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Brent Faiyaz on the Success of 'Sonder Son,' His Love for Lauryn Hill & Why He Plans to Stay Independent 'Forever'

The Grammy nominated crooner speaks to Billboard. 

For Brent Faiyaz, when it comes to stroking the pen, he's a star student. Though the Maryland upstart never valued the importance of the school system growing up, he was always adept at voicing his heartaches and somber realities with his pen and pad. His visceral takes on love and ambition are what allowed his 2017 project, Sonder Son, to win the hearts of R&B purists. With a buttery voice and indelible lyrics to match, Faiyaz had a memorable 2017.

Aside from the success of his project Sonder Son, Faiyaz became a Grammy-nominated artist after he, GoldLink and Shy Glizzy doled out an inescapable record in "Crew" last year. The DMV natives rattled the cages of the music industry with their unmatched chemistry and grit. Though the record failed to nab a Grammy for best rap/sung collaboration in January, Faiyaz was able to add another title to his résumé: platinum-selling artist. The record peaked at No. 45 on the Billboard Hot 100 and provided all three artists the first plaque of their careers.

After providing listeners a snapshot of his life on Sonder Son, Faiyaz embarked on his first headlining jaunt titled the Sonder Son Tour last month. With close to half of the tour wrapped up, Faiyaz plans to lock back in the studio and unleash more earworms for his eager devotees. Billboard spoke to the singer about the success of Sonder Son, the meaning of his "Sonder" tattoo, his love for Lauryn Hill, being a Grammy-nominated artist, and more.

Take me back to the moment you fell in love with music.
I’d like to say it was always there. If I could think of like a particular moment, I think it was when I got my first play keyboard when I was a little kid. I got a toy keyboard when I was around like five or six. I would be playing it, and typically kids be on that jawn for like five seconds and then go do some other shit, but I would just stick on it and mess with stuff and press the buttons and the different instruments and just do that all day.

On Sonder Son, the first track “Home,” there was a woman in the background playing your mom and she was talking about you being a troubled kid growing up. How did music grow to be an escape for you?

Music to me is an outlet where I can just let out feelings that wouldn’t be appropriate to let out on some everyday shit. Being a man, especially a Black man, I’m not about to walk around with my emotions on my sleeve all day, talking ‘bout my heart -- it’s just too much shit. I got too much stuff to do. Music is my one opportunity to let out how I’m feeling when I’m not talking to a chick or my mom, you know what I mean? It’s just venting.

Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
It was probably a rap. I don’t even remember the first one. It was some bad ones [laughs].

Ultimately, what made you transition from rapping to singing?
Really, [my manager] Ty. I was doing both, on my Lauryn Hill shit, I guess. There’s so many rappers out. I remember sending music around, sending emails all day everyday for damn near two years. Nobody was really giving me the response I wanted. The thing is, because it’s so many rappers, if I’m not referred by somebody, I don’t even wanna listen. Versus singing, somebody can press play, and like three seconds in you might be somebody’s favorite singer off of one song. You don’t gotta hear a whole catalog. It was a no brainer.

Even looking at it now, do you feel like you’re a better singer than you are a rapper?
I still got bars, I just use ‘em differently. I’d say I’m a better singer than I am a rapper at this point because I’ve been sharpening my sword. If I really hopped back into rapping, I’d f--- these n---as up.

Continue reading this story at Billboard.

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Russell Simmons Accusers Detail Sexual Assault Allegations In ‘On The Record’

On the Record offers a detailed look into multiple sexual assault allegations against Russell Simmons, fears that Black women have about sharing their stories, and the lack of intersectionality within the #MeToo movement.

In the 97-minute film, which debuted on HBO Max on Wednesday (May 27), former record executive Drew Dixon grapples with her decision to go public with accusations against Simmons, and the concept of “race loyalty” that Black women battle when they’re attacker is a Black man.

Directed and produced by Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, On the Record does a deep dive into the misogyny and sexism permeating through hip-hop. Of course, hip-hop has never been a monolith. The roots of the culture are steeped in protest, and although the genre didn’t invent misogyny or sexism (which is noted in the film), Black women have had an understandably complicated relationship with hip-hop.

“You stand in solidarity with the movement as a Black woman,” Dixon explains. “You don’t parse the sexism within the movement as a Black woman. We were so excited about hip-hop and what it meant that we laughed it off…and now that I’m older I realize that language set a tone. But I didn’t see it that way at the time.”

Dixon, a former A&R at Def Jam, began her music industry career in the early ‘90s as an A&R for Def Jam where she worked with the likes of Redman and Method Man, Tupac Shakur, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Mary J. Blige, and more.

One night in the mid-1990s, Dixon claims Simmons lured her to his apartment under the pretense of wanting her to listen to a demo track on a stereo located in his bedroom. As Dixon recalls, she walked into the bedroom and attempted to figure out how to turn on the CD player.“The next thing I know he [Simmons] is naked wearing a condom and he just grabbed me…and he threw me in the bed. He wrestles me to the bed and pins me down and I’m fighting and I’m saying ‘no!’ He’s telling me to ‘stop fighting!’ in a very cold, menacing, detached voice that I’d never, ever heard from him before.”

Dixon says she blacked out during the alleged assault. “Which is something survivors often do. It’s like a self-preservation tactic.” The next thing that she remembers is being naked in a tub with Simmons whom she says was casually talking to her as if they had had a consensual encounter. Dixon says she left his apartment, walked 22 blocks home, climbed in the shower and began to sob. “I was reduced to nothing. In that moment, I was trash. Nothing about anything that makes me who I am mattered. I was a physical object. A physical device. Some physical thing that he [Simmons] utilized for his pleasure.”

