2019 BET Awards - Show
Kevin Winter

10 Hip-Hop Artists Who Released Two Albums In The Same Year

One presumes that when an artist reaches album release time, they’ll approach each cycle with a fully conceptualized idea of what they want for the album and how they want it to be received. Consider all the creation, recording, sample clearances, planning, and shipping deadlines that have to be met before an LP makes it to fans’ ears. It can take months, even years, for an artist to get an album done. Only a handful of hip-hop artists have gone against traditional methods and accomplished the ambitious feat of dropping two albums in the same year.

DaBaby has already made a strong case for rap’s Rookie of the Year in 2019, with his March album Baby On Baby featuring the hit song "Suge" and standout appearances on Dreamville’s Revenge of the Dreamers III, Post Malone’s “Enemies,” and Lil Nas X’s “Panini” remix. But with Friday's release of KIRK, he joins rare company. Rappers have been releasing multiple projects within a year in the form of mixtapes and EPs for a long time now, but putting out two full-length studio albums is a difficult task for any artist to shoulder. To accomplish such a feat is a testament to an artist’s dedication and drawing power if they take on the hefty task.

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2Pac
Year: 1996
Albums: All Eyez On Me; The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory

2Pac had always been known for his intense work ethic, especially following his release from prison in 1995. After signing with Death Row, 2Pac spent endless amounts of hours in the studio churning out music at a quick rate. By February 1996, Pac had enough music to release hip-hop’s first double-full-length solo album, All Eyez on Me. The 27-track album has 2Pac embracing the “thug life” mantra heavily, a sharp departure from the social and politically conscious rhymes on his previous albums. It spawned five singles (two No. 1’s with “How Do U Want It” and “California Love”) and topped the Billboard 200 and Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts.

He earned another No. 1 album with The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory, two months after his murder in September 1996. Under his Makaveli alias, the album has 2Pac taking on a darker tone and sending shots to his rivals at the time, including The Notorious B.I.G, Diddy, Mobb Deep, Jay-Z and more. Both albums are amongst the most celebrated and best-selling hip-hop albums of all time.

DMX
Year: 1998
Albums: It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot; Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood

DMX made a huge impact when he dropped his first two albums, It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot and Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood, in 1998. In a time where hip-hop was dominated by flashy suits and feel good records, fans flocked to DMX’s brand of tough, gritty street rap and propelled his first two albums to the top of the charts. It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot is a grim introduction to the angry, chaotic mind of Earl Simmons. It featured Sheek Louch, Mase, The Lox, Drag-On and more. The album was a massive success, producing four singles with two of them earning a spot amongst (arguably) the greatest hip-hop singles of all time (“Get At Me Dog” and “Ruff Ryders Anthem”).

Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood has X embracing the dark, uncompromising aesthetic of his first album that his fans lauded. Its small guest list includes Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige, and The Lox. Only “Slippin” and “No Love 4 Me” were released as singles but that didn’t stop the album from going three times platinum. There’s a six-month difference between the release of both albums, which made DMX the second rapper after 2Pac to release two No. 1 albums in a year. Despite his legal and addiction troubles in recent years, DMX is one of hip-hop’s most distinctive personalities and his first two albums are evidence of that.

Nas
Year: 1999
Albums: I Am…, Nastradamus

In 1999, Nas was going through an intriguing phase in his career. After the commercial and critical success of his sophomore album, It Was Written, the Queens MC began work on his third studio album, I Am… The Autobiography. It was intended to be a double album that told his story from birth through the afterlife, but an internet leak forced Nas to record new material to replace the songs that were shared online – making him one of the first artists to have his music leaked by MP3 technology. The end result would be the creation of Nas’ third and fourth studio albums, I Am… and Nastradamus.

With I Am…, Nas earned his second No. 1 album and second best-selling release behind It Was Written. “Nas Is Like” and “Hate Me Now” were the only two singles off the album and helped push it to double platinum certification. Nastradamus didn’t fare too well with Nas’ listeners, with the lackluster production and rushed feel of the album, due to the leak, left critics and fans underwhelmed. It did manage to find moderate success as it hit platinum certification, but Nastradamus is widely regarded as Nas’ weakest album. Jay-Z dismissively referred to the two albums as "doo" during the two's iconic battle, leading the latter to reinvigorate his career with Stillmatic in 2001.

