Trevor Jackson
Derek Bahn

20 Questions With Trevor Jackson

Getting personal with the creative who refuses to be boxed in by Hollywood.

At 22 years old, Trevor Jackson may be young, but he’s had his fair share of experience in Hollywood. For those who make up Generation Z, their earliest memory of Jackson may be from the Disney Channel television film, Let It Shine, where he played Kris McDuffy, the best friend to Tyler James Williams’ Cyrus DeBarge. Although in that movie, Jackson’s character lacked a creative streak, that’s a far cry from the Jackson that exists today, or has ever existed. While he’s still very much the heartthrob he was at 16 (he once had a girl faint at the sight of him during a meet-and-greet), Jackson is talented like no other. Today, he stars in the ABC show, Grown-ish, as Aaron Jackson, a self-proclaimed “woke” activist who doubled as Yara Shahidi’s love interest in the first season. When he’s not protesting for the rights of students of color in the series, he’s offscreen creating his own musical content.

That is where the difference between Trevor Jackson the actor and Trevor Jackson the musician comes alive and he makes the distinction between the two adamantly clear.

“The biggest difference between the two things is when I do music it’s always from my exact experience,” he says. “It’s always from my exact experience, it’s very close to who I am because I’m writing all of it. Musically, it’s just everything that I’ve been inspired by I try to recreate. When you’re acting on screen, you’re trying to be somebody else or say someone else’s words. That’s the only difference. Music is definitely more connected to my heart.”

The Indiana native’s connection to music is deeper than most would expect. Jackson likes to be a part of every step in the music making process, going as far as even directing his own music videos because he wouldn’t be satisfied otherwise. This isn’t to say that the Rough Drafts Part I artist is uptight. As a matter of fact, he's the complete opposite. He’s a self-described adrenaline junkie who regularly surfs — he spends most of his money on surfboards — who also just happens to be a perfectionist when it comes to his art and he’s not afraid of showing it.

“I surf heavily to get any stress out. Just to find my center. It’s the push and pull, it’s the struggle and the reward. I think that’s what makes me love it, it mirrors my life.”

If Jackson has anything to do with it, his life will continue to be full of rewards. When VIBE had the chance to sit down with the actor-musician, he shared his aspirations of winning multiple Grammys (he hopes to eventually have 12), and his desire to act in a major film franchise. The towering 6’2” actor with his “dragon-tail” hairstyle was more than at ease in our office, so much so that he told us which character he’s played before that he’d switch lives with for a week (hint: the role isn’t as innocent as his Grown-ish character). Read below to get the full scope of who Trevor Jackson is, in all his creative aspects.

VIBE: Do you ever feel like you could do acting over music, or vice-versa?
Trevor Jackson: No. I feel like people try to make it feel like that and I say to those people, "FU. I can do whatever I feel inspired to do." Any genre of life, not just music or entertainment, like if you're a doctor and you only did brain surgery now you want to move onto something else. I think there should be nothing holding you back anything that you feel led to do. I feel like it was put in me for a reason, that want or hunger to do it. And for me, I feel like it all goes hand in hand especially in the entertainment industry. Music, directing, acting, writing, whether it be scripts, whether it be poetry. I feel like it all goes hand in hand. And again, I get to turn life struggles, or trials and tribulations into something beautiful.

Would you say you feel more like yourself when you make music?
Absolutely. And it's also who you want to be when you make music, it's who you were when you make music. It's kind of the recognition, the realization of self I feel like when I make music. The past, present, or future, or pain or happiness, but it's just very close to my life.

Is it hard for you, whenever you’re creating art, to channel the negative aspects of what you’re going through in life?
That's easier I think. Those are easier to channel than anything. ‘Cause I think that's the most relatable. I don't know anyone whose life is perfect. No one person's struggle is greater than another person's struggle, but struggle all in the same is universal. When I do that it's kind of easier instead of crying about a heartbreak. I'll write a song about it and then I'm able to cry at the beauty of it instead of hurting. Like wow, this sh*t turned into something really tight. I always think the painful things are easy to write, those are the quickest songs. Those are the quickest like, "Okay it felt like this, then what she say? She said this, and then she yelled at me and then I was like damn." You know? I think the songs of who you want to be are always harder because you've never experienced that before, or you're searching for that. It's not familiar. I think things that you've experienced and things you are experiencing are easier to write.

A lot of your fans can remember growing up and watching you on Disney Channel’s Let It Shine and now they’re watching you as Aaron on Grown-ish, so you’ve been in the industry for a minute now. How have you dealt with fame? Do you ever feel like it’s gotten to your head?
No. I feel like I'm surrounded by really good people. My family being those number one people in my life supporting me. Never letting me forget, or lose sight of who I am. I think my faith in God is the weight that keeps me down to earth and understanding why I'm here. I think once the vision or the perception of why you're doing something changes, that's when you should be worried. When you think it's for you or because of you or for you is when things get a little hazy. But for me that I've always realized it's bigger than me. My life is bigger than my own. And so I push through a lot of the times I feel like giving up or when I feel like damn I don't feel inspired today. Or ah, I don't want to do it. Or I just think about all the people that depend on me. I think about the younger me that depends on me. The people that I've never met before that my music could help get through anything. Somebody hearing this, could be like "oh damn I thought about doing this tomorrow but instead I'm going to try and push through."

