Janet Jackson Performs On Opening Night For Metamorphosis Residency
Janet Jackson performs onstage during her Metamorphosis - The Las Vegas Residency at Park Theater at Park MGM.
Farrenton Grigsby/Getty Images for JJ

Janet Jackson’s ‘Metamorphosis’ Show Is A Nostalgic, Necessary Escapade

The 53-year-old legend also celebrates the 30th anniversary of her ground-breaking album ‘Rhythm Nation 1814’ during Las Vegas residency

Janet Jackson is having a full-circle moment. At Las Vegas' Park Theater, the 53-year-old entertainer recalled performing her first show in Sin City as a child alongside her brothers and sisters during her Metamorphosis concert residency on Friday night (Aug. 2).

“Forty-six years ago, when I was seven years old, I got my performance debut right here in Las Vegas, Nevada,” said Jackson, noting that the gigs were also an MGM affair like her residency. “We did two shows a night, 12-week stints. It was a lot of hard work for such a young child but I loved it.”

That same love for her craft is still evident in her stage presence four decades later. For 90 minutes, Jackson — or Miss Jackson if you’re nasty — body rolled down memory lane in Park MGM's amphitheater. Retaining the same sharp choreography from her iconic videos while backed by a live band and a fierce group of dancers affectionately known as The Kidz, Jackson ran a marathon covering the beloved deep cuts, dancefloor numbers and sensual classics that punctuated her lengthy career. Her personal evolution — from a young girl working through traumas and the pressures of show business to a self-assured woman and proud mother — put her highlight reel in perspective, as immersive visuals helped tie each chapter of her show together.

“I’ve gone through times of pain, uncertainty, and self-doubt,” a soft voice-over from Jackson shared before the opening number “Empty.” “I’ve known unexpected triumphs and I’ve also endured overwhelming tragedies. Through it all, I’ve clung to my sense of optimism — and optimism based on belief and change. I believe we can all change. Our ever-growing spirit can do more than support us. Our spirits can soar. Everyone’s metamorphosis can and will continue to bring out the essential beauty of our souls.”

For Jackson, change has been essential to her career. Pivoting from actress to music artist (away from the shadows of her older brothers), she was heralded as an unfiltered woman who kept it real — or nasty. While the entertainer has shied away from the risqué on-stage behavior that became her tour signature (i.e. gyrating on or planting kisses on her fans’ faces post-pole dance like the days of her Velvet Rope Tour), be clear that the sexy has never left her. It is worth noting that physically, Jackson is in fighting shape (thanks to intense, stamina-building workouts with her physical trainer Paulette Sibliss) and showed no signs of fatigue during the dance-heavy set.

In a city breeding vices, debauchery, and potentially bad decisions, her more erotic notes sounded right at home. During a sultry performance of “I Get So Lonely,” a solo Janet got down and dirty for some steamy floorwork. Like her previous productions, her troupe of female dancers scoured the crowd for a male fan, who was brought onstage for “Anytime, Anyplace” (which was intertwined with Kendrick Lamar’s vocals from “Poetic Justice” and Ginuwine’s “Pony”) only for Janet to pretend giving him a smooch as he sat strapped to a chair.

 

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Leave a 💜 if you’re coming to see me in July or August 🤗 #MetamorphosisVegas ✨link in my bio

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Jackson’s sexiness has also translated to empowerment for minorities of every shade and struggle. Whether she’s calling out a lazy son of a gun on “What Have You Done For Me Lately” or chucking the deuces to a waste of space on “Pleasure Principle,” the performances of these tracks reminded supporters in attendance — which ranged from the ethnically diverse to queer — how Jackson laid down the blueprint for independent shot callers to get theirs in a world that often favors nasty boys (see current U.S. president). The live renditions of these songs in the age of #MeToo also affirm the timelessness and cultural relevance of Jackson’s musical inventory. The only minor downside of a mini-Greatest Hits concert is that not every song gets to shine in the spotlight in its entirety, leaving fans, both millennial and veteran, rabid for more.

Social change also fueled the residency. The final section of her tour celebrated 30 years of her breakthrough fourth album, 1989’s Rhythm Nation 1814. A visual of Jackson standing in a room of mirrors surrounded by social ills written on pieces of black tape like “Police Brutality,” “Hate” and “Sexism” backed by audio of her vowing to “keep working for change” as she did in her 20s preceded the anniversary tribute. 2019 morphed into 1989 as Jackson and her dancers donned all-black, militaristic outfits, stomping to empowerment anthems like “Black Cat” and the LP’s title track. Anyone who previously didn’t pledge allegiance to the Rhythm Nation joined the party in Vegas as a quick scan around the theater saw most fist-pumping or mimicking the moves out of their seats.

