Chance the Rapper Performs at the 2017 Firefly Music Festival
Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Firefly

Chance The Rapper's Summer 2017 Festival Footprint

With his heart matching his talent, it’s only right that his live shows exude the ampness he expresses on track after track.

The music festival circuit is one of extreme excitement for fans and artist alike. Getting to see the likes of a Kanye West, Pharrell Williams or Travis Scott out in a field with tens of thousands of screaming fans is like having a spiritual experience set to your favorite soundtrack. One such festival super star on the rise is Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper.

A short four years ago, Chancelor Johnathan Bennett released the project that would change his life in the form of a mixtape titled Acid Rap. The colorfully trippy cover art finds Chance wide-eyed and kind of shocked at being the center of attention. That look was short lived as he has embraced his newfound celebrity with confidence and responsibility. His passion for the music he makes is also matched by the charity he displays for those less fortunate. Thus, the 24-year-old has been given accolade after accolade for his donations, like the one million dollars he has pledged to Chicago inner-city schools. He’s so dedicated to The Chi’ that he’s even created his own festival there, the Magnificent Coloring Day fest, which was the perfect match for his 2016 album, the three-time Grammy Award-garnering Coloring Book.

With his heart matching his talent, it’s only right that his live shows exude the ampness he expresses on track after track. From the fan faves like “No Problem” and “Juke Jam” to “I’m The One” and “All We Got”, his fans know to show up to these festivals and show out with the energy. Even with Chance planning on hitting at least 20 fests this summer, the cancellation of the European leg of his tour only slowed his pace of performances by about five or six showings. The lightning bolt of charged up inspiration still managed to hit the States hard with stops at Bonnaroo, Firefly, Governors Ball, Essence and even his hometown’s home run show, Lollapalooza.

Chance’s younger brother and dope rapper in his own right, Taylor Bennett, has watched his big bro evolve from the other side of the fence...the family side. Speaking with VIBE's Stacy-Ann Ellis, Taylor gives us his take on fest life as an artist, some insight on Chance’s approach to festivals and why these large music gatherings are so damn dope for the “Bennett Boys.”

VIBE: What is the most challenging thing about playing festivals during such a busy season?
Taylor Bennett: I think the most challenging thing about festivals is the fact that—when you do a typical show, the fans, they’re all your fans. And then when you do a festival, a couple of them are your fans and then there’s a lot of people that their friends are like, “Oh no I want to go see Taylor Bennett at 6:50 pm, we gotta go see ‘em.” And their friend has no idea, so it’s a jolt because you get the explosion of fans that you typically wouldn’t get at your show, but you have to compete to win the crowd over.

When I went on tour with Tory Lanez, I remember every single night it was kind of a struggle to win over the crowd because they don’t know your name or music. It’s like you have to prove to them that you’re a good artist to get them rocking with you and even at that point it’s like you can’t expect them to jump around and go crazy on songs that they never heard before unless they’re on large amounts of drugs or something like that which I guess is the case sometimes. But it’s kind of different so you must rely on things like hand gestures like waving hands and stuff like that. You just have to prove you’re the best so I think that’s probably the most difficult part that you’re playing to at least 46% of the crowd that is not your fans.

This year, what festival were you able to win them over at?
The Firefly festival! That a very funny story so, me and Casey had never missed a flight but we missed one going to Firefly. And it was a big deal because we already were going to be cutting it very close because [for the Firefly festival] we had to take an Uber all the way to the city. So, the Uber was a two-and-a-half-hour drive and I think we drove from Philly or something like that to get to Firefly. But it’s a crazy situation because we were cutting it so close and we ended up missing our flight so we missed our original set. We called our booking agent and she got us moved to another stage which was a big inconvenience because all those people who came to see you think that you’re not there and you have to rely on the festival to get them to tell them what stage and what time you’re going on. I had a later set so I was competing against bigger artists that were playing at that time now because I’m trying to make sure that these people come out and I was worried about it.

