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Dennis Leupold

Tinashe’s ‘Joyride’ Is In High-Gear: “What I Want Is What I Need To Do”

The singer spoke to VIBE about her sophomore album, Joyride and more. 

It’s 48 hours until Tinashe releases her highly-anticipated sophomore studio album, Joyride, and the singer-dancer-pop-star has been lounging upstairs in her suite at New York City’s Roxy Hotel. That becomes crystal clear when she waltzes into the Roxy’s picturesque bar and restaurant wearing sweatpants and a beanie over her platinum bob.

Her breezy demeanor and get-up is quite different from the usually curated fashion and electric energy she brings to every live show, but there’s a reason for that. “So busy,” she exhausts in laughter. “I’ve been mentally preparing [for the album to drop]. Tomorrow I have to be up. I have rehearsal all day… I’m not going to sleep for awhile.” On top of the long press run ahead, she just performed on Good Morning America on Apr. 6. Through her weariness, the singer is inviting and ready to speak about the moment she and fans have been waiting three years for.

In 2015, when she first announced her forthcoming project, Tinashe was riding in the passenger seat of her own musical career. Joyride was expected to drop that same year, but it’s due date quickly became muddled by a string of misfortunes, including a cancelled tour and frustrations with her label, RCA. In 2016, she raised brows after accusing the label of prioritizing Zayn Malik’s debut solo album over hers. She kept on the media’s radar with a dreamy collaboration with Britney Spears and a stellar tribute to icon Janet Jackson at the 2015 BET Awards (Jackson requested her personally), but still no album.

Now, rocky road behind her, she’s scooted to the driver’s wheel, and the view looks pretty glorious. “I feel more confident than ever before,” she asserts, sipping her mimosa in a booth in the corner. “I feel like I’m in a really good place mentally, like the universe is going to align with my energy. I’m putting those vibes out there.” Well, the stars are in formation, and Joyride has finally arrived (Apr. 13). Tinashe spoke to VIBE about the method to her madness, navigating her 20s, and the path to self-discovery in her music and self.

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VIBE: First of all, congratulations because you’re in the home stretch! But let’s start with your first single off the album, “No Drama.” Was there a feeling or inkling that you had to choose that track as the lead?

Tinashe: I felt like it had something to say. It was power, in your face. It made sense coming back off of a hiatus. It was important to speak to my situation. It had that crazy energy. It feels so urgent and energetic. When we recorded the song, I was like ‘we need to put this song out this week!’ And when we added Offset, it added more energy to the track.

In an era where rollouts for albums are so rushed and chaotic, you did a nice job of leading up to yours, with the string of singles and visuals. Was having a clean rollout part of the vision?

I have had several rollouts of other singles in the past, that haven’t been as well thought out and planned. It was important when we recorded this music this summer, that it was presented in the right way, to the point that we held things back along the way until everything else was ready. That was really important to the presentation and making it look complete and making it look like everyone on the team was on the same page, as opposed to just throwing something out there and seeing what would stick.

I wanted to do Joyride the justice that I felt like it initially deserved.

So, we finished the album over the course of July, August, and around September and October is when we started curating the art around it, shooting the videos, getting all of the photoshoots and the creative vision together. And then over the course of the next months, it was fine-tuning. I think that was really smart. It felt good.

The album definitely sounds like a solid, cohesive body of work. But in particular, you seem to have the slow-burning club songs down to a T. They’re slow and sultry and unconventional, but still work perfectly in the club.

Maybe that’s just tapping into two sides of me that are both equally important. It’s having that energy, stuff that you can dance too… Dance is such a big part of what I do and how I express myself. So it’s important that a lot of my music has that danceability factor. But then at the same time, historically, I’ve really loved creating vibes and moods and music that feels sensual and dark. So, it’s combining both of those things together.

Are you a perfectionist when it comes to your live performances?

For sure! My live show, it’s such an important aspect or element of who I am as an artist that it’s really critical that the live show is representative of who I am because that dance element and connecting with the fans is so crucial.

If we were to lay out your discography – Aquarius, Nightride, etc. – it’s pretty easy to find the differences between them in terms of theme and mood, but what would you say is the difference in regards to your artistry and technique?

I created music from a different approach with this last go around. I was more purposeful on how I would finish tracks in determining which elements I could improve and which elements were still missing. This project also has a lot more energy than pretty much every other project that I put out in the past, which was a conscious effort for sure.

You know better than any of us how strenuous this process was, why did you choose to hold onto Joyride as the title?

