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Reuben Chapman

Tiffany Evans, Her Cross To Bear, And Being 'Open Even If It Hurts'

Evans offers an intimate look into a bad situation she had been shamed into covering and how she has turned her dark clouds into a new chapter in her career. 

Reading as a success story, Tiffany Evans’ early fable follows a young girl propelled into the spotlight after becoming the first contestant to earn a perfect score in Star Search history. Later signing with Columbia Records in 2004, the singer released her self-titled debut album with the LP's frontrunner "Promise Ring" before taking a leave of absence to pursue parenthood. For the next few years, the South Bronx beauty popped in and out of music to drop jewels for her loyal fans. Now, nearly 10 years later, the 26-year-old is making her return to music with a bold new EP.

Last heard on 2015’s All Me EP, the mother-of-two’s forthcoming project ushers a change of pace, specifically Evans being a victim of domestic violence by her former husband. In an Instagram post, which has since been deleted, the songstress opened up about the physical and emotional disputes with her ex.

 

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#TiffanyEvans opens up about her abusive relationship. #Roommates, let’s keep her in our prayers!

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Championing a campaign against victim-blaming, the R&B veteran has placed an emphasis on helping victims heal.

"We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional,” Evans says over the phone from Atlanta. “I just want women to start saying f**k you, you did this. If it's going to heal me and I’m ready to talk about it, I’m going to open up. F**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me, don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled."

Here, the singer/songwriter opens up about her journey back to music, her upcoming EP, and her struggles with domestic violence and victim-blaming.

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VIBE: How does it feel to be back in the game?
Tiffany Evans: It's a little nerve-racking because you sit with music that you have been working on for so long. I speak about my experiences a lot and I love for my music to tell stories. When you sit with this music and you're not releasing anything, and only you know about it, you kind of get nervous when it’s released, because you don't know what the response may be. You know that you're allowing people to kind of see into your life, personally and everything that is going on. So that was the most nerve-racking part for me. Knowing that this record is not like... it's a true story. And it is something that I have been going through for a while and letting people know that it kind of made me nervous, but to see the response from all the women and the guys too, the guys love the record, it made me very happy. I'm like okay, back like I never left.

The last time you put out an EP was All Me in 2015. What do you think is really different between how you were making music then and how you work on music now?
When I dropped the All Me EP, my head was in a totally different space. I was going through things in my relationship but I was not ready to speak about it. By the time I started working on this new project I am going to be dropping soon—I started working on that around early last year—I just got to the point where I was ready to speak on what the f**k was going on with me and everything I have been dealing with. I'm going to be transparent, be vulnerable. I'm going to be open even if it hurts. Because this is going to help me begin my healing process. One of the reasons why I have not been healing is because I haven't spoken about it. I haven't said anything about it. So my music back then, I was just doing songs that I thought were really dope but they didn't come from my heart. I wasn't... Like I said, I like to really tell stories and be able to say what's on my mind and say, ‘Hey, I have experienced this and I want you to listen to what I am singing about.’ I was not ready to do that then, but I am so ready now. And that is the major difference, my energy toward that is a major “f**k what anybody has to say, f**k whose feelings I'm going to get hurt.” When I released the All Me EP, it was still on the clean side, still on the ‘I'm not going to say much, I'm not going to talk about much, I'm just going to do songs that I think are cool, but they aren't going to touch on my situation.’ I really wanted to make that a goal to open up this time.

Will this EP explore a more vulnerable and insightful look into what has been happening in your personal life?
Yes, and more honestly. I'm a little angry and I want to be transparent. Sometimes it can come off as "don't be bitter," "don't be." But, you know, sometimes you do get bitter and sometimes you do get angry and I want to let people know that it's okay to feel those very human emotions. When you go through so much sh*t and it hurts you, it can change you. I have definitely been changed. I want to start healing but I am angry.

Since you’re saying right now you’re in this stage where you’re angry, and you’re completely allowed to be angry, do you think that you will touch on getting to a point of forgiveness?
I definitely believe that it will lead to forgiveness. I know that I am still dealing with a lot right now, and I'm still angry. I do believe I have tasted bitterness on my tongue and the first part of my healing is me admitting to that truth and not being afraid to say, “this is where I am.” I never want to hate anybody and I never wanted to hurt anybody, regardless of what they have done to me. I just know that it definitely changed me and I do believe that eventually if I distance myself the way that I'm doing and I stay to myself and continue to do what I need to do for my healing, then it will end in forgiveness, but that does not mean that those same people or that same person has to be in my life for me to forgive them.