Nelly
Year: 2004
Albums: Sweat, Suit

At the height of his massive popularity, Nelly became the first rapper to release two albums simultaneously when he dropped Sweat and Suit on the same day in November 2004. He originally planned to release one album for his third solo effort, but he eventually decided to drop two albums that could hold all the music that was being recorded at the time.

The first album, Sweat, is an upbeat, party-orientated hip-hop album that aims to capture club vibes with tracks like “Na-NaNa-Na,” “Flap Your Wings,” and “Tilt Ya Head Back.” It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts and went platinum two months after its release. Suit, on the other hand, had smooth, R&B-tinged production with songs meant for the grown and sexy audience. Nelly showed his evolution as an artist on Suit with the different musical sounds he took on and the mellow vibe he exuded on each track. The album spawned two Top 10 singles in “My Place” featuring Jaheim and the global hit “Over and Over” featuring Tim McGraw. It was Nelly’s third consecutive No. 1 and was nominated for best rap album at the 47th Grammy Awards.

Lil’ Wayne
Year: 2010
Albums: Rebirth, I Am Not A Human Being

Lil Wayne went through a brief creative shift in 2010 when he dropped his seventh studio album Rebirth. The album is Wayne’s first and only rock record, a move that puzzled fans. It received negative reviews but did well on the Billboard charts, debuting at No. 2 and selling 176,000 copies in its first week. Each of the four singles obtained success on the charts, including the Eminem-assisted “Drop The World” which went quadruple platinum. Unfortunately, Wayne spent much of 2010 dealing with legal issues that landed him in Rikers Island to serve an eight month sentence for criminal possession of a weapon.

Before going away, Wayne recorded material that formed into his eighth studio album, I Am Not A Human Being. The album was another success for the Young Money boss, as it debuted at No. 2 and later topped the charts thanks to its physical release. This made Wayne the first hip-hop artist since 2Pac released Me Against The World in 1994 to have a No. 1 album while incarcerated. The album received favorable reviews from critics and earned a Top 10 hit with its lead single “Right Above It” featuring Drake.

E-40
Years: 2010 and 2011
Albums: Revenue Retrievin’: Day Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Night Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Overtime Shift, Revenue Retrievin’: Graveyard Shift

In 2010, E-40 adopted Nelly’s approach to releasing an album on the same day when he dropped the first two entries in his Revenue Retrievin’ series. Instead of focusing on two different types of personas like what Nelly did on his same-day releases, E-40 focused on the various types of hustling. The first album, Day Shift, focuses on the “around the clock” hustle and boasts a whopping 19 tracks with features like Too Short, B-Legit, and Suga T with production by Rick Rock, Droop-E and others. The second album, Night Shift, plays on the late night hustle of go-getters with much of the same features and producers from the previous album.

In 2011, E-40 accomplished the feat once more with the next installments of the Revenue Retrievin’ series, Overtime Shift and Graveyard Shift. The first entry focused on that extra amount of hustle necessary to stay at the top of your game, while the latter detailed the dark, gritty side of hustling. Both feature-filled albums were favorably reviewed by critics. The Revenue Retrievin’ series was an ambitious effort for the Bay Area legend as he released an insane 191 songs in the span of two years.

Frank Ocean
Year: 2016
Albums: Endless, Blonde

Four long years after his magnum opus Channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean made his heavily-anticipated return in 2016 with Endless and Blonde. Despite a few interviews and Tumblr posts, the music world had little information on new music from Ocean or on the artist himself. On August 1, 2016 their questions would be answered when a live stream of Ocean cryptically building a stairway structure premiered on his website. On August 19, it was revealed the livestream was actually a visual album titled Endless that reportedly fulfilled Frank’s recording contract with Def Jam Recordings. The album’s mix of avant-soul, ambient pop and R&B set it up to be a proper prelude for Blonde’s genre-bending sound.

Blonde was released a day later to widespread critical acclaim and found itself on several year-end lists. It came in at No. 1 on several music charts and has been certified platinum. The album was lead by “Nikes,” which also found its place amongst the best songs of 2016 according to Pitchfork’s “The 100 Best Songs of 2016” list. Blonde mostly explored the themes of falling in and out of love with ties to depression, hate, self-love, and family. Critics and fans applauded the improvement to his extraordinary sound with many considering to be one of the greatest R&B/pop albums of all time.

