well, well, first of all he’s the rich Tyler. I’m on my way, I’m on my way (Laughs). It’s just so crazy; we laugh at that all the time. It’s not too often you get to drive into a studio and you see your name on the sign. So it’s great, and like I said he’s very personable, he’s very humble, and vulnerable, so we laugh about stuff like that all the time. You know he’s really like, almost like a big brother, molding us and trying to steer us the right way, so it’s really cool to have him around.

Are you surprised by the success of The Have and The Have Nots? It’s completing season six now, plus it’s a scripted television show and it’s really rare that scripted television shows get picked up for multiple seasons now.
You know what, I’m floored by it. It blows me away that the fans tune in. Because I watch the number too, right. So someone at ICM would kick the numbers out, so it would show up in my emails how well the show does. So to see three million people show up for every single week for the last three years, every week when it’s on, even last week we caught another three million. That’s what I’m floored by, the support of the fans. You know it’s a little risqué anytime you see something for the first time, like I mentioned earlier it was his first time doing a drama series, and it was her first time doing a scripted series, so you know there’s always a little worry because you’re doing something for the first time, but at the end of the day, even though I’m floored by the support of the fans, I cant be surprised because these guys, everything they touch turns into gold. I’m trying to learn that blueprint. I’m trying to see how they do it. It’s really exciting.

Plus #BlessUp #HAHN

A photo posted by Tyler Lepley (@tylepley) on

Your work ethic has been really amazing and you’re making your way up to the top. Do you still audition for roles? Or are you automatically casted to play a character now?
No, No, I still audition for roles. Where I’m at right now there are some offers only, there are some things that are only offers, but I still audition. I also like to audition. It’s its own muscle. To go in there, a room full of strangers, and to be able to act like it’s just you and someone else talking. So it really just gives that nervous system and that muscle exercise. It helps you anytime they call action. So sometimes I do, but I still enjoy auditioning.

What was it like working alongside some of the industries biggest talents on Ringside?
It was great. It was exciting. It’s not everyday you have big shots. I remember watching ATL. I saw Sevyn Streeter on the radio the other day with Gucci Mane, and I’ve been a Gucci lover forever. Russ Parr, you’re talking about the radio. Russ Parr does everything. So it’s cool because in my own right, even though I’m the lead I’m coming here learning from everybody, from my co-stars to my director. And it’s great because Russ isn’t like, a dictator. Back when I used to play football, when I had a coach like that who listens to you, we used to call him a players coach. So the way I say that nowadays it’s like Russ is like an active director. He really wants your input. I was excited and I was still learning. It was great, it was a lot of fun for me.

Was Russ the person who approached you with the script?
No. I actually auditioned for this role. I did this one the old fashion way just like I did The Have and The Have Nots. I wouldn’t have it no other way. Because you know you got to see what someone can do. You can watch me on The Have and The Have Nots all you want, or on other shows, but Benny’s not Jaxon, this is a whole different character. I had to go in and do it the old-fashioned way and book the job so it was a lot of fun.

Wrapping up at #TCA discussing #Ringside @beverlyhilton #September4 @tvonetv

A photo posted by Tyler Lepley (@tylepley) on

And Sevyn is a singer so this was her first film ever. Working closely with her, with her playing your sister, how would you say she did for her first movie?
Oh my gosh, Sevyn Streeter did phenomenal. I was blown away when I heard, because I had overheard that it was her first acting job. I would have never thought that because she was just so into it. She was so believable in some of my scenes. I caught her giving me stuff to make me react. She was actually pulling me into some of my scenes. So you see someone like a Sevyn Streeter, that’s when you see someone with natural talent. And to think about it, she’s coming up in this world of entertainment, I’m sure she has a lot of older role models, just like she has Jaxon, that tries to steer her the right way. It’s not all the time that you’re able to tap into that. Sometimes you get so panic by the action you forget about all your life experiences. I was appreciative of her being able to stay in the moment and really draw some of the real feelings out of some of these scenes. Sevyn Streeter was great.

