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The Evolution Of Hov: Revisiting JAY-Z's Iconic 'VIBE' Covers

In honor of our latest cover, we took a trip back into time. 

With Reasonable Doubt being discreetly delivered only three years after VIBE’s conception, we've had the pleasure of watching JAY-Z dominate the game from floor seats. Every step of the way has been a big one; from his days as an underground emcee waiting to bubble, to the untouchable “Jigga Man” at the height of the Roc-A-Fella Dynasty to now, a mature, lamenting, father and husband.

This proximity has led the Grammy-winning artist to the cover of VIBE on many occasions and at times, the author of his own journey.

Like any good student of music, we did some crate digging and pieced together a timeline of covers, feature articles, and interviews that show the divine evolution of the God MC.



"You Must Love Him" 

Apr. 1999

Written by Harry Allen | Photography by Carl Posey

With the release of Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life, JAY began to ascend to the level as one of the biggest names in music, redefining what American “pop” music was. Despite this new-found fame, Hov still shrouded his true self behind his braggadocios rap persona, electing not to do many interviews as they are “monotonous bullsh*t” to him.

However, for this 1999 cover story, JAY-Z stepped outside of himself to engage in a conversation with Harry Allen, where the ambitious artist expressed his goals as “The Jigga Man,” while giving fans a small peek into what makes him Shawn Carter.

Memorable Quotes

"[The goal is] to create a comfortable position for me and everybody around me. Like we doin’ with Roc-A-Fella. ‘Cause, like, blacks when we come up, we don’t normally inherit businesses. That’s not a common thing for us to have old money, like three and four generations, inheriting our parents’ businesses. That’s what we workin’ on right now. A legacy.”

“I know a lotta people out there going through the same struggles and the same thing I’ve been through. ‘You’re not a Martian, you’re not an unusual person. I understand your struggle. I’ve been through the same thing.’ And that’s what I think is happening right now. There’s a lotta people relating to my story.”

"JayHova's Witness"

Dec. 2000

Written by Kris Ex | Photography by Vincent Skeltis

After Vol. 2 mastered unthinkable heights, geared up for the release of his fourth studio album Vol. 3: The Life and Times of S. Carter. This period in his life was clouded with a contradictory sense of optimistic drama. Yes, JAY-Z was at the height of hip-hop with his thumb on the pulse of the music business, but this was paired with personal and legal issues.

Kris Ex is able to get Hov to give context his battles, while alluding to personal issues that he wouldn’t fully reveal to the public until later in his career. This feature begins to chip away at the rapper's shield of relatable but distant armor, giving readers their first true glimpse at the human side of hip-hop’s demigod.

Memorable Quotes

"I never thought success would be this hard to manage."

“‘I want you to imagine for a second growing up looking like someone and wanting to walk like that person and everything like that. You look at that person like that’s your goal in life, to emulate everything they do and then your mom comes to you like, ‘Well, we're about to get a divorce and your pop wants to disown you once you turn 18.’”

"In My Lifetime…"

Jan 2003

Written by Shawn Carter | Photography by Sacha Waldman

Having weathered the Stillmatic storm while creating his magnum opus, The Blueprint, JAY-Z is now on his seventh studio album, turning “Big Homie” from a clever ad-libbed moniker to his official status in the genre. In his seven active years, Jigga also found growth from Marcy’s favorite mercenary and transformed into the president of Def Jam. Yet, with this editorial written by Shawn Carter, himself, one can sense his distance from creating. He lets readers hear first-hand his views on success and his failures as an artist. Almost stripping away his egotistical rap alias. Almost. Because true to his know hubris, JAY-Z combats a few of these sentimental movements with a few witty gut punches at foes.

Memorable Quotes

"I was four years old, but I remember that morning clearly. As my mom left for work, she told me to wait ‘till she got home to practice riding my bike. My uncle had promised to put training wheels on the secondhand bike I’d received from my cousin, but he hadn’t gotten around to it. Me being the youngest of four I was determined to be independent and not spoiled. I took the bike outside and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and taught myself how to ride without training wheels. My Brooklyn block was watching in amazement. It was my first feeling of being famous.