When you were in the studio recording “Switch Up,” were you in a home studio or was there anything interesting that happened while you were recording?
I was recording at home. I was recording at a setup that me and my writing partner go to and our engineer. We set this studio in the living room, in their apartment. I started to talk about the sh*t that I was going through and I was like, "You know what, I'm f**king done, I'm ready to open up, I'm ready to go off.” I drank some wine, and we all just started drinking and talking. The more that we talked, the more we started getting into the actual track. Then eventually it turned into a freestyle. I started going over the record over and just laying sh*t down—one line here, one line there. We didn't write one thing down, everything was popping up in our heads. It was like, "You know what, I want to say this." I kept up with the melody and it turned into "Switch Up." It's strange how it all came about, but it was a big a** freestyle.

Do you know what wine you were drinking? I need to try it.
Yes. It's the best. Sutter Home, sweet red. I'm a fan of it, I really do like bitter tasting wine, but I also love sweet red wine as well. I just grabbed a bottle from Quick Trip. They sell the Sutter Home wine products at the store. Then I grabbed one and went to their apartment and we started drinking and working. It definitely got us in the mood. They didn't think it would work for them, but it works for everyone. You should try it. I don't know if you've had it before but it's one of my favorite wines.

You said it started over a bottle of wine and here we are now. That's amazing.
Yeah, a little wine, and the inspiration was "ni**as ain't sh*t."

Speaking of, because you needed a glass of wine for this, is there anything you usually have with you when you are recording in the studio?
That's a good question. I sit with a cover, like a blanket. Oh, flip-flops. I know it's strange and it sounds like it has nothing to do with music, but I'm very much a person that needs to feel right before I open up my mouth. So I had some comfy, fuzzy flip-flops and a blanket. Normally that's what I like to record with unless like I'm going to a studio or a public studio and everybody is there. I might dress up in a track suit or whatever, but at the home studio I have flip-flops and a blanket and I was in my own zone with my glass of wine.

What can you share about your upcoming project? Do you have any collaborations in the works? Is there a title or a date?
I know that we are aiming for the first quarter. And it is very, like I said, it's very aggressive. I know you heard vulnerable and open, but it's very aggressive. A lot of times women get looked down upon for being assertive and knowing what we want, and what we want to say and sometimes we get looked at as crazy. The lyrical content is definitely something to focus on when listening to this project when everyone hears it. It’s not just the track but the words and what we say and how we say it. It's just different from anything I have ever done before. I definitely do have some features and I don't want to say anything about them yet.

No, come on, we are in a sharing zone.
I know, I know, but just know this, you guys are in for a major treat. I’m very excited about what I’m doing and who I’m doing it with. I just can't say anything yet. I’m not allowed to. It's just like every day I am like, Lord, when am I going to be able to say anything? Just know that I do have a couple of features and it's going to be lit. It's going to be something a lot of women are going to feel empowered by and the guys will even f**k with it, too. But I'm doing it for my ladies, we go through so much. This whole project is for women and me being a voice for the women and the issues we go through on the daily, and how we hold these ni**as down. And it's not that I'm trying to bash a man or anything like that or doing any male bashing. It's just that we need to be okay with telling our truth without feeling like we did a bad thing by exposing what’s wrong in a relationship or what's wrong with you, and what is going on with you. We shouldn't feel bad about that and too many times we do. I just want this to be the project that women listen to and they are like damn you know what, I’m better than that, and I do deserve more than that. I don't care this guy can be cute, he can sex me right, we can have the best sex, we can have whatever, but if he is not truly right, then I want to say that I love myself enough to say I don't care how cute you are or how handsome you are, how you know how much swag you got, or money. I can walk away cause I know I deserve better.

A lot of what resonates with me is you’re really trying to help fight this stigma of victim blaming. We now live in this era where people blame victims for things that are not their fault.
It's so crazy, I just don't understand. This person obviously went through something, and the only thing you can say is “what did they do? What did they do to get punched in the face?” If I am not putting my hands on you, you're not putting your hands on me. That's how it should be.

That is exactly how it should be.
It's just as simple as that. If I’m not doing that to you, don't do that to me. I don't understand how it goes, or how many people are so quick to throw stones at the victim for opening up. This is why we are afraid to open up. We’re worried to open up because we’re not really sure we’re going to get the support we need to get to through this thing because not only is it physical, it's mental and emotional. I just want women to start saying f**k you. Like, ‘No, you did this.’ If it's going to heal me and I am ready to talk about it, I am going to open up. Like f**k you, f**k you. Don't have your mom call me, don't have your sister call me. Don't have anybody call me for some sh*t that you could have avoided, you could have controlled. It's like everybody always wants to call and say why did you have to do that or why did you have to say that about this person or why did you have to put this out for the public to know? Well, what do you mean? So you knew that this has been going on for years? And the only time you are worried is when I say something?