Gucci Mane
Years: 2016 and 2017
Albums: Everybody Looking, The Return of East Atlanta Santa; Mr. Davis, and El Gato: The Human Glacier

Becoming a free man in 2016 following a two-year prison sentence for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Gucci found himself back in the studio releasing a string of projects in the subsequent years. Gucci evolved into a new and improved artist throughout this time, working with some of the newest and biggest names in hip-hop. In 2016, Gucci dropped Everybody Looking, a personal look into his wild life. It featured production by Boi-1da, Drumma Boy, Murda Beatz and more, with Drake, Kanye West and Young Thug lending their vocals. Months later, Gucci dropped the next entry in his East Atlanta Santa series, The Return of East Atlanta Santa with features by Drake, Bryson Tiller, and Travis Scott.

Gucci did it again a year later when he dropped two more studio albums with Mr. Davis and El Gato: The Human Glacier. Mr. Davis debuted at No. 2 and boasted a stellar list of guest features and production credits including Chris Brown, The Weeknd, Hitmaka, Danja, former NBA player Chris Bosh and more. For El Gato, Gucci kept it to a minimum and found his lane taking on the rhymes on his own and enlisting Southside as the sole producer of the album. Each of the four albums were well-received by fans and critics and cracked the top 30 of the Billboard 200 with Everybody Looking becoming his highest charting album.

Future
Year: 2017
Albums: FUTURE, HNDRXX

Future became the first artist in Billboard’s history to have two albums top the charts in successive weeks with this pair of releases in 2017. FUTURE finds the Atlanta native tapping into his fiery, no-nonsense trap persona, rapping about money and warning his enemies. Through 17 featureless tracks, Future weaves his way through the heavy trunk-rattling production of Metro Boomin’, 808 Mafia, !llmind, and more. There are a number of fun records on the album like “Draco” and “Super Trapper,” but the five times platinum “Mask Off” was the breakaway hit on the album.

On HNDRXX, Future took a different approach by embracing a melodic R&B vibe for the album. As opposed to the examination of his ego on FUTURE,  is a look inside Future’s emotions and soul where he croons about the pitfalls of the lavish, dangerous life he rapped about on FUTURE. The avant-pop sound of the album had Future go from toxic masculinity (“My Collection”), to admiring a woman despite his trust issues (“Incredible”), to betrayal (“Turn On Me”). HNDRXX was highly favored over FUTURE due to the emotional vulnerability, but both albums were platinum certified and gave Future his fourth and fifth No. 1 albums.

Lil Yachty
Year: 2018
Albums: Lil Boat 2; Nuthin’ 2 Prove

Lil Yachty had a major year in 2018. To go along with starring in the sequel to the 2001 comedy How High and voicing Green Lantern in the animated film Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, Lil Boat became the latest rapper to join this matchless group of hip-hop artists who’ve released two albums in a year. Lil Boat 2 and Nuthin’ 2 Prove have Lil Yachty rapping about his expensive lifestyle and sumptuous riches all over various pounding trap-laden beats by Pi’erre Bourne, DJ Durel, Tay Keith, 30 Roc and more. Lil’ Boat 2 serves as a sequel to his debut mixtape Lil Boat and was a response to the day one fans who wanted to hear Lil Boat rap as opposed to the melodies he sang on his debut, Teenage Emotions. Regardless of the mixed reviews from critics, Lil Boat 2 did well commercially, debuting at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, becoming his second top five album after Teenage Emotions.

Nuthin’ 2 Prove, however, was a mix of Lil Yachty’s auto-tune reliant melodies and boisterous raps. It was propelled by its lead single “Who Want The Smoke?” featuring QC labelmates Offset of the Migos and Cardi B. Its guest list also included Lil Baby, Juice WRLD, Gunna, Playboi Carti, Young Nudy and more. Critics gave the album mixed reviews, commenting on its lack of direction. Fans felt Lil Yachty had a lot more growth to show. The project debuted at No. 12 on the charts, selling only 40,000 copies in its first week.

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Stacy-Ann Ellis

20 Minutes With Davido: The Afrobeats Giant Talks Confidence, Timing And Strong Foundations

Davido can’t sit still. Maybe it’s early afternoon energy or impatience or knowing that his press rounds for the day aren’t winding down for some hours. Or maybe it’s just the fact that he’s sitting on what he considers to be an audio goldmine. David Adeleke, the gifter of astronomical hits like “If” and “Fall”—two-year-old songs with gravity still strong enough to pull Snapchatting wallflowers and clumsy dancers to the center of the floor—knows there’s much more where that came from.

“It's an album for everybody, I'll say,” he says of his forthcoming album, A Good Time, with a smirk. “I feel like everybody will have at least three songs they love in different genres.”

