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Dominic Santana Studied Hours Of Suge Knight Interviews To Prepare For 'All Eyez On Me' Role

Dominic Santana dishes on playing Suge Knight. 

Suge Knight is the living embodiment of what it means to be infamous, specifically because he’s reportedly serving a life sentence since 2015 for a hit and run style execution in Compton, taking the life of a man named Terry Carter. The incident reportedly took place on the set of Straight Outta Compton that year. Or perhaps because of the swirl of rumors that have since engulfed following the death of his artist, Tupac Amaru Shakur in Las Vegas on September 13, 1996. Knight was in the car with Shakur when he was shot. The latter died of those gunshot wounds at the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada six days later.

Many speculate Knight was responsible for the West Coast rapper’s untimely death. Some people have said their relationship was toxic. Dangerous. Malicious. Manipulative. Others say he wasn’t involved at all and is now being treated unfairly. Throughout the years, his story has changed, and the media has been befuddled by his questionable accounts.

In 2014, Knight told TMZ that Pac wasn’t dead. “Why you think nobody been arrested if they said they the one that killed Tupac? Because Tupac not dead. If he was dead, they’d be arresting those dudes for murder. You know he’s somewhere smoking a Cuban cigar on an island.”

Yet his attorney, Thaddeus Culpepper, signed an affidavit according to The Daily Beastthat states, “Knight has known for many years that Reggie Wright Jr. [the former Death Row Records security chief] and his ex-wife Sharitha were behind the murder of Tupac and attempted murder of Knight.”

Although these stories leave major loopholes, maybe viewers might get a clearer perspective while watching the new Tupac inspired film, All Eyez On Me, which hits theaters nationwide today (June 16), Tupac’s 46th birthday.

In the new film, actor Dominic Santana plays Knight and does a magnificent job at portraying one of the world’s most intriguing antagonists. Like Knight, he has a dominating weight and stature that demands your full attention. The Fayetteville, North Carolina native of African-American and Puerto Rican descent excels at showcasing the real Knight, by any means necessary.

VIBE recently spoke with Santana about his role in the biopic, where he dished on the hot and cold dynamic between Tupac and Knight and revealed a few details the world may not have known about the 51-year-old.

VIBE: Describe your chemistry with Demetrius Shipp Jr. being that you played Suge Knight and he played Tupac?
Dominic Santana:
 I think it kind of freaked people out a little bit (Laughs), just because Suge and Pac from my understanding had a real brotherly relationship, in how they used to interact. I wasn’t around these guys personally when they were running around with each other of course because I was a kid then. But people who were there and do remember; they would see us together and me and him had that same relationship. I’m older than Demetrius, and I’m of course bigger and taller. I’m a little more chilled and laid back, and he is super energetic more like Pac. Even when we weren’t filming we would be at the trailers talking, and stuff like that. It would just weird out the people that really knew them in a good way. We were fortunate when we first met we instantly clicked.

Because Suge Knight is currently incarcerated in California, what was the research process like for this role? Were you able to speak to him?
No, I wasn’t. There was actually a phone call that was supposed to happen. As soon as I came on; the court took away his visitations, and privileges so he wasn’t allowed to speak to anybody but his lawyers. So that conversation unfortunately never got to happen. But he was aware of who I was because LT Hutton (producer) had spoken to him a few times, so he was briefed on what things were looking like, and what was going on. He was never out of the loop so to speak when it comes to that.

So I had to spend hours and hours studying old videos—thank god for YouTube and Google, because you can find nearly anything (Laughs). I just did a lot of digging. Not just the popular videos that everyone is used to seeing, but the more obscure candid videos of just Tupac and Suge interacting. I found this great video of what’s supposed to be an interview of Suge. He’s on the beach, but it’s so amateur that whoever is filming it or doing the interview was so amateur that it was so off that it was basically Suge just talking; whenever he felt like talking. There weren't a lot of questions being asked.