Do you think that experiencing domestic violence has affected your music and your journey away from and back to music?
Absolutely yes. It affects everything about you because you blame yourself for why things are going the way they are going. You don't feel like you are worthy, like you are deserving of respect and then overall it breaks down your self-esteem but you don't have the confidence for things that you should have the confidence for. My case with music, I was always concerned about not being good enough and that started with number one. I had a lot of family issues. I come from a broken home but when you get in a relationship that is not any better, that only enhances everything at once. I didn't really believe that I was good enough to do music. I was always questioning things and always insecure about sh*t and always in my head about sh*t. One of the things I don't regret, but I just wish that I was strong enough to not let it affect me. And the very thing that I was born to do. I probably could have been in a different place, I don't know. But I’m not trying to put that on anybody or blame anybody. I’m not trying to blame that on the next person. But I’m just being totally honest, if I was in a different headspace and I believed in myself maybe things could have panned out a little differently when it came to my music.

Where do you think you have found your strength in all of this?
I have definitely found my strength in God. I have been leaning on prayer and meditation and, at times, it just really wasn't easy at all. You have those days when you're like, "I'm trying to encourage myself, speak to myself, speak life into myself," and sometimes you just don't believe it, sometimes you just don't have faith. Sometimes you're really affected by things that you go through and you're really stuck, you feel stuck and stagnant. But I've started to pray because there was a time that I stopped praying and I stopped meditating and I really couldn't wrap my head around anything. I started praying and asking God to reveal my own heart to me, the things that I need to change about myself. I started with myself. Things that I needed to be honest about with myself I asked God to start revealing those things with me and allow me to have the strength to build myself up and move on in my life without.

I started praying a lot more and asking God to give me the strength to make a decision to choose. Not to make a decision but to choose. To choose to do what I needed to do. That is where I started to come up a little bit in my spirit, but it's easier said than done. Sometimes you run across good genuine people who genuinely care and want to see you do better and want to see you okay. I thank God for those people. I call them guardian angels. They come into your life, and he sends them to be a light in a dark time, so I have definitely had a lot of that. I didn't even realize it at one point, but I have started to realize it and it definitely made a huge difference.

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Melyssa Ford

Melyssa Ford: 'My Mother Died During This Pandemic And I Have Nowhere To Put My Grief'

Editor's Note: In a heartwarming tribute, former model now TV/radio host, Melyssa Ford details the final days she shared with her beloved mother, Oksana Barbara Raisa Ford (10/12/1950 - 5/19/2020). Understanding that we have all been connected to COVID-19's tragic reach, this essay explains the plight of one person's experience that represents the pain so many are dealing with in these times around the world.

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COVID-effing-19. This pandemic has been a moment of reckoning for a great many of us. How many of you have been confronted with the hard truth that we took EVERYTHING about our lives and freedoms for granted? The freedom to call up a few friends and go for Happy Hour drinks after a long day at work? The freedom to start our day by going to the gym; the freedom to temporarily vacate our lives by getting on a plane and heading off to some tropical destination? Or the freedom to gather at a burial or memorial service to pay love and respect to a loved one who has passed, as a means of helping to process our own grief? 

My mother died last week. Not from COVID-19, but from colon cancer. But COVID-19 and its endless complications directly affected my family’s lives and, ultimately, my mother's death. 

It was less than a year from diagnosis to her last days. She lived in Toronto (my hometown) and I currently live in Los Angeles. Traveling during this pandemic presented some incredible challenges. Quarantine and shelter in place rules. Closed international borders. Fear and uncertainty. I was terrified that I wouldn’t get to her side in time, since Canada mandates that anyone getting off a plane has to self-quarantine for 14 days (threats of fines and jail time were there to incentivize you to adhere to the new rules). And I knew my mother had very little precious time. 

Months before, when there was still some hope that surgery and chemo would prolong her life, she decided to sell the house I grew up in. I was furious. I looked at this as her giving up; resigning herself to the control of this insidious disease called cancer. But my mother, the truest form of a pragmatist, was preparing for the inevitable and getting her affairs in order. She wanted to leave me with nothing to do except mourn her without the burden of packing up a home with all of her belongings in it after her death. She knows me so well, she knew I’d NEVER pack it up, that I’d have left everything the way it was as a shrine to her and, therefore, never really moving through my grief in a purposeful and healthy manner. 

Cancer ravaged my mother's body but left her brain fully intact. And it was with full cognition, pragmatism and a whole lot of gumption, that she decided to end things on her terms by scheduling her passing with a doctor's assistance via MAID (Medical Assistance in Dying) — a legal policy in Canada that allows a terminally ill patient in palliative care to choose the days or weeks remaining in their lives. 