At one point and time, I swear [about] 500 to 600 people all walked over to the stage. I was like, “Aww sh*t that’s a lot of people.” And then as the time gets closer for me to go on, the numbers keep accumulating and we ended up pulling out like 3,000 to 4,000 people. So, it was insane, I had no idea I had that many fans. I rap “The Field” verse which was before I even released it. The crowd went crazy and I went back out it was a couple more people there so it was about 4,000 people out there. I’ll never forget, I did “Dancing in The Rain” and when we did [that song] we had everybody put their cell phone lights up. And it was the perfect timing because the sun started to go down and there’s 4,000 [people] with their lights up and we’re all on one synchronized wave and it looks insane. It looks so crazy, I’ve never seen anything like that. So many people interacting with a song and everybody knew the words, it was literally crazy. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had, musically. That was my favorite festival for sure and my brother performed there too later that night, it was a crazy experience. It was my first show and festival with my brother so it was crazy.

Being able to watch your brother kind of go from his festival—or maybe what you saw him do, to his last one at Lollapalooza, what was it like seeing his growth?
What’s crazy is that this is Chance’s third year playing Lolla in a row. And every year from the beginning, I remember in his first year he brought out R. Kelly and they brought out all these doves and balloons into the sky and it was very cool. And it’s funny because I remember the first Lolla show that he did. To see him come now where he had these huge LED panels and he’s bringing out the whole—he brought out half the city at Lollapalooza, it’s insane just to see the production and the band. Now he has a whole band, he has The Social Experiment, he does songs with Kanye West and to see that [was] ridiculous.

What’s very funny is I think a lot of people misunderstand it. I definitely see it from a different perspective because he is my brother, but I think as a musician Chicagoans that have been to Lollapalooza for his first, second, and third year can see how crazy it is. Chance came up grassroots, complex just like me, so to see this guy that you possibly might have seen at his first show at Lincoln Hall or Reggie’s Rock Club when it was only holding 400 to 500 people....to see that and all of a sudden, it’s like he’s bringing out half the city and feels like you already know this guy. And I think that’s the feeling a lot of people get from Chance.

What is it like watching him create his own festival, Magnificent Coloring Day?
That sh*t is raw! I remember when he did the U.S. Cellular [Stadium] sh*t and he brought out Tyler the Creator, John Legend, Alicia Keys, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, [and] Kanye West. To do it wasn’t even just about the fact that he did it in Chicago and he put together a show that was huge, it was also about the fact that it was on the Southside. It was literally on the Southside and I remember that day I performed at [Common’s] AHHH! Fest. I remember Chance came out when he was the special guest appearance to perform before me, so I opened up before my set and he still went over there to do Magnificent Coloring Day. He sold out a baseball stadium! And he headlined over Tyler The Creator, Alicia Keys, John Legend, all these people that we grew up listening to, it’s just crazy.

Of all the festivals that you’ve attended, which is your favorite?
I think that Lolla’ has always been my favorite and I say [that] because one, I’m from Chicago and I’m biased. Two, to be in your city and you don’t have to perform, you can just relax, walk through the crowd, everybody sees you and people freak out, but then even on the stage, the stage managers know you. Chicago really takes care of Chicago and I’ve always had a great experience with other artists. I went to Lolla’ this year with Offset and the Migos and we had a great time. I got a chance to hang out with Yachty, of course, that’s my boy [and] he brought me out on stage, that was dope. And I saw Chance for the last three years of him playing and that’s always a huge thing. It was just a lot of fun and a really dope experience. I was hanging out with Towkio, we met up there and I’ve been working on some sh*t. I got to meet Amine, we kicked it and we transferred lines so we’re supposed to be working on some music. We just hung out with a lot of people, we really had a good time. Oh, and I saw my boy Wiz Khalifa. That’s my super homie and he always got me.

How can Chance top the Lolla’ three-peat at another festival?
I don’t know and I think that’s gonna be hard because it’s a hometown thing. It is Chicago. And I don’t even think he would enjoy it that much because I can tell when he’s performing that he—I bet it’s crazy for him. I know what it’s like to look off at a stage and listen to a crowd of people so I can only imagine what it’s like for him to look at the same stage every year, the biggest stage, headliner and see these things happen.