He wasn’t performing for the camera or anything, he was just being himself. I actually took that video, and I watched that one the most. I also made sound-bites of his voice of him talking, so anytime we went to film about 30-40 minutes before I would play that in my headphones, and listen to him talking. So by the time I got to set I had him in my head. I practiced the voice, and then go and film. I didn’t just walk on set. Also, we were fortunate to have guys on set that really knew them and still know him. So I could talk to those guys, and ask them to cross-reference things. I had mini conversations with different ones who gave me their perspective on Suge.

Do you care to share what these conversations were like, who did you speak to? What did they say about him?
LT was the main one. He spent a lot of time with him throughout the years. Before we started and did anything else, LT sat me down and we just had a long conversation about how this was going to go. He wanted to make sure that I understood—and this is no shade to any other film companies or films—he was like, 'In this movie, we don’t want to paint a character of Suge as a caveman or just some wild thug for no reason. We wanted to be real, Suge did some crazy things but it was for a real reason. If it was something real or stupid he didn’t waste time with it. So yes, he did go extreme but anything he did it was because of something very serious.’

Then talking to people like Daz Dillinger, his son was in the movie playing him. He was the one that told me, ‘Hey, make sure you throw in that shoulder twitch.’  I was like, ‘What are you talking about?’ And he was like, ‘Suge had a nerve problem on his back, so his shoulder would just twitch for no reason.’ And I had never noticed that. He was like, ‘Yeah watch.’ He brought up this whole TMZ video of Suge talking, and that was one of the videos I studied. I watched the video like 30 times, and I never noticed that. He pointed it out, and I was like, ‘Oh damn his shoulder does this twitch.’ So with little things like that, I was able to incorporate the small little nuances, that the audience may miss but people who really know him would say, ‘Wow he studied for real’ (Laughs). He was laughing about it because when they would be at Death Row, he said it would really kick up when Suge would get mad (Laughs) and yelling.

How will the relationship between Tupac and Suge be perceived by viewers when they see the movie?
I think they’ll see what was intended, which was the reality of their brotherhood. And just like with any brotherhood, siblings and family members you can love them to death it doesn’t mean you won't get into a situation. We all know what happens when you mix family and money. Ten percent of the time that will go smooth, but for all of us normal humans 90 percent of the time there is going to be problems in there that is going to cost a little bit of a problem. And people look at their situations but don’t equate that to their own situations and stuff like that as humans. They had a brotherhood. They both were fire, and each found a running partner in each other. Suge wasn’t an artist. Suge was the CEO of Death Row. Pac happened to be an artist, Suge was a fan of Tupac. He loved his music and found something in him the people who were over his career didn’t see.

They came together and it was like, ‘You’re wild and crazy like me’ (Laughs), but they were impactful and wanted to get stuff done together. I think he found his equal in Tupac, and Tupac did as well; finding someone who was going to let him be free, and be who he was, but also still handle business and make money.

As I was watching the film, I felt you can smell the danger when Suge was around Tupac. I felt there was something that wasn’t right there. Would you agree? What are your thoughts on that?
Even though they had a brotherhood, Suge was the big brother, and he was in a hard position to be in having that kind of relationship. Usually, CEOs are not close friends with the artist or people that work for them. And it was for good reason. I think he always had to maintain this thing of, ‘We’re close but don’t overstep any lines. I’m still that guy that won’t let anybody overstep their boundaries.’ But when you put two fires together it’s hard to maintain it and control it. And talking with the old guys who knew them, not just what the media portrayed over the years, conspiracy theories or what people think—listening to the guys that were really there around them, you hear some crazy stories, but you hear how much they clowned around, and admired each other.

Switching gears to Tupac, do you remember the first time you encountered his music? What are some of your favorite songs?
I honestly never thought about that. I can’t remember the first time because I was a kid back then. The first and only time I actually saw him in person was at a Digital Underground show, which I probably shouldn’t have been at. I was with my stepfather at the time. There was an underground performance there, but he wasn’t Tupac at the time. He was just getting to go into that phase so looking back, it was cool. Everybody was paying attention to Humphrey but no one knew there was a legend coming up.