Before bringing the show to a close, Jackson made her transformation complete and dedicated a segment to her latest life chapter: motherhood. “Love. Fate. Destiny. Hope.,” her voice-over echoed before cursive text flashed on the jumbo screen against angelic images of the singer: “I am a mother. I love saying those words. I love the fact that I never gave up the one dream that meant more to me than any other. To be blessed with the responsibility, care, and upbringing of another human being. I see this as my ultimate metamorphosis.”

In 2017, Jackson welcomed a baby boy, her first child, at 50. Though she put her Unbreakable Tour on hiatus at the time, she resumed the global trek — which was renamed to the State of the World Tour — months after giving birth. Being a multi-hyphenate and mother is no easy feat nor is performing one’s catalog like it's the first time in multiple nights for a series of shows tightly packed into a span of four weeks. But somehow, like her career and personal accomplishments, Jackson gives her all into everything she does, as the leader of a nation should.

Janet Jackson’s Metamorphosis residency runs on select dates from July 24 to August 17.

Set List:
Empty
Feedback
Trust A Try
If
You
What Have You Done For Me Lately
Control
Nasty
Pleasure Principle
When I Think of You
R&B Junkie
The Best Things In Life Are Free
That’s The Way Love Goes
Got ‘Til It’s Gone
Come Back To Me
Funny How Time Flies
Let’s Wait Awhile
China Love
Together Again
All For You
I Get Lonely
Moist (Sexiest part)
Anytime, Anyplace
Go Deep
Come On Get Up
Rock With You
Throb
State of the World
The Knowledge
Miss You Much
Love Will Never Do
Alright
Escapade
Black Cat
Rhythm Nation

Encore:
So Excited
Made For Now

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At AfroTech, Black Tech Innovators Ban Together To Make Their Voices Heard

Entrepreneur Delane Parnell made history last year after his esports software company PlayVS raised $15 million for its Series-A funding round, making it the largest Series-A ever raised by a Black founder in consumer internet. In September of this year PlayVS, which provides a platform for competitive high school esports competitions, again made headlines when it announced that it raised an additional $81 million in funding from a group of notable investors that included Adidas, Samsung, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over the course of 15 months, the company raised a combined total of $96 million in funding to expand the business and a 27-year-old Parnell, who serves as the company’s CEO, became one of the most talked-about Black founders in tech.

During a time when only 1 percent of venture capital funding is going to Black founders and only 0.2 percent of venture capital funding is going to Black women founders, Parnell’s recent success represents an anomaly in the tech startup world. Despite a major increase in press concerning the lack of access and opportunities that Black founders in tech receive and an incredible growth in minority-focused venture capital funds and resources, the PlayVS founder remains a part of a small but growing crop of Black millennial tech founders that have created innovative business solutions so desirable that even the predominantly white-male dominated tech world has been forced to recognize and support them.

Blavity Inc. Founder and CEO Morgan DeBaun is also a member of this burgeoning class of Black millennial startup founders making noise in the industry. Last year, Blavity Inc., which owns Black millennial media and event platforms Blavity, Shadow and Act, Travel Noire, 21 Ninety, AfroTech, and Summit 21, raised a $6.5 million Series-A funding round and grew the company from one office and 30 employees to two offices and over 80 employees. DeBaun, who founded media company Blavity Inc. in 2014 with her three co-founders Jonathan Jackson, Jeff Nelson and Aaron Samuels, is vocal about the struggles not only Black tech founders face but the ones Black tech employees experience working at large white tech companies. Last month, DeBaun once again had a platform to speak on these issues during Blavity’s fourth annual AfroTech Conference, a tech conference geared toward Black millennial founders.

 

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AfroTech was created in 2016 as an event to highlight Black tech innovators and provide more opportunities and information for them to succeed. The first three years of the conference took place in San Francisco, Calif., the U.S. epicenter of technology startups. This year, the festival was moved to Oakland, Calif., a strategic move meant to honor a city with a rich Black history and patronize the small Black businesses, that despite aggressive gentrification, are still operating today. During the second weekend of November, Downtown Oakland hosted 10,000 Black tech innovators from around the U.S. looking to form meaningful connections, learn from one another, and celebrate the rising profile of Black people in tech.

One of AfroTech’s primary missions is to address the lack of information Black millennials have about the technology industry. The dozens of high-profile guest speakers, which included Parnell, The ShadeRoom founder Angelica Nwandu, lawyer and political commentator Angela Rye, and media personality Charlamagne Tha God, were carefully selected to provide Black founders, college students, and employees access to knowledge that would better equip them to lead successful tech careers. Across four different stages, speakers shared their experiences and advice on venture capital funding, coding, the cannabis industry, media, and blockchain.

