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The Baum Agency/ Alexandria Baum

National Dance Day: WilldaBeast & Janelle Ginestra Talk Inspiring Through immaBEAST Hip-Hop Collective

Meet Willdabeast Adams and Janelle Ginestra, the leaders of one of the strongest brands in the dance industry, immaBEAST.

Growing up in Indianapolis, Ind., Will Adams didn’t have the support he hoped for when it came to his dreams of becoming a performer. However, several years later, he is not only living his dreams, but with the help of his dance partner and fiancée Janelle Ginestra, he’s aiding in discovering burgeoning talents and giving future stars of all ages a platform through the art form.

Known affectionately as WilldaBeast, the 28-year-old is the founder of the company, immaBEAST, one of the leading brands in the hip-hop dance world. Before becoming a star in his own right, he danced for entertainers such as T-Pain, The Black Eyed Peas, Jason DeRulo, Zendaya, Madonna and Usher. Likewise, 27-year-old California native Ginestra, who has been dancing since the age of two, also has a packed resume, with credits dancing for Beyoncé, P!nk, Jennifer Lopez and in Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda” video.

Together, they’ve choreographed for artists like Trevor Jackson, Jordan Fisher, Missy Elliott, Jennifer Lopez, on shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, and for brands such as Nike, Delta and BET.

However, their roads to dance superstardom did not come easily. A hampering football injury has made long-winded rehearsals a challenge for Adams since starting his career, while Ginestra explains that typecasting has made competition stiff, which makes booking gigs difficult.

“[Typecasting] leads to a lot of comparing and a lot of self-doubt, and that makes you feel like you want to give up,” she says over the phone. “But if you be yourself and stay true to who you are, and just know that someone is gonna like what you bring and that [your abilities] are different, it helps.”

Adams’ dance training didn’t begin as early as his fiancée’s; he acknowledges his love for music helped him find his footing on the dance floor.

“I was obsessed with music and dance, but I did not go to a dance studio,” he says. “My first taste of that was when I was 15 years old. I went by [a studio], I did that for a little while. I really started training seriously at 18 years old, when I graduated from high school. I started going to dance conventions and stuff. I fell in love with it and I could not stop going.” At the age of 21, he made the move to Los Angeles to pursue dance full-time.

The dynamic duo met as dancers in California’s “Carnival,” a dance showcase with performances from some of the top choreographers and dancers in the industry. While the often-professional Ginestra “rolled her eyes” at Adams’ bad boy aura during rehearsals, the two hit it off and began dating shortly after.

“Usually on first dates, you have to try any find things to talk about, and it's awkward and it feels forced, but this was natural,” she explains. “We kind of knew that this was gonna turn into something.”

#BEAUTYndabeast Just pushing ourselves everyday ... @immaspace @janelleginestra @willdabeast__

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As for what they bring to their dance partnership, Adams says that Ginestra’s competition background helps bring polished moves to their routines, while he offers freestyle flair.

“I'm good cop, I get my energy out, I freestyle, I make a lot of choices and I’m really confident with a first or second choice,” he says of their choreography and teaching process. “Janelle is more strict in rehearsals with dancers, she takes her time more. She'll make sure the things we do are really clean and meticulous, and it's good because we balance each other out. We've kind of made each other's weaknesses strengths.” They describe their choreography as “quirky” and experimental, as they’re open to different types of movement. This is due to their knowledge of older styles of hip-hop paired with tapping into what the kids are doing today.

“We know that structure of when TRL and 106 & Park was huge, and every R&B and rap video had choreography breakdowns in it, but we're also still very young to where our ears and our eyes are on everything that's still young and new, whether it's the milly rock or whipping,” Adams says.

“I also think that we're unpredictable,” Ginestra adds. “I think a lot of teachers stick to a genre and stick to a style. We like to be all over the map. We like to dibble and dabble in everything, and I feel like dibbling and dabbling in everything makes us better choreographers in a particular style if we do pick one.”

These creative dynamics have also made the couple great business partners. During the early stages of the immaBEAST company, Adams told Ginestra that he wanted her by his side to create something magical for the dance community.

“'Listen, we can do this together, and we can build an empire together,’” she says he told her. “‘I don't want you to quit your dance career, but I think that this can be something massively huge.’”