The first time I heard him I can't even think of it, but one of my favorite songs is “Me Against The World.” That song really resonates with me it’s one of my favorite songs of all time period. “Unconditional Love,” is another one people don’t really look at as their favorite, but is definitely one of my favorites. And “Changes.” Even today when you listen to “Changes,” you’re like, ‘How did Pac know this? (Laughs). There was a lot of things he talked about that we are still dealing with. That was a very impactful song because the issues he spoke of are still so relevant, which is actually a shame 20 years later we’re still having to have these discussions, and deal with these issues.

Would you say he was ahead of his time?
Definitely. I think that was also part of his problem; all of the chaos he would end up around or have around him was the fact that it’s hard for people to understand something that was so above their head. I know it's frustrating for an artist to try to flow and try to create whatever he is trying to create, and he is needing everybody to catch up to all the things that he is doing; to get on to the next thing. So I can imagine his internal battle inside of him saying, “This is what the people can digest right now, but this is what I’m on and want to talk about and put out there.’ I think that was something that made his legacy last so long, and be so powerful is because a lot of his music still holds relevant even today because he did it in a way that was prepared for a later time.

If you could give Suge Knight any word of advice what would you say?
Never forget what you accomplished and what you brought to the world. And don’t let anyone make it seem like you didn’t do those things, which were gigantic accomplishments. But also just continue to learn, and be better. If he gets out of jail, do things to leave a better legacy than the bad things people tend to remember. Be remembered by great stuff, doing good by people.

How would Tupac receive the film if he was alive today?
I think he would smile ear to ear, and probably shed a tear. I think he would feel like he was done justice. LT Hutton, the main producer of the film always said, ‘Tupac wrote his own story.’ We didn’t have to sugar coat it and spruce it up to make it more entertaining. All we had to do was a POV telling of Tupac’s story that he already set out. It’s very much in the vein of Tupac Shakur. It’s not just a movie of Tupac Shakur. It’s of the things he focused on. I think he’d be very proud of it.

What did you learn about Tupac that you didn't know prior to making this film?
I knew he had an activist side of him, but I didn’t quite know how deep it was. We heard stories about his mother being a part of the Black Panthers, but it was always glossed over like it was only for a short period of time. It was something that was toyed with lightly but had he stayed in that direction he might have ended up a politician or something—a black leader fighting for civil rights if he didn’t go into hip hop.

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How Dinah Jane Shed Her Pop Coating And Bloomed Into An R&B Butterfly

With just 21 years around the sun, Dinah Jane has accomplished more than most. Her star initially rose alongside her pop sisters Fifth Harmony in her teens but in between chart-topping hits like "Work From Home" or "Worth It" was a longing for something more.

The "more" arrived this spring in the form of her debut collection, Dinah Jane 1, three tracks that play to her power vocals and confident nature. Leading single "Heard It Before" gives listeners the feels of the aughts with the help of producer extraordinaire, J. R. Rotem. Jane's accompanying tracks like "Pass Me By" and "Fix it" are just as alluring given her honey coated vocals. Instead of jumping from genre to genre, the songs are in the vein of Jane's R&B language, a move that transpired after a reflection into her musical identity.

The journey included experimentation with her first solo effort, "Bottled Up" with Ty Dolla $ign and Marc E. Bassey. The song was a bop by nature due to its similarity to her work in Fifth Harmony, which left Jane determined to find her sound.

"Being a solo artist now made it hard to define who I was because I was singing so many different styles before," Jane tells VIBE. "I had to take time for me to really cope and understand what it is that I really want to come out as my true identity. When I dropped my first record "Bottled Up" it was more me transitioning from Fifth Harmony to myself, I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be."

After a session with a producer in Atlanta, Jane arrived at the realization that the artists in her phone (Monica, Mariah Carey), was a sign for her to dig up her soulful roots. It's hard to deny Jane's vocals helped to build her former group and now, her own career.

