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Courtesy of Off Script

Jamie Foxx Talks 'Off Script' Series And Denzel Washington's Sage Advice

The actor and singer-songwriter's latest venture has been in the works for more than a decade.

If Jamie Foxx wasn't a singer-songwriter, comedian and Academy Award winner, he'd be a glorified liaison with an emphasis in party promotion. Foxx just has one of those personalities; he’s one of those guys who knows everybody. He's always had a knack for connecting to people and with people, so when given the chance to chop it up with his celebrity friends over a cocktail, Foxx jumped at the chance.

In partnership with Grey Goose, Off Script is a new series centered around Foxx and his A-list friends discussing life before the Hollywood lights, cameras and awards. Set inside his luxurious trailer, Jamie understands the hectic schedule of his peers, so to avoid having to potentially reschedule or be denied, Foxx brings the sit down to them.

VIBE caught up with the 50-year-old music producer inside New York's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. With sweeping views of the city's skyline, Foxx goes off the script about his series, jewels Denzel Washington has bestowed upon him and more.

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VIBE: This is a beautiful view.

Jamie Foxx: You know what's crazy about people in New York? They never see sh*t like this.

No, we don't.
I had a friend come here, she's like, “Oh my God!” I said, “You live in New York. You never come up here?” And then she was like, “No, I never get up here, Jamie. This is crazy up here. It's nuts!”

New York is so ugly and so beautiful at the same time.
Damn, that's incredible. Why is that?

It's ugly because we don't have an ecosystem so rats are literally your size.
Yo, I seen a rat—my mother and my sister came to visit me, we were staying in SoHo, I looked back and saw my mother hauling a**. "Lord have mercy, Jesus! These rats!” And the rats are just like, “Yo what’s up Ma? What’s up, baby?”

[Laughs] I can't. Okay, why did you decide you wanted to talk to your famous celebrity friends on your new series?
You know what it is? It's like, I've been doing this for 20 years. I've been doing this for probably more than that. I have this interesting thing in L.A. where L.A. seems to be very plastic. I would always try to put artists with artists. So the first big party I threw in my little small house was with Puff. I invited the right people. I invited artists, I invited people that weren't haters.

READ MORE: Jamie Foxx Helped Diddy Throw Party On A Budget

Really? No haters?
No, seriously. I didn't want him to have that experience at my house coming from the East Coast to the West Coast.

I would invite people like, “Come meet these guys, come learn, come see what makes them tick” because we were all young. Standing on the wall was this guy nobody knew, he had this little green jumpsuit jacket on, it was JAY-Z. I walked through my garage and there was two guys standing in my garage door: tall guy, short guy. Short guy was like, “Yo, B, it's like this all the time? You know, like, people sing karaoke and like, hang out?” I said, “Yeah, who are you?” He said, “We're The Neptunes, my name is Pharrell.”

So I would put people in the same room. Puff would talk about how to be successful. Missy would talk, everybody would talk. It sort of started organically where I would have these cool parties. Quincy Jones would be at my birthday and my Christmas parties dropping knowledge. Denzel Washington at the table, talking to young folks. So when Off Script came about, I was like, “This would be great to do what I've been doing” and then we picked the list.

Why do you film inside a trailer?
I wanted to be able to go to them. The thing is, when you're asking these people, it's “Well, I don't know if I wanna–.” We’re right outside, dog. We’re right outside. The trailer’s right here.

Some of the guests on Off Script include Benicio Del Toro and Denzel Washington. All of you have an Oscar. That's an elite club. Can you take me back to when you won your Academy Award?
I'll say it like this: winning an Oscar was amazing, but I was very humble in the sense of I see Samuel Jackson, I see Joe Morton, I see these guys so I wanted to be humble because I knew it was because of them I got this look. At that same time, it was wonderful for everybody involved because on our side of town, for us black folk, it was really something to celebrate. I did it–I quietly did it my own way, I didn't go to the Vanity Fair party. I had my homie Day Brown, I said "Day Brown, look, set the party up." Don't say it's my party because then it'll make it look like I knew I was gonna win but set the party up just in case we do."

Man, I remember sitting with my daughter, she said, “if you don't win, you're still a great actor.” I remember LisaRaye at my after party going, “You did that sh*t!” You know what I'm saying? I remember people taking the Oscar out of my hand, holding it. "Aye, let me get that homie!" The Oscar just being passed around the room. People were taking pictures and there was dark liquor and smoke in the air, you know. I mean it was a moment. We really had fun doing that.

Where do you keep your Oscar?
I keep it at the house now. I didn't keep it for like years. It's in a case in the living room. When I have parties people come. The case almost looks like a museum so when I have parties, cats will just be walking past, you know, taking pictures with it, which is cool. And it's a trip because you got the Oscar, the Grammy, the American Music Award, and then my father's Domino trophy. My Pops was like, “Where you gon' put my–” Damn pops, OK.

