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BlackPlanet

Solange's 'When I Get Home' Wasn't Made To Be Your Aesthetic

Solo’s new LP was made for her more than it was made for you. 

Houston’s crisp winds weren’t felt inside of S.H.A.P.E. (Self-Help for African People through Education) Community Center, where Solange hosted a special screening for the visual pairing to her latest album, When I Get Home on Sunday (March 3). It was one of nine locations, with the others being staples across Third Ward, that painted the singer-songwriter’s Southern identity. But this room, coated in green light, was warm and inviting as we waited to view the film alongside the album’s muses and collaborators like Solange’s mother Tina Knowles-Lawson, husband and filmmaker Alan Ferguson, singers Cassie and Abra as well as Houston legends Bun B, Devin the Dude and Slim Thug.

Before connecting images of a crystalized Holy Ghost or black cowboys to the album, When I Get Home sounds inevitably personal, with Solo reminding us through slow sonic drawls and gentle nayhoos why her city enriches her with love, light and purpose.

“I know that at any given time of my life I can come back here to Houston, to Third Ward and have these anchors that really lift me up and that's what I did,” she said about the album’s skeleton. As her story goes, the creative quietly rented a house in Wichita where she reunited with her old jazz band and go-to collaborators like drummer John Keith to create a sonic elixir custom made for her. Stevie Wonder’s daring Journey Through The Secret Life Of Plants, Alice Coltrane and Sun Ra Arkestra helped create her vision along with an eclectic finsta (fake Instagram page that shares what you really want to post) page and group chats with friends.

“Certain things that might've been mundane to me visually started to really enrich me and enrich my spirit,” she said about coming home again as other guests like A$AP Ferg and Metro Boomin looked on. “I think [that] just growing up in Texas is such a spirited place, any given time of day you can see and experience something that's so unique and so grounded in our culture here.”

The arrival of Solange’s When I Get Home on Friday (March 1) felt similar to the days of First Fridays at The Brooklyn Museum. Attendees would dress to the sevens (because we can’t afford nines) and head to a place with thousands of years worth of history just to pose in front of a Melvin Edwards sculptures for social stimuli. Before cuts like “Dreams” or “Almeda” could get their rightful spins, the album was put on social media’s art gallery pedestal as many deemed the album a perfect collection of songs that spoke to blackness in womanhood today.

Its immediate declarations prevented listeners from collecting the gems that lie between every percussion, interlude and falsetto the artist-curated for an album that’s meant to be studied over a strong period of time, not a weekend or 140 characters.

“I really want to make work to be discovered you know, 50 years from now,” she explains. “Building that arena [in the film] was really about leaving an imprint and making my stamp on the world in 50 years. It’s how I envisioned this rodeo and these space where black bodies can unite and make sculptures out of their space and out of their souls. It’s one thing to imagine it and another thing to manifest it and I think so much of the album is just about that.”

The joy and importance of repetition is often attributed with building stronger connections, habits and beings. It’s permeated throughout the entire album, including the opener, “Things I Imagined.” As the singer enjoyed the success of her critically acclaimed album A Seat The Table, she was also met with an unexpected autonomic disorder, putting a cog in how she viewed her creative process and her body. Instead of just making music, the artist expressed her yearning to feel the music.

“It’s coming into my spirit and coming into my body and so much of this album, this project and this film was about coming into my body and the things I had to do to reinforce my spirit,” she said of the songs that were nearly 20 minutes long and done in one take. “It’s one thing to think with your spirit but it’s another to actually live it through your body.”

When I Get Home may not have breakaway bops as many expected, but Solange’s ability prioritize her legacy over instant gratification trumps this. Each song gives context to the next and those inspired by the album have already uploaded chopped and screwed versions of “Almeda” to SoundCloud while others have taken the time to go back and study the climatic repetitive joy in songs like “Earth’s Creation” by Stevie Wonder. Solange Knowles is not an aesthetic you can wear when it’s time to be in your ethereal artsy bag. Her marriage of funk, jazz, soul and synth bliss creates yet another project worth studying and a city worth uncovering.