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Bonnaroo -Manchester, Tennessee- June 10th 2017

Set List
Mixtape (Rode pocket rocket onto stage)
Blessings
Angels
Juke Jam
Waves/Father Stretch My Hands/Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment cover)
I'm the One (DJ Khaled cover)
Favorite Song
Cocoa Butter Kisses
All We Got
No Problem
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights)
All Night
Finish Line/Drown
Same Drugs
Blessings (Reprise)

Eaux Claires -Eau Clarie, Wisconson- June 16th 2017

Set List
Mixtape
Blessings
Angels
Juke Jam
Waves/Father Stretch My Hands/Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment cover)
D.R.A.M. Sings Special
I'm the One (DJ Khaled cover)
Lost
Favorite Song
Cocoa Butter Kisses
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights)
Summer Friends (w/Francis and the Lights)
Friends (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights and Bon Iver)
All We Got
No Problem
All Night
Finish Line/Drown
Same Drugs
Blessings (Reprise)

Firefly Music Festival -Dover, Delaware- June 17th 2017

Set List
Mixtape
Blessings
Angels
Juke Jam
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights)
All We Got
No Problem
Same Drugs

Wireless Festival -London, England- July 7th 2017

Set List
Mixtape
Blessings
Angels
Juke Jam
Waves/Father Stretch My Hands/Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment cover)
I'm the One (DJ Khaled cover)
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights w/Francis and the Lights)
Summer Friends (w/Francis and the Lights)
All We Got/No Problem/All Night
Encore
Same Drugs
Blessings (Reprise)

Lollapalooza -Chicago, Illinois- August 5th 2017

Set List
Mixtape (Rode pocket rocket onto stage)
Blessings
Angels
Juke Jam
Waves/Father Stretch My Hands/Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy (Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment cover)
D.R.A.M. Sings Special
I Love You So Much (DJ Khaled cover)
I'm the One (DJ Khaled cover)
Interlude (That's Love)
Chain Smoker
Favorite Song
Cocoa Butter Kisses (with Vic Mensa)
Didn't I (Say I Didn't) (Vic Mensa cover w/Vic Mensa)
All We Got
No Problem
All Night
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights)
Summer Friends (w/Francis and the Lights)
Same Drugs
Encore: Blessings (Reprise)

Governors Ball -Randalls Island, New York- June 2nd 2017

Set List
Mixtape
Blessings
Angels
Smoke Break
D.R.A.M. Sings Special
Waves/Father Stretch My Hands/Ultralight Beam (Kanye West cover)
Sunday Candy
I'm the One
Favorite Song
Cocoa Butter Kisses
All We Got
May I Have This Dance [Remix] (Francis and the Lights cover w/Francis and the Lights)
No Problem
All Night
Same Drugs
Blessings [Reprise] (w/Ty Dolla $ign)

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Presented by Miller Lite

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Justin Newhouse

Filmmaker Coffey's 'About The People' Depicts Honest Conversation On Being Black In America

About The People, a short film created by New York City-based filmmaker Coffey is an ode to the power honest conversations about social justice, equity and race have within black and brown communities. The movie hosts a group of black men that hold court at a conference table to discuss how they can improve society for their kinfolk.

Their discourse concerns the social-economic inequalities that often grips black men at the hands of police brutality and lack of opportunity. In the end, a young black woman joins the conversation as well. Each character is named after their respective accomplishments in life.

There’s The Militant (Coffey), The Athlete (Akintola Jiboyewa), The Professor (Nashawn Kearse), The College Boy (Diggy Simmons), The Celebrity (Sterling Brim), The Executive, (Tyler Lepsey), The Preacher (Dorian Missick), The Author (Hisham Tawfiq), The Senator (Michael Kenneth Williams) and The Janitor (Ebony Obsidian).

Throughout the story, The Militant challenges The Preacher on his religious beliefs and optimistic viewpoint in believing that, through a higher power, all things are possible. Coffey, who grew up in a religious home in a small town in South Carolina, says his character’s defying ways were intentional. Through The Militant’s anger, he was able to release his own rage.

“As the co-writer, I could have been any one of those characters but I chose The Militant because I knew he was the one that was shaking up that room,” Coffey explains over the phone. “When you get that many brains in one room there’s absolutely no way everyone is going to say, ‘Okay everything is going to be joyful and we’re on the same page,’ it never happens that way.”

“There’s always a throw off in that room and it had to be The Militant, who ruffled some feathers,” he continues. “So, because I was pissed off in real life, I choose that character.”

About The People is inspired by a conversation Coffey had with his eldest son on police brutality. After not giving his son a curfew during the summer, he questioned why he would come home while the sun was still out. His son replied, “Me and my boys are making sure we get home before dark so we won’t get killed by the cops.”