Would you ever gun for a play?
I don't know. I don't think you gun for anything. I just think you go do what you do, you know? Even when the Oscar came about, I was just trying to do something with Ray Charles to freak people out. I wanted to be so in character, so much that Ray Charles' children would tear up. There was a lady who was smitten with Ray Charles back in the day. When I would get dressed up as Ray, she was sort of like the consultant–I remember getting dressed as Ray Charles and she was like, “Hey, Ray!” [laughs] Like she was reliving something.

So Mr. Washington will be on the show this week. What has he taught you? ‘Cause he's like the big homie to everybody in Hollywood.
You know what? Denzel is the most interesting person. For one, he's hella funny and hopefully, we caught some of that magic, but he also is very protective of his persona when it comes to his craft. We may be joking, having fun off camera, but when we’re on camera, he wants to make sure that it plays with the narrative of what he wants to keep. So he's always great in that sense.

D always has great jewels, like we talked about in this interview. We talked about social media and why he's not on social media. You'll see in the interview what he says, but it really made a lot of sense. Just, talking to D, it's like you're almost in awe. You're in awe of watching someone and you almost wanna go, "Did you know how incredible you are?" And Equalizer 2, I hear he's just like crazy and everything he touches is just crazy. He's like Michael Jordan or Lebron James in the sense that he should win every year. It's like we would just be going to the Denzel Washington show. He's just really that great.

READ MORE: Jamie Foxx To Star In New Spawn Film

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Beyonce, Jay-Z and Blue Ivy Carter attends the 60th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Madison Square Garden on January 28, 2018 in New York City.
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An Ode To Jay-Z, The Ultimate Rap Dad

Rap, throughout its history, has always referenced parenthood in some form. Most often, it was to extol single mothers for their goodness while deadbeat fathers were berated and called out for going ghost. In recent years, as the social media landscape has blown open the avenues of communication, famous rap dads, in particular, have become increasingly transparent about their lives as family men. Where years ago there seemed to be endless bars mourning the demise of the father, artists are now using their platform to balance the scales. They’re showing themselves to be present and intentional.

Few albums make me think more about the concept of parenthood, and legacy, than Jay-Z’s 13th studio album, 4:44. It’s a stark and blistering work of memoir, heavy on confession and self-examination. When 4:44 finally dropped, I, like many others, was filled with wonder. How was it that Jay had managed to so fluidly deconstruct everything I’d been wrestling with for the last few years? Though the specifics of our experiences differed greatly, the central ideas dissected on 4:44, especially those concerning fatherhood and family life, had been swimming around my brain for some time.

***

Hip-hop saved my life. And it was fatherhood that set it on fire. This bears explaining.

What hip-hop has done for me, is what it has done for millions of fatherless and heart-wounded kids—it provided, at the very least, the shading of a better life. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, and the value I ascribed to it, it would be impossible to know just how far I’d have settled into the more lamentable aspects of my environment. Forasmuch of a goon as I was growing up, something always kept me from becoming too emotionally invested in harsh crime. I dabbled in mischief like an amateur chef knowing he would only go so far. I saw in hip-hop, in the art of it, something worth pursuing with tenacity; something like a healthy distraction. So I committed to finding my lane.

Though there were brief stints dedicated to developing my modest graffiti skills and footwork, it was the words that flowed and came without struggle. The school cyphers sharpened my wits and compelled me to feed my vocabulary daily. Only my wordplay could save me from getting ripped to shreds in a lunchroom battle. I read books and scoured the dictionary for ammunition, I listened to stand-up comics who fearlessly engaged the crowd and proved quick on the draw. It seemed fruitless to know a billion words if I couldn’t convert them into brutal attacks. I had to break the competition down and render them defenseless, stammering for a rebuttal. There could be no confusion as to my superiority. So instead of joining the stickup kids or depositing all of my energy into intramural sports, I put my soul and mind into the task of taking down all manner of wack MCs. That’s why I say that hip-hop saved me.

But fatherhood was its own saving grace. It showed me that the world did not revolve, nor would it ever revolve, around my passions. Fatherhood put an extra battery behind my back as a creative, sure. But it’s more about being a consistent presence at home than chasing any dream.

***

As an artist and writer, I cannot so much as think about fatherhood without considering some of the material that deals with feelings comparable to those I felt after I became a father. Songs that contextualize very specific emotions over the drums.

In his 2012 track “Glory,” Jay-Z, someone who had long been vocal about his strained relationship with his father, reflects on the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy, his first child with wife Beyoncé. Produced by the Neptunes, “Glory” was released on January 9, just two days after Blue was born. From start to finish, it carries a sort of gleeful melancholy that resonates on multiple levels. While it is, in essence, a comment on the exuberant joy attached with welcoming a child, “Glory” is also a note on death and mourning.