I apologize. By no means am I perfect. I said some real mean things about Nas and his family on ‘Superugly,’ and I felt I was a man about that by pulling the record publicly, although that wasn’t a ‘gangsta’ thing to do."

"Hova and Out"

Jan. 2004

Written by Shawn Carter | Photography by Dan Winters

After less than 10 years in the game, Hova had clearly reserved his seat a top of rap’s Mount Olympus. Having used his legendary one-take wonders to create and deliver projects at an unprecedented rate, it seemed as though there wasn’t much left of JAY-Z to do as a rapper. This notion was felt by not only his fans, but the God MC himself as he announced he would be “retiring” from rap after his ninth album, The Black Album. This created mass hysteria within the world of hip-hop, making anything associated with Jigga of high demand.

And even though this decision to walk away from rap was respected, many people did not fully understand his reasoning. So, when asked by VIBE to pen a piece centered around the close of his career, Hova saw the article as a medium to explain his thought process to his fan. Jigga used the pages of this iconic issue like the soles of a freshly unboxed pair of Air Jordan 10s, implementing song titles the way Nike used MJ’s accomplishments to create a timeline that simultaneously explained his departure.

Memorable Quotes

"I can honestly say I'm bored with hip-hop. I spent a lot of time feeling uninspired. I guess I'm spoiled. I grew up in a time where you had Ice Cube and Brand Nubian releasing albums the same year. One was West Coast, gangsta, and political and the other was East Coast, stylish and political. Polar opposites, but still linked, with crazy support from the same fan. Now, no one makes an album anymore. As soon as they walk into their label's office, executives are asking for a single. I know I'm guilty of co-creating that format, but it gets dimmer every time it's copied. A rapper will do their ‘girl’ song, the ‘club’ song and their "gangsta white label." It's not about the music anymore. It's about reaching for numbers.

I lost. I got second place, which to me, then and now, was the same as coming in 50th.

I read Miles Davis did this – took a break – and I understand it now. It probably got to a point he felt he couldn’t hear what was being played, and he just had to stop. He didn’t play his horn professionally for a couple of years. I truly did this rap game to death. No one can be mad at me for putting it down."

"The Audacity of Hov"

Sept. 2008

Written by Elliot Wilson | Photography by Leann Mueller

After using The Black Album as a brilliant fade away, much was expected from his eventual revival, intense pressure that resulted in the blunder that was Kingdom Come. Questions began to swirl around whether Hov’s jump shot had lost its touch. Yet with the 2007 release of American Gangster, it was clear that the self-proclaimed “Mike Jordan of Recording” had traded the 45 for his vintage 23 in search for that sixth ring.

Even though Hov seemed to have returned with vengeance, a sense of maturity permeated through this piece. Not only did he discuss his relationship with Beyoncé and his political affiliations, he also accepted his position as hip-hop’s elder statesman, removing pride to welcome the newer generation’s cultural impact (something rap still struggles with). Thus, making his 15-question conversation with Elliot Wilson, reflective of the dynamic duality that is now characteristic of JAY-Z.

Memorable Quotes

"My goal is to make a classic album this year, and my thing is to take a couple jump shots in my layup line. I look at it like a sport, like basketball. And when I came out with Kingdom Come, I didn’t do that. I came off the bench cold. So once again, I don’t have regrets over here. I just think if I took a couple more jump shots I could have made it to where everyone could have been able to relate to it.

You should embrace the next generation. In hip-hop, you always fight the next person coming in because the person wants your spot… but as a person, as a competitor, that’s only natural. There was a time Kobe was like, ‘I think I can take Mike.’ I admire that in a way. The public has (Lil Wayne) next in line. That’s what the public says. So, why not?"

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CIRCA 1980: Photo of Bill Withers
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Bill Withers' Greatest Hits: Remixed, Sampled And Covered

The recent loss of legends in jazz, soul and classical music have saddened the music industry and reminded us of their touching gifts to music. The passing of Manu Dibango, Krzysztof Penderecki, Ellis Marsalis Jr., Bucky Pizzarelli and Alan Merrill brought endless tributes from peers and fans with the recent loss of soul singer-songwriter Bill Withers doing the same.