"The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest," Jane said. "I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. I was always afraid to portray them as something that people didn't know about and so my thing is like, 'Oh, I don't want them to think of my family like this or my friend who's not my friend right now.' I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic, real and raw I have to be honest not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good."

With a new attitude and direction, Jane is ready to fly above her worries. Check out our chat with the singer-songwriter below.

***

VIBE: When you were putting your three-pack together, what was going through your head? Was there a particular sound or moment you wanted to catch?

Dinah Jane: It was more like a certain direction. I felt like there was a part of me that had not been exposed yet as far as style. I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be. I started listening back to records where I was like, 'Wow, this is something that I wish was mine.' Some of Monica's records, Faith Evans or Mariah Carey, by the way, she followed me on Instagram [Laughs].

Congratulations!

She followed me on Instagram so I kind of got that verification that I should definitely do R&B. Those are artists that I've always been inspired by. I remember I went back to when I did my first audition on X Factor, and I said, "Who is that I want to sing and showcase my talent?" It was Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy."

I felt like if this is a perfect time for me to throw in a bowl of my favorite artists that I've always looked up to and mesh it into who I am now. When I did "Fix It," I felt like it was so organic for me to go that direction and lean towards, so, when that happened the song became what it is now. I love the message behind it, I didn't realize it would empower so many people.

"Fix It" is actually my favorite out of the three. You just referenced your identity. Do you know what that is now? Or is that sonically or personally?

I think more so sonically, that's where I was lost the most because I had to put myself in a drawer for seven years. Now that I'm here, being a solo artist like I said, I was lost. Sonically I had to redefine who Dinah Jane was this whole time. I remember being in a session in Atlanta and this guy at the time asked me, "Who do you have on your phone? Let's look through it."

He's going through my phone and it's all R&B, not even that much pop, just singers from back then. And he's just like, "I was not expecting this, I thought you'd be the hype girl listening to all trap music." I have that personality trust me, but musically this is me. That clicked in my head that I was heading somewhere else and I needed to jump back to my old ways.

I love that. "Heard It All Before" has gotten so much love from your fans. I know you're not supposed to look at the comments but one that stood out was "I love this sound, leave pop alone." Do you ever feel trapped in one genre since you started within the pop bubble? 

It's funny that you say that. I feel like people or fans they kind of want to box you into who they think you are. I was telling someone, my fans they sometimes think they know me better than I know myself and it's kind of scary. There are times where I'm like, "No I don't have to be one way." It's crazy cause when I go to the studio I feel like I can be so versatile. I can do R&B easy but there are sometimes where I want to do those pop records, "Always Be My Baby" is that pop record to me and some people are good with it, some aren't but I think it just comes with your fanbase.

For me, they know my potential, honestly, they saw me on X Factor or even my YouTube days when I was 11 or 12 years old. They're like, "No Dinah, this is you, this is you, I want you to keep doing more of these." Eventually, I'll want to do some other things as well. But as of right now, it's truly R&B.

When it comes to creating you're always challenging yourself. What were some of the challenges that you've been facing this year while making music?

The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest. I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. It's always been my challenge and I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic and real and raw I have to be honest to myself as well, not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good. My Mom always told me, "You've got to be real with yourself."

For sure. All three of these songs are super straightforward. What was it about keeping that energy while you were making these songs?

I was just trying to balance it. Like I said it was the most challenging part balancing that and I feel like with "Heard It All Before," it was the most fun, relatable song to write because my best friend was going through something. I was like "What?! He said what?!" We were literally having a full on group chat about it. When I did the music video, I wanted it to be about the situation that I was in with my girl. We were like, "You know what we've heard that all before." I just want to make this bundle relatable, sexy but then also swaggy and just not try so hard. So, when we put these three songs together, it felt so organic and true to who I was.

Even in the video, you exude so much confidence. What does confidence mean to you?