How did the movie come about with you landing the leading role of Jaxon?
I remember when I first went in I was really excited. This is one of the scripts that I had read more than two times. Sometimes I try to read it a few times, like the whole script to get a real feel of what I’m actually doing from start to finish. Normally I would do it twice, maybe three times for any normal audition if I have enough time. Like if it’s tomorrow I’ll be able to read the whole script. So I remember when I read the script at first I was so excited to go in that it almost threw me off. I was just so excited about the project. That’s like a dream role for me. Not only because of the boxing, but to be that caretaker, to be so rough into it. And Jaxon is a really dynamic character. So even for my acting chops I just wanted to do it. So I went in on the audition and then I had like about a week in between the final directing section with Russ Parr. In between that week it was great because I had enough time to really get into it. I started really getting back into the boxing, in terms of like sparing, and just really reading. I read the script like maybe six times. It just really helped me for the final directing session. I just had to get Jaxon down by the final time I went in there. That’s kind of how it went. That old fashion, hard work, and it was a lot of fun when the director called action. It was dope.

Tell me a little bit about the character of Jaxon and what went into preparing to play a boxer?
First of all, you got to have all the physicality down pat. It has got to be not just good, it’s got to be real. It’s got to be authentic. When Floyd Mayweather or Mike Tyson walks around, you can tell they’re a boxer just by them walking in a room. You know what I mean? It’s more than just throwing a punch. It’s very physically demanding in terms of being disciplined to bring the physicality of life. Because if you step in that ring and do the wrong thing you affect the whole movie. It’s not only a role but this is a boxing movie. It has to be real. Then as a actor, someone with dynamic as Jaxon, you gotta give yourself permission to feel all those things. I remember hearing one scene, and I remember doing some of my background work, like Jaxon, Selita, and TC, their parents died when they were really young. It was a very unprepared situation. It’s one of the first scenes in the movie that they talk about. Jaxon, he’s a caretaker, but he was kind of thrust into the dynamics. You know, at six, you don’t want to be daddy. You want to go to senior prom and you want to be reckless, and you want to grow up. So there’s a strong dynamic of him taking care of everyone but not necessarily wanting to. He’s just that good of a man that he has a lot to overcome when he does that. So it’s just like a lot of dynamic intricacies with a character like Jaxon. Or balancing having to give everybody else what they need with taking care of yourself as you go into this life altering, middleweight championship that has the ability to affect everybody. Not only could Jaxon go get killed inside that ring, but the same people he might not want to take care of when he wants to be reckless and free like everyone else, it can affect all these people. So there’s just so many push and pulls, and so many tug of wars with a character that’s as dynamic and as deep and multi complex as Jaxon Holley. So it was a lot of fun but it was necessary, and I think it turned out great.

Official Weigh In #Ringside

A photo posted by Tyler Lepley (@tylepley) on

And it’s a real life drama. I saw the trailer and it’s crazy how the character of Benny on The Have and The Have Nots is a little similar to Jaxon in the movie because you try to hold it all together in the midst of all the family life drama. Do you enjoy taking on such complex roles?
I really do because I feel like it’s such a mirror of my own life. My life is so complex, yeah sometimes it’s bad, but even bad experiences you can learn from. I’ve had so many things that started out as lemon and now I’m drinking lemonade. I love playing complex characters like that because it’s just so much to draw from and they’re real. No villain is always bad and no good guy is always good. You know what I mean? There’s always a ying to the yang, so I look for characters like that. I definitely enjoy them.

Can you remember one experience in life that you can really relate to the character of Jaxon?
I can remember whether it were school. I have lots of instances where I can just remember people trying to steer me. I’m the driver of the ship and I can just remember having lots of outside pressure to do something in my life that someone else may have done in their life. It may have been learning from their experiences, but at the end of the day I have to live my life and do things my way. I’ve had lots of situations like that. Whether it was good or bad, it was just outside things I had to block out in order to succeed and opportunities I had in front of me. Everyone and their mother said do not move to Los Angeles, you are crazy. But I had to do that for myself. It’s just like there’s lots of outside pressures for Jaxon, whether it’s his manager trying to squeeze more money out of him, whether it’s his brother trying to squeeze more money outta him, whether it’s a career that might not be going the best way, whether his blessing for a promiscuous sister. It’s just so much outside circumstances that affect him that he has to end up blocking out because he’s going into a very serious situation and a big opportunity. I’ve had that in life for sure.