With a mirage of hits, the iconic songwriter left his mark on music with the release of his debut album Just As I Am in 1971. "Ain't No Sunshine" put a spotlight on his songwriting while 1977's "Lovely Day" reminded the industry of his signature vocals. Withers released eight studio albums, one live album and garnered three Grammys for his powerful songs that gave hope and love to fans to this day.

Hip-hop and R&B have gained the most from Withers as his music went on to inspire records like "No Diggity" by BLACKStreet, "Roses" by Kanye West and other songs from UGK, Dr. Dre, Jill Scott and more.

Take a look at some of Withers' finest tunes covered, remixed and sampled below.


8. “Lovely Day” | Menagerie (1977)

Sampled On: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999) LunchMoneyLewis - “It's Gonna Be A Lovely Day” feat. Aminè | Pets 2 Soundtrack (2019) Swizz Beatz - “Take A Picture” |One Man Band (2007)

Standout: T.W.D.Y., “Player’s Holiday” | Derty Werk (1999)

Short for "The Whole Damn Yay," the group used Withers' sample while throwing a splash of The Bay's laid back flavor. With cameos from future legends like E-40 and Ray Luv, the single already embodied the best of R&B and hip-hop with guest verses from Too Short, Mac Mall and Otis & Shug. The mimosas and yacht are also a great touch.

Covered By: Jill Scott, The Original Jill Scott from the Vault Vol. 1 (2011) Alt-J, This Is All Yours (2014) Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio 2 (2013) Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Standout: Kirk Franklin, The Nu Nation Project (1998)

Who was going to beat a chorus singing to the lordt? Franklin's take on the classic gives us stirring gospel and appreciation for Withers and God. There are plenty of covers that have lifted the same vocals as Withers, but the ones listed have put their unique spin on the track.

7. “Ain't No Sunshine” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001) Lil B - “Up And Down” | Based Jam (2012) 2Pac- "Soulja's Story" |  2Pacalypse Now (1991)

Standout: DMX - “No Sunshine” | Exit Wounds Soundtrack (2001)

"No Sunshine" served as the only single from DMX's film alongside Steven Seagal, which gave everyone the perfect backdrop to the movie and X's intricate storytelling. Both the original and flipped version points out the dark elements of our lives. Withers penned the song after watching the film 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses, he pondered over the toxicity in his life. "Sometimes you miss things that weren't particularly good for you," he said in 2004 to SongFacts. "It's just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I'm not aware of."

Covered By: Soul For Real | Candy Rain (1994) Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972) The Boris Gardiner Happening | Is What's Happening (1973) The Temptations | Solid Rock (1972)

Standout: Michael Jackson | Got to Be There (1972)

At 14, the future King of Pop gave a riveting cover of Withers' hit for his debut album, Got To Be There. From his vocal control throughout the track to the instrumentation, his cover takes the song to another level of heartbreak.

6. "Grandma's Hands” | Just As I Am (1971)

Sampled On: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996) Big K.R.I.T. - “I Gotta Stay” | K.R.I.T. Wuz Here (2010) Brother Ali - “Waheedah's Hands” | Champion (2004)

Standout: BLACKstreet - “No Diggity” feat. Dr. Dre and Queen Pen | Another Level (1996)

R&B heads are well aware of BLACKstreet's neverending ballads and the genius of Teddy Riley. But the pivot of their sound for their sophomore album Another Level was due to Withers and the William “Stylez” Stewart. Speaking to Fact Mag in 2017, the creator of New Jack Swing gave credit to Stylez for bringing him the sample of "Grandma's Hands."

“If he hadn’t played that sample for me, there would never be a ‘No Diggity’ And if he didn’t write it according to the melody I gave him so it would sound that way because I wanted it to sound funky,” he said. “I wanted it to be appealing to everyone, but mostly to women. I wanted every woman to feel like they were the ‘No Diggity’ girl and that song was about them and it came across. And now, still, today, that song plays and people are on that dancefloor.”