 

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aaron is tired of the disrespect. 😂 _ _ _ #grownish is back june 5th at 8/7c on @freeform.

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Very true. So, let’s talk about your “rat-tail.”
It’s a dragon tail now, I’ve changed it.

So your dragon tail is almost as famous as you at this point. At first it appeared in Grown-ish, but was it your idea?
Yeah. Kenya [Barris] actually wanted me to cut it before the show and that's why they make fun of it because I think that's his way of "oh, he didn't want to cut it, now let's make fun of it." I started growing it for Rough Drafts Part 1. I watch movies religiously like all the time and the same movies, millions of times just to figure out why, they're so dope to me. So I went back and was watching Star Wars 1, 2 and 3 and I just really connected to Anakin Skywalker. He's talented, he's really skilled but he doesn't know why, he didn't know his purpose or his own strength and I felt like people know that I'm dope but they weren't giving me the opportunity. I felt like that's what he was going through. He was like "I want to go on missions, I want to help, I want to do good." I was just in between, I was feeling indifferent about things and yeah he had a rat tail, or a dragon tail, so I started growing it. I was talking to my brother about this the other day, it's like I started off when I was younger, knowing what I wanted to be. I wanted to be famous.

That was when I was kid, 2 or 3, I wanted to be in movies. And then when I was 15, 16 I realized why, and it's because I want to lead people to the peace that I've found and knowing God and my journey, I just wanted to make the blueprint easier. Lead people to a different way of thinking and then, now it's the how. How I do that successfully, how do I get enough press but also how do I create something dope? How do I manage this part of my life? I think life is broken up into parts like that. That part of my life, the Anakin, was like "why am I?" and then that's when I started making my writing. Rough Drafts Part 1, I wrote almost every record on there. I started playing guitar, picked up guitar. It kind of just represented the beginning of me being okay with me. Not trying to fix myself for anybody else and just be myself. So that's what the rat tail represents. So, when people say to cut it... [Laughs] Even in Superfly they tried to cut it, I was like, "No."

Do you ever think you'll cut it?
It depends. It would have to be a Marvel movie and three installments and a very good check.

You said that God is a very big reason of why you're here today, so how do you maintain faith and knowing that you're doing the right thing? How did you know your come up was going to happen, and how did you stay motivated?
I think again my mentality of it wasn't the same. If you do it for fame, if you do it for money, if you do it for things that aren't important, it's easy to just be like "alright I'm tired, whatever." But when you feel like what you're doing is going to change the world, you sacrifice your discomfort sometimes. So I feel like for me, when I was unhappy with things going on in my life, I'm just like "but what I'm meant to do is bigger than my unhappiness right now." And that kind of just pushed me. I was like "I feel like there are millions of people that are waiting on me that I haven't met, that I need to touch in some way. Or do something positive." That's what I always say, too. Whenever you carry a positive message or try to do good in the world, it's always going to be harder. When you think about Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, all these people that did huge, amazing things, had the hardest time getting there. Beaten down. It's kind of what it takes, though, to be a legend.

Getting back to music, you recently collaborated on Jacob Latimore’s song “True Sh*t,” and you directed the visual for it. How did you get into directing music videos?
I got into it from doing my own music videos. I started doing it when I was unhappy with the way other videos turned out that I didn't do. I was like, "let me just try it." And I feel like I've done enough film and TV and I watch enough movies to know what I want and the idea of where I'm going to head and so I just started doing it. The minute that happened I fell in love with it. I just try to study people that I love. Steven Spielberg is one of my favorite directors, I love his movies. Christopher Nolan is another big one. So yeah, I would just kind of do that. And then, I actually recorded that record a long time ago, “True Sh*t.” And then I had ended up not using it, so he was like "bro, I'm taking it." And I was like "alright cool." He was like, "I want you to do the verse on it." So I was like "alright for sure." And then he was like, "dude do you want to direct it?" and I was like "yeah." So I was just thinking about the song.

To me the song was about a woman putting herself in a position that she has the capability to get out of, but she complains about where she's at. I feel like a lot of us do that. We have the tools to get out of our own hole but we complain about being in the hole. I feel like a lot of women will be like "oh he's this, he's that," but you're still with him, you're still seeing the guy. You're doing it to yourself. Look what you made me do, you made me hurt you, but really it's you. I wanted to mimic that in the video. By them trying to hurt us, they end up hurting themselves in a sense. So that's where I was going with the whole poison and all that.