That same fear plagues millions of black and brown men in America, where your skin color determines how much your life is worth. It’s a harsh reality, but it’s something Coffey didn’t want to shy away from. His first encounter with police brutality was watching the news of the L.A. riots after Rodney King was beaten by the LAPD in 1991. At the time, the world was a simpler place; social media didn’t exist, the Internet was in gestation and ubiquitous movements like Black Lives Matter hadn’t made CNN headlines yet. However, injustice was something that inevitably would enter Coffey’s life. It became clearer when he became a father in New York City.

“At that time I didn’t have kids,” he recalls when the L.A. riots were happening. “But the moment I did birth a child, which was here in New York that’s when it became like, ‘Okay my color is a problem because I’m a person of color, it’s already one strike against me which is crazy, but it’s reality.'”

In addition to discussing the conundrums that accompany being a black man in America and attempting to arrive at a consensus on how they can all make this situation better, there’s also a bigger topic at hand which deals with the inclusion of black women in this conversation. Near the film's end, The Janitor, a young black woman with an afro overhears their conversation. She’s intrigued by their discourse and takes it upon herself to jump in—unexpectedly, but with urgency.

Though she is met with opposition from some people in the group, they quickly realize she has the answers they’ve been looking for. She’s the missing piece to the puzzle they’ve been trying to complete. Historically, black women have played a major role in activism and have held the weight of the plight that swallows black men into a system that wasn’t made to protect them. But somehow don’t always get the credit they deserve.

Gillian B. White of The Atlantic breaks down this dichotomy in a 2016 article, titled Why Black Women Matter. “The necessity of black female activism, to me, is one of the most complex and important parts of this conversation,” White notes. “Black women haven’t been the backbone of agitation just because they wanted to be, but because oftentimes, they are the only ones who are able to.”

“Black men are America’s favorite victims. The country’s racial brutality and bias all too often truncate the lives of black men—either through death or incarceration,” she continues. “Even before the modern versions of mass incarceration, the war on drugs, and recent police violence, black men had targets on their backs. From lynchings to indentured servitude in coal mines during Jim Crow, the country’s legacy of taking black men’s lives and liberty has left black women to bear the burden of caring for families and advocating for justice for their fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers whose voices are often silenced.”

The Janitor was created in honor of Coffey’s grandmother and Angela Davis. Reminiscent of his childhood he decided to put the character in the end since his grandmother always had the last word. “The structure of the film is personal to me,” he explains. “My grandfather would have his friends over and they would drink and watch sports, and if there were problems it would be him and friends that would talk about these problems. But when my grandmother would find out they didn’t have the answer to these issues, she would provide the solution.”

In About The People Coffey creates an honest dialogue about what it means to be black in America and feel constantly oppressed by authority figures that are the direct product of white supremacy. The admission is universal considering how much of this world has been colonized by greedy European settlers, but its message is deeper than that. Money is another toxic element in the lethal poison where oppression and inequality are formed. Yet he made this film as a catalyst of hope—not to go against the powers that be.

“The honest to God truth is this isn’t written to go against any white people at all,” he says. “This is written for people of color, my kids and everybody else’s kids to try to follow these guidelines so it will be a better world for them.”

Special thanks to director Sterling Milan, Sincere Giles and Samuel K. Rhind.

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Courtesy of Endeavor Audio

Peter Rosenberg And Cipha Sounds Talk Juan EP's Return And All Things Jay-Z

Hip-hop podcasts are everywhere. Yes, everyone wants to be heard, but not everyone who wants to be heard is focused on moving the culture forward. Enter hip-hop nerds, Peter Rosenberg and Cipha Sounds. After a year hiatus, the duo is returning to these podcast streets with the Juan EP, where they bring their valid expertise on all things hip-hop.

Cipha and Rosenberg joined forces with Mass Appeal and Endeavor Audio to deliver comprehensive conversations about the culture, some of our favorite moments in hip-hop, favorite albums, best rhymes, among other things. During the podcast's first season, the DJs touch on who is arguably the greatest MC of all time, Jay-Z.

"I wanted to make sure we always kept the conversation about Hov’s rhymes," Cipha Sounds tells us in our phone conversation. "Don’t forget about how nice he is on that mic."