“Massively huge” is an understatement. ImmaBEAST has showcased some of the industry’s most talented performers, who vary in age, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation. Currently, WilldaBeast’s YouTube channel has over one million subscribers, and the choreography he and Ginestra have created has amassed over 500 million views online (which is not an exaggeration). Adams’ popular choreography to Beyonce’s “Upgrade U” has more views that the actual music video.

While the exposure has been impressive, the duo explains that the immaBEAST movement’s implications go deeper than views, retweets and favorites. “ImmaBEAST is what we want America to look like,” Adams says. “The thing that's so cool is that we have dancers from over 35 states and from over 10 countries. We're this big melting pot in Los Angeles. We represent change, we represent the future, we represent everybody.”

Each year, thousands of dancers from around the world audition to become a part of the immaBEAST family. If selected, the new members are put into different groups that make up the collective. The youngest dancers, ranging from about five to eight years old, are called “BabyBEASTS,” while “lilBEASTs” are nine to 12-year-old talents. Thirteen to 16-year-olds make up the “teenBEASTS” group, and the dancers ages 17 and up are part of the “immaBEAST” crew. “Everybody belongs in immaBEAST, but that's how we categorize it,” he says of breaking up the collective by age, not ability.

What’s even more heart-warming about the collective is that dancers from all walks of life come together to join the family and to help other dancers excel in their craft. “We have kids from Compton that grew up getting recruited in gangs, who are now the mentors to kids who have lived in Orange County their whole lives,” Adams continues. “That's what our family is like. It's beyond dance; we support each other.”

What is the caliber of dance ability, that je ne sais quoi, that Adams and Ginestra look for in immaBEAST recruits? Ginestra says that their dancers have to be “hungry” and willing to leave it all on the floor through self-expression. Their dancers also need to be kind-hearted “team players” who have good reputations.

To many onlookers who may not possess the ability, dancing is just movement. To the couple, dancing is therapy from life’s problems, and a way to connect to people. “[Dance] literally is my church,” beams Ginestra through the phone. “It's my happy place, it's my everything. I feel like I dance always with a purpose, and that purpose is to release and to let out my emotions and just to be authentic.” For Adams, his love of dance also pairs with his love of connecting to people.

“I live for God, and I live for making other people happy, and putting smiles on other people's faces,” he says. “Dance has given me that thing that when I'm sad, when I'm happy, when I'm confused—it's given me an outlet. I feel like that's why God put us on this Earth, for us all to connect to each other. [Dance is] definitely a universal language, and it makes everybody so happy to see. Even if they can't dance, everyone can connect to it.”

The duo has been working overtime, as they announced to fans they’ve been tapped as choreographers for the film Dancer, which they held auditions for in late-June, and recently finished choreography for Step Up 6, which filmed in China. Their annual convention, “BuildaBEAST Experience,” was held over five days (June 18-22), and saw an estimated 1,300 dancers from all over aiming to learn from the best of the best. Not to mention, members of the immaBEAST crew competed on the NBC show, World Of Dance.

While both creatives acknowledge the blessings they’ve been fortunate to have in their careers, they both still have higher goals they’re striving for.

“When Cirque Du Soleil became a huge phenomenon, when the Jabbawockeez’s show took over Vegas… we wanna be a part of epic moments in history where people's jaws drop,” Adams explains. “So it's not one specific thing as a choreographer. We wanna be known as, ‘oh, those are the people that started this, this is what they're doing now.’ How the Tesla drives itself? That's what we wanna create with art: stuff that people haven't seen before.”

“We choreographed for the nomination announcements for BET's Awards [in 2016], and Will got to watch them in Times Square on the mega screen,” Ginestra says of one of their most exciting moments. “So doing stuff like that that's never been done before, and being groundbreaking and giving our dancers and artists opportunities to do stuff like that.”

As dancers, Ginestra hopes to dance for Lady Gaga “before [she’s] 80 years old,” and Adams hopes to work with Usher, Beyonce and one of his favorites, Lil Wayne. However, they’re just enjoying the thrill of doing what they love, and connecting people through the art of dance.

“I think we just wanna make people feel something new and different and break boundaries,” Ginestra says. “That's our main goal.”

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Mark Barboy

Interview: Suave House Founder Tony Draper Links With Celebs Like 2 Chainz, G Herbo and Nick Cannon To Feed Their Cities

The harrowing COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately disrupted Black communities across the United States with cities like Chicago being among the hardest hit. Throughout the year, artists from the city have stepped up and held socially distanced food drives and PPE donations across the city’s South and West sides. With his deep ties to Chicago since the early 90s, Suave House Records founder/entrepreneur Tony Draper, alongside NBA veteran Ricky Davis, made the Chi’ their next stop as part of the nationwide Feed Your City Challenge this past October 17th at the Pullman Park Community Center.