Covered By: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981) Merry Clayton, Merry Clayton (1971) Barbra Streisand, Butterfly (1974)

Standout: Gil Scott-Heron, Reflections (1981)

Gil Scott-Heron's version of the soul classic reminded us of his versatile talents. From spoken word to his vocal abilities, the Godfather of rap music always came through with his own sound and style. Reflections was one of four albums the late artist dropped in the 80s with critics looking to it as one of his finest projects. Other cuts from the album included "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" and "B Love."

5. "Use Me" | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012) J. Cole- "Dollar And A Dream II" | The Warm-Up (2009) Leela James - “So Good" | Fall For You (2014) UGK - "Use Me Up" | The Southern Way (1992)

Standout: Kendrick Lamar - “Sing About Me, I'm Dying Of Thirst"  | Good kid, Maad City (2012)

Lamar's take on "Use Me" blended right into the themes of his debut album, Good kid, Maad City allowing the artist to create another world on the project. To make things even better, Lamar also sampled Al Green's "I'm Glad You're Mine" for the track.

Covered By: Grace Jones, Indigo Nights, Live (2008) Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit  (2004) Issac Hayes, Dr. Dolittle Soundtrack (1998)

Standout: Mick Jagger feat. Lenny Kravitz, Wandering Spirit (2004)

On his third solo album, Jagger linked with Rick Rubin to test his creative energy, allowing him to work with Lenny Kravitz on their version of "Use Me." Colliding worlds was one thing but to hear Kravitz's vocals come in on the bridge, set the track apart from the rest.

4. “Kissing My Love” | Still Bill (1972)

Sampled On: J. Cole - “The Cut Off" featuring kiLL Edward  | KOD (2018) Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992) Masta Ace- "Movin On" | Take A Look Around (1990) Master P- "Bastard Child" | The Ghettos Tryin To Kill Me! | 1994

Standout: Dr. Dre - "Let Me Ride" featuring Snoop Dogg, RC and Jewell | The Chronic (1992)

"Kissing My Love" is one of most sampled from Withers catalog, thanks to its feverish drums. It's also why it fits into Dr. Dre's single and the G-funk era.

3. Grover Washington's “Just The Two of Us” featuring Bill Withers | Winelight (1981)

Sampled/Covered On:  Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997) Eminem- "Just The Two of Us" | Slim Shady EP (1997) Keri Hilson- "Pretty Girl Rock" | No Boys Allowed (2010)

Standout: Will Smith - “Just The Two of Us” | Big Willie Style (1997)

Touching and soulful, Smith's dedication to his eldest son Trey is just too cute for words.

2. “Let It Be” | Just As I Am  (1967)

The Original: The Beatles - “Let It Be” | Let It Be (1968)

"Let It Be" is a pretty special record. Aretha Franklin recorded a version a year before the release of The Beatles' version and Withers gave his take on the record in the 70s. Slightly faster, his upbeat take on "Let It Be" just hits different.

1. “Rosie” | Menagerie Re-Issue (1977)

Sampled On: Kanye West - “Roses” |  Late Registration (2005)

As the somber part of Late Registration, "Roses" brings us into Kanye's world where he contemplates the mortality of a loved one. It's a sentimental take on the sample and one of the artist's most underrated songs. It's also a hidden gem for Withers as it isn't featured on Menagerie's LP. It was added as a bonus track on

Enjoy the jams in playlist form below.

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Remain Calm: 5 Ways To Curve Negative Effects Of Coronavirus Isolation

Self-isolation during the coronavirus outbreak seems to be best practice in keeping our families and peers safe but it's also a shift in our normal social behavior. As millions of families around the country get adjusted to self-isolation, the state of our mental health and how our bodies react to the practice are changing by the day, especially lower-income and marginalized groups.

Speaking with Wired, John Vincent, a clinical psychologist at the University of Houston, shared how apathetic behavior can rise to the forefront, making space for anxiety and depression.

“People start getting lethargic when they don’t have positive inputs into their small worlds,” Vincent says. “We can expect depression to kick in, and depression and anxiety are kissing cousins.”

