Michael Kovac

JAY-Z Dedicates A Brooklyn Park Bench To Grandmother

Well done, Mr. Carter.

On Christmas Eve, JAY Z, Beyonce, and the kids were photographed in Brooklyn's Prospect Park where the 4:44 artist presented his 93-year-old grandmother with a park bench in her honor.

The inscription on the bench reads "Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. With Love and Admiration to our root."

White was photographed wearing all black with her hand over her heart as she looked at the park bench in awe.

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For Christmas this year Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter, Beyoncé and their three children Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir gifted Jay’s 93-year-old Grandma Hattie White a park bench in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. Dedicated in her name, the touching inscription reads “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago. With love and admiration to our root, Hattie White.” The Carter family are back in New York City for the holidays, and were photographed viewing the bench on Christmas morning with Hattie and Hov’s mother Gloria Carter. Hattie White was a formative figure in Shawn Carter’s life, with her famous banana pudding holding a key to happiness while they lived in the Marcy Houses. In the final moments of the LEMONADE standout “FREEDOM” the root of the Carter dynasty can be heard speaking during her 90th birthday party in October 2015, delivering us a piece of wisdom we can all apply to our own lives: “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.” Jigga’s most real (see: heart-breaking) reference to his Yaya came in 2002 on his Blueprint² track “I Did It My Way”: “Grandma’s favorite, she could not understand how there’s people in the world who wouldn’t want me as a neighbor? Has to explain to her, ‘You think these folks want me in the penthouse as a reminder that I make top paper?’” This four bar stanza refers to Jay’s disrupted purchase of his seventh-floor penthouse on 195 Hudson Street in TriBeCa. Buying from advertising executive Peter Arnell and his wife Sarah, the original sale negotiations and $6.5 million deal were sabotaged and derailed by other tenants in May 2002. Some residents feared Hov would bring his “celebrity lifestyle” to the “placid” halls of their exclusive downtown address. They went so far as to post messages in the lobby warning residents of his “criminal record and lifestyle of knives, guns and violence,” stating “we are of the opinion that due to [Jay-Z’s] lifestyle of violence, if he moves into our building, he will place us in danger.” (Continued in comments) #JAYZ #Beyonce

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It was White who unintentionally helped name Beyonce's latest album Lemonade. During the final moments of "Freedom," which features Kendrick Lamar, she can be quoted saying: “I had my ups and downs, but I always find the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”

The audio reportedly came from a 2015 speech in which White celebrated her 90th birthday.

The Carters, famous for keeping family moments private, then boarded a private jet back to Los Angeles the day after Christmas.

The past year proved to be a successful one for the family. Beyonce headlined Coachella, while going on a stadium world tour with JAY Z. The couple ended the year in South Africa with a showstopping performance at the Global Citizens Festival.

READ MORE: Lil Wayne Reveals JAY Z Helped Him With His Taxes

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Rapper Loon arrives at the Source Hip-Hop Music Awards 2003 at the Miami Arena on October 13, 2003 in Miami, Florida. The show will air on the BET network November 11 at 8 p.m.
Photo by Scott Gries/Getty Images

Snoop Dogg, Faith Evans And More Ask Trump To Commute Loon's 11-Year Prison Sentence

Over a dozen celebrities are asking President Donald Trump to grant clemency to former rapper Loon, who is currently serving an 11-year prison sentence for a minor role in a non-violent drug offense.

The letter, which was sent to Trump this month (June 13), was signed by Snoop Dogg, former NBA champion Kevin Garnett, music industry executive Jason Flom, movie producer Scott Budnick (The Hangover), Grammy-winners Faith Evans and Stevie J, Roc Nation rapper Freeway, Baby Bash, fashion model Jeremy Meeks, and recent clemency recipient Alice Johnson, whose sentence was commuted by Trump after a widely circulated campaign by Kim Kardashian West.

Addressed to Trump, former record producer turned criminal justice advocate Weldon Angelos, questioned Loon's (born Chauncey Lamont Hawkins, now Amir Junaid Muhadith) lengthy sentence and pointed out Muhadith's adjusted lifestyle after the offense happened.  

"We strongly urge you to grant him [Loon] a presidential commutation of sentence without delay,” he wrote. "It’s ridiculous that this talented individual was given such a long sentence for merely making an introduction. What purpose is served by keeping him in prison? He completely changed his life around years before he was indicted. This is just another example of a wasteful and destructive criminal justice system.”

Muhadith was originally sentenced to 14 years on charges of conspiring with intent to distribute one or more kilos of heroin in 2011. The former rapper, who was signed to Puff Daddy's Bad Boy Records, explained the nature of his case. BET reported he declined a trial due to his prior felony convictions but maintained his innocence throughout the ordeal. In 2008, Muhadith claimed he took a call from someone who presented him with an opportunity "totally away from the lifestyle he was living," but because he "made an introduction," he was named an accessory in the drug case.  