For a number of reasons. I still felt like it truly represented where I was in my life, what I’m going through. The concept stuck with me as far as the highs and lows, and enjoying the journey and taking it as a young person going on this adventure through life. A lot of it was pride and not wanting to quit on something that I started. I wanted to do Joyride the justice that I felt like it initially deserved. I felt like it would have felt like a really unfinished piece of the puzzle or something that would’ve felt incomplete.

Was there anything that you did distinctly different as far as vocals, techniques, etc?

I used a wider range of vocal stylings on this project. There’s a lot of tracks that are in my lower register. There’s also some tracks that are completely in a higher register, kinda playing with different vocal techniques.

In my career and in the rollout of this project, there were highs and lows. There was super fun times. There was discouraging times, times where I felt like I had to come into my own and be a woman and own my intuition.

There’s belting songs, softer songs. Even a lot of my projects and mixtapes in the past have been more sultry and the vocals come from a softer perspective. These vocals have more body. There’s a lot of usage of things I learned along the way and things I wanted to experiment with.

So, you built a studio in the Hills to work on the project, Right? How did that change the dynamic of your creative process?

Yeah, it really changed everything for me. I feel like it was the really big turning point because I had all of these thoughts and songs… I had been working on the project already for almost two years at that point. So I had a lot of material, but I just felt like it was discombobulated. I needed to focus and hone in on what I was doing to finish it to the best of its ability. So having a home base that was centered around creativity and creating music 24/7 helped organize my thoughts. It made me more purposeful because I had a better understanding of what I was working with, what I needed, where I wanted to go.

Did you ever feel like it was hard to separate the artist from the regular girl because you were essentially eating, breathing, and sleeping out of the same place you were creating?

I don’t know if it’s separating it necessarily, but there’s something to be said for recording songs with lots of different people in lots of different studios and locations and you have bits and pieces of things that you like, but not full songs that you really love. You can feel sometimes that it gets a little out of hand and you need to reel it back in and focus on the pieces that you love. How can you make them better? For me, I’m much more comfortable working in a home studio environment. Even if I get something that I really like, when I bring it back into my own personal space, I can elevate it even more.

What was the best memory from working in the Hills?

It was the summer house. We called it the “Hollywood House.” My friends would come over all the time. We would have Taco Tuesday parties. I would cook tacos and invite everyone over, and we would have a really great energy. We’d wake up in the morning, and we’d go down to the Chateau Marmont and have mimosas and then come back and work all day. Go out to dinner, then come back and work all night. Everyone was so positive, and we were having so much fun there. I gained a sense of confidence knowing that I did this. I can get this awesome house and live this cool lifestyle and make music.

Did you find parallels between the process of finally dropping this album to being in your 20-somethings and navigating your own life?

Absolutely. That’s why the concept is so important to me. In your early 20s, there so much uncertainty as far as what’s going to happen next and where’s my life going to go. ‘Where am I gonna live? Who are my friends?’ There’s so much newness that happens all the time. There’s highs, there’s lows. You’re able to have so much fun, but then you’re juggling responsibilities. All of that, is reflective in the music.

At the end of the day, I don’t feel like I fit into any of these genres perfectly, and that’s truly what makes me the most fulfilled as an artists is to dabble in different things and have different influence, and not have to stick to one sound all the time.

In my career and in the rollout of this project, there were highs and lows. There was super fun times. There was discouraging times, times where I felt like I had to come into my own and be a woman and own my intuition.

When you say “be a woman” and “come into my own” do you mean as far as speaking up for yourself and voicing your opinion?

Yeah. It’s not even necessarily speaking up but coming to your own conclusions yourself and owning your own instincts and trusting in yourself and creative power. I think that’s something that is always important to continue to maintain. It’s easy for that sometimes to get derailed, and it’s important to come back to that.

Do you think that it’s particularly hard to navigate that as a female artist?

Yeah, absolutely. And when you’re coming into your sophomore album, it’s a completely different set up than the first project. You have all the expectations of the public, people inserting their opinions – from the media to the fans and the label – about which direction you should take. That can definitely play into how you view your own music and path. I think it took some time for me to truly understand what I want is what I need to do. I need to follow that gut instinct.

Do feel like your fans’ impatience clouded your judgement in terms of creating your vision?

For sure. I’m the type of person that doesn’t like being told what to do. Fans are like, do this, put out the album, make it sound like this. And then I’m like, ‘Screw you guys! I’m going to do what I want. And sometimes that’s not even what I want. It’s just a reaction to feeling like people are trying to control me or box me in.

In interviews, people always seem to ask you whether you’d categorize yourself as a pop star or and R&B singer. Do you ever think people don’t understand what a pop star is?