Before Blue came along and flipped the script, Beyoncé had suffered a miscarriage. The pain the couple experienced left them fearful of not being able to conceive. The dual purpose of “Glory” is made clear from the outset, and with blazing transparency. “False alarms and false starts,” offers Jay, laying the groundwork for what immediately follows: “All made better by the sound of your heart.” The second half of the couplet establishes what was, as we come to learn, the most pivotal moment in the rap mogul’s life up until then. The moment where all is made right, where the sting of loss is eclipsed by the possibility of new birth. Jay continues in this mode, shining light on the redeeming gift that is Blue and, also, how the child is a composite of her mother and father, yet more still.

The opening bars of the following verse are equally striking as Jay, addressing Blue, touches on the death of his father from liver failure. Jay is signaling here, leading us somewhere but with the intent to shift gears. Instead of dwelling on his father’s shortcomings like one might expect him to, Jay breaks left, resolving that deep down his father was a good man. What begins as an indictment of a cheat who walked out on his obligations, ends with a declaration of forgiveness and generosity. But Jay soon directs the focus back to his blessing and how hard it is not to spoil her rotten as she is the child of his destiny. It becomes apparent that this is a man at his most self-actualized. A few more welcome digressions and “Glory” closes the same way that it begins, with the final line of the hook: “My greatest creation was you.” This points to something that I, too, came to know as fact. That no matter what I do, and regardless of what I might attain—power, wealth, the esteem of my peers—nothing is quite comparable to the happiness and the terror that comes with siring a child. “Glory” succeeds as it casts aside any traces of bluster and bravado, making room for Jay to unearth lessons that were hard-won yet central to his maturation. And what is the purpose of making art if not to bust open your soul and watch it spill over? Shout out to the rap dads raising babies and doing the work to shift the narrative.

Juan Vidal is a writer, critic, and author of Rap Dad: A Story of Family and the Subculture That Shaped a Generation.

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Mike Coppola

The Cast Of 'SHAFT' Talk Family Traditions, Power And The Film's Legacy

Back in 1971, Richard Roundtree became the face of the legendary crime/blaxploitation film SHAFT. His influence in the role paved the way for a new generation of black detectives filled with a gluttonous amount of swag, clever one-liners, and action-packed scenes. Samuel L. Jackson followed suit in the franchise’s 2000 installment as he took over the streets of Uptown Manhattan and Harlem filling in for Roundtree’s original character.

Fast forward to 2019, and SHAFT’s legacy has risen to higher heights, incorporating Roundtree and Jackson together with an extension of their detective prowess. Director Tim Story created a familial driven movie centered around three different generations of SHAFT men. Roundtree plays the grandfather; Jackson plays the dad—and Jessie T. Usher plays the son. All three embark on a mission that’s laced with dirty politics, Islamophobia, and highflying action in efforts to solve a seemingly homicidal death.

The dynamics between all three are hilarious and dotted with lessons learned from past paternal influences. On a recent sunny Friday afternoon at Harlem's Red Rooster, the trio shared some of the traditions and virtues the paternal figures in real life have taught them. Most of the influence passed down to them was centered on working hard.

“People say to me, ‘Why do you work so much?’” Jackson said. “Well, all the grown people went to work every day when I got up. I figured that’s what we’re supposed to be doing—get up, pay a bill, and take care of everything that’s supposed to be taken care of.”

“For my family, it was cleanliness and masculinity,” Usher added. “The guys in my family were always well put together, very responsible especially my dad.”

In spite of the SHAFT men's power, the film's story wouldn’t be what it is without Regina Hall and Alexandra Shipp’s characters. They both play strong women caught in the middle of the mayhem created by the men they care about. Both are conscious of the power they exhibit as black women off and on screen, yet are aware of the dichotomy of how that strength is perceived in the world.

“It’s very interesting because I think a lot of times as powerful black women we are seen as angry black women,” Shipp says. “So it’s hard to have that voice and that opinion because a lot of times when we voice it; it becomes a negative rather than a positive. In order to hold that power, it has to be poised. It has to be with grace, I think there is strength in a strong but graceful black woman.”

“People have an idea of what strength is and how you do it and sometimes it’s the subtleties,” Regina adds. “Sometimes our influence is so powerful and it doesn’t always have to be loud I think a lot of times how we navigate is with conviction and patience.”

VIBE chatted with the cast of SHAFT about holding power, their red flags when it comes to dating, and why the SHAFT legacy continues to live on. Watch the interviews below.

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Sony Music

Meet Zhavia, The Musician Who Refuses To Be Boxed In

If you haven’t heard of Zhavia before, that will likely change very, very soon.

