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Stacy-Ann Ellis

NEXT: TDE's REASON Wants His Footprint To Stretch Beyond Rap And Into His Community

TDE's newest signee has his eyes set on more than just the rap throne.

REASON’s 28th trip around the sun is the bookend to a year of firsts. While his four-person crew—including manager Moosa Tiffith, son of Top Dawg Entertainment’s Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith—is killing time until check-out in front of the suite’s flat-screen TV, he’s splitting his attention between this interview, planning the rest of his itinerary (he really wants to go to Times Square) and admiring the view from the top of the swanky SIXTY LES Hotel.

Last night, during his Irving Plaza opening set for Jay Rock’s The Big Redemption Tour, REASON’s reservation at a Midtown hotel fell through and his tour manager had to grab a last-minute room in the heart of the bar-laden Lower East Side. That spare room, with its sleek black floors and luxe decor, just so happens to be this Empire Terrace Suite with a sweeping, idyllic view of Manhattan. REASON is stealing glances of the balcony from a table in the living room. His excitement is masked by a calm, even temperament. It’s the Del Amo, Calif. rapper’s first time in New York City and he’s sitting here by happenstance. Evidently, REASON has that good juju around him.

It’s a full-circle moment for the Virgo to even be touring with Rock, and on his birthday, at that. Despite his regional proximity to Ab-Soul (growing up in Carson, REASON’s older sister was Soulo’s friend), the steely TDE OG was the first Black Hippy member he idolized and the one he resonates with the most. “I was and still am a Jay Rock fan,” REASON says. “That was the guy for us. He was the first person we knew out of the whole bunch. For us, Jay Rock was really like the grandfather of it all, so when he had to take a leave of absence for a while [after his accident], to see him back and emerge even bigger than he was, and then even be a part of that, is crazy.”

This time last year, the ink was still wet on his 27th birthday gift—a contract with TDE, the enviable powerhouse that, based on signees like Kendrick Lamar and SZA, knows how to spot stars. Moosa clearly has the ear, too. REASON’s newly dropped studio album, There You Have It, is a re-released version of a mixtape he made two years ago. When it first came out, Moosa loved it so much he took it straight to his father—without running it by the lyricist first. The move had REASON shook.

“The original idea was to build me up a little bit in L.A. and then drop [There You Have It]. Get another project ready, build me up and then take that project to Top,” he says. “He just sent it to his dad, which I didn't want him to do because Top is very big with first impressions. If he hears you and doesn't like you, if he writes you off, that's it.” Luckily for REASON, the only things Top heard were skill and promise.

REASON’s parents barely understood how pivotal the affiliation was in the first place. (He waited 11 months to publicize the signing.) “I told my dad, ‘Yo, I think I'm going to get a contract offer this week to TDE,’” he recalls, already chuckling at his father’s oblivion. “He was just like, ‘Oh, that's dope and cool. Just make sure that your work schedule fits around it. As long as they’re good with your work schedule, I'm proud of you.’" At the time, REASON had been putting his Northwestern College business degree to use as an IT recruiter at Tech Systems. He worked odd jobs at Target, in the HR department of Forever 21’s corporate headquarters—he was fired after four days for falling asleep (blame late night studio sessions)—and had a stint at a bougie, Beverly Hills winery. “We would get like all the customers that feel like they're better than everybody, like ‘Oh, carry, my bottle,’” he says of the Wally's Wine and Spirits gig. “It was awful. I hated it.” Although his mother and father were supportive of him doing something he was excited about, music was merely a cute diversion. That is until he scored a coveted last-minute spot on the tracklist for Black Panther: The Album—the feature that placed him on the main stage.

At Top’s request, REASON pretty much camped out in the studio for two months after signing. He’d observe K. Dot at all hours of the night, muttering things into the mic as a mystery curation of songs and features played aloud. He dared not intrude, but on the night Dot stayed later than usual, he had to ask what was keeping him up.

