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Netflix/Stage 13

Meet Solvan “Slick” Naim, Filmmaker And Musician Making Waves In Hollywood

They say a dog is a man’s best friend. This old adage couldn’t be more true for Solvan “Slick” Naim, who directed and starred in a new series from Netflix/Stage 13 and produced by SLI Entertainment and Phipen Pictures, based on his relationship with his dog Bruno, appropriately titled It’s Bruno! 

The cheeky eight-episode series follows Malcolm (Slick) and Bruno’s adventures in Bushwick,  Brooklyn. It’s quirky with a tint of unexpected suspense that gets viewers enthralled to see what trouble Bruno and his overzealous owner will get into next. As much as the series is based on their heartfelt relationship, it also touches upon the harsh realities that inundate Bushwick’s streets. Like the lethal weapon gentrification has become for poor working class communities of color in major U.S. cities, or what young black men have to witness or unfortunately experience growing up.

It was pivotal for the New York native to interpolate all these different social-cultural nuances in the mini-series to serve as a vessel for an accurate message.

“It was super important to capture the authenticity of the neighborhood of Bushwick in Brooklyn,” he says. “You have these characters, there is a lot of things that happen there. I choose to focus inside the dog world, but there are a thousand things and interesting characters that the world would find really intriguing in these hoods. But that was kind of my subtle way of just touching on it very lightly.”

That subtle light touch comes with doses of laughter and a good plot line. There are twisted romantic relationships, cute dogs everywhere and Malcolm’s raw New York attitude and accent are more than palpable. Malcolm is really a man who advocates for dogs, not people. In real life, Naim sees a little bit of himself in the character he created.

“Malcolm is the extreme crazy version of myself,” Slick explains. “I wouldn’t do half the stuff Malcolm does. He’s just like by any means necessary for my dog type of guy. Nothing stands in the way between him and his dog. He’s an a**hole to humans and a great person to dogs.”

On a recent Thursday afternoon, Naim is seated comfortably on a white-cream colored couch inside his two-story home in the posh hills of Calabasas, California, some 3,000 miles away from the gritty streets of Brooklyn where he initially started his artistic journey.

His talents have landed him directorial roles in Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down and Courtney Kemp’s Power. And he’s also produced his own films like Full Circle. Amid his prowess in filmmaking, the genesis of his film career started with music. As a kid, he was always able to envision real-life scenes that were influenced by the songs he heard.

The same day It’s Bruno premiered (May 17), Slick released an EP titled Proof Of Concept, which is home to three original tracks that are featured in the series“Turnt Tonight,” “Head Shot,” and “Coming for Blood.” The melodies add to the intricacies of the plotline and Bruno’s adorable ways.

VIBE chatted with Naim about his journey in the arts, growing up in New York City and the stories behind adopting his adorable pups featured on It’s Bruno!

VIBE: Tell me about growing up in New York.
Solvan Naim: I grew up all around New York—my parents were divorced as soon as I was born. I believe they met just to have me, then after that, it was a wrap. My father lived in Washington Heights and my mother lived in Queens, so I was going back and forth between those two, which as you know is far. When I turned 18 and started working, I got my first crib in Bushwick back when rent was $1,000 for a two bedroom. That’s where I started creating everything. I started writing, I made my music over there; shot my first music video over there; I shot Full Circle, my first feature over there. I shot my next film Stanhope over there and I shot Bruno there and in Ridgewood. It’s been a major part of my creative progression.

At 18, where were you working?
I worked at the ESPN ZONE, Dave & Busters—I was one of those annoying dudes that did door to door energy sales, which asked you to switch energy providers. I did personal training at a bunch of different gyms like Lucille Roberts. I remember having to stretch out these old-ladies, and there were mirrors everywhere so I would look at myself in the mirror and be like, “What the f**k am I doing?”(Laughs) But I was always doing my creative stuff when I wasn’t working to pay the bills.

Since you were first a musician how did you stumble into filmmaking?
I kind of blended storytelling and music from an early age. Then I just started writing songs and raps. I was always in school with one headphone on acting like I was listening to the teacher, but really listening to the beat and trying to write a rap—while they thought I was taking notes. One of the first tracks that I ever wrote was when I was 14 or 15, it was a six-minute track with no hook.

It was about this kid from the hood who makes it big in music and one of his boys gets a beat down by the police for no reason and he makes a song about that. It gets all this huge traction, kind of like a “F**k the Police” kind of vibe. Eventually, I started performing and these two NYU students were fans of my music and they offered to shoot my first music video for free. I took them up on that because free is always nice to hear.