Technically speaking, the Atlanta-born and Lagos, Nigeria-raised artist has made a moderate splash on the Billboard charts, the metrics most artists use to quantify their success and measure progression in the industry. (In 2019, “Fall” became the longest-charting Nigerian pop song in Billboard history thanks to admittedly delayed radio push.)

However, Davido’s worldwide footprint speaks louder than a few hard figures. This year alone, he’s sold out shows as intimate as nightclubs and massive as London’s O2 Arena, rocked sets at Essence Music Festival and Hot 97's Summer Jam, and was an international headliner abroad at Oh My! Fest in the Netherlands, Afro Nation Portugal, and eventually Afro Nation Ghana alongside afrobeats greats he can safely consider peers.

July summoned his album’s breezy lead single “Blow My Mind” featuring Chris Brown, and a burst of new guest spots this month are carrying that same fresh energy into October. Davido was featured alongside Jeremih in “Choosy,” a new release from Fabolous, as well as on Brown’s “Lower Body,” a newbie on the extended version of his Indigo album. To say he’s ready to fan the mainstream flame with fellow afrobeats and afro-fusion hitmakers is an understatement. “Let us in, open American doors,” he jokes, knowingly. “We will finish everybody.”

In between banter about the turnup we’re missing in West Africa—trust, December in Africa is a thing—Davido opens up about his A Good Time (a genre hodgepodge guaranteed to please), the source of his success (part luck, part work ethic), and afrobeats’ undeniable global appeal.

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VIBE: Tell me about how your 2019 has been so far? Davido: 2019 has been a journey. It’s been the longest time that I’ve spent away from Lagos probably since I came to school in America. Reason being, just wanted to focus and get new energy, new environment to record the album. There’s just so much going on back home, so we’ve been out here the whole year, basically. “Fall” blew up and then we just came out here and worked with it. That album is about to come out and it’s gonna be crazy.

Given the momentum and expectations that come with it, are you more excited or nervous about this next album? I’m not nervous because I’m confident about the music. I’m just anxious to see what the next stage is, the next step. I like to challenge myself. When you reach a stage, you want to challenge yourself to reach higher stages.

You said it’s been the longest time you’ve spent away from Lagos. Is that a good or bad thing? No, that’s good. To me, it's a new energy. The people miss me, of course, but sometimes it's good to be away. To just step back and see where you’re at in your surroundings and stuff like that. I think every artist needs that.

Sometimes when you're too present, people think they know what you're going to deliver. Exactly, and me being out here recording, all my producers I flew in from Nigeria. It's not like I left my team. The whole team is here, so people ain't really heard the music. Back home, in my studio, it's like everybody comes through, so I can imagine recording my album back home, four or five of the songs would have probably leaked already.

You had a great year and so has music from African artists. What has it been like to watch that happen, to see us latecomers catch on? I felt like it was always going to happen. Even when I was in school in Alabama, when I used to play Nigerian songs from artists that were the top artists then—they were the biggest artists, like D’banj, P-Square—when I used to play their music in my dorm room, my American friends would love it. I always knew it was a thing that once America heard it, they would love it. Afrobeats, you hear it once, twice, I promise you, it's going to ring. So I feel like it was just for the people to hear it. Give us a channel to be heard. Radio, now you have social media. Back then all those things weren't in place. Now you have things in place where even if it's not in your face, one way or the other, you can find it. I think if you had all those things back then, social media and the support, it would've been the same.

 

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Were you frustrated with how long it took? Not really, because we've got our stuff going back home, too. You know what I'm saying? Even me today, I make most of my money from back home. And even before afrobeats got mainstream in America, we’ve been coming to do shows. I did a show in New York in 2013 to 5,000 people, and this was when I didn't have most of my big records I have now. Sold it out. But now it's mainstream. You have Live Nation now partnering with us to do shows. Back then it was just like local promoters selling tickets at the clubs and we still had the numbers. Now, our fans can put on the radio and hear us.

It even gives them more confidence. Confidence to be like, you know what? Let's go out and support this culture. So that's why the Afro Nation festival in Portugal, it was bigger than Coachella to me. It just shows that you just needed that platform, and then the fans needed the confidence to come out and really support. The next step now is getting the fans to buy the music because we have the numbers, but you've got to come out and buy it. That's the only way we can really break. The music is spreading. It's on the radio. Everybody’s doing shows. Everybody's touring, but now the next step is getting these sales up.