“‘I'm trying to turn in an album tonight and we’re waiting for a verse to come in on this record. But it's taking forever,’" he recalls Dot saying, not disclosing the artist who was the roadblock. As REASON was packing up to leave, Top walked over with a hard drive and played the unfinished version of “Seasons,” the final cut of which would also feature Sacramento rapper Mozzy and South African artist Sjava. “[Top] was like, ‘If you can put a verse on there within the next couple of days, then it may or may not make the project,’” he continues. “He left and then came back in 15 minutes, [saying] ‘We about to dip out, but send that verse to me when you can.’ I was like, no, we did it right now. It wasn't about to wait.” When Kendrick texted him asking him to change the first couple lines of his verse two months later, he knew he’d actually made the album.

Talk about when preparation meets opportunity.

 

Professionally speaking, up until five years ago, the rapper born Robert Gill, Jr. thought he was going to be anywhere but here. Up until his teenage years, music was somewhat of an afterthought, especially hip-hop. Due to his parents’ musical diet of Michael Jackson and OG funk music, rhymes didn’t really enter his scope of view until 12 years old. And to be honest, most of his time was spent outside or on a court anyway.

Before relocating to Carson City, REASON was born into a well-rounded sports family (aside from the miniature bejeweled ankh hanging from his neck, his staple accessory is a rubber Los Angeles Lakers bracelet) in South Central L.A. His twin brother, Prentice, is an Assistant Wide Receiver Coach for the University of Southern California, and his father is a local football coach for the South Bay Spartans. While his brother took to playing football, REASON's sport of choice was basketball. “I thought I was going to the NBA until I was like 21. I didn't start doing music until I was 23. I got a scholarship to go play basketball in Iowa and was culture shocked,” he says, reminiscing on his first time as the lone black person on a basketball team. As he dealt with those major adjustments, he dove deeper into music to decompress.

“I started using music to get stuff off my chest because I'm not really good at talking about stuff,” he says. “Just through that process, I really fell in love with it. It was weird to feel myself falling out of love with basketball, something I've been doing my whole life because something else had been taking over.”

There You Have It is a realization of that “something else.” The 12-track LP debut outlines the hip-hop author’s dance of show-and-prove, proudly displaying all the gems that formed from unexpressed pressure. “I wrote some of my best songs after horrible days at work,” he says. “It just made me want to change the situations that I was in and made me want to go harder.”

On album standout “Better Dayz,” he holds the mirror up to himself, sorting through words and feelings he wished he knew how to express, and if he should in the first place. “You don't always want to put yourself out there because people know you now.” REASON was taken aback when fans started checking up on him after hearing his lyrical prayers for a gang-banging cousin who got stabbed. “People really listened to every word. People are coming to me that I didn't know asking me about my cousin. ‘What happened? Is he okay? Did he live?’ It's a good feeling, but it is scary to put yourself out there,” he admits. “I didn't talk to my cousin before I put that out, so I've learned certain lessons with intimacy. I should've checked on this, or I should've checked on that, you know what I mean?”

However, with trunk-knockers like “Summer Up” and “Bottom,” and the wisecracking “Rufus Collection (Skit)” opener, it’s not all grimaces and hard times. REASON knows how to have fun with it, too. “I don't take myself very seriously,” he insists. “The music is where I get all the seriousness stuff out so that in real life, we're just clowning.”

His project dropped on an arguably busy day for hip-hop, but if you ask him, he couldn’t be in better company. There You Have It arrived alongside Tha Carter V, the comeback project of his favorite rapper of all time. “I know he's somebody that if I ever met him, I would be star-struck. I wouldn't know what to say, “ REASON says of Lil Wayne, the first rapper he started listening to. He also went through obsessive fan phases for Ludacris (“I got [Chicken-n-Beer] three times. It was a little overboard,” he admits), Fabolous, JAY-Z (“99 Problems” was the first song he learned word-for-word) and Cassidy before returning back to his original fave.