Yeah, there’s a categorization issue. Being a black woman adds to the confusion. Coming from a place that’s “urban” or rhythmic, confused people initially. To me, the pop stars that I always look up to, were the Britney Spears’, the Christina Aguilera’s, the Beyonce’s. That’s what I viewed as a pop star. So when people started to minimize me and make me an R&B or this or that, it would just rub me the wrong way. Now, I just try to brush off all titles and do me. At the end of the day, I don’t feel like I fit into any of these genres perfectly, and that’s truly what makes me the most fulfilled as an artists is to dabble in different things and have different influence, and not have to stick to one sound all the time. It’s super boring.

What advice or words of wisdom would you have given yourself before jumping into this journey?

Be patient. I would always get so excited about the new music. I’m like, ‘It has to come out now!’ That at the time felt like the best case scenario. But in hindsight, it’s like you see the time that it did take was important for my creative evolution. So, appreciate the time that it takes, appreciate the stuff that you go through. I think the other thing that I’d tell myself is that nothing is really going to go according to your plan, and that’s alright. When things don’t happen the way that you expected them to happen, it’s not the end of the world. Just re-evaluate and keeping pushing forward. That’s life. And also, none of this stuff matters as much. At the end of the day, it’s just about the fact that I’m still able to create my music, maintain my business, travel, and play shows. That’s really the dream. I’m in it, so enjoy it.

What’s the vision behind the album art?

I wanted it to be all from a futuristic perspective. I wanted to take the Joyride concept even further, to say it wasn’t just a ride through this world, but a ride through time and space. You’re creating your own universe. I’m creating my own destiny, and Joyride universe, and taking that out of this world in a sense. Say, we’re on this crazy adventure, and I wanted the art to represent strength, power, and confidence from a body perspective. I also wanted to mirror Nightride in the sense that they both have this silhouette. And then adding the element of cyborg robot is representative of me creating myself and being the master of my own universe. It’s really out there.

As an artist the journey is probably never finished, but as Tinashe, when do you think you’ll reach your full journey of self-discovery?

I don’t know if that ever stops. That’s probably what always keeps me going, is that I have this hunger and drive to improve upon myself, not even as an artist but a personal level. Just to become a more well-rounded person, more confident, and more happy and calm and centered. All of those things play into how I go about creating my music. I feel more confident than ever before. I feel like I’m in a really good place mentally, like the universe is going to align itself with my energy. I’m putting those vibes out there. I’m still growing and evolving and looking to forward to how I will continue to do that in the future.

What do you want your fan base to take away from this album as far as you and your growth as an artist, and what do you want them to take away for themselves?

So, I would like them to take away from me, that you don’t give up on something. This project really did come out. That I’m a real artist. I feel like there’s this weird misconception that if something feels more mainstream that it’s less artistic or less respectable, which is not true. The same energy or thought is going into these as well. So, I would like people to respect the art. And then from their own perspective, I think the music itself speaks to this level of confidence. It’s important for me to give people a sense of escapism. When they listen to this project [I hope] it makes them feel good regardless of factors in their life. I want them to empowered, sexy, like they can have fun. Even the more vulnerable songs, they still come from a place of power.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

20 Minutes With Davido: The Afrobeats Giant Talks Confidence, Timing And Strong Foundations

Davido can’t sit still. Maybe it’s early afternoon energy or impatience or knowing that his press rounds for the day aren’t winding down for some hours. Or maybe it’s just the fact that he’s sitting on what he considers to be an audio goldmine. David Adeleke, the gifter of astronomical hits like “If” and “Fall”—two-year-old songs with gravity still strong enough to pull Snapchatting wallflowers and clumsy dancers to the center of the floor—knows there’s much more where that came from.

“It's an album for everybody, I'll say,” he says of his forthcoming album, A Good Time, with a smirk. “I feel like everybody will have at least three songs they love in different genres.”

Technically speaking, the Atlanta-born and Lagos, Nigeria-raised artist has made a moderate splash on the Billboard charts, the metrics most artists use to quantify their success and measure progression in the industry. (In 2019, “Fall” became the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history thanks to admittedly delayed radio push.)

However, Davido’s worldwide footprint speaks louder than a few hard figures. This year alone, he’s sold out shows as intimate as nightclubs and massive as London’s O2 Arena, rocked sets at Essence Music Festival and Hot 97's Summer Jam, and was an international headliner abroad at Oh My! Fest in the Netherlands, Afro Nation Portugal, and eventually Afro Nation Ghana alongside afrobeats greats he can safely consider peers.

July summoned his album’s breezy lead single “Blow My Mind” featuring Chris Brown, and a burst of new guest spots this month are carrying that same fresh energy into October. Davido was featured alongside Jeremih in “Choosy,” a new release from Fabolous, as well as on Brown’s “Lower Body,” a newbie on the extended version of his Indigo album. To say he’s ready to fan the mainstream flame with fellow afrobeats and afro-fusion hitmakers is an understatement. “Let us in, open American doors,” he jokes, knowingly. “We will finish everybody.”