You have Rough Drafts Part II coming out soon, and Rough Drafts Part I was released last year. What’s the difference content-wise between the two?
This is a little more party, I would say. Rough Drafts I...I don't know, I think that was party, too. It's hard to explain. 'Cause I really write music when I make it, it's very impulsive. It's never like, "okay let me sit down and make an album that's going to be solely about this and solely about that." It's just like "yo, I gotta make a song." I feel like I'm always growing. I think “Spam in a Can” was a huge difference from Rough Drafts I in terms of how open I was with my audience and fans. I'm going to strive to do that more. Even “Crocs [In My Crocs],” it's just very close. I feel like Rough Drafts I I made a lot of good songs, but not all of them were as close to me as this one. Maybe not, maybe I'm just in a different place. But I don't know, you gotta hear it.

What is the meaning behind the name for “SPAM in a Can?”
I used to eat Spam all the time when I was younger. So it represents the beginning to now and what people thought it was, but it's really as raw and grimy as spam in a can, my life. It's just being real. People see one thing and then behind the scenes it's a very different thing. There's a lot of people that know me and a lot of people that don't, that assume my life is one way. Like "oh my god, you got it like this." Of course I'm having a good time, but like I was saying before, no struggle is greater than another, regardless of the field. Just like anyone doing anything, I know it hurts, I know there's times you want to give up but you gotta keep pushing. That's why the video is literally representative of my life, it’s stairs. Sometimes you fall down the stairs but regardless of how heavy the weight gets, and how far it seems. Regardless how hard your leg burns from working out, you gotta keep pushing. That's always been my message. I always tell people, the only way to lose the game is to stop playing the game. That's why when I was little, I feel like even now, I'm really good at video games because I will play until I'm good. I don't like to lose.

That's actually very interesting what you said about the stairs because when you first watch the music video, or any music video, you don't really get the meaning that the director or the artist puts into the video. One viewer might think  “oh he's just on stairs.” Now you're saying, "no, it means that I keep going."
Yeah, and that's why you know ‘cause it could have just been me, just walking up the stairs. But I would sit down and breathe and feel like I'm losing my balance or falling back down a few steps but I keep going. I'm at this step longer than I was at other steps, sometimes that's how it goes. Sometimes, you'll be at the same steps for a while, and then you can skip two steps. It's all relative.

In that song you also talk about your struggles being who you are. Do you feel like there's a struggle in knowing who's real?
Absolutely. Trustworthy people...that's very difficult. I mean I'm thankful that I've never had crazy switch ups from anybody but I think that's because I'm conscious. People are still crazy and it's still difficult, especially with women. I like to know what their intention is. It could change, or it has changed. That's why I often times I find myself going backwards, ‘cause I'm like "at least they knew me before." Which isn't good, because you left that for a reason. You go back and then it becomes a cycle, that's the album that's coming out after this is a lot about the cycle. It's hard to know who is trustworthy but it's just so funny because as long as I've been doing this, it's like the people who call me "oh that's my brother" are the same people who wouldn't let me in the club. And I get that all the time, "oh he said you're like his brother, you guys are best friends." Met the guy one time. It's kind of hard for sure. But the switch up is great. It's almost like yes but then it's like "dang you really are that fake." But it feels good to know like "wow you switched up your whole thing."

Let's say you meet someone. How can you tell if they're going to be real or if they're going to end up switching up on you?
I don't think you can tell for sure, but like I said I think I'm grateful for my intuition. I've always been big on vibes. Someone could do one thing and I'll dissociate myself or keep them at arms length.

Also, in “SPAM in a Can” you talked about drugs. Would you like to further elaborate on that?
I won't say what drugs, but I'll say you just kind of do things. I don't know if it's searching for something or it's like a self entitlement thing. But it's growing up, it's trying new things, it's trying to figure it out. You try to fill voids with different things. And you realize the only things that can fill voids are yourself and things that you get. But I feel like I can't understand people until I've been through certain things. That's what I try to do. I really try to live my life to the fullest so I can understand people and even myself in a way. But surfing has helped a lot. Drinking, whatever, just finding that balance. I think life as a universal law is balanced. I think a lot of kids today could use that due to… we have a lot of people overdosing, we have a lot of people dying. A lot of people that we love, so it was kind of just a wake up call. Love. Love is another drug. That's why even in the song I'm saying, “I've been falling into so much of it that I feel numb to it.” It's like I don't get enough of it, I can't get enough of it from one person.

In your music, you rap and sing. Is there one you favor over the other?
I'd say I sing more than anything but sometimes when you sing good people aren't hearing what you're saying as much. So I feel like some songs, especially songs that are important to me I try and talk so that people are really listening to the words. But if I'm singing, they'll be like "oh his voice is really good" but they're not hearing what I'm saying. I just want to get the message straight to the point.

Who are people that you admire as an artist?
Prince is a huge one. Prince is a huge artist. Michael Jackson. I like Drake a lot. I like Donny Hathaway. I like a lot of country music. Rascal Flatts are my favorite, they're dope.