She didn’t want to spend her last months laying confined to a bed, immobile, unable to even take herself to the bathroom. The most basic form of human dignity had been stolen from her and replaced with a catheter and a colostomy bag that my aunt had to drain several times a day. I watched as her skin turned yellow from jaundice, signaling her liver was failing. I watched as her urine went from a dark yellow to crimson, a signal that her kidneys were no longer functional. My mother, the strongest person I had ever known, both physically and mentally, was now frail and seemingly melting into the bed, her skin sagging from her skeletal arms and legs. Her face was gaunt, her head bald, her breastplate visible and bony...in her last days, she was an empty shell of the 5’10” beautiful Viking she had been. With her long blond hair, green eyes, and imposing physical stature, I used to joke that if you gave her a hat with horns, a shield, and a sword, you could send her out to battle. 

The day I arrived in Toronto from L.A., I approached my mother’s bedside after going through a rigorous disinfectant routine. My mother had been discharged from the hospital as there was nothing left to do for her medically except keep her as comfortable as possible. She was sent home to my aunt’s house for the remainder of her days. My aunt’s home was a place of comfort and joy for me, as I’ve spent a great many holidays and family occasions here; this was the best place for my mother to be. With a mask and gloves on, I sat down next to her bedside and tried with all my might not to cry. My Mom had passed on that British “stiff upper lip” mentality to me; it’s rare you will see me expose my emotions. But as of late, I’ve been pretty transparent about it, in an attempt to sort through my competing feelings of grief and guilt. Guilt of not having been the perfect daughter. Grief of being her only child with no one to share the burden of immeasurable sadness with. Guilt of not working on our relationship or attempting to understand her as a person until it was close to the end. Guilt and grief kept coming in waves, threatening to drown me. 

On that first evening, I sat with her for a few hours and we talked more frankly than we ever had about things I had always been scared to ask. Topics such as her tumultuous marriage to my father and why she stayed in such misery. What was HER mother like, who died when my mother was only 15 years old? Was she proud of me and the choices I had made in my life, one of them being never having children?

Eventually, I had to let her sleep. I went upstairs to her bedroom (she was now in a bedroom on the main floor of my aunt’s house since she could no longer walk). Once in her room, I found a journal titled 2019 and began to read. What I read, in between all of the activities she enjoyed such as Aquafit and her book club, was her documenting her disease before she even knew she had it, describing the symptoms that began as uncomfortable that would soon become excruciatingly painful. 

It broke my heart to read this, being on the other side of understanding where this story would end. I found myself wanting to move through the dimension of time and yell, “Go to the hospital!” Reading this only made me wonder if she had caught it during the early days of symptoms, would the outcome be different? Excuse me as I add more guilt and more grief to the already unbearable weight upon my shoulders. 

Our final day was spent much like the last six days I had with my mother, laying beside each other in bed, massaging her, and either watching movies or talking. We would go from walking down memory lane as I showed her old pictures to discussing last-minute details about the Business of Death: the transfer of everything into my name, where certain sentimental pieces of jewelry could be found, who she wanted to receive small tokens of remembrance of her. As sad as I was for myself, my heart broke for my mother. She’s losing EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE. She expressed to me that she was shocked at how quickly her cancer spread throughout her body. It didn’t give her a chance. No amount of holistic remedies or prayers would have changed this (thanks to all my friends who suggested a plant-based diet with sea moss, soursop, and bladderwrack but her colon, GI tract, and bowels had been decimated). 

The few days leading up to her doctor-assisted euthanasia, I found my heart racing in a panic as the end was creeping closer and closer. I don’t know what’s worse, a loved one's death being a surprise or knowing when it’s going to happen with the hours counting down. I know both intimately. My father went the first way, my mother the second. I still can’t tell you the answer.

With plans in place for the funeral home to come and take my mother's body in order to cremate her, I’m left with a feeling of such remorse and sadness. Because of COVID-19, my mother’s friends and I are being robbed of the opportunity to congregate at a memorial service to properly mourn and pay homage and respect to the woman we all loved and admired. My mother deserved that.

I’m so angry. I’m angry at cancer. I’m angry at, as a society, our collective circumstances. I’m angry at the thought that this pandemic could have been controlled if our government officials had reacted swiftly. I’m angry that there are so many people who are experiencing the same thing I am—the death of loved ones, and the inability to gather together for a ceremony that celebrates their lives and sends them off properly.

Trauma changes you. Less than two years ago, I almost died when a truck hit my jeep on a California highway. I spent almost a year recovering. I’m a different person than I was moments before the impact of that crash. And now I’ve got to sort out who I am without my mother on this earth. People report a feeling of disconnectedness after the death of their parent(s); like what kept you tethered to the earth is gone and you are now hurtling through time and space, searching for something to grab onto.

I lost my father many years ago and now my mom is gone. I’m praying that I find something soon to ground me; but for the time being, the search to make sense and meaning of my mother's life and, ultimately her death, shall continue for me, like a room with endless doors or a road that disappears into the horizon. 