In between banter about the turnup we’re missing in West Africa—trust, December in Africa is a thing—Davido opens up about his A Good Time (a genre hodgepodge guaranteed to please), the source of his success (part luck, part work ethic), and afrobeats’ undeniable global appeal.

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VIBE: Tell me about how your 2019 has been so far? Davido: 2019 has been a journey. It’s been the longest time that I’ve spent away from Lagos probably since I came to school in America. Reason being, just wanted to focus and get new energy, new environment to record the album. There’s just so much going on back home, so we’ve been out here the whole year, basically. “Fall” blew up and then we just came out here and worked with it. That album is about to come out and it’s gonna be crazy.

Given the momentum and expectations that come with it, are you more excited or nervous about this next album? I’m not nervous because I’m confident about the music. I’m just anxious to see what the next stage is, the next step. I like to challenge myself. When you reach a stage, you want to challenge yourself to reach higher stages.

You said it’s been the longest time you’ve spent away from Lagos. Is that a good or bad thing? No, that’s good. To me, it's a new energy. The people miss me, of course, but sometimes it's good to be away. To just step back and see where you’re at in your surroundings and stuff like that. I think every artist needs that.

Sometimes when you're too present, people think they know what you're going to deliver. Exactly, and me being out here recording, all my producers I flew in from Nigeria. It's not like I left my team. The whole team is here, so people ain't really heard the music. Back home, in my studio, it's like everybody comes through, so I can imagine recording my album back home, four or five of the songs would have probably leaked already.

You had a great year and so has music from African artists. What has it been like to watch that happen, to see us latecomers catch on? I felt like it was always going to happen. Even when I was in school in Alabama, when I used to play Nigerian songs from artists that were the top artists then—they were the biggest artists, like D’banj, P-Square—when I used to play their music in my dorm room, my American friends would love it. I always knew it was a thing that once America heard it, they would love it. Afrobeats, you hear it once, twice, I promise you, it's going to ring. So I feel like it was just for the people to hear it. Give us a channel to be heard. Radio, now you have social media. Back then all those things weren't in place. Now you have things in place where even if it's not in your face, one way or the other, you can find it. I think if you had all those things back then, social media and the support, it would've been the same.

 

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Were you frustrated with how long it took? Not really, because we've got our stuff going back home, too. You know what I'm saying? Even me today, I make most of my money from back home. And even before afrobeats got mainstream in America, we’ve been coming to do shows. I did a show in New York in 2013 to 5,000 people, and this was when I didn't have most of my big records I have now. Sold it out. But now it's mainstream. You have Live Nation now partnering with us to do shows. Back then it was just like local promoters selling tickets at the clubs and we still had the numbers. Now, our fans can put on the radio and hear us.

It even gives them more confidence. Confidence to be like, you know what? Let's go out and support this culture. So that's why the Afro Nation festival in Portugal, it was bigger than Coachella to me. It just shows that you just needed that platform, and then the fans needed the confidence to come out and really support. The next step now is getting the fans to buy the music because we have the numbers, but you've got to come out and buy it. That's the only way we can really break. The music is spreading. It's on the radio. Everybody’s doing shows. Everybody's touring, but now the next step is getting these sales up.

In a way, that’s most artists’ problems now. Touring is the moneymaker. That and streaming. There's nothing really wrong with streaming. That is why they want us to appeal to the Western crowd because those people buy music. Those people buy merch, blah blah blah. But we have to do what we know how to do. So the Western [crowd], they're actually buying it, but we need our real fans to come and be like, yo, Davido album dropping. It's a campaign—80,000 copies the first week, let's go out and buy. Look at the Latin industry. They're doing numbers. So apart from the music getting big, I feel like, yes, the music is getting accepted, but where are the numbers? When you walk into a building, it's all about numbers. It's not about if your music is sweet or this, or that—it's all about the profit. That's what we'll be working on getting up.

What are your thoughts about seeing really large artists pay so much homage to the afrobeats sound? I mean some people find it offensive, but I actually don't. I mean, first of all, people in Africa do hip-hop, right? So you can't come and say these people are taking our sound when we have artists back home doing trap, doing all these things. I feel that everybody should feel free to do what they want to do, but maybe it won't hurt to evolve. Like, I feel like it was nice how Swae Lee had Tekno produce that record for him and Drake, stuff like that. And they have more of our producers more involved in the sound because those are the ones who really know how to get the sound. Yeah, I think the producer side needs more shine but apart from that, doing afrobeats is [for] everybody. Any artist is free to do any kind of music they want.