In a way, that’s most artists’ problems now. Touring is the moneymaker. That and streaming. There's nothing really wrong with streaming. That is why they want us to appeal to the Western crowd because those people buy music. Those people buy merch, blah blah blah. But we have to do what we know how to do. So the Western [crowd], they're actually buying it, but we need our real fans to come and be like, yo, Davido album dropping. It's a campaign—80,000 copies the first week, let's go out and buy. Look at the Latin industry. They're doing numbers. So apart from the music getting big, I feel like, yes, the music is getting accepted, but where are the numbers? When you walk into a building, it's all about numbers. It's not about if your music is sweet or this, or that—it's all about the profit. That's what we'll be working on getting up.

What are your thoughts about seeing really large artists pay so much homage to the afrobeats sound? I mean some people find it offensive, but I actually don't. I mean, first of all, people in Africa do hip-hop, right? So you can't come and say these people are taking our sound when we have artists back home doing trap, doing all these things. I feel that everybody should feel free to do what they want to do, but maybe it won't hurt to evolve. Like, I feel like it was nice how Swae Lee had Tekno produce that record for him and Drake, stuff like that. And they have more of our producers more involved in the sound because those are the ones who really know how to get the sound. Yeah, I think the producer side needs more shine but apart from that, doing afrobeats is [for] everybody. Any artist is free to do any kind of music they want.

Who are some of the producers that we should know? Give us a starter list. I mean, first of all, Shizzi, that's my producer. He did most of my stuff. And we have Kiddominant, that's my other producer. And we have Speroach, this dude Rexxie, he's the one that's doing all the Zanku songs. So he's going crazy. But I feel like they should bring all these artists out here, get a camp, put 'em all in one room and trust me, they'll make magic.

Do you still consider yourself an afrobeats artist now? Some of your counterparts like Afro B and Burna Boy have classified themselves as afro-wave or afro-fusion. I'm just an artist, man. I'm just a musician. Every kind. Of course I do afrobeats, but I'm just a musician. Worldwide musician. World music.

You mentioned the Latinx music scene. Is there anyone you’re looking to collaborate with from that space? Bad Bunny, Maluma. I really want to work with them. I might get a studio session with them when I get back from Nigeria.

How would you say your sound has progressed over the years from your try at making music to now? Of course [when] you're growing, you learn. Sometimes I don't even listen to some of my earlier records, even though I always used to put a lot in my records so it's not like that shit was whack. It was cool but I can see the growth and the quality of the music. Back then we didn't really focus on our sound and mixing and mastering. We’d really just record, next day release. Right now, it's a whole package and music has to be perfect. Right now, they’re playing Nigerian music on the radio, African music, and after African music, they start playing American music. You don't want the level of the quality to drop. And planning. I'm at the label now. Before I could just wake up and just drop, but now they gotta submit the single two weeks before. You know how it is. So, of course, it's way different now from like four years ago.

What else have you learned about yourself personally and the way you work? I'm really, really, really free with my work. I don't really bother myself with strategic planning and stuff like that. What's most important to me is the music. Once the music is good, I feel that's really all you need. And, of course, a good team around you and they're doing what you want. Connect with your fans. Very important, connect with your fans. Don't lose touch of home because that's your foundation, really. Without that foundation, you can't really be big in America when you don't have that foundation in Nigeria. An example is, I've known a lot of American artists for a while who are bigger in America, but when they came to Nigeria they saw the love I get at home. Then coming back is like, the respect is different. They'd come and they were like, Yo, you're the president. You know what I'm saying?

When was the first moment that you realized where you stood with your hometown? That they would be such a solid support system? That was probably for my first song, really. From the first record, man, it's just been love. Davido this, Davido that, negative, positive, negative and whatever.

Negative? What's the biggest critique you've seen of yourself? I don't know. Probably my voice. That's the worst I can think of. I can't think of nothing else.

What's the most memorable place you've ever performed? I've got a couple places. O2 Arena [in London]. I just did [Madison Square Garden] with 50 Cent [for the Power premiere]. That was cool.

Walk me through that. He [50 Cent] brought me out. It was just crazy cause I ain't really met him before. I met him at the pool party or something like that, when I was performing at the pool party, and the reception when I performed was crazy so I think it got his attention. The next day he called me up to perform at MSG.

And then in July, you headlined your first international festival. Oh yeah, yeah. Amsterdam. Yeah. Oh My! Festival, and then Afro Nation, too. This summer was lit, but next summer is about to be dumb lit. This fall's about to be lit. Album's coming October.