The chilly, yet bright and sunny Saturday saw hundreds of people drive through the parking lot of the complex, receiving groceries from the many volunteers, gathered from across the city. Masked up with PPE in the trenches with the civilians were local natives and celebrity supporters like Chitown’s Grammy winning producer/music executive No ID, rap star G-Herbo, new rapper Queen Key, NBA star Jabari Parker to media/music entertainer Nick Cannon. Draper and Davis were handing off items and loading boxes of farm-fresh produce and meats in the trunk of cars, and offloading the 95,000 pounds of food to feed 7,000 residents. While they were not in attendance, Common with Jhene Aiko and Social Justice Collective donated funds for the free groceries.

“You can’t lead the people until you feed the people. We’re out here in the community in a real way. People always talk about what’s going on in Chicago and these are the things going on in Chicago. Positive things for the community during a time like this. People coming together and it’s a wonderful event,” said Cannon.

For Draper, bringing the Feed Your City Challenge to Chicago and being able to pull it off successfully was crucial because October 17th, marks the 24th anniversary of the death of one of Chi’s most influential DJs, Rapmaster Pinkhouse, who passed away in 1996. “It feels like myself and my partner [Ricky] Davis coming to Chicago and partnering with Common, No ID, Jhene Aiko, Nick Cannon, G-Herbo, Jay Allen, [local FM radio] Power 92 and Pat Edwards was a sign from God that it’s meant to happen on this day. Even though Pinkhouse is gone, he’s still influencing the south side of Chicago and he’s still sending us blessings. We had to pull it off, we had to,” Draper said with conviction. 

Meanwhile, Power 92.3’s DJ Pharris, DJ Nehpets, DJ Commando, DJ Amaris and Hot Rod were on the 1s and 2s while Parker, Hot Rod, G-Herbo, and community activists Joey G and Nico Naismith played basketball with the kids. A nonprofit Hoop Bus was set up with a small hoop with Black Lives Matter symbols and the names of victims who were killed by police officers. 

G-Herbo, who has been volunteering his time to the kids of Chicago throughout 2020 says that events like this are important to build and strengthen Black unity across the city. “It’s beyond just being able to feed and provide, it’s allowing people to feel unity in the city. This is the city coming together and a lot of important and powerful people coming from the city, all walks of life coming together for a positive reason and that’s what it’s all about.” When asked if this event defied the stigma of Chicagoans not being unified, Herbo exclaimed, “Absolutely! We unified right now and it’s only gon’ get better, so we’re just trying to lead by example and make this normal. This is not just an event, this gotta be the normal for guys like myself and for the city.”

And the people who showed up to receive their free groceries were more than appreciative. Takara, a mother from the Southside of Chicago says that while she found out about the food drive at the last minute,“It’s a lot of food out here, a lot of good people out here and it’s something that we need. Events like this are very necessary and it’s filling the need for families who can’t feed their children during these times. I wish I could have volunteered and done something more, but we need this.”

In a one-on-one with VIBE, the legendary Tony Draper talks about his connections to Chicago, the importance and impact of the Feed Your City Challenge, the role celebrities play in activism, and more. 

VIBE: Earlier you shared that Oct. 17th was also the day that Rapmaster Pinkhouse passed away. For the younger readers who might not know who Rapmaster Pinkhouse is, could you share who he was and why he was so important to Chicago?

Draper: For young people that don't understand how music was heard back then, there was no social media [in the early 90s], there was no Instagram, so you had to get your record to the hottest person in the city. That person had to make a decision about whether it was good or not. And if that person touched your record in Chicago, that person would spread, it was automatic. That’s what happened to a young Tony Draper with 8Ball & MJG’s first albums. He put his hands around it and he exposed it to the Chicago market. Every time I think about Chicago, I always think about Pinkhouse. Pinkhouse was the main reason why I even came to Chicago.

Talk about that. What was Chicago like for you when you first came here?