Who are some of the producers that we should know? Give us a starter list. I mean, first of all, Shizzi, that's my producer. He did most of my stuff. And we have Kiddominant, that's my other producer. And we have Speroach, this dude Rexxie, he's the one that's doing all the Zanku songs. So he's going crazy. But I feel like they should bring all these artists out here, get a camp, put 'em all in one room and trust me, they'll make magic.

Do you still consider yourself an afrobeats artist now? Some of your counterparts like Afro B and Burna Boy have classified themselves as afro-wave or afro-fusion. I'm just an artist, man. I'm just a musician. Every kind. Of course I do afrobeats, but I'm just a musician. Worldwide musician. World music.

You mentioned the Latinx music scene. Is there anyone you’re looking to collaborate with from that space? Bad Bunny, Maluma. I really want to work with them. I might get a studio session with them when I get back from Nigeria.

How would you say your sound has progressed over the years from your try at making music to now? Of course [when] you're growing, you learn. Sometimes I don't even listen to some of my earlier records, even though I always used to put a lot in my records so it's not like that shit was whack. It was cool but I can see the growth and the quality of the music. Back then we didn't really focus on our sound and mixing and mastering. We’d really just record, next day release. Right now, it's a whole package and music has to be perfect. Right now, they’re playing Nigerian music on the radio, African music, and after African music, they start playing American music. You don't want the level of the quality to drop. And planning. I'm at the label now. Before I could just wake up and just drop, but now they gotta submit the single two weeks before. You know how it is. So, of course, it's way different now from like four years ago.

What else have you learned about yourself personally and the way you work? I'm really, really, really free with my work. I don't really bother myself with strategic planning and stuff like that. What's most important to me is the music. Once the music is good, I feel that's really all you need. And, of course, a good team around you and they're doing what you want. Connect with your fans. Very important, connect with your fans. Don't lose touch of home because that's your foundation, really. Without that foundation, you can't really be big in America when you don't have that foundation in Nigeria. An example is, I've known a lot of American artists for a while who are bigger in America, but when they came to Nigeria they saw the love I get at home. Then coming back is like, the respect is different. They'd come and they were like, Yo, you're the president. You know what I'm saying?

When was the first moment that you realized where you stood with your hometown? That they would be such a solid support system? That was probably for my first song, really. From the first record, man, it's just been love. Davido this, Davido that, negative, positive, negative and whatever.

Negative? What's the biggest critique you've seen of yourself? I don't know. Probably my voice. That's the worst I can think of. I can't think of nothing else.

What's the most memorable place you've ever performed? I've got a couple places. O2 Arena [in London]. I just did [Madison Square Garden] with 50 Cent [for the Power premiere]. That was cool.

Walk me through that. He [50 Cent] brought me out. It was just crazy cause I ain't really met him before. I met him at the pool party or something like that, when I was performing at the pool party, and the reception when I performed was crazy so I think it got his attention. The next day he called me up to perform at MSG.

And then in July, you headlined your first international festival. Oh yeah, yeah. Amsterdam. Yeah. Oh My! Festival, and then Afro Nation, too. This summer was lit, but next summer is about to be dumb lit. This fall's about to be lit. Album's coming October.

One thing I notice about you and the progression of your career is that it’s fueled by a strong sense of faith and confidence. Where do you get that? It just depends, man. Honestly, it's not even confidence. I wouldn't say that Nigeria spoiled me, but like bruh, they just showed me so much love. Like, I didn't really go through like a lot of things. I just dropped and it just took me... I didn't really have to overkill myself. They just kept me there. I don't know why they liked me so much, (Laughs) but they just kept me there, kept me comfortable, kept me confident. Always came out to all the shows, supported all the music. It's just love, everywhere is love. Even the love for Davido spreads to everybody around me. My family members.

Have newer artists in Nigeria or on the continent asked you for advice? If so, what do you tell them? You have to be very hardworking and ready to play the part. That's what they're always asking. But everybody has their different ways of getting to where they need to get to. My way might be different from somebody else's way, but most importantly is just be ready to work hard and the music has to be good. Once the music is good, get your team right, and just work hard. I feel like the other steps, you kind of figure it out yourself.

Who do you think is next up in terms of afrobeats artists?  I mean, there's a lot of other artists. It's like 500 of us. Let us in, open American doors, we will finish everybody. There is a lot of us. I feel like before you stand up and leave Africa, like, yo, I'm going to chase the dream in America, I'm going to chase the dream in Europe, you have to make sure your foundation, your home is super strong.