You co-produced and you co-wrote your LP. Do you feel like it's really important for you to be completely involved?
Yes. I think because of what I was saying in terms being so close to me, it's my picture, it's my painting. Whether I'm painting it or not, I’ve got to oversee it and be like, I like this color, I approve that color. Ian Jackson who's my brother, who also produced a few records on the album and helps me creatively and come up with all the concepts and things, he's the same way. He's like "this is the idea" but if it's not fitting here, you know, no one knows me better than him. I'm happy that he's involved as he is. I think it's very important, to tell your story you have to tell it. You can't let other people tell it. They might get a word wrong. Whatever it may be. I think it's super duper important.

Would you say you're a perfectionist when it comes to what you do?
Yes, absolutely. I'd say that for sure. Not to any other aspect of my life, just music and acting. When it comes to my life though, my room, not really, not the neatest person.

If you could give advice to anyone wanting to be in this industry, acting or music wise, what would you say?
Do it for the art. That is the only thing that will get you through the objectives or the let downs. It elongates the process, through the ups and downs, you'll have patience if you're really doing it for the art. But if you're doing it for things that are kind of deteriorating, you'll lose motivation. So I'd say do it for the love of the art. Be a nice person. There's a lot of successful dickheads in the world, those aren't people you want to be. It sounds nice, like "oh they're d**ks but at least they have money." No, it's not fine. You want to be loved, you want to give love and you want to be loved. I rather that than be rich.

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Living Outside ‘The Man Box’: A Look At Masculinity And Self-Care

A study from Promundo and AXE aimed to open up a larger conversation about masculinity. For the 2017 research, a large group of men from the United States, U.K. and Mexico were surveyed about their day-to-day habits.

The findings concluded that most men ages 18 to 30 often feel pressured by society to fit into what is called “The Man Box,” or a social construct of male identity that pushes stereotypes on boys and young men regarding how to act “like a man.” These stereotypes include behaving “tough,” being aggressive to prove masculinity and ignoring aspects of self-care, such as mental health and emotional vulnerability.

Throughout the last few years, several male-centered brands have attempted to rectify these stereotypes. Gillette released an advertisement calling out toxic masculinity at the top of 2019. AXE has been committed to shedding hypermasculinity and harmful stereotypes through the promotion of various campaigns such as “Senior Orientation” with artists such as John Legend and rapper KYLE, and its latest campaign, “Bathsculinity” featuring Lil Rel Howery.

“Bathsculinity” is categorized as “qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of young men who take pride in their appearance and feel confident in expressing their most attractive selves, inside and outside of the bathroom.” While it may be difficult for some men to embrace their self-care sides, it’s incredibly important for them to find time to take care of themselves.

"AXE continues to break the barriers of masculine stereotypes each year by partnering with great organizations and individuals who support this mission," said Dawn Hedgepeth, General Manager and Vice President of Unilever Deodorants, Men's Grooming and Hand and Body Lotion. "It is our hope that the Bathsculinity mindset will encourage guys everywhere to embrace self-care and self-confidence in every aspect of life.”

Self-care involves multiple avenues, and many men are starting to come to terms with the importance of self-care and keeping their own health in check.

Physical Self-Care Is More Than Just Looking Good

“…Men in the Man Box in the U.S. and UK are significantly more likely to report having “often” or “very often” spent an hour or more bathing, grooming and clothing themselves in the last month,” according to The Man Box findings.

Many men may think that self-care is purely physical; you know, the “sitting in the bubble bath, cucumbers over the eyes” deal. Public figures like Pharrell and Frank Ocean have been open about the importance of male-grooming. In a rare 2018 interview with GQ, Ocean discussed his serious skincare routine. Pharrell spoke with DAZED in 2017 about his regimen for his ageless skin, stressing the importance of exfoliation. The Man Box research reads that this emphasis is due to the belief that “Women don’t go for guys who fuss too much about their clothes, hair, and skin.”

While the notion that “when you look good, you feel good” is still important, this is one mere, surface-level aspect of physical self-care. Despite these high-profile admissions of personal grooming, 24-year-old Weso tells us that to him, physical care is so much more than face value. VIBE reached out to numerous young men regarding the importance of self-care in their own lives.

“Self-care to me is anything you do that makes the mind, body, and soul feel good,” he explains. “Putting the right food in your diet, washing your face to prevent acne, speaking to a therapist to stay on top of your mental health.”

Weso adds that this means resting when necessary. In mid-May, Steve Harvey made controversial comments about the importance of sleep, stating that “rich people” don’t sleep the recommended eight hours a night, suggesting that a lack of rest is the key to becoming successful. Additionally, Diddy has been a vocal advocate of “Team No Sleep,” a lifestyle promoting a non-stop work ethic to achieve greatness. However, it has proven to have some consequences for him in the long run.

"I was proud of working 18 hours a day and sleeping three hours a night," he told ABC’s Nightline in 2010. "It's something now that has turned into a problem for me: not being able to sleep.”

25-year-old Justin notes to us that while “the hustle” is idolized in American culture, nothing is more paramount to self-care than listening to your body.