Coming to Chicago was a very interesting moment for me because when I came, I had my hat cocked a certain type of way and I didn’t know the rules and regulations. And he told me, “Tony, man you gotta keep that hat straight (laughs). And I kept it straight ever since. So, for me, doing my journey as a young Black man from the inner city, raised by a single parent, establishing Suave House at 16 years old, seeing what I went through to establish [the company], and make it a force to be reckoned with. That was an accomplishment, but also I wanted to touch people I knew understood the music and understood where I was coming from and the importance of a young Black man that was a true, independent CEO and giving me the avenue to get my music heard. I’m from Memphis, raised in Houston, but Chicago is Suave House’s biggest market to this date. They supported everything Suave House did and I wanted to bless them [with the Feed Your City Challenge], the same way they blessed me.

With the conversation within the music business revolving around Black Lives Matter and supporting Black communities, what do you think it’ll take to get many of these CEO and executives from the major labels to support these communities like what you and many of the artists have been doing across the country?

I think they have to be involved with people they’re not comfortable with. Stop giving money to these organizations you think is giving the money to Black people, because they’re not. Nobody is holding these organizations accountable. Do business with somebody that has their finger on the pulse. A person that you know is in the music business that has been very successful in the business. Like right now, the Feed Your City Challenge, we’re in our ninth city. We’ve had eight of the top music artists host these cities without funding from the parent companies. [The artists] are giving the money themselves. Jhene Aiko gave money herself. Nick Cannon, himself. Rick Ross, 2 Chainz…Pee from Quality Control. 

Pee was on vacation in Mexico and he took a private jet back to Atlanta just to attend Feed Your City in Atlanta. He didn’t have to do that, but he did because he cares about where he’s from. He cares about the area. He wants to take [talent] from the area, but he also wants to give back to that community. See, white people want to come and exploit your community, but don’t want to build a library over there, never build a basketball court, never build anything. When an artist is dead, they say ahhh aahh ummm. If you wanted to demonstrate good character, you would have said, ‘I made a lot of money off that artist. Let me do something for that community as a token of appreciation for birthing that particular artist.’

I don’t think we’ve ever seen that before.

And you’ll never see it unless I do it and I am going to do it. That’s why I’m in Chicago. I’m going to every city that has blessed me and fed my family because every time I feed myself, I feed my family, my loved ones, it comes from my fans. My fans gave me the opportunity by buying my records. I had a dream, I had a drive, but without the opportunity, you might not have heard of Tony Draper. So, I’m always appreciative of people that have helped me, that’s why I want to help them. I’m in the best place I could ever be in my life. I’m 49 years old, I’m successful, I’m good. Bro, you want to know what makes me happy? Giving to somebody else. There’s another star out there that’s hoping and praying that they could get an opportunity and if I could give them that opportunity, I’ll give it to them. I don’t relish in the attention; I relish in the accomplishment. Let me help somebody. And if I help them and they become successful, they don’t owe me a quarter. I won’t sign them to a management deal or nothing. I just want you to acknowledge it and pass it on. See, we got to learn how to pass it on.

With the timing of this event brought on by the pandemic, how do you feel about it all?

I think it was God’s mission. With COVID that’s really unfortunate, a lot of people lost their lives during this pandemic. A lot of people have lost their jobs, their homes, their properties. My heart goes out to them. But if me and Ricky Davis can put a smile on a mother’s face, a father’s face and feed their children, that’s all I need. I remember me and my mother going to churches and food banks, walking with free government cheese, powdered eggs and we was happy. We were so happy, smiling and grateful. I think without that, I don’t think we would have made it to the following week. So, I’m always thankful for everything God blessed me with. I don’t think I’m special. I think that I had a plan and I stuck to my plan and made it happen.

Suave House has had a lot of artists who have always been outspoken about social and political issues, [similar to like an] Ice Cube recently. Considering that, and what you’re doing with these artists for the Feed Your City Challenge, do you think that the role of the celebrity today is to get in front of these issues or to fall back and support the people who're already doing the work?

I think it’s a choice. For me, I’m not a city official, I’m not a politician. I’m more comfortable with doing and getting my hands dirty on the ground. If I was in Chicago building houses for people, I would actually be there. I wouldn’t [just] send no money or send a crew there. I would be there. That’s how I feel blessed. I feel blessed by actually talking to the people and them seeing me out there distributing groceries. I feel good when a person drives up in their car and they pop their trunk and say ‘Draper?! You putting groceries in my car?!’ And they may be happy about ‘Space Age Pimpin’’ or ‘I’m So Tired of Ballin’’ or whatever, but just the mere fact that they were happy about me putting groceries in their car meant more to me than anything else. I think it’s a choice you make as an individual.