A few days later, Dixon says that she told a friend and former A&R, Miguel Mojica, about the sexual assault. She also continued working at Def Jam for a “little while longer” before resigning. Dixon went on to work at Arista Records where she says that she endured sexual harassment from L.A. Reid.

Reid denies Dixon’s claims calling the allegations “unfounded, not true, and represent a complete misrepresentation and fabrication of any facts or events alleged therein as having occurred.”

Dixon didn’t speak publicly about the accusations against Simmons and Reid until a 2017 New York Times interview. On the Record chronicles the moments leading up to the article's release, the NYT’s vetting process -- which included an extensive background check-- and the ripple effect that the experience had on Dixon's life and career, namely in that she quit the music industry.

“For 22 years I took one for the team,” she says of keeping allegations against Simmons quiet for decades out of fear of letting “the culture” down and not being believed. “Russell Simmons was the king of hip-hop and I was proud of him. I didn’t want to let the culture down. I loved the culture. I loved Russell too.”

In the film, Dixon also opens up about her children and the life that she built after the music industry. She split from her husband and moved from New York to California to start a new chapter. The film also features a discussion between Dixon and two other Simmons accusers, screenwriter, Jenny Lumet, and Sil Lai Abrams and activist writer, and former Def Jam executive assistant.

More than a dozen women have accused Simmons of sexual assault or misconduct, eight of which are featured in the film. Some of Simmon’s accusers share similar accounts to Dixon’s allegations.

“I have issued countless denials of the false allegations against me,” Simmons notes in a written statement featured in the film. “I have lived my life honorably as an open book for decades, devoid of any kind of violence against anyone.”

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George Floyd’s Family Wants Minneapolis Police Officers Arrested For His Murder

The family of George Floyd are demanding justice after the 46 year old was killed by Minneapolis police earlier in the week. Floyd’s cousin and brothers want the four officers involved to be arrested and convicted of murder.

“We need to see justice happen,” Floyd’s cousin, Tera Brown, told CBS This Morning. “This was clearly murder. We want to see them arrested. We want to see them charged, we want to see them convicted. He did not deserve what happened to him.”

In reactions to the Floyd's murder, tens of thousands of people took to the street in Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles and other cities around the country.

“I don’t want the protests to just be for show. I want to see action,” continued Brown. “I want to see these people pay for what they did. We need to hold them accountable.”

Floyd was described as an “amazing” person who was well loved and “never did anything” to anyone. “Everybody loved my brother. I just don’t understand why people want to hurt people, killed people, they didn’t have to do that to my brother,” said his brother, Philonise Floyd.

Two of the four officers involved have been identified as Tou Thao, and Derek Chauvin, the latter of whom is the officer who put his knee in Floyd’s neck as he begged for air and later died. All four officers have been fired.

Former NBA player Steven Jackson took to social media to pay tribute to his longtime friend whom he called his twin. “Floyd was my brother, we called each other twin,” Jackson said in an emotional video. “My boy was doing what he was supposed to do and ya’ll go and kill my brother.”

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Where we from not many make it out but my Twin was happy I did. I’m gonna continue to make u proud fam. It makes me so angry that after all the things u been through when u get to your best self that they take u out like this. Fuk Rest Easy Twin

A post shared by Stephen Jackson Sr. (@_stak5_) on May 26, 2020 at 7:04pm PDT

Minnesota is no stranger to police brutality. The Star-Tribune published a list of the 193 people who have died “after a physical confrontation with Minnesota police” since the year 2000 (excluding car accidents during police pursuits). The database includes Philando Castile, the 32-year-old cafeteria worker killed by a Minneapolis cop during a traffic stop in 2016. Castile’s murder was the first, and possibly only time, that a Minnesota police officer was criminally charged for killing a civilian, although the former officer, Jeronimo Yanez, was acquitted.

Watch the interview with Flynn's family below.

 

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Waka Flocka Flame Say He’s Dedicating His Life To Suicide Prevention And Mental Health Awareness

With the month of May being Mental Health Awareness Month, Waka Flocka Flame shared a major announcement with fans. The rapper and reality star is dedicating his life to suicide prevention and mental health awareness, he shared on Monday (May 25).

“I’m officially dedicating my life to suicide prevention and mental illness! Ya’ll not alone Waka Flocka Flame is with ya’ll now,” he tweeted.

Waka’s younger brother, Coades “Kayo Redd” Scott, died by suicide in 2013. In a follow-up tweet, Waka revealed that he’s slowly learning to accept his brother’s passing.

“You have no idea how it feel[s] to wanna [take] your own life man…my little brother took his own life man…and I deal with this fact every birthday because his birthday [is] the day after mines [sic] June 1st. This year I’m officially accepting the fact that he’s in a better place.”

The 33-year-old recording artist, whose other brother was killed in 2000, opened up about losing his younger brother in a 2017 episode of The Therapist, where he revealed that Kao tried to get in contact with him prior to committing suicide.

“Before my little brother died, I ain’t pick up the phone and I seen him call. I was like, ‘f**k lemme call Kayo back, as soon as this s**t lover.’ And I called him back, no answer.”

“What if I would’ve picked that call up? What the f**k is my little brother going through that made my little brother kill himself?”

 

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