“Many of us come to ‘the city that never sleeps’ in pursuit of excellence and have watched our fair share of motivational videos that instruct us to sacrifice sleep for 'success,’” he says. “By constantly consuming this propaganda, we compare our lives and work ethics to a photoshopped standard.”

Additionally, men have to be on their P’s and Q’s when it comes to their inner physical health. Earlier this year, 52-year-old actor Luke Perry and 51-year-old director John Singleton both passed away from reported stroke complications. Their sudden passings were surprising because not only were both men healthy in appearance, but they were both relatively young. While strokes, unfortunately, affect people of all ages, statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that the chance of a person suffering from a stroke doubles after the age of 55, with 75 percent of strokes occurring in individuals over the age of 65.

“Seeing your idols or celebrities dealing with these same life stressors should make them more relatable and open people’s eyes up to the fact that money and fame does not solve everything,” 25-year-old Nikko explains to VIBE when asked if men should consider headlines about health as cautionary tales for their own lives.

“I see these headlines and start thinking, ‘Do I want to work ridiculously hard, peak at 35 and die at 45? Or do I want to run at a marathon pace and grow steadily throughout the course of a long healthy life?’” Justin continues. “I'd choose the latter, but I think each of us has a choice.”

Don’t Downplay The Importance Of Mental Health

Perhaps the biggest stigma plaguing men pertains to the importance of mental health. The Man Box study reports that many men don’t discuss mental health due to the notion that it’s not masculine to discuss issues surrounding the topic, nor is it masculine to ask for help to cope with them.

“Some members of the Bestow Gill, Leeds, UK group said that if they were having a problem [with mental health], they would simply ‘bottle it up and get on with it,’ or ‘work it out,’ perhaps by going to the gym, or ‘just put the kettle on,’” the report reads. “In other words, they don’t talk about feeling sad or depressed.”

Instead, boys are conditioned to “act tough” in order to maintain a certain level of perceived masculinity, to conceal their true feelings or any problems they may be facing. Despite the stigma that surrounds such an important topic, the study did reveal that while men don’t always seem to be comfortable reaching out to professionals regarding mental health, they found solace in discussing it with those closest to them.

In the U.S., 25 percent of the men surveyed revealed they felt most comfortable seeking help with sadness or depression from their mothers, compared to 11 percent with a male friend and 7 percent with their own fathers. This coincides with the belief that women are usually more perceptive with discussions surrounding emotions.

“I think it's important to be vulnerable in the face of adversity,” Justin says. “The relationships you've built are meant to be relied upon during these times. Trust your friends, rely on your family, and also check on your friends, even the ones who seem to have it all figured out.”

There’s also shame of some sort surrounding the importance of mental health as it pertains to black men. According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness, nearly 19 percent of African Americans are reportedly living with a mental illness, with 1 in 5 American adults having experienced it.

In an interview with Black Enterprise, psychiatrist Dr. Janet Taylor discussed that stigmas regarding mental illness in the black community–– especially among black men–– could potentially lead to a “why try” attitude when it comes to getting help.

“See your primary care provider, get a physical, examine your medications and talk about your stressors,” she recommends. “Be open and honest about what’s been going on. Follow up if recommended to a therapist or psychiatrist.”

Another tip? Don’t ignore mental health issues, and try to develop good habits while on the road to seeking necessary help.

“This world is hard enough as it is even with your mind and body operating optimally,” Nikko says. “You may be faced with bad breaks, but I always say to myself that this situation could be so much worse. Focusing on the positives as opposed to the negatives again ties back to developing good habits. [These choices] and consistently reminding myself of this has largely shaped my outlook on life.”

 

It’s Okay To Wear Your Heart On Your Sleeve

“Some young men in the U.S. and UK who adhere to more rigid gender norms also demonstrate transgressive emotional behaviors such as crying in front of friends or talking about emotional topics,” Promundo writes in The Man Box study.

There are various ways in which humans, in general, can experience different emotional issues. Even as something as simple as the amount of social media likes and comments we receive, Weso explains, has effects on our confidence and self-esteem, resulting in emotional distress– as small as it seems.

“The sad truth is that these apps can alter your mood,” he continues. “Putting up a picture and not getting enough likes can make you start second guessing your appearance.” One of the biggest examples of toxic masculinity involves the notion that men “aren’t supposed to cry.”

When dealing with grief, trauma and other emotionally taxing issues, it’s actually more beneficial to your health to cry, rather than to “stay strong.” Psychiatrist Judith Orloff M.D., author of The Empath’s Survival Guide, wrote in 2010 that tears actually release endorphins, which reduce stress for the crier.

“Typically, after crying, our breathing and heart rate decrease, and we enter into a calmer biological and emotional state,” she discusses in a piece for Psychology Today.

Dennis, 28, tells VIBE that after a bout of depression a few years ago, he realized there’s nothing wrong with showing emotion, and that crying is important to experience every once in a while.