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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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Mad Connects PR

Case Gets Candid About 'Therapy' Album And Revisits 'Personal Conversation' For Its 20th Anniversary

Today's R&B landscape may be dominated by street-wise crooners with a gritty background, but in the latter half of the '90s, Case was among the first to carry that flag. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York City, Case caught his big break after being discovered by Russell Simmons, inking a deal with Def Jam Records and releasing his self-titled 1996 debut album. Boasting the Foxy Brown and Mary J. Blige-assisted hit single "Touch Me, Tease Me,” Case established the singer as one of the promising new stars in R&B.

Continuing his success with his sophomore album Personal Conversation, and his 2001 effort Open Letter, Case would take a sabbatical from the industry before returning as an independent artist with his fourth album, The Rose Experience. With two additional solo albums under his belt (Here, My Love, and Heaven's Door), Case unveils Therapy, his first full-length project in three years. Featuring appearances from Teddy Riley, Tank, Slim of 112, Floacist, Misha Fair, Alexis Renee, and Teraye, Therapy finds Case addressing matters of the heart and delivering what may be the most transparent album of his career.

VIBE hopped on the phone with Case to get the scoop on his latest album, his thoughts on the “king of R&B” debate, and reminisce through memories of his sophomore album Personal Conversation, ahead of its 20th anniversary.

VIBE: How has the reception been to your seventh studio album, Therapy? Case: It's been good actually. I didn't know how it was gonna be because I wanted to do something different on this album. Since it's been out, it's been doing good. "Make Love" had a real good reception and now the second single, "You," is starting to get out there now, so I'm happy with it.

What was the inspiration behind the project’s title? For me, music is therapy. It's a way for me to get feelings out, talk about things. It's a form of therapy for me, so I think everybody needs that.

This has been praised as one of your more personal bodies of work thus far. What situations or moments in your life inspired the content on this album? Everything on the album is dealing with stuff that I’ve been dealing with, stuff that people that's close to me [have] been dealing with over the past couple of years. So I just wanted to talk about it.

Are they any moments you can pinpoint to or a breakup that provided any inspiration? It wasn't nothing like that. It was just stuff with me and my wife, situations that I had been dealing with. I actually talked about some of that stuff on [TV One] Unsung. It's not necessarily a breakup, it's just trying to get through things, work through things.

The album's lead-single "Make Love" features an appearance from Tank and Teddy Riley. How did that song come to life? For that song, I went to Teddy's house and he was talking and he was like, 'Yo, remember that conversation we had in the club a couple of years ago?' I had told him about wanting to make the sound that I wanted to go for. I had forgotten we had that conversation, but he remembered and he was like, "I made this song based off our conversation." And he started playing me the track and I was like, "That's pretty much exactly it." We recorded that and then when I was done, I was like, "Tank would be perfect for this." So I hit him up and we knocked it out.

Another song from the album that stands out is "You," which is a duet with Slim of 112. What sparked that collaboration? Me and Slim, we were supposed to do something a couple of times in the past and the song "You" was already done. Tevin Terry actually called me and told me that they put Slim on it. They were like, "Yo, listen to this and tell me what you think." My man Tevin Terry that produced it, and I were like, "Yeah, that's dope." He [Terry] was actually supposed to be putting Slim on another song for me and I guess he mixed up the conversation and he pretty much [sent "You"] instead of the other song, but it ended up working.

Have you had a chance to get out on the road and tour yet? Constantly. I'm on the road now actually, but when I first came out, I was on the Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky & Mike Tour. We did that for a few months. So yeah, just constantly on the road. Like I said, the single "You" is out, so we're pushing that right now.

What have those experiences been like? Well, the only one that I'm performing so far from the new album is "Make Love." I did "You" a couple of times and the response for that was really good, too, but I was doing "Make Love" on the Ronnie, Bobby, Ricky & Mike Tour and that got a great response like every time.