Is it still a goal to capture or change up the American market? No, not [to] change it, we just want to join it. Add us. We should have our own chart, I think. You know what I'm saying? Like if reggae could have their own chart, I think we can have ours, too. Or let us in the main chart, something. But I feel like it's gonna happen, man. It's been happening, man. Most importantly, I'm happy that American artists themselves open their arms for us as well. I got a lot of records dropping that are not even myself, they're their songs featuring me. Stuff like that helps us as well.

What can we expect from the new album? Just a lot of good songs. It's an album for everybody, I'll say. I feel like everybody will have at least three songs they love in different genres. It’s going to be 13 songs. Well, I’ll probably have "Fall" and "If" on there, so it's really like 11 new songs. But yeah, it's going to be an album for everybody. Trust me. Every type of song is going to be on there. Predominantly afrobeats-infused, of course. Mainly my producers and a lot of your [American] producers, too. With features, me and Chris got a second record.

And lastly, since you speak highly of your foundation, what is the best thing about Nigeria? The people. The attitude, rich or poor. It's just a jolly place. You would laugh, comedians everywhere. There's some bad, bad spirits sometimes, (laughs) but for the most part, it's a very beautiful place.

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Nickelodeon

How 'My Brother And Me' Resonated With A Generation Of Young Black Men

In terms of cultural impact and influence, the '90s ranks as one of the defining decades for black entertainment of the past century. This proves particularly true in the realm of television, with a number of landmark programs debuting that reflected the life and times of blacks in the urban community and beyond. While the '80s produced groundbreaking sitcoms like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, 227, Amen, and Frank's Place, all of which featured predominantly black casts, these shows were few and far in between.

However, the arrival of a new decade coincided with an influx of programs starring black leads, with shows like Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Hangin with Mr. Cooper, Roc, Thea and South Central all making their debut. While these shows were hits across various age groups, they all starred and revolved around actors of age, in some form or fashion. One of the first programs to divert from this formula and place the focus squarely on adolescents was My Brother and Me, a sitcom that often gets overlooked when listing the pivotal shows of its era.

Making its debut on October 15, 1994, My Brother and Me was among the first live-action series to air on Nickelodeon and the first to feature a predominantly black cast. Created by Ilunga Adell and Calvin Brown Jr., and directed by Arlando Smith and Adam Weissman, the show centers around brothers Alfred "Alfie" Parker and Derek "Dee-Dee" Parker, the two youngest children of parents Jennifer (Karen E. Fraction) and Roger Parker (Jim R. Coleman) who experience the typical growing pains of pre-pubescent young men that are coming of age.

Additional core cast members include Alfie and Dee-Dee's older sister Melanie Parker (Aisling Sistrunk),, Alfie's best friend Milton "Goo" Berry (Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr.) who has an infatuation with Melanie, Melanie's best friend and Donnell's older sister Dionne Wilburn (Amanda Seales), Dee-Dee's best friend and Dionne’s younger brother Donnell Wilburn (Stefan J. Wernli),, Dee-Dee’s other best friend Harry White (Keith "Bubba" Naylor), and local comic book store owner Mrs. Pinckney (Kym Whitley).

Set in the suburbs of the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina, My Brother and Me was the Nickelodeon's answer to Sister, Sister, a sitcom on ABC starring identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry that had debuted earlier that year. With a beat writer for the local newspaper for a father and a school teacher for a mother, Alfie and Dee-Dee enjoyed a stable living environment in which they could thrive academically and socially while simply being kids. A middle-class family with access to all of the basic amenities, the Parkers' economic situation was in stark contrast to the usual scratching-and-surviving, rags-to-riches themes often associated with sitcoms geared towards people of color.

While removed from the harsh realities that often accompany life in the inner-city, the Parker boys were drawn in by the allure of street culture, with Alfie and Dee-Dee both being avid fans of hip hop music, fashion, and style. This love affair would be the driving force behind various episodes, most notably "Dee-Dee's Haircut," during which Dee-Dee allows Goo to butcher his hair after marveling at fellow student Kenny's "Cool Dr. Money"-inspired haircut. Going as far as handpicking designs out of a rap magazine Donell borrows from his sister Dionne, Dee-Dee goes to the extreme in an attempt to mirror Kenny and Cool Dr. Money, a testament to the influence hip hop holds over him. His affinity for the culture is also reflected in the "Donnell's Birthday Party" episode, during which the impressionable youngster mimicking dance moves from a rap video in hopes of tightening up his dance skills.

Alfie and Dee-Dee may have been the intended stars of the show, but to many viewers, the most memorable character from My Brother and Me was Goo, who stole scenes with his humorous wisecracks and mischievous hijinks, often at the expense of Dee-Dee and his friends. From showering Mrs. Parker with disarming compliments to masterminding various plots and schemes in an attempt to get himself and Alfie out of trouble, Goo proved to be the most entertaining member of the show, exuding swagger and confidence that are palpable to the viewer and as hip hop as it gets. On the other hand, Alfie, who is not as overtly demonstrative in his rap fandom as his younger brother or Goo, reps his allegiance to the culture more subtly, with his haircut, backward caps and boisterous mannerisms.

