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In a time of social unrest within America, a multitude of rap artists has stepped up to the plate with music that channels the pain, frustration, and despair of minorities while chastising the powers that be. Memphis rapper Jucee Froot, the creator of the theme to the Starz hit TV show, P-Valley, is the latest artist to address these pressing matters with the visual to her latest release, "T.H.U.G.," inspired by the ongoing police brutality and racially-charged incidents dividing the country.
Shot in Atlanta, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Orson Swells-directed video captures her holding court from a podium on the community's frontlines in between black-and-white clips of local riots. The song, inspired by the late Tupac Shakur's acronym for ‘The Hate U Give,’ captures the grim reality that comes with being a person of color in America. Contemplating "[if] you can't call police on police, who gon' save us," Jucee Froot—who felt compelled to address the elephant in the room as a mother of young black men herself—puts forth a powerful statement in "T.H.U.G." that doubles as a sign of the times and a testament to the range of her artistry.
And with a follow-up to her last full-length release, Black Sheep, on the way, "T.H.U.G." could be the calm before the storm as the Atlantic Records signee looks ready to take the next step in her evolution.
Join us for a live Q&A with Jucee Froot tomorrow, October 14 at 9 pm ET on VIBE's official Instagram page.
"All of us put in work to try leave the ghetto," said Elephant Man as he made his debut in the pages of VIBE back in April 1998. "That's a feeling that really can't leave you." Posing in the photoshoot with an iced-out pachyderm pendant dangling from his neck, Elly and his bredrens from the Scare Dem Crew—Boom Dandimite, Harry Toddler, and Nitty Kutchie—made it all the way from Seaview Gardens, one of Kingston's hardest neighborhoods, to a full-page write up in VIBE's NEXT section, the magazine's showcase for "People on the Verge." It was a good day—but Elephant was just getting started.
The legendary dancehall icon would go on to share stages with Usher and Chris Brown, collab with Missy Elliott and Lil Jon, perform live on the nationally televised VIBE Awards, and sign a deal with Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records. Throughout it all, he kept a strong link to Jamaica. They say an Elephant never forgets.
"We all grew in Seaview," Elephant Man told Reshma B in a Boomshots interview years later. "Me, Bounty Killer, Angel Doolas, Bramwell, Daily Bread, Nico Man, Sugar Slick, Jason Sweetness—everybody, we all one big family." Their dream was to get inside the gates of King Jammy's studio in nearby Waterhouse—the same studio that "buss" Shabba Ranks, whom Elly calls "our ghetto superstar."
Getting their start as Bounty Killer's dancehall Junior M.A.F.I.A., the Scare Dem Crew eventually parted ways to pursue solo careers. "From I was in Scare Dem Crew, I was so energetic," Elephant Man remembers. "There's so many big stars—Buju Banton, Bounty Killer...—I wanna be seen, I wanna be heard. I want people to say, 'Yo look! This is no joke thing.'" His greatest gift was his infectious energy on stage, earning Elly the title "Energy God."
That energy would carry Elephant Man to solo stardom as he dropped dancehall anthems like "Pon Di River Pon Di Bank" and "Signal Di Plane." Many of his songs referenced popular moves born at street dances in Kingston and shouted out the dancers who created them, turning more ghetto youths into celebrities. Usain Bolt even broke into a "Gully Creeper" after setting an Olympic sprinting record.
Today, VIBE and Boomshots proudly present the world premiere of Elephant Man's latest music video "Skankers," produced by Downsound Entertainment and directed by Jamaica's visual top shotta Jay Will. "Elephant said he loved Snoop's 'Sensual Seduction' video," Jay recalls. (It's no secret that Elly loves Snoop, and is always saying "Shizzle.") "I pitched him the concept of doing a 'Skankers' Soul Train line with all the dancers he shouts out on the song." Jay was a bright idea that turned into a major production with dancehall star Cecile in project manager mode working with stylist Ayana Rivière to hold fittings and dress rehearsals for a who's who of Jamaican street dance, from Shelly Belly, John Hype, and Marvin Di Beast to TC, Daniboo, Dancing Rebel, and Dolly Body—not to mention crews like Black Dice, Team Royal, and Exclusive Dancers.
Rocking an afro wig and vintage fashions, Walshy Fire of Major Lazer plays the smooth host Don Marvelous and, of course, the multitalented Elephant Man plays the keytar and the talk box as he comes with the crazy musical melodies—interpolating an '80s pop throwback by the English band Cutting Crew over a space-age dancehall track. So push the furniture back, turn the sound up, and start your own socially distanced dancehall Soul Train line. It might be just what the world needs to get over a year like 2020. Like the songs says, Elephant's music is designed to "Make the dance happy, no dancer can sad."
Stonebwoy had nothing much to prove when he and his entourage—known as the BHIM Nation—rolled up on a fleet of motorbikes this past weekend to a highly anticipated battle with fellow artist, Shatta Wale, his biggest rival for the title of Africa's Dancehall King. Stonebwoy has come a long way since his humble beginnings in Ashaiman, a seaside town on the outskirts of Accra, the capital city of Ghana.
The internationally renowned West African artist developed his own distinctive musical style, which he describes as Afro-Dancehall, fusing Jamaican dancehall and patois with Afrobeats, hip hop slang, and the local dialect Ewe. He established his own independent company, the Burniton Music Group, as well as a charitable organization, the Livingstone Foundation. He's also earned numerous accolades over the course of his career. He was named Best International Act at the 2015 BET Awards. He has won several Ghana Music Awards, including Artist of the Year. He collaborated with Morgan Heritage on the group's Grammy-nominated 2017 album Avrakedabra and recorded singles with many of Jamaica's top dancehall artists, including Grammy-winners Sean Paul and Beenie Man. His latest album, Anloga Junction, features a hit collab with VIBE cover artist Keri Hilson as well as Nasty C, a South African rapper who signed to Def Jam in March.
Stonebwoy entered the clash arena wearing a full-face gas mask, leaving no doubt that he was taking this competition very seriously. Sponsored by Ghana's Ministry of Health and broadcast by Asaasse Radio in Accra, the virtual clash between him and Shatta Wale was designed to raise proceeds to "crush COVID 19"—but Stonebwoy's mask was more suited for mortal combat than preventing Coronavirus. The first of the 40 songs he unleashed against his nemesis was a hard-hitting new freestyle called "Blaze Dem." Shortly after the clash, Stonebwoy released a music video for the track, featuring visual highlights from the hard-fought battle against Shatta, which has been compared to the epic Verzuz clash between Beenie Man and Bounty Killer.
Best known to international audiences for his appearance on "Already," a Major Lazer–produced from Beyonce's album Black is King, Shatta's provocative style included theatrics, personal insults, and throwing money all over the stage. Stonebwoy, on the other hand, let his melodies, lyrics, and big tunes do the talking. You can watch the full battle here, and stay tuned for Stonebwoy's live chat with Reshma B of Boomshots today at 2 pm ET / 6 pm GT on VIBE's Instagram Live.
Stream his latest album, Anloga Junction, on Apple Music, Spotify, and/or Tidal.