Drawing help from some of Shawn Carter's closest friends, Cipha and Rosenberg dig into Jay-Z's career to discuss his best collaborations, beefs and pinpoint moments of Hov's greatness. VIBE caught up with the fellas and chatted about the Juan EP, Jay-Z and much more.

VIBE: First, this has been bothering me for years. Who is Juan Epstein? Rosenberg: Juan Epstein came from the fact that Cipha and I got paired together. He's Puerto Rican and I’m Jewish. Juan Epstein was a Puerto Rican/Jewish character on the show, Welcome Back, Cotter. I never watched the show, I think Cipha may have been the one to tell me about the name. That was perfect.

The podcast has been on hiatus for a while now. How was the process of bringing the podcast back? Rosenberg: We’ve been wanting to bring it back for a minute. We’ve been looking for the right opportunities and the right partners. And we thought Mass Appeal was a really good home. And when the opportunity came up, it just seemed like a really good fit. We’re trying to do something right for hip-hop, and curated well, and do right by the culture. When Mass Appeal came up with an option it seemed like a perfect fit. It was a great excuse and forced us the get organized and bring it back.

Cipha Sounds: The reason I love this podcast is because it really is two hip-hop fans who were lucky enough to get paid from hip-hop, and we get to talk to some great people from the hip-hop community about hip-hop. There aren't any outsiders speaking about our culture. And we learn new things that we never knew before.

With you guys coming from radio, do you prefer podcasts over radio programming? Rosenberg: It’s a different thing. [Podcasting], it’s more in line with what I’m really passionate about. And it’s really fun. It’s two different versions of a similar thing. They’re both broadcasting, but this gets to be about hip-hop, and not the bullsh*t side, the gossip. This really is about the music.

Cipher: I don’t consider one over the other. I definitely like having long conversations with hip-hop artists.

Season One of the Juan EP is about Jay-Z. Why him? Cipha: Everybody always has all these conversations about the top five [MCs] and who’s the G.O.A.T. I wanted the same street corner, lunchroom conversation with some actual research, and facts from people who were there. People who handle the question with some real information. And also, it is fun to get people’s opinions on it. Of all the sh*t that Jay-Z does that influences the culture, whether it be becoming the first billionaire or marrying Beyoncé, I wanted to make sure we always kept the conversation about Hov’s rhymes. Don’t forget about how nice he is on that mic. Since we're talking Jay-Z, there was a time, well, at least in my hometown of Mississippi, where people were aggravated with Hov for frequently using B.I.G's rhymes.  Cipha: Let me answer this one. Let me tell you and all of your friends in the barbershop in Mississippi, every time Jay says a B.I.G. line, Biggie's kids eat. The reason he does it is because it pays for Biggie’s family to live the way that they should’ve lived if Biggie was still alive, so he pays for school, and homes all off of saying a line.

Wow. I didn't know that. Rosenberg: Yes, anytime Jay-Z samples a B.I.G. line, thanks to B.I.G.'s publishing, his family eats.

What are some of your favorite episodes so far? Cipha: My favorite is the Clark [DJ Clark Kent] episode. I loved how he broke down the details of how Jay-Z and Biggie met. For me, that’s something I’ve always wanted to know and I’d be like, "How will I ever, ever know that?" There’s no way. Like, I don’t know where it was. I don’t know who was in the room and basically to find out not only was Clark Kent in the room but basically orchestrated it.

At times, Jay-Z takes a lot of heat. For instance, this NFL partnership business. Some people have even said he's partly responsible for the gentrification happening in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn. Rosenberg: We talked a lot about Jay-Z's ventures and how he’s taken flack for some things. And Jay-Z the businessman is a different thing than Jay-Z the artist. We go into a lot of detail about the business and how he’s viewed, And we defiantly get into the question, on the episode, actually next week [on the Nov. 19th episode titled, "I'm A Business Man"].

Here's some fun Jay-Z stuff. To me, the best intro song in the history of hip-hop is Jay's "The Dynasty Intro." Let's debate this. I'm ready.  Rosenberg: I agree that it’s up there. I probably haven’t done the extensive research like you have. But The Dynasty is definitely one of my favorite Jay-Z albums, which is funny because first, it wasn’t a Jay-Z album, then it was a Jay-Z album. So I wonder did he have that intro on there already when it was just a Roc-A-Fella album or did he add it once it became a Jay-Z album? Who would I even ask?