Weezy fueled his desire to divert from basketball to bars in the first place. “While I was out there [in Orange City, Iowa], I had Garageband and at the time, Lil Wayne had just dropped Dedication 5, so I was freestyling on beats like Wayne was, just on my Mac. Just messing around in my downtime,” he recalls. He sent the scattered songs to his brother and received a surprisingly favorable response. “I made it like a little mixtape called Bored in Orange City, put it on Datpiff and sent it to my homies.” Although surprised he had some flow to him, they liked it, too.

After recognizing his potential, they helped him settle on a fitting rap alias to match. He was booted from their group chat for proposing “awful” names like RJ and Rampage, but eventually settled on REASON because it suited his natural sense of balance. “I feel like a lot of my music is like the middle points,” he says. “To reason with somebody is trying to come to an understanding or an agreement. I feel like that's what a lot of my music is. It’s very honest in the fact that nobody's super, super conscious all the time. Nobody's really turnt all the time or whatever the case.”

That affirmation from his brutally honest friends and the freeing feeling he got from purging his emotions, revealed how much he wanted to be on the court less and in the studio more. He even turned down a contract to play basketball in Greece to pursue this new passion. “When I got back home from school I just hit the ground running, and it was good that I went to school because I had a different mindset,” he says. Now, in retrospect, REASON admits his experimental first tape was pretty trash, but just look at what has since bloomed from that seed.

There You Have It’s title track says it all. “I accept everything God gave me: The good, bad, the ugly/Lot of work to show a little growth, the flows scruffy/So when I'm done I rather say I'm deservin' of it then lucky,” REASON raps in the gravelly voice he inherited from his father. His words are weighty with the responsibility he feels to take this chance he’s been given past the rap world and to where it really matters: to his people.

“My ultimate goal is to gain the influence enough to change my community. That's what I'm more passionate about, so this is a stepping stone to be able to do that,” he says, noting that voicing his frustrations with racial inequality on wax has driven him to tears. In Iowa, being surrounded by people aware of the myriad professional opportunities awaiting them, made him determined to bring that same feeling to the black and brown communities that raised him. Especially to men like him.

“I feel like if you can change the way that black men think, it changes the society,” he says. “Men are the ones that are out here killing. You don't hear about women out here doing drive-bys and sh*t like that, so I want to have more role models.”

Well, consider REASON the first one up.

READ MORE: TDE Signs California Rapper REASON, Shares “The Soul”

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TV personality Marie 'Free' Wright is back in her hometown of Boston balancing work with good deeds for the community. This month, the radio host partnered with Buzzfeed, Cocoa Butter, and fellow BET 106 & Park alum Rocsi Diaz to co-host And Still I Vote, a digital TV series that shares important information on voting for the 2020 election.

Free's non-profit organization, Team Cancer Free, is also hosting a fundraiser in Beantown on Wednesday, October 28 from 4 pm - 9 pm at Darryl's Corner Bar and Kitchen. The event includes an official 'Slutty Vegan' pop-up shop, to give residents a taste of what they've been missing from the popular Atlanta based vegan burger joint. This event is in support of Breast Cancer Awareness and Research. Log on to Teamcancerfree.org for more info.

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(L-R) Flex Alexander and Shanice attend the Soul Train Weekend Kick-Off Party on November 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
(Photo by Earl Gibson/BET/Getty Images for BET

Interview: Flex and Shanice Talk 'Virtual House Party,' Staying Together And That Call From Aretha Franklin

Shanice and Flex Alexander are ‘90s Black pop culture in the form of husband and wife. Shanice was an R&B ingenue with a hypnotic smile and powerful voice beyond her years when her sophomore album Inner Child propelled her to pop status thanks to the 1991 hit “I Love Your Smile.” Flex was a background dancer for acts like Sal-N-Pepa, before becoming a comedic actor and a mainstay on our TV sets during the golden era of Black TV in the ‘90s through early ‘00s.