“Society used to make me feel that If I was vulnerable to ask for help or express my grief then it would be accounted as weakness or feminine, which is ridiculous in hindsight,” he says. “I’ll be the first to say I’m man enough to cry. I was conditioned to believe that If I fail in life, that it’s my fault and only I can change it. I used to bottle up my worries and say nothing. I took depression with a coke and smile, so be weary of those fake smiles men put on. [They’re] probably a little deeper, and you will be astonished with the heavy load men carry just make sure no one else can see their troubles.”

“We deal with the pressures, sometimes we just deal with it in silence, in a dark, dark closet,” a focus group participant for The Man Box (U.S.) stated. In dealing with these pressures, many men often feel like it’s their best bet to talk to someone they trust. Weso tells VIBE that in times of emotional strife, he often leans on his family members.

“Surrounding myself with my family gives me piece of mind,” he explains. “My family is my constant reminder to keep going and in a sense play as the angel on my right shoulder.”

Self-care is not selfish. Self-care is not feminine. Self-care is necessary, and now more than ever, it’s important for men to take hold of this fact in order to make sure they’re performing, living and thriving to the best of their abilities in all areas of their lives.

“Your life is yours, and the decisions you make are your own,” Nikko concludes. “To truly believe in ‘self-care,’ it’s vital to prioritize and choose yourself over others when the opportunity presents itself. It may sound selfish, but to truly take care of yourself you must sometimes be selfish with your time because it’s what’s best for you.”

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Then And Now: Lloyd's Influence In R&B Is Stronger And More Important Than Ever

“Then & Now” is a celebrity series highlighting legacy acts in hip-hop, R&B and beyond with fresh reflections on the hit songs that once soundtracked our lives.

Lloyd has a unique position in R&B. With over 15 years in the game, the singer-songwriter is well aware of how broad his fan base is and how his sound is appreciated by his peers. "I'm the youngest cat at the old school R&B show now," he shared in VIBE's Then And Now series about performances with legends like Keith Sweat. Co-signs from singers like Sweat and praise from artists like Drake, Lil Wayne and Childish Gambino have only made fans curious about the singer's pen and creative process.

But nostalgia or hip-hop edge hasn't boxed the singer-songwriter in. Lloyd started his year with the City Girls-assisted single "Caramel" and a slot on B2K's widely successful Millennium Tour. His latest album Tru was adored by critics and spawned his massive comeback single of the same name. Released in 2016, "Tru" had a slow burn on the R&B charts and recently reached over 100 million views on YouTube.

"I learned through the song that sometimes being No. 1 doesn't always mean it's the best," he said. "A song can be No. 1 and fade out immediately and a song that's No. 10 might still be around for years to come. I'm still grasping how big of an impact it had. It's the first time I've seen people cry while I'm performing the song and it's the first time I've ever cried while performing a song. I wanted it to be worthy of people's hearts for many years to come. I'm glad that I was able to shine in that way and it is by far my proudest moment as a songwriter, and a son, a brother, a father and lover, definitely."

It also taught Lloyd the gift of patience. While creating the project, he completed his G.E.D and made some new friends along the way. "I learned that it means a lot to people to see individuals who they have an admiration for or respect for doing things alongside them," he said about the experience. "I also learned that no matter what you do in your life, no matter who you are, no matter how successful you become, your momma will always cry at your graduation."

"Tru" also happens to be a testament to his varied batch of hits. After kicking off his solo career in the early aughts, Lloyd linked with Irv Gotti's Murder Inc. imprint and released his first single, "Southside," featuring Ashanti. From there, the Atlanta native became a teen idol and an R&B heartthrob, dropping sensual and lively jams with help from longtime collaborators Jasper Cameron and Maurice "Big Reese" Sinclair.

"Jasper always drives ideas for the songs based on the conversations we would have about my life," he said. "I never knew he was writing songs as he was talking to me and he takes the conversations and put it into music." It was an unexpected formula that helped Lloyd create some of his biggest singles like "Player's Prayer," "Hey Young Girl," and the Lil Wayne collab, "You."

"It's a testament to other artists out there who sometimes feel the pressure of having to, in some way, conform to what is popular or what is on the radio or in the club," he said of his catalog. "You don't have to live there, you know. There are other places for you to live and be great and we need all of those different sides, in order to feel completion. So I'm glad I can shine in that way."

If we've learned anything about Lloyd is his ability to align himself with artists like Drake and Gambino before they reached critical acclaim. The singer appeared on Drake's classic mixtape So Far Gone ("A Night Off") and Gambino's meta tune "Telegraph Ave (Oakland by Lloyd)," which featured a song within a song.

"That is all in the mind of one Childish Gambino," he said, noting that he was originally meant to sing the hook to "3005" but missed the deadline. The two went to high school together and a mutual friend reached out in hopes of Lloyd being featured on the Grammy-nominated album, Because the Internet. "I reached out to him and told him, 'I'm sorry I passed on that, anything you ever need from me, holla at me because you're brilliant.' And then he came back to me with 'Oakland.' He told me, 'It's going to be your song but I'm going to sample it inside the song.' I had no clue how he was going to do it, but it came out dope."