I think it's self-love. When you truly love yourself, you can see it in your face. You can see it in the glow and the energy you're giving to people. I wasn't always this confident, I would definitely say I was never this confident but, thanks to my mom, she always expressed that to me.

She said, "Dinah, I know you don't feel that beautiful today but you need to pick on the little things that matter. What's your favorite feature? Your lips. What's your favorite outfit you got going on? Pay attention to your best qualities other than that one negative thing you're picking on."

The confidence was never there but when you have people that are around you always encouraging you to love yourself and realizing your truth and worth, that's when the confidence kicks in. It's not something that's overnight, it takes time. It took years for me to realize that. Like I said, you have to surround yourself by honest, real people who can definitely make you see what you're not seeing.

Facts. Have you become that vessel for your friends as well? Like passing all of that on. Your mom passed it to you, you pass it to your friends, are you that person?

Yeah, it's like a telephone game. I have a younger sister who's 17 and she's always been insecure about her weight or her breakouts and I'm like, "You're a teenager, you're supposed to go through that phase. If I went through that you've got to go through it too."

In a way, I have to guide her through the stages. I was just talking to her last night and she's telling me about her friends and how she feels like she doesn't fit in, or certain cousins where she feels like she has to be a certain way. I was like, "Don't be a certain way, the way you carry yourself will vibrate and you will be so much more vibrant, it'll grasp more onto you. Just be your true self, you don't have to be anything else. I know who you are and you know who you are."

I feel like kind of being that older sister I feel like her mom sometimes. So I always feel this responsibility that she always feels 100.

What are some other plans you have for yourself, with your music for the year?

This is the first bundle. People wanted it to be named an EP but I was like, "Nah. It cannot be an EP because an EP is at least five to seven songs top."

This bundle is like a mini-project, it's the anticipation for the actual album. So, I want you to keep getting the feel of who I am, keep giving you these sneak peeks and then boom, hit you with the album. That's in the works, we'll see what happens. That's what we say now but sometimes things change, so don't get too excited.

Have you've been working with anybody? Any featured artists or any producers who are really understanding of who you are as an artist?

As far as features, I have one and then I'm working on another one.

So you can't say who they are?

I can't say. As far as producers and writers, J.R. Rotem is literally my dog. We walked into the studio and all of his plaques are all over the wall, plastered everywhere and we were like, "We get it, you're a legend. You're going to make me a legend," is what I felt in that room. I feel this great connection with him where we can be friends but also have that chemistry musically where he can connect with me instantly.

I love how we did  "Fix It," he brought out all of the live instruments and he made it feel like you were actually on stage, he made it feel bigger than what it was. So, I give him so many props for that because I've never felt that way in a session where I felt like I was onstage and it was just me by myself, no one else, well of course with a whole a** band, but I just felt the topic and the song, the musicality behind it is what meshed so well because of him. He is my dog for sure and my therapist because if it weren't for him this song would have not been made.

Stream Dinah Jane 1 below.

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Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy Carter attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City.
Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for NARAS

An Ode To Jay-Z, The Ultimate Rap Dad

Rap, throughout its history, has always referenced parenthood in some form. Most often, it was to extol single mothers for their goodness while deadbeat fathers were berated and called out for going ghost. In recent years, as the social media landscape has blown open the avenues of communication, famous rap dads, in particular, have become increasingly transparent about their lives as family men. Where years ago there seemed to be endless bars mourning the demise of the father, artists are now using their platform to balance the scales. They’re showing themselves to be present and intentional.

Few albums make me think more about the concept of parenthood, and legacy, than Jay-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. It’s a stark and blistering work of memoir, heavy on confession and self-examination. When 4:44 finally dropped, I, like many others, was filled with wonder. How was it that Jay had managed to so fluidly deconstruct everything I’d been wrestling with for the last few years? Though the specifics of our experiences differed greatly, the central ideas dissected on 4:44, especially those concerning fatherhood and family life, had been swimming around my brain for some time.

***

Hip-hop saved my life. And it was fatherhood that set it on fire. This bears explaining.