After years of pulling in approximately $25K per week (according to Alexander) and not knowing how to properly manage the income, the couple lost their home, liquidated their assets, and filed for bankruptcy in 2010. They chronicled part of their journey with their reality show Flex and Shanice on OWN from 2014 to 2016 and are now positioning themselves for their respective next career chapters.

A big part of Flex’s next chapter was announced in July, when Netflix revealed they were bringing a slate of UPN shows from the early ‘00s arriving to the app this Fall. The line up includes Girlfriends, on which Flex originated the role of Darnell Wilkes; and One on One, which features Alexander as a single dad to teenage Kyla Pratt (and also features Shanice singing the theme song). Following the eagerly met premieres of classics Moesha, Girlfriends, and The Parkers, One on One and Half & Half (Essence Atkins and Rachel True) premiered on Thursday on the video streaming platform.

The couple, who celebrated their 20th anniversary this year, talked to VIBE recently about adjusting during the COVID-19 pandemic, growth as a married couple, and that time Aretha Franklin asked her to play a role in the upcoming Respect biopic.

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VIBE: How have you all been doing with everything that's going on?

Shanice: We're hanging in there. (Flex) doesn't like it when I say, "We're hanging in there."

Flex: We are doing exceptionally well. We are alive, we are healthy. Just dealing with it like everybody else, taking it one day at a time because you can't really plan too far ahead.

Did you ever think that we would be going through something like this?

Shanice: No, never. Flex said he kind of...Didn't you say over the years you thought...No. You said you read a lot of books and stuff.

Flex: Yeah. I do a lot of reading and stuff from my college days. Just stuff that talk about this stuff that's going on I like to get into. Everybody thinks it's conspiracy or whatever, but I just didn't think it would be in my lifetime. It is an adjustment for everyone. Like she said, we try to find the positive in it. We sit at the table, we eat dinner at the table, we can sit down. I say, "Baby, do you want to watch a movie?" We sit there and just hang out. Before, we were just crossing [paths where] everybody's hustling and grinding, hustling.

With the senseless police killings, racism seems to be at an all-time high. What type of conversations are you guys now having with (teenage children) Elijah and Imani now that they're older and this could happen to them or any other young adult? What are you telling them?

Flex: This is something I know I've been talking to Elijah about not just since this. When he was younger, just explaining him as a young Black kid, being a Black teenager turning into a young Black man, just the crosshairs that's on their back. You talk to them about if you're pulled over what to do, what not to do. We don't like to let him ride. He has friends that have cars and I'm like, "No, four or five of you all in the car? No. That's an open invitation." It hurts us because their regular daily livelihood has just changed. They would just walk down the street to the store. Now, we're like, "No."

Shanice: He [Elijah] has one friend that we allow him to be around. One of them wanted to play basketball and wanted me to drop them off at the park and I said no. There was a noose in our area.

Flex: Less than a mile from our house.

Shanice: Less than a mile from our house, there was a noose at the park. I sat in the car and I just watched him play. Normally, I would just drop him off and come back and pick him up, but I don't feel safe anymore.

Flex: And we have to have the conversation with Imani as well because it's not just relegated to just men and boys, women, too. We get ahead of the conversation, but they are very keen. Listen, information is traveling fast. They got these phones, they see stuff as well. A lot of the time, they tell us stuff and we're like, "What?" We just try to instill in them the best that we can and just pray over them.

 

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Throwback photo of @flexaforeal and I ♥️ We look like kids Flex lol

A post shared by shanice (@shaniceonline) on Sep 21, 2020 at 7:22pm PDT

Shanice, nobody sounds like you. You were a young pop icon, not just as an R&B artist, but also in pop - and paved the way (for other young crossover singers). How does that feel today?

I just feel blessed to have longevity in this industry. I've had my ups and downs. You know how crazy this industry is and sometimes you get frustrated and it's like, "Why am I doing this? I want out. I don't want to do this anymore." But then, when I get online and I talk to the fans directly on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter, it keeps me going. I get emotional because I've had some great moments in the industry, but then I've had some very low moments and it gets frustrating sometimes. I love music. I love singing. It's in my blood. I've been singing since I was seven months. I do it because I love to sing and I love my fans. I have the best supporters out there.