The 18-year-old Columbia Records signee is readying her first major EP 17, which is scheduled for June 14. A native of the Golden State, Zhavia catapulted to national consciousness after making it to the top four of the inaugural season of FOX’s singing competition, The Four, which features Diddy and DJ Khaled as judges. Since then, she continues to rise and tantalize audiences with her powerful, chill-inducing vocals.

The singer-songwriter—who tells VIBE she’s hopeful that her forthcoming EP will be “inspiring” to her ever-growing fanbase—dropped the project’s latest single “17” on May 31. Produced by hip-hop hitmaker Hit-Boy and co-written by RØMANS, Zhavia explains that the retrospective song is more personal than her previously-released tracks, such as the trap-tickled “100 Ways” and “Candlelight,” the stand-out single that showcases the vocal prowess of the petite blonde ingenue.

"’17’ is a song that I wrote about my life story, and how I got to where I am right now,” she says. The track details hardships such as a lack of resources to thrive in her childhood home and staying in a motel in order to accomplish her musical goals. “I just wanted it to be something that [fans] can relate to, whatever it is that they're going through.”

“I saw it in my dreams, I knew that life would change for me,” she croons on the new single. “This is reality, look at me now.”

Zhavia’s humble beginnings start in Norwalk, Calif., as a daughter of two musicians who introduced her to numerous genres. In fact, her mother was a member of a metal band called Xenoterra, and Zhavia’s impressively-versatile vocal range could be attributed to this Chex Mix bag of sonic stylings.

“From doo-wop to punk to R&B, metal, rock...” she says, listing of the types of music she was brought up on, which helped her in honing a unique style. Her own tunes feature an R&B and hip-hop flair and sprinkles touches of other genres throughout, in order for her to remain true to her roots.

“I feel like for the most part, [my music will] always have that R&B feel to it, but I'm always gonna have a lot of different vibes for people to pick and choose what they like,” she explains.

Zhavia's urban-tinged musical affinity was palpable during her time on The Four, where she put her spin on hits such as French Montana and Swae Lee’s “Unforgettable” and Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.” Although she was unanimously selected by the show’s four celebrity judges to advance after a stellar first-round performance of Khalid’s “Location,” she admits she initially wasn’t planning to compete.

“When I was younger, I had wanted to go on a [singing] show, but I had made up my mind. ‘I'm gonna try to do it myself,’” she chuckles. “But, the people that were having auditions, they happened to be at the studio that I was recording at when I was making my own songs. My manager told me, 'Just go sing for them.'”

After showing off her impressive pipes, she was convinced to join the show, and was further influenced to compete after discovering that The Four appeared to focus on R&B and hip-hop-leaning artists.

“I was like, 'Okay, that sounds like me, they'll probably accept the style of music that I do,'” she continues. “I feel like on other singing shows, it's a little more pop, or towards the pop genre. Also, the panel that they had [DJ Khaled, Diddy, Meghan Trainor and Charlie Walk] seemed really relevant, and I could tell it was legit. I figured I'd just try it out, and it led me to where I am now.”

Since placing fourth on the show, Zhavia has proven that her star power was built to last longer than 15 minutes. Other than her forthcoming EP’s release, her gifts have found her among the company of some big names. She can be heard on the soundtrack for Deadpool 2 in the song “Welcome To The Party” with Diplo, French Montana and Lil Pump. Recently, moviegoers were treated to her rendition of the Disney classic “A Whole New World” with Zayn Malik, for the live-action version of Aladdin, which plays during the film’s end credits.

“I think it's been amazing, and it's definitely a lot of exposure that comes in a unique way,” she says of working on big projects with even bigger industry names. She continues by stating that she’s had a blast “putting her own twist” on songs she didn’t pen and doing material “totally different from what [she] would normally do.”

The pressures of Hollywood and the entertainment industry could be difficult on anyone, however, young stars under the U.S. legal age in the limelight may find themselves succumbing to various pressures, temptations and burnout. For Zhavia, she makes sure to keep a level head and a positive attitude in order to persevere in the industry as she matures.

“I feel like it's not that hard to stay focused, because I've wanted to do this my whole life,” she says affirmatively. “It's what I live for. For me, one of my number one priorities besides my family is music. I don't really go out, I don't party, I don't do none of that. I just work! [Laughs] I think for me, it's just focusing on myself and what I wanna do, and what I wanna get done.” She’s also hoping to keep surprising people throughout her career by coming up with genre-bending songs that show off her style, personality and abilities. Let her do her, and watch her as she goes.

“I'm not gonna be put in a box to do just one type of music or one style of song,” Zhavia affirms. “I don't want people to get used to one thing, you know? That's kind of a hard thing to express to the world. I feel like it comes with me coming up with more music, and to keep creating music for people to listen to and get to know me.”

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