What hip-hop has done for me, is what it has done for millions of fatherless and heart-wounded kids—it provided, at the very least, the shading of a better life. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, and the value I ascribed to it, it would be impossible to know just how far I’d have settled into the more lamentable aspects of my environment. Forasmuch of a goon as I was growing up, something always kept me from becoming too emotionally invested in harsh crime. I dabbled in mischief like an amateur chef knowing he would only go so far. I saw in hip-hop, in the art of it, something worth pursuing with tenacity; something like a healthy distraction. So I committed to finding my lane.

Though there were brief stints dedicated to developing my modest graffiti skills and footwork, it was the words that flowed and came without struggle. The school cyphers sharpened my wits and compelled me to feed my vocabulary daily. Only my wordplay could save me from getting ripped to shreds in a lunchroom battle. I read books and scoured the dictionary for ammunition, I listened to stand-up comics who fearlessly engaged the crowd and proved quick on the draw. It seemed fruitless to know a billion words if I couldn’t convert them into brutal attacks. I had to break the competition down and render them defenseless, stammering for a rebuttal. There could be no confusion as to my superiority. So instead of joining the stickup kids or depositing all of my energy into intramural sports, I put my soul and mind into the task of taking down all manner of wack MCs. That’s why I say that hip-hop saved me.

But fatherhood was its own saving grace. It showed me that the world did not revolve, nor would it ever revolve, around my passions. Fatherhood put an extra battery behind my back as a creative, sure. But it’s more about being a consistent presence at home than chasing any dream.

***

As an artist and writer, I cannot so much as think about fatherhood without considering some of the material that deals with feelings comparable to those I felt after I became a father. Songs that contextualize very specific emotions over the drums.

In his 2012 track “Glory,” Jay-Z, someone who had long been vocal about his strained relationship with his father, reflects on the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, his first child with wife Beyoncé. Produced by the Neptunes, “Glory” was released on January 9, just two days after Blue was born. From start to finish, it carries a sort of gleeful melancholy that resonates on multiple levels. While it is, in essence, a comment on the exuberant joy attached with welcoming a child, “Glory” is also a note on death and mourning.

Before Blue came along and flipped the script, Beyoncé had suffered a miscarriage. The pain the couple experienced left them fearful of not being able to conceive. The dual purpose of “Glory” is made clear from the outset, and with blazing transparency. “False alarms and false starts,” offers Jay, laying the groundwork for what immediately follows: “All made better by the sound of your heart.” The second half of the couplet establishes what was, as we come to learn, the most pivotal moment in the rap mogul’s life up until then. The moment where all is made right, where the sting of loss is eclipsed by the possibility of new birth. Jay continues in this mode, shining light on the redeeming gift that is Blue and, also, how the child is a composite of her mother and father, yet more still.

The opening bars of the following verse are equally striking as Jay, addressing Blue, touches on the death of his father from liver failure. Jay is signaling here, leading us somewhere but with the intent to shift gears. Instead of dwelling on his father’s shortcomings like one might expect him to, Jay breaks left, resolving that deep down his father was a good man. What begins as an indictment of a cheat who walked out on his obligations, ends with a declaration of forgiveness and generosity. But Jay soon directs the focus back to his blessing and how hard it is not to spoil her rotten as she is the child of his destiny. It becomes apparent that this is a man at his most self-actualized. A few more welcome digressions and “Glory” closes the same way that it begins, with the final line of the hook: “My greatest creation was you.” This points to something that I, too, came to know as fact. That no matter what I do, and regardless of what I might attain—power, wealth, the esteem of my peers—nothing is quite comparable to the happiness and the terror that comes with siring a child. “Glory” succeeds as it casts aside any traces of bluster and bravado, making room for Jay to unearth lessons that were hard-won yet central to his maturation. And what is the purpose of making art if not to bust open your soul and watch it spill over? Shout out to the rap dads raising babies and doing the work to shift the narrative.

Juan Vidal is a writer, critic, and author of Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation.

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Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

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