Jaxon also meets a female who captures his heart and she’s hiding a secret from him. So how are you, Tyler Lepley, handling fame and the groupies? Because Tyler’s everyone’s man crush Monday, you name it.
(Laughs) I don’t have groupies, not at all. But I think the way to deal with it is almost like going back to that unwavering sense of self. I don’t really put myself in those types of situations really. It doesn’t mean I’m not acceptable to them, but I’ve got a pretty good screening process. It’s not like you have to jump through hoola hoops, (Laughs) but I got good intuition also. I can kind of tell in 10 minutes where this is going. If it’s dangerous, it might just be like a dangerous, fun encounter. There’s a ying to the yang. It’s just fun and cool. If you’re going to do it, just understand what it is. And whatever it is for you. I think to wrap that answer up; the way I deal with all the outside pressures is to go back to who I am. And that’s why you know I’ve been blessed to have never been in a crazy situation yet, because I just go back to, again, my sense of self. And everything and everyone around me reflects that as well.

#Ringside @tvonetv

A photo posted by Tyler Lepley (@tylepley) on

What’s your dream role that you have yet to accomplish that you would like to play in the near future?
Something that I haven’t done before. That’s as specific as I can get. I just like roles that can challenge me; something that’s really going to intrigue me and stretch a muscle that I’ve never used before. So I really look for roles like that. And outside of that, I guess something I’ve always wanted to do as a kid, I always wanted to do a big action movie. I come from sports and I come from a very physical world so I would like to do that also. And that’s why I was happy about doing this role too. I got to bring some of the physicality to it. So definitely stuff like that.

Are you currently working on any other projects that you would like to share?
Right now I actually just got back from shooting the latest season of The Have and The Have Nots. Just got back from ATL. It was dope. What we just shot will air at the top of 2017, so you guys will see that at the top of next year. Right now I’m just busy plugging away this Ringside man. I’m so excited for everybody to see what’s going on, on TV One at 7 o’ clock on the fourth. It’s going to be a lot of fun. And then in the meantime you know just steady working on myself. Going to therapy, I go to my voice lessons, I go to my acting coach, and I plug away day by day, inch by inch, to give in top-notch efforts.

Ringside premieres on TV One at 7 p.m. EST on Sept. 4.

From the Web

More on Vibe

Erik Umphery

Meet Ebenezer, The Crooner Poised To Restore Soul Into Modern R&B

Ebenezer is a man of few words but the purveyor of a million feels throughout his music. Before the novel coronavirus left the singer-songwriter isolated in Los Angeles, the London-born artist was at the VIBE office in New York a few moons ago playing his latest project, Bad Romantic 2.

A few laughs fill the room but what really takes over is the boptastic tune "3 am in London." With a sample from Kandi Burruss's 2000 release "Don't Think I'm Not," we get a look into his creative process. After revealing his origin story in 2018 with 53 Sundays, Ebenezer returned with the Bad Romantic series. It's a title bestowed to him by the many women he's dated. As a songwriter, engineer, producer, and composer for himself a slew of other artists like Jeremih, Ty Dolla $ign, A Boogie wit da Hoodie, Stefflon Don, K-Pop faves SuperM and Craig David, love seemed to slip through the cracks. 

"I always try to make time," the crooner insists. He might not get love right all the time, but his determination to enrich modern R&B is a sword he's willing to fall on. While sharing stories behind cuts from Bad Romantic 2, a grin comes across his face as every tale is connected to love lost.

"It wasn't like there wasn't any lack of effort. It's just the way my schedule worked," he said about the making of "Flexible," a track bound to lead a quiet storm playlist. "I remember working so hard at the time that I was sleeping in the studio. I didn't have any money to go home [to London] so I had to work until something gave. I would mention how difficult it was but maybe she didn't understand the hustle or the grind at the time."