“We don’t always have the vocabulary to frame our success so that we can have opportunities like getting venture capital,” DeBaun tells VIBE prior to taking the main stage at day one of AfroTech. “Part of AfroTech is creating information so that people know how to talk about what they are already doing. We don’t have to change much besides just the vocabulary and breaking down some of the biases we have been taught about ourself.”

Although knowledge plays a big part in enabling Black people in tech to receive greater opportunities, a supportive and well-connected network pipeline is another key factor necessary to fuel the group’s success. In tech, warm introductions and word of mouth rivals technical skills and ability during the job selection process. Ivy League and country club connections make it difficult for non-white people to penetrate the exclusive tech veil. A harsh reality that new diversity and inclusion departments and new executives are apparently working hard to change.

 

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“Unfortunately we have been trained to have a mindset of deficit, that we can be one of only,” says DeBaun about the lack of representation in tech spaces. “The vision of AfroTech is that we show that it’s an abundance, it’s unlimited potential, unlimited power. So if you have access you should give it to someone else. That’s your duty and your responsibility because you wouldn’t have gotten here if someone hadn’t given you access most likely. AfroTech is actually designed to try to speed that up.”

AfroTech’s socialization component may be the most valuable part of the weekend. Dozens of high-profile tech companies from Google to Twitter, Lyft to YouTube, sent representatives to set up booths to recruit potential job candidates and share valuable information about its diversity efforts. Diversity-focused venture capital firms like Harlem Capital Partners and Precursor Ventures were also engaged with founders and swapped business cards during the conference’s designated networking periods. For Black people who did not attend an Ivy League school or grow up with a country club membership, these moments provided a valuable and direct pipeline to the world’s largest companies.

AfroTech’s opportunities for connection and knowledge distribution did not simply end once the conference did. The AfroTech app, website, and Slack channel have continued to provide helpful resources and opportunities for Black people in tech to communicate with one another. With platforms like AfroTech, Black Women Talk Tech, Black Girls Code and Black Founders, Black people in tech are provided with opportunities to not only empower themselves in this industry but support and empower other Black people in the process.

 

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"A lot of the opportunities I have is because I invited myself instead of waiting to be invited. I don’t often wait for people to validate whether or not I should be in the room. I make that decision myself. In this world, you can’t be afraid of “no” or “sorry, I can’t help you”. You let that be fuel to keep going no matter what. 👊🏾" - @carterlove⠀ ⠀ We found this story in our mentions and just had to reshare these inspirational vibes! We know many #BlacksInTech can wait forever to "be invited" to the table, so it's so important to be the change and invite ourselves! ✊🏾Or better yet, make our own 💁🏾.⠀ ⠀ What are some ways you invite yourself to opportunities? Let's talk about it!👇🏾

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Solange Uses Her Divine Spirit To Calm The Mind And Body For "Bridge-s" Performance Piece

There's a serene feeling over the bodies standing in the iconic architecture at the Getty Center Museum. Jazzy horns, peaceful keys, and crisp guitar riffs gently interrupt the soothing silence as dancers dripped in marigold threads swayed to "Counting," a composition created by Solange. A series of odd numbers like "5", "7" and "9" are recited on a loop by half of her dancers while the others chant "6", "4" and "2." It's just a preview of her latest creation Bridge-s but felt like a dynamic meditation.

Bridge-s brings yet another magnetic piece into her series of interdisciplinary works that spawned after the release of her magnum opus, A Seat At The Table. The world was introduced to Solange's artistic side thanks to performance art pieces at the Guggenheim in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.

Composed by Solange and choreographed by Gerard & Kelly, Bridge-s was created with the pillars, beams, and columns around the museum in mind. Dancers and the orchestra used the space to their advantage, with tuba players catching the peripheral of attendees from afar.

Four rollouts will take place November 16-17, curated with a selection of films that include Black to Techno by Jenn Nkiru, AFRONAUTS and Boneshaker by Nuotama Bodomo, The State of Things by singer-songwriter Kish Robinson (Kilo Kish) and more. In its entirety, Bridge-s was designed to explore "transitions through time."

This was felt throughout the performance piece as dancers move with the intent of love, internal struggle, and unity. In a stunning zine designed by Sablā Stays, Gerard & Kelly shared the emphasis behind their modernist and inclusive approach.

"Our work, like hers, is part of an interdisciplinary effort throughout the arts and humanities to redefine modernism by critically engaging its prevailing narratives. By accounting for differences of gender, sexuality, and race. By focusing on intimate and collective histories. By centering our work around the body, dance and movement," they said.