While race was never a prevalent topic on the show, if one was to look closer between the lines, My Brother and Me was unapologetically black and pridefully so. Take, for instance, the various nods to HBCU culture throughout the show, including Roger Parker's various North Carolina Central University sweatshirts and hats, Alfie's Morehouse fit, and insignias from various black fraternities. One other common thread of the show was its incorporation of sports, starting with the Parker household's fandom of Charlotte's local professional franchises on full display, as Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers memorabilia are all visible throughout the household. Cameos also included appearances from NBA stars Kendall Gill and Dennis Scott, the latter of whom teaches Alfie, the superior athlete of the Parker brothers, a lesson in selflessness and teamwork by cutting him from the school basketball team in "The Basketball Tryouts" episode.

Of all of the aspects of My Brother and Me that made the show a game-changer, the fact that it was one of the first times young black males saw themselves in characters on the TV is the most enduring. While plenty of shows and networks fixated on coming-of-age storylines centered around the privileged youth of white America, My Brother and Me provided the alternative, promoting the bond of brotherhood and family values with each episode aired. Preceding shows like Kenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter, both of which implemented overt comedic or fictional elements, My Brother and Me was a realistic glimpse at the life of the average black boy in America without the overarching narratives of impoverishment, temptation, and despair. For many young black men born in the '80s, the show left an indelible impact on them and holds a place near to their heart a quarter-century later.

In spite of its critical acclaim and popularity, My Brother and Me only aired for one season, as it was canceled after airing its final episode on January 15, 1995. The network would air reruns into the early 2000s before returning briefly during The '90s Are All That block on TeenNick in December 2013, the last time the show would appear on television. In June 2014, Nickelodeon released My Brother & Me: The Complete Series as a two-disc DVD, giving a new generation of viewers and longtime fans of the show an opportunity to relive the magic that the show captured during its short, yet unforgettable run.

In the years following My Brother and Me's cancellation, many of the actors and actresses from the show would fail to find their footing in the entertainment industry, resulting in their acting careers fading into obscurity. Arthur Reggie III scored a few additional credits, appearing in the TV shows Sliders and C-Bear and Jamal, as well as the 1998 film Bulworth, but later transitioned into a rap career, performing under the name Show Bizness. My Brother and Me would mark Ralph Woolfolk's last appearance as an actor, as he decided to leave the industry behind and focus on his education, pursuing a degree in English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, while also attending law school. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and currently serves as a police officer for the city of Atlanta. Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr. scored bit roles in the TV shows Sweet Justice and Sister, Sister in the subsequent years after the show, while Aisling Sistrunk, Stefan J. Wernli and Keith "Bubba" Naylor would never act professionally again.

However, a few members of the cast were able to sustain viable acting careers well beyond My Brother and Me's cancellation, most notably Amanda Seales, Karen E. Fraction and Jim Coleman. Seales would rebrand herself as Amanda Diva and become a successful media personality before transitioning back into acting, last appearing as Tiffany DuBois on HBO's "Insecure." In 2019, Seales debuted an HBO Comedy Special I Be Knowin', and was chosen as the emcee for NBC's comedy competition, Bring the Funny. Jim Coleman has kept himself busy with various roles over the past two decades, last appearing in "The Council," and continues to receive steady work. Karen Fraction would add a few additional credits to her resume after "My Brother and Me," but passed away on October 30, 2007, after a five year battle with breast cancer. She is survived by her two children, Lauren Elizabeth Jean and Lawrence Wm. Morris, and her husband Lawrence Hamilton. And last, but not least, Kym Whitley would enjoy a fruitful career on television and on the big screen, appearing in dozens of shows and films throughout her lengthy career, with her latest role being Mrs. Malinky in the Netflix animated comedy Pinky Malinky.

In the time since the debut of My Brother and Me, a lot has changed in terms of the presence and representation of black youth on television and beyond. A number of black actors and actresses have had the opportunity to shine in a big way, including Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) Zendaya (Shake It Up), Kyle Massey (Corey in the House), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Miles Brown (Black-Ish) and Alex R. Hibbert (The Chi) all among the more prominent child stars making major waves on TV over the past two decades. That said, 25 years later, the fact remains that My Brother and Me was ahead of the curve as one of the first instances of seeing ourselves in a positive and uplifting light on the small screen.