His hard work led to his latest single, "Flaws And All." The track speaks of his efforts to make love work no matter what, a notion anyone can relate to. As we continue to talk about love, one thing is for certain–Ebenezer is in love with creating. His eyes light up while breaking down each track and his shoulders ease up when he speaks about his versatility. In addition to the world hearing Bad Romantic 2, he's used social distancing to produce songs via his "Quarantine Studio Sessions."


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Ebenezer (@ebenezersworld) on Mar 27, 2020 at 10:56am PDT

Below, get to know a little more about the elusive artist, the making of Bad Romantic 2 and some of his biggest inspirations.


VIBE: With you producing at a young age, did you have support from your family?

Ebenezer: I'm a London boy but my parents are originally from Nigeria. They were on the run from immigration at one point but after things calmed down there was a big focus on education. They were like, "No you, can't. Education first." There would be big arguments and fights but eventually, I chose music. Or maybe it chose me? I started working and producing while on the phone with artists and things came together.

But I owe everything to my mum because she is the biggest cheerleader I've ever had. This woman had three kids and did everything to get by. She held it down. I had cousins who called immigration on us and they're supposed to be family–immigration comes kicking open the door and raiding the house. So I believe that the blessings I'm getting now are from God and our prayers.

What do you enjoy the most: producing/engineering or writing? 

I don't know if I can choose. I just use different parts of my brain for producing and writing. It is fun to split them up and bring them together at times.

What's your voice in R&B today? 

From childhood to the present, I've been in piece of s**t relationships and my songs reflect that. It's not be being vindictive to my exes. I take full responsibility for the things I've done and I try to be honest as I can in my music. The worst thing I could do is be one-sided.

There's that aspect of accountability missing in R&B these days so I get it. How is creating R&B-pop music for K-Pop artists? You worked with SuperM recently and it seems like they really enjoy the era of 2000s R&B. 

It's easier because they let you do whatever you want. You want a variety of harmonies because there's a lot of people in one group. But I like creating for K-Pop artists because you're able to let every individual stand out and have their own moment. It's dope they're adopting that sound.

Who are some of your inspirations? 

Kanye West for sure. My brother was a big hip hop head so I grew up on Rakim, Big L, Big Pun, Tupac, Biggie, Jay Z, Wu-Tang, but my decade has the Drakes and the Kanyes, so they were my biggest inspirations. College Dropout was the album that had me say, "I'm doing this music thing, I don't care."

My sister is a big R&B fan. She played a lot of Jagged Edge, Jodeci, stuff like that. So I was lucky to have the hip hop side and the R&B side presented to me all at once.

In addition to love and relationships, what else drives your creative process? 

It comes in stages for me. I like to make projects with a theme. For example, 53 Sundays was a project about growing up in London as an immigrant and the adversity we experienced racism and gang violence. It's how I overcame it and how my family dealt with it.

There's a lot of self-love in those songs because nothing is free, especially coming from having nothing. You have the Bad Romantic projects that are pretty self-explanatory in the title [Laughs]. I'm going to make it all tell a story so when you look back at the projects, it's a timeline and you'll see who I am.

What makes a "Bad Romantic and a "Good Romantic?" 

My exes are bad romantics. [Laughs]

So it's their fault? 

Nah, my exes would say there are some things that I'm good at and some things I'm terrible at. There are different love languages and what someone may require, I might not speak it. I like to provide gifts because growing up with nothing, you never want to see anyone without.

But I struggle with time because I'm always working and they had it. I have this thing called "The Okay Attitude." You can write me a novel in a text and I'll say, okay. Life expectancy for us is low as it is and we spend most of our time arguing about trivial things so if that's how you feel, that's how you feel.

And a "Good Romantic?"

Being attentive, caring, not being so selfish. I don't know, everyone is different. Some people require a lot. They say, "Shower me with gifts." But others say, "I just want your time, whenever you can afford it."

Unfortunately, I can't afford it.

What do you want listeners to get from your music?