Solange also opened up about the importance the museum and the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg played in the performance piece. "Both Elbphilharmonie Hamburg and the Getty Museum have sure strong distinctive voices spatially, and so the intention is that all of the work, the movement, the language, the songs all align with those principles," she said. "Working with Gerard and Kelly, who share many of the same philosophies on their approach to interpreting time and space through performance has really built the foundation [for] the spirit of this collaboration."

Like the rest of us, the artist watched closely the dancers glide across the floor, while bandmembers release enchanting sonnets with vocalists dropping a few high notes in between. Guests like Thundercat (and his Pikachu backpack), Kilo Kish, Dev Hynes of Blood Orange and Tyler, The Creator were also left speechless after the performance.

“I just want to thank you guys for allowing me the space to evolve, experiment and express new frontiers,” Solange said to the crowd after the assembly provided endless cheers.

Learn more about Bridge-s and get free tickets here.

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Rick Ross' ‘Port Of Miami 2 Tour' Is Motivation To Hustlers Far And Wide

“I can spot a millionaire—from the guy working at the carwash,” Rick Ross said to a sold-out crowd at New York City’s Gramercy Theatre on his “Port of Miami 2 Tour.” “He got the rag hanging out of his pocket, to the way he rock his [pants]. I see the millionaire in him,” Rozay continued.

For nearly two hours on Tuesday (Oct. 15), the MMG bawse galvanized the hustler’s spirit, thanks to the preciseness of words used to explain his “came from the bottom” narrative combined with first hand accounts of the imperative mental spaces that dope boys experience.

But before Rozay graced the stage at the Gramercy Theatre, MMG’s baby boomer Yowda entertained the crowd for a brief set before passing the mic to lifelong MMG soldier Gunplay.

Rocking a black Dickies outfit, the Triple C member, who has been vocal about his cocaine addiction, stormed the stage with coke-like energy while mouthing lyrics to his sobering verse from “The Great Americans,” a song from MMG’s Self Made, Vol. 3.

Gunplay, who was actually born in the Bronx, nimbly bounced across the stage like a point-guard maneuvering through defense closed out his set with his under-the-radar street classics “Blood on the Dope,” “Bible on the Dash,” and his verse from Waka Flacka’s “Rolling.”

With marijuana smoke clouding the venue, liquor relaxing some concert-goers, and the clock inching toward 9:15 p.m., Rozay slowly walked toward the center of the stage—indirectly egging on the standing ovation by confidently nodding his head. Lex Luger’s “B.M.F.” instrumental blasted from the speakers for what seemed like minutes before the Dade County native dived into his verses.

The motivational concert commenced with the words: “I think I’m Big Meech, Larry Hoover,” here Ross is claiming his declaration to be financially independent---probably his No. 1 goal in life.

Less than two minutes into the start of Rozay’s set, The L.O.X.’s Styles P surprised the crowd by appearing onstage to deliver his verse from “B.M.F,” which was followed by ”Good Times (I Get High).” Surprises continued when Jadakiss appeared on stage to help his partner-in-rhyme run through their classic, “We Gonna Make It.”

 

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After working up a sweat, a slimmer-looking Ross shedded his beige designer trench jacket. Dressed in all white—like the cocaine money that he raps about—with shining jewels wrapped around his neck and wrists, Ross played the visual representation of success to kids from every coast.

Ross proceeded the show with his get-money classics like “I’m Not a Star,” where when he rapped: “Nine for the slice, dummy that’s a Dan Marino/Talking quarterbacks, meaning talking quarter kilos,” concert-goers enthusiasm seemed to max-out as they rapped with words with Ross.

After performing a list of favorites like “Aston Martin Music” and “Hustlin’,” the Box Chevy anthem that set the rapper’s career in motion, and “Where My Money (I Need That),” Rozay surprised New Yorkers by inviting Brooklyn native Fabolous onstage.

The Young OG entertained the Gramercy with hits like “Breathe” and “Cuffin Season” before closing his set with his verse from Meek Mill’s “Uptown.”

As the night grew to a close, Ross decided to remind fans that it’s totally fine for hustlers to shed tears. With that, the 43-year-old delivered his masterful verse from Kanye West’s “Devil in a New Dress.”

The place erupted with emotion with lines like “Whole clique appetite had tapeworms/Spinning Teddy Pendergrass vinyl as my J burns/I shed a tear before the night’s over.”

 

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Tears continued to fall as Ross ran through the CeeLo Green-assisted “Tears of Joy,” a woeful hip-hop ballad that shows the imperativeness—from a dope boys POV—of financial freedom.

Overall, Rozay’s performance is not filled with animation and routines. His stage presence isn’t as strong as fellow hustler-turned-rappers Jay-Z and Pusha T. However, Ross’ words of encouragement are powerful tools that incites the “give me liberty or death” mentality that birthed the hustlers spirit of America, and birthed America.

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