You both are such a likable couple and people gravitate to you from all walks of life, from all nationalities. What is it about you two that they can identify with Flex and Shanice?

Flex: Just being us.

Shanice: I think we're just being ourselves.

Flex: We're just being ourselves. I'm on here deejaying on Instagram and she's here dropping it like it's hot. (Shanice laughs) That's what she does. We just try to be ourselves and we show a little bit of that doing the reality show and sharing what we went through because we wanted people to know what we went through and that you can come out of it. We just don't, I'm going to say a real old school word, we don't put on airs-

Shanice: Airs. (Laughs) That is real old school.

Flex: ... for anyone. We're in here every day. I want to throw it back to her real quick. I see the pain and stuff that she goes through the ups and downs and disappointments. Even through all this, you're still like, "Man, is it a place you want to reach?" She feels like, "I didn't get there." I said, "Listen, you've had more success than a lot of people and it may not have been here, but people love you." Whether they like to hear it or not, she's paved the way. There's no dig against anybody because a lot of them have said it. You paved the way for the Monicas, the Brandys. Beyonce even spoke to her and told her Solange sang your song (“I Love Your Smile”) at a talent show. I try to tell her just, "Hold on to that and just keep doing what you're doing," because you see where everything is going in the business, in the industry. And to have a good name and people that love you, I think, is a great thing. That brings longevity.

You guys have been staying creative. I see you’ve been doing virtual house parties. Who came up with that concept?

Flex: It came from me starting deejaying back in 2016. I was doing it once a week. Every Thursday I was doing, and she would be in the bed. When we got here, I started doing it again. It was right at the beginning of the pandemic. I just jumped on, and then she came over and then just started—

Shanice: I was like, I said, "Let me be your hype girl." (Laughs)

Flex: It worked. It's at a point now where if I get on it by myself, people are like, "Where's Shanice?"

Shanice: I like to drop it like it's hot. (Laughs) It’s fun.

Flex: It helps our mind because we didn't know what ...I'm talking about when it was like March when it was cold and rainy out there and all of this gloom and doom...we didn't know what was happening. The people that came in and people that were on our page, people said, "Yo, this helped me so much get through the night or helped me get through the week. Man, that meant more than anything." I didn't care if there were 10 people on there or 10 thousand. We just go on there. We shout everybody out.

 

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Thank you EVERYONE for rocking last night!!! We appreciate your undying support, to our day one #LockdownwithFlex family you already know!!! And my fellow New York brother @lilcease thanks for hanging last night we hope you enjoyed the trip down memory lane✊🏾✊🏾

A post shared by flexaforeal (@flexaforeal) on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:39am PDT

Flex, you’ve written and produced your own TV show, you’re a comedian....Are you working on any other current TV projects? Will we see you on a screen again soon?

Flex: Before I mention that, I'm excited about Netflix releasing One on One. It was through the Strong Black Lead who really pushed for us to be in more places and to have another life. This is crazy because two years ago, I wrote the reboot. I had it ready to go, and then that happened and I'm like, "Man, This is perfect."

Shanice: It's perfect timing.

Flex: This could lead right to it. I'm thankful for that. I just wanted to throw that out there. We have an animated series that we're working on now. We just got a showrunner attached and we're working on that. I have a drama that I've developed right before the COVID hit. We also worked with a Black-owned company called Ceek, where we do the Flex and Shanice Virtual House Party. They have great programs and they do live concerts. They've had Elton John, they've had Lady Gaga.

Shanice: Jennifer Lopez.

Flex: They have DL Hughley on there with Chris Spencer, [and] we're on there now. What they're trying to do is create this virtual experience [where] I come in, I deejay, [you] put your (VR headset) on and you're in the party. It’s great to partner with them and just continue to stay active and creative. It just keeps you going.

Shanice: And I've been doing live concerts in my living room.