Other than the singles, what are three songs from Therapy that you're eager for the fans to hear? I'd probably say "Heaven," "This Could Be," "Strawberry." I performed "Strawberry" a couple of times too, the response to that was dope. "Treasure" is another one, that's one of my favorites.

Late last year, there was a big debate about who the modern day king of R&B is. What were your thoughts on that? There's ain't no king of R&B. There ain't no king of rock, there's no king of hip-hop. There's never been a king of any genre of music and never will be. It's too subjective, everybody has their opinion on who they like the best or what they like so that was my take on that whole debate. I think it's something for people to talk about.

Who are some of the younger R&B artists that you listen to or check for? My absolute favorite is Ty Dolla $ign. I mess with Ty, Miguel. I like Jacquees. I actually did a song with Jacquees for his new album so y'all should be hearing that later on this year.

How did the song with Jacquees come about? It actually was right before all of that “King of R&B” stuff started. He DMed me and said he wanted to work. He asked me if I had any records for him, I had the perfect song for him. I sent it to him and he loved it and we went into the studio; It was like literally two days after that whole king of R&B thing was going crazy all over the internet.

You mentioned Ty Dolla $ign as your favorite artist right now, what about his music or his style sets him apart? He just got so much soul. He got a lot of soul, so coming from my era, I'm into that.

The 20th anniversary of your sophomore album, Personal Conversation, is coming up in April. Was there any pressure going into that album, given the success of your debut? Nah, it was none. I didn't feel any. My biggest thing going into the second album was that people heard "Touch Me, Tease Me." They thought I couldn't sing because on "Touch Me, Tease Me," you don't really gotta sing, that's like talking. So the main thing for me was just, "Hold this." It wasn't any pressure, it was just trying to go all the way in.

"Happily Ever After," the album's lead single, was a big hit at that time. How did that song come together? When they sent me the song, it wasn't done yet, but it was a duet. I loved it, but I was like, "They sent me a duet." I was expecting the whole song. So I went in and rewrote it and changed up what I needed to do and finished writing the bridge. I wrote the bridge, and all that other stuff, then I knocked it out.

Over the years, that song has become a go-to selection at wedding receptions and remains a classic. How does it feel to have a song that's helped mark such a special occasion in people's lives? That's dope to me because my main goal when I started doing music was to make music that people would want to still listen to in 20-30 years. I didn't want to make stuff that people like now and then don't want to hear no more. That was my goal with everything I made. So that makes me feel good.

Another song from Personal Conversation that's considered one of your signature songs is "Faded Pictures," your collaboration with Joe. However, the song was originally released on the Rush Hour soundtrack. How did that opportunity come about? Well, Joe had the song and his manager was up at Def Jam. He was playing some music for Lyor Cohen at Def Jam and he said Joe wanted to do "Faded Pictures" as a duet, so I jumped on that. But the soundtrack, the only reason that that happened was because Def Jam had the soundtrack and they were looking for songs from all of us up there to put on all of these different soundtracks they were doing. And my first single was coming out the same time as the movie so we were like that's perfect. We put it on there for that reason.

Where do you feel Personal Conversation ranks in your discography as a whole? Oh, I don't know, I don't rank them. That's like which one's my favorite kid. I ain't have one.

With this recent album, what was the statement you were looking to make going into it and what do you hope fans get out of it? I don't think it was so much of a statement, it was moreso I just wanted to make...well, I always want to make quote-unquote "real" music. I always want to make that. I hope they get that from it. I don't think it's so much of a statement as it is that I just want to continue to try to make music that people can relate to and that people will want to hear down the road as well as now.

What's next for Case, personally and professionally? Right now I'm on the road promoting Therapy. The new single "You" can be requested on radio, fans should be hearing that quite a bit coming up in the next month or two. And then I actually started, maybe the last week, I think, ideas for the next album so you can look out for that.

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