One thing I notice about you and the progression of your career is that it’s fueled by a strong sense of faith and confidence. Where do you get that? It just depends, man. Honestly, it's not even confidence. I wouldn't say that Nigeria spoiled me, but like bruh, they just showed me so much love. Like, I didn't really go through like a lot of things. I just dropped and it just took me... I didn't really have to overkill myself. They just kept me there. I don't know why they liked me so much, (Laughs) but they just kept me there, kept me comfortable, kept me confident. Always came out to all the shows, supported all the music. It's just love, everywhere is love. Even the love for Davido spreads to everybody around me. My family members.

Have newer artists in Nigeria or on the continent asked you for advice? If so, what do you tell them? You have to be very hardworking and ready to play the part. That's what they're always asking. But everybody has their different ways of getting to where they need to get to. My way might be different from somebody else's way, but most importantly is just be ready to work hard and the music has to be good. Once the music is good, get your team right, and just work hard. I feel like the other steps, you kind of figure it out yourself.

Who do you think is next up in terms of afrobeats artists?  I mean, there's a lot of other artists. It's like 500 of us. Let us in, open American doors, we will finish everybody. There is a lot of us. I feel like before you stand up and leave Africa, like, yo, I'm going to chase the dream in America, I'm going to chase the dream in Europe, you have to make sure your foundation, your home is super strong.

Is it still a goal to capture or change up the American market? No, not [to] change it, we just want to join it. Add us. We should have our own chart, I think. You know what I'm saying? Like if reggae could have their own chart, I think we can have ours, too. Or let us in the main chart, something. But I feel like it's gonna happen, man. It's been happening, man. Most importantly, I'm happy that American artists themselves open their arms for us as well. I got a lot of records dropping that are not even myself, they're their songs featuring me. Stuff like that helps us as well.

What can we expect from the new album? Just a lot of good songs. It's an album for everybody, I'll say. I feel like everybody will have at least three songs they love in different genres. It’s going to be 13 songs. Well, I’ll probably have "Fall" and "If" on there, so it's really like 11 new songs. But yeah, it's going to be an album for everybody. Trust me. Every type of song is going to be on there. Predominantly afrobeats-infused, of course. Mainly my producers and a lot of your [American] producers, too. With features, me and Chris got a second record.

And lastly, since you speak highly of your foundation, what is the best thing about Nigeria? The people. The attitude, rich or poor. It's just a jolly place. You would laugh, comedians everywhere. There's some bad, bad spirits sometimes, (laughs) but for the most part, it's a very beautiful place.

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Nickelodeon

How 'My Brother And Me' Resonated With A Generation Of Young Black Men

In terms of cultural impact and influence, the '90s ranks as one of the defining decades for black entertainment of the past century. This proves particularly true in the realm of television, with a number of landmark programs debuting that reflected the life and times of blacks in the urban community and beyond. While the '80s produced groundbreaking sitcoms like The Cosby Show, A Different World, Family Matters, 227, Amen, and Frank's Place, all of which featured predominantly black casts, these shows were few and far in between.

However, the arrival of a new decade coincided with an influx of programs starring black leads, with shows like Martin, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Living Single, Hangin with Mr. Cooper, Roc, Thea and South Central all making their debut. While these shows were hits across various age groups, they all starred and revolved around actors of age, in some form or fashion. One of the first programs to divert from this formula and place the focus squarely on adolescents was My Brother and Me, a sitcom that often gets overlooked when listing the pivotal shows of its era.

Making its debut on October 15, 1994, My Brother and Me was among the first live-action series to air on Nickelodeon and the first to feature a predominantly black cast. Created by Ilunga Adell and Calvin Brown Jr., and directed by Arlando Smith and Adam Weissman, the show centers around brothers Alfred "Alfie" Parker and Derek "Dee-Dee" Parker, the two youngest children of parents Jennifer (Karen E. Fraction) and Roger Parker (Jim R. Coleman) who experience the typical growing pains of pre-pubescent young men that are coming of age.

Additional core cast members include Alfie and Dee-Dee's older sister Melanie Parker (Aisling Sistrunk),, Alfie's best friend Milton "Goo" Berry (Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr.) who has an infatuation with Melanie, Melanie's best friend and Donnell's older sister Dionne Wilburn (Amanda Seales), Dee-Dee's best friend and Dionne’s younger brother Donnell Wilburn (Stefan J. Wernli),, Dee-Dee’s other best friend Harry White (Keith "Bubba" Naylor), and local comic book store owner Mrs. Pinckney (Kym Whitley).