Flex: Yeah. It's crazy because we've worked a lot.

Shanice: We've been doing so much in this living room. (Laughs) Like Flex said, we were working before the pandemic, we're working our butts off more now.

Tell us how you balance being in the entertainment business, being stars, having a family and being married. You're probably going to tell me love, but there has to be something else besides love that has kept you together. What do you think it is?

Flex: Honestly, praying is the first.

Shanice: Praying. Yes.

Flex: And communication. We can agree to be disagreeable.

Shanice: We've had our ups and downs. It's not like it's been all great, but we do love each other and we don't go to bed angry. We're mad at each other and we try to talk it out, and I just feel like you’ve got to try to make it exciting and you can't get too comfortable. People, after a while, they get bored in their relationship.

Flex: There are times that she ain't checking for me; she doesn't like me right now, so I'll come downstairs and she'll be up here. There's time's out like that. We go to different parts of the house and we figure it out.

Shanice: And we try to give each other a little space to breathe. We may come back to the situation and talk about it.

Flex: Every day you figure it out, you grow. I think I'm understanding who I am more now at 50 than I did at 30 or 35. I just love being here, being with my family, us having fun together, the kids. It's a beautiful thing, man. It's a beautiful thing.

Flex, what’s one thing that Shanice has taught you about being married? What have you learned from her?

Flex: Growth. I would say growth because if there's anybody that I've seen grow is her. If there's anybody I've seen with perseverance, it’s her. Her patience, her kindness, her. It has really taught me to listen more because as the man you're like, "I got it." She says, "Something ain't right," and I'm like, "I got it." Learning how to cut that off in my brain and go, "You know what? I need to listen. I need to listen to her. I need to hear her." I think that was probably one of my biggest hurdles is not that I didn't listen, but listen and go out, really listen and apply it. I've just seen so much from her in 20 years that I'm just like, "Wow, man. We've got 100 more to go." I just want to grow some more, and we’ve got more fun to have and love to have. We're done with the babies, though.

Shanice: Right. No more babies.

Flex: We're done with the babies.

Shanice: No more babies.

Flex: No more babies.

Shanice, what one thing Flex has taught you, or that you’ve learned by being married and connected to him for so long?

Shanice: I've learned that people over the years grow and they change, and sometimes you have to learn how to go with the change. I've learned to try to adjust to the change because we're not the same people we were 20 years ago.

Flex: Not in a bad way, though.

Shanice: Not in a bad way.

Shanice, you’re an international pop star. You started in pop and then crossed back to R&B, and can travel the world with just “I Love Your Smile.” That's big in itself, but can you share some of your greatest accomplishments? 

I think when I got nominated for a Grammy, that was like a big highlight for me because when I was a little kid I used to always look in the mirror and I used to practice my speech. I used to always dream about getting awards. I have several moments: the Grammys, (Aretha) Franklin, rest in peace—when she turned 50 the Queen of Soul reached out to me and flew me and my band and my dancers down to her house. I did a whole concert in her living room with a band and dancers and everything. That was so big for me.

Meeting Michael Jackson, singing on three of his records. I sang in the background for like three songs, and that was big for me. Just being able to travel all over the world. “I Love Your Smile” was No. 1 in..I believe it was 22 countries. I've traveled all over the world and I'm still traveling the world because of that song. “Saving Forever For You” was a big record for me as well with Diane Warren and David Foster. That went to No. 5. It didn't go No. 1, but it was almost number one. That was another big pop record for me. So you're right. I came out pop and then I crossed over to R&B.

I’ve got another Aretha story. I have to say this. I was having one of my moments when I was frustrated about the industry. I was home and I was crying and I said, "God, I don't want to do this anymore." I was feeling really low. I was like, "I'm done. I don't want to do this." And then, Flex came home and he was like, "Somebody reached out to me.” I think it was Aretha’s sister-in-law saw Flex and said Aretha wants to get in touch with Shanice. Here’s her cell number. So Flex comes home and says, "Miss Franklin wants to get in touch with you. This is her cell number." I'm like, "Me? Really?" I called her and we talked for like probably an hour. We talked for a long time, and she said, "I reached out to you because I want to tell you I know real talent when I hear it, and you got it." This is when I was feeling down. This was nothing but God telling me keep going.