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A native of Toronto, Canada and now residing in Beverly Hills, California, Melyssa Ford is a syndicated radio show host on Hollywood Unlocked via iHeart Media's stations nationwide and also hosts her own podcast, I'm Here For The Food (available on all streaming platforms).

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Beenie Man (L) and Bounty Killer (R) in 1995.
David Corio/Redferns

A Look At Beenie Man And Bounty Killer's 'Verzuz' Battle Scorecard

Why was this night different from all other Verzuz battles? Streamed live from Kingston, Jamaica, the Memorial Day “Soundclash Edition” of Swizz Beatz and Timbaland’s flagship IG Live series was easily the most exciting and entertaining yet, as well as the first to delve into dancehall reggae.

Considering the fact that Jamaican sound systems pioneered the sort of “beat battles” have made Verzuz a social media sensation well over half a century ago, the creative decision was more than fitting. By pitting two icons of the genre, Bounty Killer and Beenie Man, in head-to-head competition, this Verzuz battle did not just showcase two of its most respected lyricists ever to hold a microphone, it also tapped into an epic rivalry that stretches back more than a quarter of a century.

At that time the youth born Moses Davis in the Waterhouse section of downtown Kingston was already on the second leg of his career -- having released his first album a decade earlier at the age of ten. Young Rodney Price, formerly known as Bounty Hunter, had just started to make noise under his new artist name Bounty Killer, recording hardcore hits for the legendary Waterhouse-based producer Lloyd “King Jammy” James.

Like all young aspiring artists, Killer had looked up to Beenie as an inspirational figure -- until he felt that the artist had borrowed his style. Beenie and Bounty’s face-to-face clashes, especially their Boxing Day battles at the storied Jamaican stage show Sting in 1993 and 1995, are the stuff of dancehall legend. Despite whatever differences may have existed between them, both artists channeled all that energy into great records -- many of which were played in the heat of the Verzuz battle.

Arguably the most exciting and spontaneous edition of Verzuz yet, the Beenie and Bounty battle was not a “clash” in the traditional Jamaican sense, but it was hardly a conventional beat battle either. Predictions that the island’s WiFi might not be able to handle the strain were soon dismissed -- in keeping with Jamaica’s long tradition of raising the bar when it comes to using technology to create next-level musical entertainment, this was the best-produced beat battle of them all. On the other hand, this was also the first time a Verzuz competitor has had to take a break in the action to negotiate with police officers.

This was surely also the first Verzuz battle to be live-tweeted by a prime minister: PM Andrew Holness took to his official Twitter to declare “Jamaica’s culture is global” and share a screenshot of the action. In keeping with the national pride, the battle opened with a rousing rendition of the Jamaican National Anthem.

When Beenie and Bounty came through VIBE’s IG Live one day before performance, they both declared that they would not be preparing for the battle as the art of war should be spontaneous. This has had people on tender hooks as no one really knows what would happen on the night. But of course all celebrities were out in full force for this highly anticipated battle, as everyone from Diddy to Swizz to Rihanna came through to catch the vibes. It was the only place to be if you were on IG, with more than 400K people checking in at the event's peak.

Here’s Billboard's tune-for-tune breakdown from the top to the very last drop.

ROUND 1: Beenie Man's “Matie” vs. Special Ed feat. Bounty Killer's “Just a Killa”

Beenie kicked things off with his first No. 1 hit (on the Jamaican charts) in honor of the late great Bobby Digital, the legendary producer of this song and countless more, who passed away May 21. Bounty opted to open on an international note, leading with his first hip hop collaboration, a 1995 single by Brooklyn rapper Special Ed featuring a guest verse from young Bounty.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 2: Beenie Man's “Memories” vs. Bounty Killer's “Suspense”

Sticking with the hardcore dancehall, Beenie reached for one of his fan favorites, a mid-’90s banger on the “Hot Wax” riddim that was recorded during the height of his great lyrical war with Bounty Killer (and sampled by Drake on the album version of “Controlla”). Killer responded in kind with a track on the same hard-hitting riddim, making this round feel like a flashback mid-'90s dancehall session.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 3: Beenie Man's “Slam” vs. Bounty Killer's “Living Dangerously”

Shifting into another gear, Beenie drew for his first Billboard hit, a tribute to the sexual prowess of “ghetto girls” recorded on Dave Kelly’s irresistible “Arab Attack” riddim. Bounty responded with one of his most popular songs for the ladies, a collaboration with reggae vocalist par excellence Barrington Levy. Counteracting a classic with another classic, this round was too close to call.