Set in the suburbs of the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina, My Brother and Me was the Nickelodeon's answer to Sister, Sister, a sitcom on ABC starring identical twins Tia and Tamera Mowry that had debuted earlier that year. With a beat writer for the local newspaper for a father and a school teacher for a mother, Alfie and Dee-Dee enjoyed a stable living environment in which they could thrive academically and socially while simply being kids. A middle-class family with access to all of the basic amenities, the Parkers' economic situation was in stark contrast to the usual scratching-and-surviving, rags-to-riches themes often associated with sitcoms geared towards people of color.

While removed from the harsh realities that often accompany life in the inner-city, the Parker boys were drawn in by the allure of street culture, with Alfie and Dee-Dee both being avid fans of hip hop music, fashion, and style. This love affair would be the driving force behind various episodes, most notably "Dee-Dee's Haircut," during which Dee-Dee allows Goo to butcher his hair after marveling at fellow student Kenny's "Cool Dr. Money"-inspired haircut. Going as far as handpicking designs out of a rap magazine Donell borrows from his sister Dionne, Dee-Dee goes to the extreme in an attempt to mirror Kenny and Cool Dr. Money, a testament to the influence hip hop holds over him. His affinity for the culture is also reflected in the "Donnell's Birthday Party" episode, during which the impressionable youngster mimicking dance moves from a rap video in hopes of tightening up his dance skills.

Alfie and Dee-Dee may have been the intended stars of the show, but to many viewers, the most memorable character from My Brother and Me was Goo, who stole scenes with his humorous wisecracks and mischievous hijinks, often at the expense of Dee-Dee and his friends. From showering Mrs. Parker with disarming compliments to masterminding various plots and schemes in an attempt to get himself and Alfie out of trouble, Goo proved to be the most entertaining member of the show, exuding swagger and confidence that are palpable to the viewer and as hip hop as it gets. On the other hand, Alfie, who is not as overtly demonstrative in his rap fandom as his younger brother or Goo, reps his allegiance to the culture more subtly, with his haircut, backward caps and boisterous mannerisms.

While race was never a prevalent topic on the show, if one was to look closer between the lines, My Brother and Me was unapologetically black and pridefully so. Take, for instance, the various nods to HBCU culture throughout the show, including Roger Parker's various North Carolina Central University sweatshirts and hats, Alfie's Morehouse fit, and insignias from various black fraternities. One other common thread of the show was its incorporation of sports, starting with the Parker household's fandom of Charlotte's local professional franchises on full display, as Charlotte Hornets and Carolina Panthers memorabilia are all visible throughout the household. Cameos also included appearances from NBA stars Kendall Gill and Dennis Scott, the latter of whom teaches Alfie, the superior athlete of the Parker brothers, a lesson in selflessness and teamwork by cutting him from the school basketball team in "The Basketball Tryouts" episode.

Of all of the aspects of My Brother and Me that made the show a game-changer, the fact that it was one of the first times young black males saw themselves in characters on the TV is the most enduring. While plenty of shows and networks fixated on coming-of-age storylines centered around the privileged youth of white America, My Brother and Me provided the alternative, promoting the bond of brotherhood and family values with each episode aired. Preceding shows like Kenan & Kel and Cousin Skeeter, both of which implemented overt comedic or fictional elements, My Brother and Me was a realistic glimpse at the life of the average black boy in America without the overarching narratives of impoverishment, temptation, and despair. For many young black men born in the '80s, the show left an indelible impact on them and holds a place near to their heart a quarter-century later.

In spite of its critical acclaim and popularity, My Brother and Me only aired for one season, as it was canceled after airing its final episode on January 15, 1995. The network would air reruns into the early 2000s before returning briefly during The '90s Are All That block on TeenNick in December 2013, the last time the show would appear on television. In June 2014, Nickelodeon released My Brother & Me: The Complete Series as a two-disc DVD, giving a new generation of viewers and longtime fans of the show an opportunity to relive the magic that the show captured during its short, yet unforgettable run.