There's an acoustic version of "Oakland" in Lloyd's vault, which he predicts will see the light of day.

The fabric of Llyod's R&B style carried enchanting patterns. By refusing to limit himself, he's continued to be relevant to this day. He's taking his musical talents and fresh acting chops to TVOne for their new film, The Bobby Debarge Story, airing this month. The film will highlight Debarge's infamous career in soul with Lloyd taking on the role of Gregory Williams, the founding member of Switch. 

 

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Im so humbled to announce That I have just completed filming for my FIRST ever movie role! You can catch me playing the part of Gregory Williams, formerly of the band Switch (and founding member), in the soon to be premiered #TheBobbyDebargeStory on @tvonetv ... Big thank you to @russparrshow , @swirlfilmsig , @roshon & @Blue_kimble for guiding me through my first scenes and helping me get into my character more. Can’t wait to see how it comes out ... 🎥💥🙏🏿

A post shared by Lloyd (@curlyheadedblackboy) on Feb 24, 2019 at 10:32am PST

"R&B is the DNA of different music," Lloyd said. "I don't go into music with a genre kind of mentality. I just listen to the soul, the message and the flow. You can find R&B in everything. For people to think it ever lacked staying power or that it was dead [were wrong]. It was just changing faces. Sometimes, exceptional rhythm and blues acts get overshadowed or under-appreciated and now, there's definitely a light that is shown on a lot of different people." 

Check out Then & Now with Lloyd above.

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Katie Spoleti

How Dinah Jane Shed Her Pop Coating And Bloomed Into An R&B Butterfly

With just 21 years around the sun, Dinah Jane has accomplished more than most. Her star initially rose alongside her pop sisters Fifth Harmony in her teens but in between chart-topping hits like "Work From Home" or "Worth It" was a longing for something more.

The "more" arrived this spring in the form of her debut collection, Dinah Jane 1, three tracks that play to her power vocals and confident nature. Leading single "Heard It Before" gives listeners the feels of the aughts with the help of producer extraordinaire, J. R. Rotem. Jane's accompanying tracks like "Pass Me By" and "Fix it" are just as alluring given her honey coated vocals. Instead of jumping from genre to genre, the songs are in the vein of Jane's R&B language, a move that transpired after a reflection into her musical identity.

The journey included experimentation with her first solo effort, "Bottled Up" with Ty Dolla $ign and Marc E. Bassey. The song was a bop by nature due to its similarity to her work in Fifth Harmony, which left Jane determined to find her sound.

"Being a solo artist now made it hard to define who I was because I was singing so many different styles before," Jane tells VIBE. "I had to take time for me to really cope and understand what it is that I really want to come out as my true identity. When I dropped my first record "Bottled Up" it was more me transitioning from Fifth Harmony to myself, I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be."

After a session with a producer in Atlanta, Jane arrived at the realization that the artists in her phone (Monica, Mariah Carey), was a sign for her to dig up her soulful roots. It's hard to deny Jane's vocals helped to build her former group and now, her own career.

"The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest," Jane said. "I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. I was always afraid to portray them as something that people didn't know about and so my thing is like, 'Oh, I don't want them to think of my family like this or my friend who's not my friend right now.' I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic, real and raw I have to be honest not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good."

With a new attitude and direction, Jane is ready to fly above her worries. Check out our chat with the singer-songwriter below.

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VIBE: When you were putting your three-pack together, what was going through your head? Was there a particular sound or moment you wanted to catch?

Dinah Jane: It was more like a certain direction. I felt like there was a part of me that had not been exposed yet as far as style. I really love that I took some down time to understand who I was and who I want to be. I started listening back to records where I was like, 'Wow, this is something that I wish was mine.' Some of Monica's records, Faith Evans or Mariah Carey, by the way, she followed me on Instagram [Laughs].

Congratulations!

She followed me on Instagram so I kind of got that verification that I should definitely do R&B. Those are artists that I've always been inspired by. I remember I went back to when I did my first audition on X Factor, and I said, "Who is that I want to sing and showcase my talent?" It was Beyoncé's "If I Were A Boy."

I felt like if this is a perfect time for me to throw in a bowl of my favorite artists that I've always looked up to and mesh it into who I am now. When I did "Fix It," I felt like it was so organic for me to go that direction and lean towards, so, when that happened the song became what it is now. I love the message behind it, I didn't realize it would empower so many people.

"Fix It" is actually my favorite out of the three. You just referenced your identity. Do you know what that is now? Or is that sonically or personally?

I think more so sonically, that's where I was lost the most because I had to put myself in a drawer for seven years. Now that I'm here, being a solo artist like I said, I was lost. Sonically I had to redefine who Dinah Jane was this whole time. I remember being in a session in Atlanta and this guy at the time asked me, "Who do you have on your phone? Let's look through it."

He's going through my phone and it's all R&B, not even that much pop, just singers from back then. And he's just like, "I was not expecting this, I thought you'd be the hype girl listening to all trap music." I have that personality trust me, but musically this is me. That clicked in my head that I was heading somewhere else and I needed to jump back to my old ways.