WINNER: Tie

ROUND 4: Beenie Man feat. Chevelle Franklin's “Dancehall Queen” vs. Diana King feat. Bounty Killer's “Summer Breezin’”

Keeping the energy high, Beenie unleashed this soundtrack cut from the movie Dancehall Queen (in which he also appeared). Bounty responded with a relatively obscure guest verse on a record by Jamaican pop hitmaker Diana King.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 5: Beenie Man feat. Lil Kim's “Fresh From Yard” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Jeru the Damaja's “Suicide or Murder”

For his first international selection, Beenie chose a DJ Clue production featuring the Queen Bee in her best Brooklyn Jamaican patois mode. Killer kept it BK with a grimy Jeru collab produced by New York’s own Massive B productions.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 6: T.I. feat. Beenie Man's “I’m Serious” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Mobb Deep's “Deadly Zone”

Sticking with the hip hop collabs, Beenie dropped T.I.’s first major-label single featuring a hard-as-nails Neptunes beat and a street-certified Beenie Man hook. But he should have known that badman business is the Killer’s wheelhouse. Bounty clapped back with a grimy Mobb Deep collab off his My Xperience album and took the round.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 7: Guerilla Black feat. Beenie Man's “Compton” vs. Bounty Killer feat. The Fugees' "Hip-Hopera”

Beenie dropped his third straight hip hop crossover track, this one a guest verse for Biggie soundalike Guerilla Black over a bouncy Stalag Riddim. Bounty brought out the big guns, returning fire with a Fugees collab. As the Warlord would say, “People dead!”

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 8: Beenie Man's “Romie” vs. Bounty Killer's “Worthless Bwoy”

Returning to straight-up dancehall, Beenie served up one of his worldwide club classics, a song about a girl named “Romie” set to Shocking Vibes’s hard-driving version of the Punany Riddim. Killer replied with a Dave Kelly banger burning out the guys who lack the stamina to satisfy their significant others.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 9: Beenie Man “Old Dog” vs. Bounty Killer “Stucky”

Beenie Man has plenty of classic dancehall joints, and this Dave Kelly sure shot is one of the most ubiquitous. “Old Dog” recounts his exploits with the opposite sex, shouting out female dancehall stars Patra and Lady Saw along the way. Bounty replied in kind with his own kind of “gyal tune,” more rough than sweet, just the way Killer likes it.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 10: Beenie Man feat. Mya “Girls Them Sugar” vs. Bounty Killer ft. Nona Hendryx & Cocoa Brovaz “It’s a Party”

Beenie closed out the first half of the battle on a strong note with one of his most beautiful records, a Neptunes remake of one of his immortal dancehall classics adorned with a sweet hook sung by Mya. Bounty’s response was strong, but the Wyclef-produced party joint (with a hook by the former member of Labelle and bars from Boot Camp MCs) fell just short of Beenie’s selection.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 11: Beenie Man feat. Wyclef Jean's “Love Me Now” vs. Bounty Killer feat. Swizz Beatz' “Guilty”

Flipping catchy lyrics over Naughty By Nature's classic “O.P.P.” beat, Beenie sounded strong on this Wyclef collab, but Bounty countered with a hard-hitting Swizz Beatz track featuring a blazing guest verse from the Killer.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 12: Beenie Man feat. Barrington Levy's “Murderation” vs. Bounty Killer's “Look”

The vibes were sweet right up until the moment when officers of the Jamaican Constabulary Force interrupted the action. Beenie took care of the situation, informing the police that there were hundreds of thousands of people watching internationally. He then asked his DJ to run one of the hardest tracks in his catalog, a song about the abuse of authority in the ghetto streets. It was such a perfect segue the whole thing almost seemed planned. Killer had no choice but to counter with one of the most powerful songs in his catalogue, another Dave Kelly masterpiece, just barely winning what was arguably the strongest round of the entire battle.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 13: Beenie Man's [Showtime Juggling] vs. Bounty Killer's “Fed Up”

Still charged up by the unexpected visit from the police, Beenie felt a vibe and decided to perform his next song live. Starting out with “Hypocrite,” a blistering broadside against haters on Dave Kelly’s “Showtime” riddim, Beenie’s performance inspired Bounty to join in for what became a multi-song medley that included snippets of Killer’s “Eagle & The Hawk” and “Bullet Proof Skin” as well as Beenie Man’s “Done Have We Things,” “Badman Medley,” “Bury Yuh Dead,” and “Fire Burn.”

After they wrapped up their explosive tag-team performance, Beenie calmly stated “My song dat,” indicating that he wanted the whole extended set to count as one song. Bounty retaliated with “Fed Up,” one of his signature reality tunes that cemented his reputation as Jamaica’s “Poor People Governor.” Another close round, and highly unorthodox. Advantage Killa.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 14: Beenie Man's “World Dance” vs. Bounty Killer's “Gal” 

Beenie Man took it back with one of his biggest early hits, a “buss the dance” selection on Shocking Vibes’ Cordy Roy Riddim. Killer’s response was another hardcore tune for the girls, explosively energetic and lyrically intricate.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 15: Beenie Man's “Modeling” vs. Bounty Killer's “Model”

Taking it back to the early days of his career, Beenie served up a song designed to inspire all the “bashment girls” in the dance to show off their freshest outfits and dance moves. Killer responded in kind with a similar type of song, every bit as lyrically precise as Beenie’s was melodic, making this round a dead heat.