For a lot of people, some celebrities end up causing harm because their celebrity and actions might overshadow the actual issue.

You know what though? Without you being a celebrity, you might not be heard. So why not use that platform to be heard? I think LeBron James is phenomenal. I think Ice Cube is phenomenal. You don’t have to agree with him, but you have to respect him for speaking his mind and trying to get something for Black people. Nobody else did it! Nobody else took the initiative to write a Black America contract and present it to both [Biden and Trump] camps. So, I think that was a phenomenal move, whether I agree with it or not, it was still a phenomenal move. We got to stop with all this goddamn talking and do some action.

Draper and Davis’s Feed Your City Challenge will be arriving in Compton, California as their next stop on November 21.

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Interview: T.I. Talks Activism, Verzuz Battle, And His Desire To Produce A Biopic On His Life Before Fame

Although Tip "T.I." Harris has earned some very respectable stripes as an emcee for his successful rap career, the self-proclaimed “King of the South” moniker really began to take true form once he stepped into his community activism calling. He’s acted in blockbuster films opposite Denzel Washington, Paul Rudd and Kevin Hart, but his willingness to speak truth to power has shown an unwavering commitment to being on the good side of history, as opposed to choosing silence to secure a spot on the good side of Hollywood.

During this recent conversation, Tip talks about his upcoming Verzuz battle with Jeezy, politics, the Trap Music Museum, and his desire to make his TV/film directorial debut.

Be sure to check out his newest album, L.I.B.R.A available on all streaming platforms.

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Ziggy Marley's First Time Voting In America

No more long talking from politicians. Today, the people have their say at the ballot box. Judging by the number of voters who showed up early this year, the 2020 election is going to smash all records for voter participation. With a deadly pandemic, wildfires, floods, economic pressure, and a struggle for survival playing out from the tweets to the streets, the stakes have never been higher.

If you're reading this right now and you haven't voted yet, it's not too late. Get up get out and let your voice be heard. As Samantha Smith recently discussed on her IG Live, this year's election is too important to sit out.

Snoop Dogg will be voting for the first time this year—and he's not the only one. Ziggy Marley voted for the first time this year also and documented the process on social media. "I decided to vote and I wondered to myself why," Ziggy wrote on his IG. "Then I thought about those who came before, the price they paid. In part, I am voting in honor of them and to honor them, to not belittle their many sacrifices and struggles with my high jaded righteousness and indifference. Many brothers and sisters from numerous backgrounds and origins marched, bled, and died to give people like me basic rights in 🇺🇸 , the right to be treated like a human being, the right to vote."

As the eldest son of the Robert Nesta Marley aka the King of Reggae, Ziggy is part of a mighty musical legacy, but his father is more than a musical legend.  The new film Freedom Fighter—part of the 75th anniversary series "Bob Marley Legacy"—examines Marley as a symbol of human rights with a voice more powerful than any politician.

Ziggy has continued his father's musical mission as a solo artist and part of the Grammy-winning family group Melody Makers. His 2018 album, Rebellion Rises opens with a song entitled "See Them Fake Leaders," leaving no doubt about his views on the institutions of government. Still, Ziggy remains engaged in the political process, doing his part and encouraging others to do the same.

"Imagine if Martin Luther King Jr, John Lewis, and others thought, 'Voting rights? Civil rights? Who cares? What difference will it make?'" Ziggy wrote on IG. "Just imagine what the world would have looked like now if not for their sacrifices. Go ahead, imagine it. Can you see it? Well, what do you think?"

"To be clear voting is not the end-all," Ziggy Marley added. "It is a small piece of a puzzle and just one of the tools in our toolbox that we must use as part of a larger effort to bring positive beneficial changes for all people. The work must continue at maximum effort after elections regardless of the outcome." Ziggy emphasized that he was not voting for a party or a person for an idea. "Even though we have differences we can be better human beings, more united human beings, more loving human beings, equal human beings, just human beings. The politics will come and go left right and center but still through it all the humanity that we must show to each other is not negotiable."

Ziggy voted by mail this year, but for those of you standing in line today to exercise your right and let your voices be heard, Ziggy curated a special playlist for Tidal's "Hold The Line" campaign. Music to vote by—from Ziggy and Bob to Fela and James Brown, not to mention Public Enemy and Rage Against The Machine.

Ziggy Marley’s new album, More Family Time, is out now on all music streaming platforms.

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