I love that. "Heard It All Before" has gotten so much love from your fans. I know you're not supposed to look at the comments but one that stood out was "I love this sound, leave pop alone." Do you ever feel trapped in one genre since you started within the pop bubble? 

It's funny that you say that. I feel like people or fans they kind of want to box you into who they think you are. I was telling someone, my fans they sometimes think they know me better than I know myself and it's kind of scary. There are times where I'm like, "No I don't have to be one way." It's crazy cause when I go to the studio I feel like I can be so versatile. I can do R&B easy but there are sometimes where I want to do those pop records, "Always Be My Baby" is that pop record to me and some people are good with it, some aren't but I think it just comes with your fanbase.

For me, they know my potential, honestly, they saw me on X Factor or even my YouTube days when I was 11 or 12 years old. They're like, "No Dinah, this is you, this is you, I want you to keep doing more of these." Eventually, I'll want to do some other things as well. But as of right now, it's truly R&B.

When it comes to creating you're always challenging yourself. What were some of the challenges that you've been facing this year while making music?

The most challenging part about making music has been me being honest. I have a tendency of holding back but keeping people's image safe. It's always been my challenge and I felt like if I wanted to create something authentic and real and raw I have to be honest to myself as well, not only to myself but to the public and stop putting a front that everything's good. My Mom always told me, "You've got to be real with yourself."

For sure. All three of these songs are super straightforward. What was it about keeping that energy while you were making these songs?

I was just trying to balance it. Like I said it was the most challenging part balancing that and I feel like with "Heard It All Before," it was the most fun, relatable song to write because my best friend was going through something. I was like "What?! He said what?!" We were literally having a full on group chat about it. When I did the music video, I wanted it to be about the situation that I was in with my girl. We were like, "You know what we've heard that all before." I just want to make this bundle relatable, sexy but then also swaggy and just not try so hard. So, when we put these three songs together, it felt so organic and true to who I was.

Even in the video, you exude so much confidence. What does confidence mean to you?

I think it's self-love. When you truly love yourself, you can see it in your face. You can see it in the glow and the energy you're giving to people. I wasn't always this confident, I would definitely say I was never this confident but, thanks to my mom, she always expressed that to me.

She said, "Dinah, I know you don't feel that beautiful today but you need to pick on the little things that matter. What's your favorite feature? Your lips. What's your favorite outfit you got going on? Pay attention to your best qualities other than that one negative thing you're picking on."

The confidence was never there but when you have people that are around you always encouraging you to love yourself and realizing your truth and worth, that's when the confidence kicks in. It's not something that's overnight, it takes time. It took years for me to realize that. Like I said, you have to surround yourself by honest, real people who can definitely make you see what you're not seeing.

Facts. Have you become that vessel for your friends as well? Like passing all of that on. Your mom passed it to you, you pass it to your friends, are you that person?

Yeah, it's like a telephone game. I have a younger sister who's 17 and she's always been insecure about her weight or her breakouts and I'm like, "You're a teenager, you're supposed to go through that phase. If I went through that you've got to go through it too."

In a way, I have to guide her through the stages. I was just talking to her last night and she's telling me about her friends and how she feels like she doesn't fit in, or certain cousins where she feels like she has to be a certain way. I was like, "Don't be a certain way, the way you carry yourself will vibrate and you will be so much more vibrant, it'll grasp more onto you. Just be your true self, you don't have to be anything else. I know who you are and you know who you are."

I feel like kind of being that older sister I feel like her mom sometimes. So I always feel this responsibility that she always feels 100.

What are some other plans you have for yourself, with your music for the year?

This is the first bundle. People wanted it to be named an EP but I was like, "Nah. It cannot be an EP because an EP is at least five to seven songs top."

This bundle is like a mini-project, it's the anticipation for the actual album. So, I want you to keep getting the feel of who I am, keep giving you these sneak peeks and then boom, hit you with the album. That's in the works, we'll see what happens. That's what we say now but sometimes things change, so don't get too excited.

Have you've been working with anybody? Any featured artists or any producers who are really understanding of who you are as an artist?

As far as features, I have one and then I'm working on another one.

So you can't say who they are?

I can't say. As far as producers and writers, J.R. Rotem is literally my dog. We walked into the studio and all of his plaques are all over the wall, plastered everywhere and we were like, "We get it, you're a legend. You're going to make me a legend," is what I felt in that room. I feel this great connection with him where we can be friends but also have that chemistry musically where he can connect with me instantly.

I love how we did  "Fix It," he brought out all of the live instruments and he made it feel like you were actually on stage, he made it feel bigger than what it was. So, I give him so many props for that because I've never felt that way in a session where I felt like I was onstage and it was just me by myself, no one else, well of course with a whole a** band, but I just felt the topic and the song, the musicality behind it is what meshed so well because of him. He is my dog for sure and my therapist because if it weren't for him this song would have not been made.

Stream Dinah Jane 1 below.

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