WINNER: Tie

ROUND 16: Beenie Man's “Oyster & Conch” vs. Bounty Killer's “Benz & Bimma”

Sticking with the “gyal” segment, dancehall’s “Doctor” prescribed a musical aphrodisiac, stressing the importance of seafood in your diet. Killer responded with a dancehall smash likening his appreciation of the female physique to his fondness for expensive European automobiles.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 17: Beenie Man's “Dude” vs. Bounty Killer's “Greatest”

Beenie delivered yet another Dave Kelly sureshot, this time on the festive Fiesta Riddim. Killer responded with a little-known 2003 track on the “Hydro” radio, basically conceding this round.

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 18: Beenie Man's “Mm-Hmm” vs. Bounty Killer feat. Cham's “Another Level”

As the battle neared its final rounds, Beenie played this hard-hitting Tony Kelly production and grabbed the mic to chat his lyrics live and direct, showing that dancehall artists of a certain age are still in top form lyrically. Bounty replied with a musical killshot on Dave Kelly’s Clone Riddim, joining forces with Cham to take things to “Another Level.” Feeling the spirit, Beenie grabbed the mic and spit a verse over Bounty’s record.

WINNER: Bounty

ROUND 19: Beenie Man “Nuff Gal” vs. Bounty Killer “Cry For Die For”

Beenie changed up the pace with a jazzy tune for the ladies featuring a swinging horn section. This 1996 Jamaican single could have been a bigger hit for Beenie if it had the right promotion, and still sounds great all these years later. Bounty Killer responded in similarly eclectic mode with a jaunty track on a Riddim based on The Champs' 1950s rock chart-topper “Tequila.”

WINNER: Beenie

ROUND 20: Beenie Man's “I’m Drinkin’ (Rum and Red Bull)” vs. Bounty Killer's “Smoke the Herb”

Beenie closed out his regulation 20 rounds with one of his biggest crossover hits, a collaboration with Fambo that somebody at Red Bull should probably sign up for an endorsement deal. Bounty Killer responded with perhaps his greatest ganja anthems. This one was too close to call. Pick your poison.

WINNER: Tie

EXTRA TUNES

After running a couple of exclusive dubplate specials -- “War Uno Want” by Bounty Killer and a Buju Banton and Beenie Man collab on the M.P.L.A Riddim -- Beenie and Bounty served one final tune. ”Why Beenie saved one of his signature songs, 2004's "King of the Dancehall," for the 21st round is anybody’s guess. Bounty’s response ("Nuh Fren Fish") was something for the hardcore fans only.

Winner: Beenie

BONUS ROUNDS

Wider Catalogue: Beenie Man

While both artists did a good job displaying the breadth of their respective repertoires, blending hardcore dancehall hits with international collaborations, Beenie Man showed off his versatility with a mixture of old and new dancehall hits as well as mixing moods and tempos.

Biggest Snub: Beenie Man (Point to Bounty Killer)

Beenie Man opted not to play “Who Am I” (aka “Sim Simma,”) perhaps his best known international hit. Not to be outdone, Bounty Killer also neglected to play “Hey Baby,” his high-profile collaboration with No Doubt from their Grammy-winning 2001 album Rock Steady. Still Beenie’s oversight was the more inexplicable of the two.

Best Banter: Beenie Man

When police stopped by in the middle of the session and Beenie Man somehow kept his cool telling them “Officer, the whole world is watching… do we have to do this right now? Do you really wanna be that guy?”

Biggest KO: Bounty Killer

Not long after the police stopped by, Beenie and Bounty joined in on an eight song freestyle, venting their frustration at the police. But Bounty’s response, “Poor People Fed Up,” trumped an extended live performance, demonstrating just how much of a punch that song still packs.

People's Champ: Bounty Killer

While Beenie proved the more strategic selector, Bounty Killer’s off-the-cuff adlibs an manic energy -- especially when he noticed Rihanna in the IG audience -- kept the mood up. Even when he played unexpected selections, the Warlord’s respect levels were on 11.

FINAL SCORE: 13-10-3, Beenie Man

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This article originally appeared on Billboard.

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Jonathan Mannion

Iconic Photographer, Jonathan Mannion, Details Shooting Eminem's 'Marshall Mathers LP' 20 Years Later

This story, in its entirety, is posted on Billboard.com and is written by Carl Lamarre.

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Saturday (May 23) marks the 20th anniversary of Eminem's third album, The Marshall Mathers LP. His magnum opus not only shattered records on the Billboard 200 (debuted at No. 1 with a whopping 1.78 million copies its opening week) but highlighted his abilities as a raw and gifted storyteller. With Em looking to shed light on his real-life persona of Marshall Mathers, he hired famed photographer Jonathan Mannion to help capture his vision.