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Darren Xu

Brent Faiyaz Channels International Life Into New Musical Gems

Finishing up his summer in Europe, Brent Faiyaz (born Christopher Brent Wood) indulges in spiked mimosas and enticing conversations with his team after handling business for the day. Jet-setting overseas to add more memories to his life’s reel, the singer-songwriter and producer just celebrated his 24th birthday days before. “I think anytime you go places internationally you get a different perspective," he says. "I felt like creatively, it would bring out some more shit.” Many doors have opened for the DMV crooner since he first appeared in front of the public’s eye with his single “Natural Release” in 2014. Pulling pages out what seems to be his journal entries, Faiyaz shares his autobiography through the dynamics of string ballads, haloed hymns, and tinder timbre.

The Columbia, Maryland R&B talent has shared his soothing vocals with fans ever since. Studiously making beats from the age of 12 or 13, it wasn’t until after graduating high school and moving to Charlotte with his parents that he began to invest in music full time. His rhythmic resonance and gut-punching lyrics turned into his first five-track EP speaking to women, relationships, and sex in A.M. Paradox in 2016 with his hit single “Poison.” He formed a group called Sonder with fellow musicians Dpat and Atu, and released a group EP with them called Into before dropping another solo project, Sonder Son. The 12-track project delved into his childhood: he brought his fans right into his living room in “Home,” gave them a seat at the table in his classrooms in “Gang Over Luv,” and walked his newfound Los Angeles streets with them in “L.A.” He then unleashed his tightly knit six-track EP Lost with standouts “Trust,” and “Around Me.”

“I come from a very real place. I think that I can give a lot of people around me a lot of real perspectives. I’ve been seeing a lot of people in certain avenues gravitate towards a nigga,” the LA-based artist said.

The indie artist truly received a standing ovation after organically co-creating the 2018 Grammy-nominated single “Crew” with GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. “I’m going to be real; I didn’t go into music with the intention of being an independent artist, especially not this long. But then [I] hopped onto “Crew” and we fucked around a got a hit record without even being signed to a label. After that I started getting paid so I was like ‘Fuck it, we really don’t need that,’” he said.

His first 2019 summer single “Fuck the World (Summer in London)” opened a perspective of contronyms that approached both the literal and lustful world. What he calls “the woes and the woes.” “Meaning the shit that I hate. [What] is terrible about life right now that’s fucked up, fuck the world on the negative end, middle finger fuck the world,” he says. “And then it’s ‘Fuck the World’ where it’s like the girls and the money and the clothes and the bullshit.”

He later dropped his latest track a month later. “Rehab (Winter In Paris)” mirrors a story when the singer was balancing his personal time while being addicted to a person who is addicted to a substance. With “Rehab” already penned, Faiyaz went to producing the track alongside No ID, known for his work with rap greats like Jay-Z, Common and Kanye West. “He’s an OG. I soaked up a lot of game from him. I locked in with him for a whole week and cut a bunch of ideas.” Observing the producer's process, Faiyaz implemented some of No ID’s ways into his own. “I would take certain shit he said and put that in my own shit. Real talk, he is one of those niggas that will put you on game.”

With a uniqueness to his voice that is charming yet elusive, the singer has raised eyebrows by not resembling the stereotypical genetic makeup of a rhythm and blues artist. “I don’t really know how a sound is supposed to look. If somebody tells me how a sound is supposed to look, I will understand,” Faiyaz chuckled. “I don’t really connect the two. I can’t change how I look; I can’t change how I sound. I’m going to keep doing me.”

During what one could consider a hiatus, the vocalist used that time to focus on his craft, give back to his mom, jump on A$AP Ferg’s album Floor Seats, and walk in Pyer Moss’s New York Fashion Week Show. As he has geared up for a musical return that will unveil a different side, Faiyaz is under renovation. “I [don’t] want to give people the same sh*t that I’ve been giving them this whole time. I’m not about to put out a new project and it sounds the exact same as the last project. I want to keep reinventing myself as this sh*t goes on.”

“Right now, I am probably the most creative that I’ve ever been.”

Brent has successfully left his fans longing for more all while remaining authentic, not purposefully trying to create any kind of enigma around himself. “It’s not a goal of mine to be on the tip of everybody’s tongue all the time.”

With the year wrapping up, the 24-year-old is “pushing boundaries” as he prepares to release more original melodies. While he experiments with the production elements of his music and strengthening his vocals, the artist is effortlessly surprising himself in the studio. “I’m kind of saying whatever the fuck I want to say on the track and somehow it’s coming out pretty good. I know how to put it in a way where it comes off ill.”

Plotting his next moves, the creative has become enthralled with art all across the board in his performances as it translates to visual art. “I’m really learning how a bunch of different avenues go aside from just music. I’m on my young renaissance man shit.”

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