That I'm just a bad romantic that's trying to better himself.

Stream Bad Romantic 2 here.

Continue Reading
Pony Boy

Slim Thug On His Coronavirus Diagnosis, Holistic Remedies And New Album, 'Thug Life'

Slim Thug, born Stayve Thomas, is a relatively healthy being. His daily regimen includes three-mile runs and keeping his diet in tip-top shape. Since he was 27, the rapper has battled high blood pressure and switched up his lifestyle for the better. Thirteen years later, the Houston native is hip to holistic methods like oregano oil to lower cholesterol levels, spirulina to reduce blood pressure and absorbing good vibes only.

The Texas Department of State Health Services has reported 1,303 people in the state have tested positive for novel coronavirus, one being Thug. The rapper and businessman was slighted after learning of his positive diagnosis on Tuesday (March 24).

Thug fell ill with a headache and a slight fever after running errands last week. While his symptoms were mild, his doctor provided him with a 24-hour test that confirmed it all. "Some people think I'm making it up," he tells VIBE over the phone Thursday (March 26). "Some people think I'm working for somebody, it's crazy."

As conspiracy theories permeate through social media, the 39-year-old is focused on keeping fans informed about the virus. His social distancing wasn't the best as he got a haircut a week before he was diagnosed, which is why he's firm on it today. "It's real and people should take it seriously," he said. "Especially for young people. You could pass it on, it could be deadly to somebody you love. You have to be a human and say, 'I have to protect others by not being reckless.'"

This hasn't changed Thug's plans to release his forthcoming album, Thug Life, Friday (March 27).  The veteran rapper who dropped classics like, "I Ain't Heard of That" and guest verses on Mike Jones' "Still Tippin," and Beyonce's "Check on It" wants his new music to be a safe haven for the times.

Released last week, his single, "This World" highlights today's ups and downs, with a telling sample from the late Charles Bradley.

The silver lining continues to glisten for the rapper. After sharing his diagnosis with fans, many began sharing black-owned businesses that specialize in holistic medicine. They include Soul Food Vegan and natural herbs from Jinka Premium.

In our conversation below, Slim Thug highlights the importance of social distancing, why rappers should stay connected to their fans and how the late Tupac Shakur inspired his new album, Thug Life.



View this post on Instagram


Just found out I got Corona virus

A post shared by Slim Thug (@slimthug) on Mar 24, 2020 at 10:14am PDT

VIBE: How have you been coping with this? Take me back to your initial thoughts when you found out all of this was happening.

Slim Thug: I was definitely surprised because I was trying to be precautious way earlier than a lot of people. I started to feel a headache and a fever and I've never had those symptoms so I thought, 'Man this Corona time, it's got to be something.' But at the end of the day, I haven't felt severe sickness or nothing.

I have high blood pressure, I already do this. I run three miles at the park and go to the gym every day, so I'm pretty healthy. You know, I never felt like I wouldn't be able to fight this off, I never really felt really sick or crazy sick, just kind of felt like a sinus infection.

With you being a healthy person, what has this told you about the virus?

It's serious and it can be deadly, but at the end of the day, if you're young and healthy and don't have any other underlying conditions, then you should be able to fight it off. My doctor shared how the only thing you can do is stay home and let it run its course. He said to drink a high volume of fluids like vitamin c to keep your immune system up.

Have you ever been interested in holistic practices?

I believe in medicine, I'm not gonna lie if I need a Z-Pack, I'm gonna get it (Laughs). But there's a lot of people around me who shared some things. I'm on a lot of herbs right now. They done gave me all types of kits and stuff that I posted on Instagram. I've been on oregano oil, black seed oil, and it's working. I'm trying everything from boiling orange peels to elderberry. I'm trying to stay on it, I feel good. I go outside and post up in the sun and try to drink hot tea during the day.

Hip-hop artists haven't said too much about the virus, but some are engaging more with fans on social media. What else do you think your peers can do with their influence during these times?  