Mannion, who previously shot legendary album covers such as Jay-Z's 1996 Reasonable Doubt and DMX's 1998 Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, relished the task of teaming up with one of rap's polarizing acts because of their commonalities. Like Eminem, Mannion was a young, hungry creative from the Midwest, whose affinity for hip-hop ran deep, dating back to DJ Quik's debut single, "Born and Raised in Compton." 

Em and Mannion's tag-team expanded to over two continents. Not only did they shoot photos for MMLP in Amsterdam but also Detroit. From the pizza shop that Eminem used to work at to even his old childhood home where he sat on the steps for the album's classic cover art, nothing was off-limits.

READ MORE 20 Years of 'The Marshall Mathers LP': Ranking Every Song From Eminem's Third Album"

It was great," recalls Mannion of the shoot in from of Em's old house. "It was him in his element and delivering his journey. You know, the humble nature of him and his process of getting to be this megastar, which is rooted so clearly in talent. His talent and his relentless drive was it.

"Mannion spoke to Billboard about the 20th anniversary of The Marshall Mathers LP, where the album cover ranks in his collection and Em's dedication to delivering the best shots. 

What does the number 20 mean for you having been involved in the Marshall Mathers LP?

It's really hard to put into words how important this album is for the world, for Eminem (and) for me. There's an endless amount of stories. We shot in Amsterdam and Detroit. Originally, this album was meant to be called Amsterdam. I was like, "We have to go to Amsterdam. We have to all get on a plane and go there. That's the only way we're doing this album." He happened to be performing out there and said, "This is going to sync up perfectly.

"We did a phenomenal session out there -- really poured out hearts into it. Then, I think there was a realization that he wanted to present this trifecta of who he was: Slim Shady, Marshall Mathers and Eminem. This is how genius this guy is. He's thinking farther down the road to be able to craft these versions of himself. Slim Shady was the gimmick to get everyone's attention, which was still rooted in something phenomenal.

Then, he was like, "Let me tell you about my journey. Let me allow myself to be vulnerable within the space and deliver 'me' and how I really got here [with] my struggles, my pain," and I think that's when everybody really connected with him on a different level. It wasn't just this pop phenomenon that he was rooted in reverence for the culture. He obviously felt like he had to prove himself probably more than the next MC just because he was from Detroit and a white boy. He had something to prove and he was clinical on the album, delivering masterpiece after masterpiece.

READ MORE20 Years of 'Stan': How Eminem’s Epic 2000 Hit Relates to the Fan Culture It Inspired

When it was time to dig into who Marshall Mathers was, we had to do another session in Detroit. So we flew to Detroit to kind of continue [the shoot]. It kind of became this nice balance of Amsterdam and all of these lax drugs laws and all of these experimental moments that he was pursuing at that time to kind of ground himself. We shot outside the pizza shop that he used to work at with people that he still knew from there.

I remember you said in a past interview that you shot him in his boxers and trench coat in the freezing cold towards the end of the shoot.

It's dedication. I was with him entirely, pushing and wanting more, but he one-upped me in this session. We did that and I was like, "OK. He's going to be tired." He's in boxer shorts, combat boots and a trench coat being the fullness of the character that he was presenting as this Amsterdam version of Em. He pushed it and I was like, "Man, this is incredible. What we achieved out here was beyond comprehension. I can't wait for when we get back to see the session and go through it."He was like, "Man, I was thinking I want to do one more shot. Can we go back to the hotel? I want to be in my hotel room writing to my daughter." Usually, I'm the one begging rappers to go a little bit farther because I want to give them the world, but it flipped on me. It wasn't begrudgingly that I went there to that place. I was like, "I'm with this. Thank you." It made another really phenomenal image that we got to share with the world because of that effort.

Continue reading the original article by Carl Lamarre at Billboard here.

 

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THE MARSHALL MATHERS LP. Congratulations to @eminem on an absolutely brilliant project that celebrates 20 YEARS today. There were 2 sessions that yielded the campaign around this album, one in Detroit and the other in Amsterdam. It is one of my top 3 covers of all time. Art direction & Photography, @jonathanmannion. Designed with the masterful @morningbreathinc’s own Jason Noto.

A post shared by Jonathan Mannion (@jonathanmannion) on May 23, 2020 at 11:20am PDT

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To get a feel of Mannion's deep love of hip-hop, check out his Spotify playlist of the many legendary artists and their music from the album covers he's shot. "I did a playlist on Spotify based on a random sampling of 65 of my favorite album covers. Pulled 90 tunes that were bonafide bangers and complied a little vibe," Mannion details. Enjoy the vibes!

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