But the biggest reason behind the uneasiness isn't the self-isolation but just how long it will last. Details of COVID-19 are changing by the day with the most cases now coming out of New York. Yet, there's still little to no information on what happens next.

“Open, transparent, consistent communication is the most important thing governments and organizations can do: Make sure people understand why they are being quarantined first and foremost, how long it is expected to last,” Samantha Brooks of King’s College London told the outlet. “A huge factor in the negative psychological impact seems to be confusion about what's going on, not having clear guidelines, or getting different messages from different organizations.”

Uncertainty hitting low income and marginalized groups is also a problem within itself. As virtual parties and celebrities opening up on social media happen on a daily, there are people who might not access fun distractions on the web.

“Some people have posited technology as a means of connecting people, but lower-income groups might not even have FaceTime or Skype or minutes on their phone,” Thomas Cudjoe, a geriatrician researching the intersection of social connections and aging at Johns Hopkins University says. “People take that for granted, using their devices can be a strain on people’s incomes.”

To make self-isolation less than a bore or a daunting task, experts suggest creating a schedule to dictate control in your home.

1. Work It Out

Gyms are closed, but your home can be transformed into a personal training center. Use heavy bags for weights and if you can, create a playlist of workouts on YouTube. For those who have memberships for Blink or Peloton, the platforms have streamed their workouts on apps.

2. Mindful Meditation

Meditation isn't about dumping your thoughts, it's about staying aware and mindful. AQUA has developed online that leverages the power of "Mindful Meditation and Mobility Movements" for flexibility and fluidity in the body. Classes are free of charge but feel free to donate.

3. Take It Back To High School

Give your friends a call or indulge in a FaceTime party. Feel free to use the Wifi in your home to reduce the amount of data used on your phone. Lala Anthony held a too-cute FT birthday party for writer Kiyonna Anthony with a 70s theme. You can also find creative ways to hop on the phone with friends and family instead of constantly chatting about 'rona.


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We made the best out of our quarantine situation🎉‼️FACETIME 70s Party💃🏽🎉HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY NIECE @kiyonnathewriter ❤️❤️💃🏽💃🏽SHOUT OUT TO ALL MY ARIES ♈️ MAKE THE BEST OF IT!!!😘

A post shared by ℒᎯ ℒᎯ (@lala) on Mar 23, 2020 at 7:14pm PDT

4. Start A Journal

Journals just aren't for kids. The practice not only gives you something to do, but it fuels creativity and a new level of self-awareness. Former First Lady Michelle Obama recently developed Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice, with over 150 inspiring questions and quotes that connect to key themes in her memoir. The journal will also help bring readers to terms with the importance of family and personal reflections as well as the goals they'd like to make a reality.

5. Have a Dance Party or Enjoy Lo-Fi Beats To Quarantine To

If you don't have data or battery power to watch a virtual DJ party, make your own. If you have to pull out your record player, do it! You can also hop on your favorite streaming service and create a playlist all your own.

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From Teen Sensation To Vocal Bible: Brandy's 15 Best Songs

September 27, 2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the multiplatinum self-titled debut album by one of R&B’s greatest voices, Brandy Rayana Norwood, or simply Brandy. She was already well on her way to stardom prior to her debut as a background vocalist for Immature and one of the stars of the short-lived ABC series, Thea. However, it was the album Brandy that set her on the path to tremendous success.

Since officially bursting onto the scene in 1994 sporting her well-known braided crown of glory, she has been a force to be reckoned with. She was handpicked by her idol, the late Whitney Houston, to portray the role of the first Black Cinderella in the 1997 film Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her show Moesha was one of the longest-running black sitcoms. Brandy was also a CoverGirl in 1999 and became a friend of Barbie that same year when Mattel released the Brandy Doll. In music, she’s released six studio albums, sold more than 40 million records worldwide, headlined three world tours, and won more than 30 awards including seven Billboard Music Awards, a Grammy and the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award. Brandy deserves her flowers.

Let’s check out the top 15 songs that helped solidify Brandy as your favorite singer’s favorite singer (just ask Solange) and earned her the title of the “Vocal Bible.”

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