I wrote a detailed treatment for my song. It had visuals, gave it to them and then I looked at a cut like a couple of weeks later and I was like “Oh sh*t,” so much of what I saw in my head was now on my screen. And that’s when I fell in love. I was like, “Cool I want to do more of this. I want to project my mind on the screen so I want everyone to see what I was thinking.”

Tell me about how you rescued Bruno and the two other dogs you have.
I got them all separately over time. Bella came first, which is the dog that plays Rosa’s dog. She was a rescue from The Bronx. Then I knew I wanted to get another dog because you can’t just have one—especially when you leave the crib for a long time. So I waited until I moved—I kind of got kicked out of one of my old Bushwick cribs. I moved into a bigger one in Bushwick and I had a little more space. The second dog was Bruno who’s from a rescue in The Bronx as well. He came from a truck led by a lady named Esmeralda, who unfortunately passed away like a year and a half after I got him, so she never got to see the series.

I had pictures of Bella before I went to get her. Bruno was like a blind date. Esmeralda was like, “You’re going to love this dog papi he’s the cutest thing I swear you’re going to love him. He’s a puggle and he has so much energy.” I was like “Ok.”

I just took her word on it and I went to meet her on 14th street. She had this minivan filled with rescue dogs and out came Bruno. I took him home and that was it from there; I fell in love with him. Angie came third, she was another adopted dog from this company in Midtown Manhattan.

Why did you get kicked out of your apartment?
I got kicked out of my crib because of gentrification. They raised the rent by like $700, almost by 70 percent, which wasn’t even affordable. They actually paid me to leave. I’ve seen it left and right, the police evicting people and putting their things in the street. Next thing you know everything gets renewed and we got people from Wisconsin moving in.

How was the process of creating It’s Bruno! and then getting it on Netflix?
It’s interesting because we got a lot of rejection, which is to be expected when you have gold on your hands but you don’t have the resume or the right people behind you. I would actually go out and film the episodes that I wrote with my boys and a camera because I could edit as well.

I shot the first four episodes of It’s Bruno! four years ago in Bushwick with some of the same characters and we went out and cut that up. I basically had to document how the series would roll out from start to finish based off those episodes. I took those pieces and began to shop them around. Eventually, Stage 13, a division of Warner Brothers, and a guy named Chris Mack really gravitated towards it and we developed it with them. It was supposed to get made a while ago and then this whole merge happened between Warner Brothers and AT&T. Then it got lost in the mix and resurfaced and taken to Netflix and they loved it. It was off to the races from there, it was a four-year process.

You do a great job at merging awkward moments with humor like the random little boy in It’s Bruno! who randomly starts dancing everywhere. Where do you get the inspiration to make that technique work?
It comes from a mix of things I’ve seen, thought of, or heard of. I got a lot of Dominican and Puerto Rican friends back home. I would go to their crib and go to house parties and there was always this kid who would dance on command. He would always just be dancing no matter what and I thought that would be funny. I based that character off him, and I made up that character off the story of “what if they were stealing dogs to pay for his dance lessons?”

I thought that would be interesting. Even coming to the crosswalk and having another dog come in competition with my dog, that was based off me coming to a crosswalk and having another dog owner telling their dog to sit, and then looking at my dog. I was like, "My dog could sit down too, so what?”

Malcolm’s first love interest in the series, Lulu, is very interesting. She has a weird fetish of collecting all of her boyfriend’s dogs and holding them hostage. What’s the psychology behind that behavior?
Dominance. Her whole thing was that she’s been alone for most of her life, so dogs are the only thing that can give her true undivided love and attention without any ulterior motive or cheating or lying. There are dudes in the past that have lied to her, so she grew this affection towards dogs, which has led her to take them from the men she deals with. It’s kind of like this liberating feeling that she gets. My character (Malcolm) is one of these victims.

It sounds like you have a good backstory that explains her actions, which is something the viewer didn’t get to see. Would you want to explore her backstory further if given a second season of It’s Bruno! ?
Yeah, I would explore it for sure, we would explore a lot of backstories. We would explore Bruno’s backstory, Malcolm’s backstory—it’s a lot of context.

Tell me a little bit about the hip-hop musical you’re working on with Queen Latifah and Will Smith.
It’s essentially a love story between a struggling musician who’s stuck in a 9 to 5, who’s not pursuing his dream but he wants to. And a waitress from Bed-Stuy, Brooklyn who also has dreams and aspirations but is stuck in other life restraints that she has to abide by that restricts her from doing what she loves. And doing what they do to try to come together and live together all in the backdrop of New York City.

Why do you think you’re going to stand the test of time in this industry?
I just do what I love. I make stories that I feel are relatable to me and people around the world, and that kind of stuff doesn’t change over time. We still have the same issues, love the same things, hate the same things—and we still laugh at the same things through time. And history repeats itself. I think my projects will resonate as far as possible.