VIBE: Guru.

Rosenberg: Was he around then?

VIBE: Bean’s first album came out before The Dynasty album...

Rosenberg: And Guru did Bean's album...

Cipha: Yes, but even if he wasn’t around... this guy is so strategic. I know that the Pharrell [Williams] record made him make it a Jay Z-album instead of a Roc [A-Fella] album, but that intro, it’s not long and the beat is not complicated. It's a simple hip-hop beat. Damn, we now have to do an episode about this.

Rosenberg: And that's what this show is about. For people who are interested in stuff like that. And this is the perfect time to dig into the podcast because all of the episodes are available. You don't have to wait for the next episode.

Hip-hop fans can tune into every episode of Juan EP below or on Stitcher, and Endeavor Audio.

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Sean Zanni

Swizz Beatz On Art Endeavors, 'Godfather of Harlem,' Son Painting His Nails

Swizz Beatz has already established himself a rap legend, with 20-plus years of production credits with hip-hop and R&B greats. But now, the passionate collector and curator is making just as much of a name for himself in the art world. He and his wife Alicia Keys have founded The Dean Collection, which loans pieces to museums and galleries around the world while advocating to get creators paid and introducing art to new audiences. Those endeavors continued this week, as their entity partnered with the Marriott Bonvoy and American Express for the platform, "Women In Art."

At an intimate dinner in New York City, the organizations honored Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels, director of the renowned Jack Shainman Gallery in New York City. Bellorado-Samuels worked with two artists, February James and LaKela Brown, who created two pieces that will be on display at the Dream Party event during Art Basel in Miami, Fla. Similar to his work in music, Swizz is always pulling the strings, both publicly and behind the scenes, to present valuable artists at their best.

But don't let his art endeavors make you think he's not still active in music. His 2018 album Poison was one of the year's best with collaborations with the likes of Nas, Lil Wayne, and Young Thug. This year, he's dropped weekly heat for the soundtrack of Godfather of Harlem, a new show on Epix starring Forest Whitaker as 1960s crime boss Bumpy Johnson. The songs have featured Rick Ross, DMX, A$AP Ferg, Dave East, Jidenna, Pusha T, and many more – and Swizz is overseeing them all as the executive music producer. VIBE spoke to Swizz about honoring women in art, creating a soundtrack without having finished the show, and his response to online controversy surrounding his son.

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VIBE: So what’s the occasion for tonight?

Swizz Beatz: Tonight is the announcement of the continuation of my partnership with Marriott Bonvoy and American Express with the Dean Collection. Tonight, we’re celebrating an amazing female force behind the creatives in the art world, her name is Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels. Then we have two accompanying artists that we’re celebrating that we added to the celebration, one’s name is February and the other’s name is LeKela. It’s an honor to celebrate these amazing women in art and have great partners like American Express, Marriott Bonvoy, and push the conversation forward.

The partnership first started with an interest in the Dean Collection and all the different things we’ve been doing around the world with the arts and giving back. American Express and Marriott Bonvoy felt it was a perfect opportunity to fuse the two together and make the message louder. Very organic.

Tonight, the event is honoring Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels. What made her the right choice for this?

She works with Jack Shainman, which is a very popular gallery.  Seventy percent of my collection in the past five years has been through that gallery, and she’s the person that’s behind the scenes dealing with the artists, all the phone calls and all the emails, but then also always showing up to everybody else’s events. So I thought, why don’t we celebrate the person who always celebrates? Just thought it was a great way to spotlight, give her an award, let her smell her flowers, let her know that she’s appreciated for all the work she’s done to give everybody else life in the art world.

We’re having a party called the Dream Party at the W South Beach, where the pajamas designed by February James and LaKela Brown will be premiered.

Are women recognized as they should be in the art world, or is this against the grain in that respect?