That same year, Muhadith converted to Islam after a tour stop in Abu Dhabi. He also ended his solid music career which included the release of hits like Diddy's "I Need A Girl Part 2," and collaborations with the likes of Kelis, Toni Braxton, and 3LW. 

In a statement to VIBE, Muhadith thanked his supporters and discussed the importance of dismantling stigmas that are linked to "a broken and unjust system."

“It is only through the overwhelming push by this administration to change the state of our criminal justice system that real progress is finally being made," he said. "Alongside an extraordinary group of individuals such as Weldon Angelos, Jason Flom, Faith Evans, Kevin Garnett, Jessica Jackson Sloan at #cut50 and so many others who are not only advocating on my behalf but seek to support broader change for a broken and unjust system. It is through my own desire for change and the support of so many that I return back to society as an asset to my community, a loving husband and father, and an advocate in our battle for real criminal justice reform.”

The push to free Muhadith stems from Angelos, the founder of The Weldon Project. The organization is dedicated to raising awareness and social equity in the cannabis industry as well as helping with financial aid for those currently serving prison sentences for non-violent cannabis offenses.

"Loon’s [Muhadith's] case is a prime example of a criminal justice system that simply warehouses inmates and does not make us any safer," Angelos tells VIBE. "Prisons should be reserved for those who pose a risk to public safety. What purpose is served by keeping him in prison any longer? Loon reformed himself years before he was even arrested. And his sentence for a minor role in a nonviolent drug offense is longer than what the federal guidelines recommend for rape and kidnapping. It’s ridiculous."

"But I’m confident that the president will carefully consider his petition and the views of those who are asking him to commute it. We had an amazing show of support by those in the entertainment industry who signed onto Loon’s letter and who also care about criminal justice issues, and I look forward to building a bridge between this group of signers and the White House to see where we can work together to achieve additional reforms."

Muhadith is scheduled for release in November 2021. Learn more about The Weldon Project here.

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Kevin Winter

The Exonerated Five Receive A Standing Ovation At The 2019 BET Awards

Korey Wise, Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, and Yusef Salaam had their childhoods ripped from them after being falsely accused of rape in 1989. Thirty years later, the men known as the Central Park Five have earned a new title: The Exonerated Five.

With Ava DuVernay's directed Netflix series fresh in people's minds, the now middle-aged men --who had their sentences vacated after the real rapist confessed--have merited empathy and an outpouring of love from many.

On Sunday night (June 23) they took to the stage at 19th annual BET Awards and earned a standing ovation from the crowd.

THE EXONERATED FIVE at the #BETAwards pic.twitter.com/DSxVTLGJPW

— 106 KMEL (@106KMEL) June 24, 2019

The men were on hand to introduce singer-songwriter H.E.R. Yet, before the Grammy-Award winner performed, they spoke about how their worlds collided three decades prior.

“We are all on an individual journey in life. We don’t know where our journeys will take us or how they will collide with others,” the men said. “I didn’t know that one day would bond me to these men for the rest of our lives. But I know that in telling our truth, our lives have been changed forever. Your truth is the foundation your legacy will be built upon. Your truth will be the memories people keep long after you’re gone.”

On May 31st, Netflix premiered When They See Us. The four-part series depicted the lives of all five boys prior to being arrested, illegally interrogated, tried and convicted of the beating and rape of a white female Central Park jogger. Most of the men served seven years in prison. Wise, who was 16 at the time, was sent to Rikers Island and served 14 grueling years behind bars.

In 2001, Matias Reyes confessed to the rape, which resulted in Wise's release and the rest of the group's sentence being vacated. In 2014, the men were awarded $41 million from New York City, however, a public apology was never issued.

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Craig Barritt/Getty Images for Something in the Water

Missy Elliott Commemorates 20th Anniversary Of 'Da Real World' Album

The 2019 Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Missy Elliott, is celebrating the twentieth anniversary of her sophomore album Da Real World. The Virginia native posted a note on her Instagram account (June 24) with a throwback MTV News interview.

"It's really hard, the like, sophomore album. You try not to get that sophomore jinx," she wrote. The influential rapper was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 2000 Grammy Awards, featuring artists like Eminem, Big Boi, Redman, Lil' Mo, Lady Saw, Lil' Kim, Aaliyah, Da Brat, B.G., Juvenile, and Beyoncé. Elliott told her fans that this was the hardest album for her to finish but "when it was done it was SO FUTURISTIC and the beats was THEATRICAL."


"She's a Bi**h," "Hot Boyz," and "All n My Grill" were hit singles off the crazed album, and donning an all-black outfit and black face paint, Elliott captured the attention of fans with her unique style and sound.

To capture the vision of Da Real World, the award-winning entertainer said that she just had to wake up one day and say to herself, "I'm just gonna go in here just do songs instead of sitting there thinking about it being my sophomore album, just go in there and songs like I would for any other artist. And that's when, you know, the pressure kinda eased up. "

It has been 14 years since the rapper released a studio album (The Cookbook). She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame as the first female rapper early this month, as reported by Billboard.

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