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Boosie Badazz Claims He Was Kicked Out Of Planet Fitness Gym Over Dwyane Wade Rant

Boosie Badazz may have to find a new place to workout and record Instagram videos. The rapper says he’s being discriminated against by Planet Fitness for recording a rant about Dwyane Wade’s trans daughter from inside the gym.

Boosie claims that a gay gym manager wouldn't allow him to enter a Planet Fitness in McDonough, Ga., “Because of my past actions on social media about gender etc,” he captioned an Instagram post on Thursday (Feb. 20)

Boosie urged his 6.9 million Instagram followers not to support the company because “they racist and they have roaches” and the “shower don’t get hot.”

“Do not go to Planet Fitness they racist, they haters. They just put me out because of what I said about Dwyane Wade’s son,” he claimed in a video recorded from his car while leaving the gym parking lot.

He also says the gym accused him of using a gay slur against an employee.

Watch Boosie’s full video below.

 

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MANAGER WHO WAS GAY REFUSED TO LET ME N PLANET FITNESS BECAUSE OF MY PAST ACTIONS ON SOCIAL MEDIA ABOUT GENDER ETC.😀DO NOT SUPPORT PLANET FITNESS “Hwy 138 Jonesboro rd”THEy Racist ,THEY HAVE ROACHES , N THEY SHOWER WATER DONT GET HOT ‼️GET OUT YA FEELINGS LIL BITCH #roachfitness #roachfitness #roachfitness #roachfitness #roachfitness THET GOT ROACHES ‼️BITCH U WANT A GAY CHILD BUT DONT NOBODY WANT TO HAVE A BABY FOR YO SISSY ASS NOW U MAD ‼️😀

A post shared by Boosie BadAzz (@officialboosieig) on Feb 20, 2020 at 10:37am PST

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Carmen Mandato

Lil Kim Is Officially Performing At Lovers & Friends Festival

It looks like Lil Kim will indeed be performing at the first ever Lovers & Friends Festival. After some confusion over whether or not she was actually on the lineup, Kimmy Blanco confirmed that “the check has cleared” and she’s looking forward to the show.

The Queen Bee shouted out Snoop Dogg, who is one of the festival promoters, for working out the money issue. “Thank Uncle @SnoopDogg guys cause if it wasn’t for him this would not be happening,” she tweeted on Wednesday (Feb. 19). “But ya’ll know how much I love Cali and Uncle Snoop.”

 

THE CHECK HAS CLEARED 🙌🏼💸 Thank Uncle @SnoopDogg guys cause if it wasn’t for him this would not be happening but y’all know how much I love Cali and Uncle Snoop. See ya’ll May 9th, 2020! Tickets on sale TOMORROW‼️ pic.twitter.com/R2m7vr3azS

— Lil' Kim (@LilKim) February 20, 2020

After Kim, Mase and Twista initially denied involvement in the festival, fans were worried that the event could turn into another Fyre Fest fiasco. According to Rolling Stone, promoters were scrambling to get things in order and subsequently blindsided some of the artists by  announcing the lineup before all of contracts were signed and payments were made. Co-promoter Bobby Dee of Bobby Dee Present blamed the confusion of communication breakdowns but assured that “everybody’s happy” and the show will go on.

The one-day Lovers & Friends Festival goes down on May 9 in Carson, Calif. Tickets go on sale on Friday (Feb. 21).

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Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent, Drake And More Pay Tribute To Pop Smoke

The hip-hop world is in mourning after the tragic and shocking death of rising Brooklyn rapper Pop Smoke. Nicki Minaj, 50 Cent, Drake, Rich the Kid, Chance the Rapper and more paid tribute to the slain 20-year-old recording artist on Wednesday (Feb. 18) with many responding in disbelief.

“The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable,” Minaj, who collaborated with Pop on his “Welcome to the Party” remix, wrote on Instagram. “Rest In Peace, Pop.”

The Brooklyn native, whose birth names was Bashar Barakah Jackson, was shot and killed inside his Hollywood Hills rental home early Wednesday. Two masked men broke into the home at around 4:30 a.m, sources told TMZ. Police arrived at 4:55 a.m. after responding to a call from the East Coast alerting them to a home invasion at the location. Pop was transported to Cedars-Sinai Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“No such thing as success [without] jealousy,” tweeted 50 Cent. “Treachery comes from those who are close. RIP.”

Rich the Kid revealed that he spoke with Pop hours before his death. “I don’t wanna believe it, we literally spoke less than 24 hours ago I’m lost for word [sic] tryna type this message love you bro this s**t hurt me so bad that you gone already I’m tryna stop the tears.”