If you're a rapper, you should be taking advantage of this time and giving content out to the world as much as possible. I've seen so many different artists be creative. Look at DJ D-Nice. About a year ago, I started spinning. I'm not really a DJ, I'm just having fun. But for D-Nice to have 150,000 people on his Live? You would never go to a club and DJ for that many people or never "see" Oprah and all of them. It's a whole new wave, a whole new world we're stepping into. You're reaching over 150,000 people and this is elite people at the same time.

It's inspired all the real DJs to get on. I'm seeing DJs from Houston like Mr. Rodgers spin for 12 hours straight and he had the whole city in his Live. We were all just in the comments, it's crazy, but it's amazing though because you have thousands there and you won't see that many people in a real club.


View this post on Instagram


After Hours Vibes are DIFFERENT in #ClubCorona. That 7am hour had me hella delirious and in rare form. Went in the bag and dropped that OutKast Spottie and brought the LIVE band out during my LIVE set. From 9p-2PM (17hrs nonstop) we went crazy. Long story short, don’t miss 2nite!! - s/o @honeyboneshawty for capturing this moment!

A post shared by DJ Mr Rogers (@djmrrogers) on Mar 25, 2020 at 1:11pm PDT

It's a new experience, so you have to be creative with it. My album Thug Life is out today [March 27th], but I've hosted a live listening on my Instagram. It was inspired by [2]Pac. Back in the day, he had a project called Thug Life and with Slim Thug being my name, I just had to use it.

I even saw Swae Lee [of rap duo Rae Sremmurd] do a whole concert. You just got to be engaged with your people and they will appreciate that because everyone is sitting at home bored with nothing to do. If they're busy now, they will have time to tune in later. All artists should be taking advantage of this moment, stay at home and give the people as much content as they can watch because they all want to see something right now.

What do you think it is about music that has people wanting it more than ever?

Music is just therapy to your body and soul. Whenever I'm stressed out, I got a playlist for that. I got a playlist for anything and any mood I need to be in. Music is very important because of a lot of Black people/minorities, don't go to therapy, they don't have a lot of access to resources that can help ease stress.

A lot of the times, a good song can do that for you, it can make you feel good. All of that. So it's very important. I feel like my content is good for these times. I have a song called "This World" that's about real-life stuff.  I got a record with [veteran Houston rapper] Z-Ro I'm finna drop that's like a gospel song to me. When I hear it, it just takes me there and I think people are going to feel the same.

Lastly, you mentioned you're getting into DJing. If you were to throw a Quarantine Party, what are the Top 5 records you have to play no matter what?

At my Quarantine Party, it's going to be the real playing. I've done a few mixes for the last ten days. I would say the go-to records are 90s R&B. It's just therapeutic feel-good music.

Hearing people singing really calms you down. Jodeci, Babyface, all of it. Guy, Keith Sweat. If you want to turn up and take it what's good now, Travis Scott is perfect to get lit to.

For those who want the real throwback rap, you might want to hear some Tupac. There's something for everybody, whatever you like, there's a playlist that will put you in a great mood and I think everyone should tap into that for real, it's real therapy.

Continue Reading
Getty Images

The History Of The Scottsboro Boys

Decades before the Exonerated Five became one of the biggest-known examples of Black and brown youth being targeted and falsely convicted, there were the Scottsboro Boys. The group of nine black teenagers, ranging from ages 13 to 19, were wrongly convicted of raping two white women on a freight train in 1931.

Haywood Patterson, Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, brothers Andrew and Leroy "Roy" Wright, Olin Montgomery (who was nearly blind), Eugene Williams, Ozie Powell, and Willie Roberson (who suffered from severe syphilis and could barely walk) were arrested on rape charges, which began a years-long battle for freedom. Four of the nine teens knew each other prior to being falsely accused and convicted.

On March 25, 1931, the teens boarded the Southern Railway freight train in hopes of finding jobs, along with other Black and white passengers. As the train made its way through Alabama, a fight broke out after a group of white passengers attempted to attack a group of Black passengers. Patterson was one of the passengers targeted which triggered a melee, that led to the white passengers getting kicked off the train in Skottsboro, Ala.