Man, there’s so much work still to be done. I think women in the art world make up three percent of the sales, so it’s our job to increase that number by any means necessary. It starts with things like what we’re doing now. Putting the spotlight and having a male, and also my wife, who’s a part of the Dean Collection, saying “let’s do something where women can feel special as well and boost the awareness so we can try to even out the numbers a little bit," just like everything else in the world.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

🖤🤓 I am super thankful to have been recognized for my work in the Art community by @AmericanExpress, @MarriottBonvoy, @TheDeanCollection, and my dear friend @TheRealSwizzz as part of their platform to support “Women in Art”. This recognition means the world to me and I am excited to continue being an advocate in the art community in order to help spotlight other women creatives like the insanely talented @LakelaBrown and @FebruaryJames. I’ll be unveiling more soon at Miami Art Week with #mbonvoyamex #AmexAmbassador #ad (but I mean it)

A post shared by JØɆØ₦₦₳ bellorado-samuels (@joeonna) on Nov 15, 2019 at 3:01pm PST

You also have a talk coming up at Art Basel with Kehinde Wiley. How did that come together?

Kehinde Wiley started an honors residency called Black Rock in Senegal. We went there for the opening to support him. This talk is raising money for Black Rock. Kehinde was the first artist to officially participate in No Commissions as an established artist, even when everybody was scared to do it. Just the fact that it was going towards Kehinde, I had to support him. He’s a real brother.

A few minutes ago, I said that I’m not in the art world, and you said that I can be. For someone who’s not a collector yet and who doesn’t have the means that you have, how would you suggest they get involved?

There’s a lot of information online, there’s a lot of gallery shows. And there’s art available for people of all levels financially. That’s one of the stigmas, that art is only for rich people. That’s not the case. Art is available for whoever wants it, it’s just the scale that you want to play on at that time. Get your entry point, and it goes up from the entry point. Just like No Commissions, you can get an amazing print from an amazing artist like Swoon. That money goes toward Heliotrope, which is a foundation of helping people, for $30. There’s no excuses. But in the near future, I have my technology coming out called Smart Collection, which is going to give people an entry point on how to really get it cracking.

You ever think back to when you first started collecting and think “man, I’m at the point where I’m getting artists paid, I’m speaking to one of the greatest artists in the world at Art Basel.” How often do you think about how far you’ve come in that respect?

I reflect on where I’m at now, but I still know that I’m only just beginning. There’s still a lot of work to be done. I’m happy that I was a part of bringing African American collecting--whatever we helped do, we’re forever thankful. But it’s about all forms of art. And all colors, by the way. Art has many colors, but I see none of them. I feel like a dope creative is a dope creative. We invested heavy into African American art because we weren’t owning enough of our own culture. We have artists from all around the world in our collection. So it’s pretty balanced out. It’s been fun collecting living artists and having a relationship with them and being able to do things like we’re doing here tonight with our partners at American Express.

You’ve done a great job with the Godfather in Harlem soundtrack songs every week. How have you been putting that together?

It’s been fun. I’ve turned every night in the studio into an event, and it allowed me to step out of the box. Every week you hear a different sonic, and it sounds like it’s for the show, but the show is based all the way back then but it feels now. I just got in my zone. I’m happy with where the show is going, it’s breaking records. I’m happy to be the executive music producer.

Are you watching each episode and breaking down plots for the artists to create songs to?

I’m just playing clips, and I’m letting them write to those clips. That’s why the songs feel like they were meant for the show. No particular order. I didn’t watch the whole series yet, I watch every Sunday as a fan. I didn’t want to ruin it for myself.

In recent weeks, your wife Alicia Keys posted about your son wanting to paint his nails but being afraid of being teased in school. How is he holding up, and how do you and Alicia foster a household that can embrace creativity and feminine energy?

We let our kids have their freedom. That incident she was talking about was a one-time incident. That wasn’t something he asks to do every day. He’s four years old. He’s in the nail shop with his mom, and he’s like, “That looks cool.” That’s art to him. Us as men, now, we all put our mother’s shoes on when we were younger. We were exploring. Name one person who didn’t put their mother’s shoes on growing up. We don’t cut off the exploration and give a four-year-old a label. My son is harder than most guys I know; he’s a real serious kid, to be honest. If you look at his Instagram, he’s one of my more serious kids. But he’s also open to express how he wants to express. Although as a father I’m going to teach him things to know to protect himself, I’m also going to let him explore himself. I am who I am because I was able to explore. We just live in a world sometimes where people want to put a label on something, but you can’t put a label on a four-year-old. My wife had a great message. It probably was misinterpreted, but she meant what she said, and I stand behind what she said. I don’t have any labels on my kids.

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