Drake took to his Instagram Story with a message on being grateful for life. “Sit by some good energy tonight in these unwelcoming times. Be with some good people and express how grateful you are for life. RIP Pop.”

“Rest Up Pop Smoke, you were too young,” tweeted Chance the Rapper. “God Bless and comfort your family. What a crazy trajectory you were on man smh.”

A candlelight vigil was held for the “Gatti ” rapper in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.

They outside turning up for #PopSmoke in Brooklyn 🔥💫 pic.twitter.com/KTA1UWSUKB

— Pop Smoke Central (@PopSmokeCentral) February 20, 2020

Candlelight vigil for #PopSmoke in Canarsie, Brooklyn 🙏 pic.twitter.com/bekh8TZqC2

— Pop Smoke Central (@PopSmokeCentral) February 20, 2020

Authorities have yet to officially confirm a motive for the murder as the investigation is ongoing.

Read tributes to Pop below.

No such thing as success with out jealousy, treachery comes from those who are close. R.i.P pic.twitter.com/OZxKtpPZog

— 50cent (@50cent) February 19, 2020

 

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Been shot at in San Fran , got arrested in Maryland , La , New York and Oklahoma , had a so call stand off with police in Oklahoma , Cali spot got broken into 4 times alll on tape and one of them even left they phone 😯😒ALLL SINCE I BEEN A “RAPPER” you literally gotta Pray 🙏🏿that you make it back home safe !! But then you not even safe at home.. 🙏🏿🙏🏿 my condolences

A post shared by 2 Chainz Aka Tity Boi (@2chainz) on Feb 19, 2020 at 6:08pm PST

 

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The Bible tells us that jealousy is as cruel as the grave. Unbelievable. Rest In Peace, Pop.

A post shared by Barbie (@nickiminaj) on Feb 19, 2020 at 6:57am PST

Rest Up Pop Smoke, you were too young. God Bless and comfort your family. What a crazy trajectory you were on man smh 🙏🏾🙏🏾🙏🏾

— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) February 19, 2020

 

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This is heart breaking. He was just getting started. Prayers to his family 🙏🏽

A post shared by Hot Girl Meg (@theestallion) on Feb 19, 2020 at 9:42am PST

Travis Scott reacts to the death of Pop Smoke.

The two first met at Travis’ Astroworld music festival. pic.twitter.com/xyEO8dKWuo

— Only Hip Hop Facts (@OnlyHipHopFacts) February 19, 2020

 

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R. I. P. Lil homie. ✨🎤💙🙏🏽 damn I’m hurt all ova again 💫✨🌟 Gone2soon🌹💙

A post shared by snoopdogg (@snoopdogg) on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:54am PST

 

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Damn pop..... 🙏🏾

A post shared by Meek Mill (@meekmill) on Feb 19, 2020 at 8:48am PST

 

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I don’t wanna believe it, we literally spoke less than 24 hours ago I’m lost for word tryna type this message love you bro this shit hurt me so bad that you gone already I’m tryna stop the tears I’m tryna stop this chest pain that I got at 7 am when gramz texted me we gone miss you bro RIP @realpopsmoke 4L 💙💫

A post shared by BOSS MAN 🤵🏽💰 (@richthekid) on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:56am PST

 

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Lost for words right now! Smh 🤦🏽‍♂️ Brooklyn King! Rest up! 💙 this shit right here hit home!

A post shared by Young M.A (@youngma) on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:08am PST

 

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See You In Paradise Cuz 💙✌🏽💙

A post shared by MALIK & MUGGA 🌎 HUSSLE 🏁 (@daveeast) on Feb 19, 2020 at 11:05am PST

 

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F L Y H I G H W O O 🕊@realpopsmoke Got To Kno This Kid! Very Talented Humble Respectful And Appreciative Always Ask Questions Big Sponge To Knowledge Fast Learning Young Boss And The Huncho Was Here To Share That Anytime You Called Me! R.I.P 🙏🏾💫#MEETTHEWOO

A post shared by QuavoHuncho (@quavohuncho) on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:03am PST

 

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Damn bro just talked to u.💔Can’t believe it.you was on yo way. You was a real star bro. Yo energy was crazy. We needed ur energy n sound! Rest In Peace broski 😢😢💔💔

A post shared by T-Raww (@tyga) on Feb 19, 2020 at 7:49am PST

Texting me worried I love you for that !!!!!!! But rip pop smoke

— DURKIOOO🦅 (@lildurk) February 19, 2020

We are devastated by the unexpected and tragic loss of @POPSMOKE10. Our prayers and thoughts go out to his family, friends and fans, as we mourn this loss together. pic.twitter.com/nVnv9ESZOs

— Republic Records (@RepublicRecords) February 19, 2020

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