So she said, "We had auditions. I'm doing a movie about my life, my life story." And she said, "Most likely Jennifer Hudson is going to play me, but I would love you to play my sister." I’m sitting on the phone like, "Yeah!" They'd been talking about this movie forever. Even when she was alive they were talking about the movie, and I said, "Anything you need. I would love to be a part [of it]." We talked several times over the years about the movie. Unfortunately, she passed. I think God wanted just to encourage me to keep going. I think that's why that happened. It was just to tell me to keep going. I just had to share that story.

Flex, what would you say to the younger Flex as he’s just starting out in the entertainment industry?

Take everything in more. Enjoy it. Don't fly through it so fast. Tell the people you love that you love them while you have them. I would have learned more about the business on the financial side to plan better. Those would probably be the things I would say, but I think overall, it would be to take it all in, sit back and take it in more. I think things happen so fast and it's like, I'm here, I'm there, I'm dancing, Salt-N-Pepa here, boom, traveling the world. And then, you think it's all going to keep going. You think it's all going to just last forever. And then, next thing you know, you look back and the time has passed and all you have is maybe a picture. I think that would be the thing I would tell myself.

Shanice, what would you tell up and coming talent that is trying to break into the entertainment business?

Shanice: I would tell them to definitely do it not for the money, do it for the love. The money and all that stuff will come. Believe in yourself. Back when I started, you had to get the approval of a huge record exec to put you out there. And now, because of the internet, you don't have to wait on somebody to tell you if you're good or not. You can put out your music on iTunes and get out there and create an audience online. I would say just don't give up on yourself, keep trying. It may not happen overnight. It might. There are people like Justin Bieber. He got on YouTube and he's one of the biggest stars in the world. Everybody's story is different, but you just have to keep trying and keep believing in yourself.

Flex: Yes.

Shanice: Just don't give up. You’ve got to keep going. Even when it seems like it's impossible, you just gotta keep going.

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Then & Now: Common Details How He And J Dilla Collaborated On The "Thelonious" Track With Slum Village

J Dilla and Common had a really tight creative bond and, at one point, lived together in L.A. So you know that Common got dibs on all of his hot beats first. They were hip-hop brethren just trying to work together and of all of their collaborations, living and posthumous, the track “Thelonius,” is the sharpest intersection of the two legendary artists' careers.

A singular song fit for two albums, the cut was placed on Common’s fourth studio album Like Water for Chocolate and Fantastic Vol. II, Slum Village's classic sophomore album. “Thelonius” as we know it was in a way an accident...a soulful snafu that we get to enjoy forever. In this excerpt of VIBE's Then & Now video franchise, Common shares how the song manifested unplanned, willed into existence by Dilla’s uncompromising creative compass.

The story is brought to life with artwork by visual artist supreme, Dan Lish (@DanLish1), the man behind Raekwon’s The Wild album artwork. The illustrations you see in this video are a small fraction of what you can find in his upcoming book: Egostrip Vol 1 – The Essential Hip Hop Art Book, a psychedelic visual history of hip-hop to be enjoyed by the genre’s oldest and youngest fans alike. 

Today is the last day to support Lish's Kickstarter for the incredible project. Click the following link for a copy of your own: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dan-lish/egostrip-book-1 

“I picked up on what inspired me about the artists, whether it be a certain lyric from a classic song or my perception of what may be going through their mind at the moment of creation,” says Lish.

There is much more to be said about all of these artists. For more stories on Common’s catalog, including several more Dilla cuts, stay tuned for the upcoming episode of Then & Now, where we dig deeper into notable tracks in the career of one Lonnie Rashid "Common" Lynn, Jr.

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