The angry posse headed to a nearby sheriff where they claimed that they had been attacked by Black passengers. Police intern arrested every Black passenger on the train for assault. Meanwhile, two white women on the train, Victoria Price and Ruby Bates, told police that they had been raped by the Black teens. It’s suspected that the women lied out of fear of being arrested for prostitution. A doctor later examined the women and determined that they were not raped.

Nonetheless, police arrested the teen, who were dubbed the Scottsboro Boys. Price and Bates went to the Scottsboro Jail and identified the teens as their attackers. In the age of Jim Crow and overt racism permeating through the South, the Scottsoboro Boys never stood a chance. White lynch mobs marched to the jail where they were being held and demanded that the boys be released into their custody so that they could kill them. As a result, the National Guard was called in to escort the Scottsboro Boys from jail to court. The boys were not allowed to consult with an attorney and were instead appointed two lawyers, one of whom was 69-year-old Milo Moody, who hadn’t tried a murder case in years. A second lawyer assigned to the case was a real estate attorney.

The first round of trials took place over the course of one day in a standing-room only court room with all-white, all-male jurors. Black jurors had been systematically blocked from the jury pools through disenfranchisement that also stripped many Blacks of the right to vote.

Patterson was tried separately, followed by Norris and Weems. The defense offered no closing arguments, but prosecutors closed by urging jurors to sentence the boys to death. Within two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict against Norris and Weems, amid cheers and applause in the court room. Patterson’s trial began as jurors were deliberating the case against Norris and Weems. Despite having no evidence and conflicting stories from Price and Bates, Patterson was convicted and sentenced to the electric chair. Powell, Roberson, Williams, Montgomery and Andy Wright’s trial began minutes after Patterson’s trial ended. The jury quickly convicted them and sentenced them to death.

Prosecutors decided that 13-year-old Roy Wright was too young for the death penalty. Within hours, the case was declared a mistrial as jurors were deadlocked on sentencing for Roy Wright, although they all agreed that he was guilty, despite him being innocent.

The other eight Scottsboro Boys were sentenced to death, but the Alabama Supreme Court issued a last-minute indefinite stay of execution. The case caught the attention of the International Labor Defense, and the NAACP.

On March 24, 1932, the Alabama Supreme Court upheld the convictions against seven of the Scottsboro Boys, and granted Williams a new trial. The case made it to the U.S. Supreme Court later that year. In a landmark decision, the high court ruled that the boys had been denied the right to a fair trial under the 14th Amendment, and sent the cases back to the lower court.

The Scottsboro Boys were tried again, this time in Decatur, Ala., which was roughly 50 miles from Scottsboro, but still in Ku Klux Klan territory. The ILD appealed the case and hired defense attorney Samuel Leibowitz. Bates recanted her rape story and agreed to testify on behalf of the defense. Despite Bates’ cooperation, and no evidence proving their guilt, the Scottsboro Boys were convicted again, though Patterson’s death sentence was suspended.

In a unanimous decision, the Alabama Supreme Court denied the defense’s motions for a new trial, and in January 1935, the case returned to the U.S. Supreme Court for a second time. The guilty verdict against Norris was overturned and new trials were ordered for him and Patterson. Norris’ third trial ended in another conviction and death sentence along with Weems and Andy Wright. Roy Wright spent six years in prison while the case was tried several times.

Prosecutors eventually agreed to drop the rape charges against Powell, who was later convicted of assaulting a deputy sheriff and sentenced to 20 years. The remaining rape charges were also dropped against Montgomery, Roberson, Williams and Roy Wright, and they were released from custody.

Enduring back-to-back trials took a tole on the group that likely had a ripple effect on their lives. One of the accused was left disabled after being shot while being escorted to prison. Others returned to custody on various convictions over the years. Norris, the eldest and the last surviving among the bunch, evaded parole in 1946 and went into hiding for 30 years. He was found in 1976, and pardoned by Alabama Gov. George Wallace. Norris died in 1989.

After more than 80 years, the Scottsboro Boys were posthumously pardoned in 2013. See more on the story in the video below.

Continue Reading

Top Stories