In the years following My Brother and Me's cancellation, many of the actors and actresses from the show would fail to find their footing in the entertainment industry, resulting in their acting careers fading into obscurity. Arthur Reggie III scored a few additional credits, appearing in the TV shows Sliders and C-Bear and Jamal, as well as the 1998 film Bulworth, but later transitioned into a rap career, performing under the name Show Bizness. My Brother and Me would mark Ralph Woolfolk's last appearance as an actor, as he decided to leave the industry behind and focus on his education, pursuing a degree in English at Morehouse College in Atlanta, while also attending law school. He is also a member of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity and currently serves as a police officer for the city of Atlanta. Jimmy Lee Newman, Jr. scored bit roles in the TV shows Sweet Justice and Sister, Sister in the subsequent years after the show, while Aisling Sistrunk, Stefan J. Wernli and Keith "Bubba" Naylor would never act professionally again.

However, a few members of the cast were able to sustain viable acting careers well beyond My Brother and Me's cancellation, most notably Amanda Seales, Karen E. Fraction and Jim Coleman. Seales would rebrand herself as Amanda Diva and become a successful media personality before transitioning back into acting, last appearing as Tiffany DuBois on HBO's "Insecure." In 2019, Seales debuted an HBO Comedy Special I Be Knowin', and was chosen as the emcee for NBC's comedy competition, Bring the Funny. Jim Coleman has kept himself busy with various roles over the past two decades, last appearing in "The Council," and continues to receive steady work. Karen Fraction would add a few additional credits to her resume after "My Brother and Me," but passed away on October 30, 2007, after a five year battle with breast cancer. She is survived by her two children, Lauren Elizabeth Jean and Lawrence Wm. Morris, and her husband Lawrence Hamilton. And last, but not least, Kym Whitley would enjoy a fruitful career on television and on the big screen, appearing in dozens of shows and films throughout her lengthy career, with her latest role being Mrs. Malinky in the Netflix animated comedy Pinky Malinky.

In the time since the debut of My Brother and Me, a lot has changed in terms of the presence and representation of black youth on television and beyond. A number of black actors and actresses have had the opportunity to shine in a big way, including Tyler James Williams (Everybody Hates Chris) Zendaya (Shake It Up), Kyle Massey (Corey in the House), Keke Palmer (True Jackson, VP), Miles Brown (Black-Ish) and Alex R. Hibbert (The Chi) all among the more prominent child stars making major waves on TV over the past two decades. That said, 25 years later, the fact remains that My Brother and Me was ahead of the curve as one of the first instances of seeing ourselves in a positive and uplifting light on the small screen.

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Darren Xu

Brent Faiyaz Channels International Life Into New Musical Gems

Finishing up his summer in Europe, Brent Faiyaz (born Christopher Brent Wood) indulges in spiked mimosas and enticing conversations with his team after handling business for the day. Jet-setting overseas to add more memories to his life’s reel, the singer-songwriter and producer just celebrated his 24th birthday days before. “I think anytime you go places internationally you get a different perspective," he says. "I felt like creatively, it would bring out some more shit.” Many doors have opened for the DMV crooner since he first appeared in front of the public’s eye with his single “Natural Release” in 2014. Pulling pages out what seems to be his journal entries, Faiyaz shares his autobiography through the dynamics of string ballads, haloed hymns, and tinder timbre.

The Columbia, Maryland R&B talent has shared his soothing vocals with fans ever since. Studiously making beats from the age of 12 or 13, it wasn’t until after graduating high school and moving to Charlotte with his parents that he began to invest in music full time. His rhythmic resonance and gut-punching lyrics turned into his first five-track EP speaking to women, relationships, and sex in A.M. Paradox in 2016 with his hit single “Poison.” He formed a group called Sonder with fellow musicians Dpat and Atu, and released a group EP with them called Into before dropping another solo project, Sonder Son. The 12-track project delved into his childhood: he brought his fans right into his living room in “Home,” gave them a seat at the table in his classrooms in “Gang Over Luv,” and walked his newfound Los Angeles streets with them in “L.A.” He then unleashed his tightly knit six-track EP Lost with standouts “Trust,” and “Around Me.”

“I come from a very real place. I think that I can give a lot of people around me a lot of real perspectives. I’ve been seeing a lot of people in certain avenues gravitate towards a nigga,” the LA-based artist said.

The indie artist truly received a standing ovation after organically co-creating the 2018 Grammy-nominated single “Crew” with GoldLink and Shy Glizzy. “I’m going to be real; I didn’t go into music with the intention of being an independent artist, especially not this long. But then [I] hopped onto “Crew” and we fucked around a got a hit record without even being signed to a label. After that I started getting paid so I was like ‘Fuck it, we really don’t need that,’” he said.

His first 2019 summer single “Fuck the World (Summer in London)” opened a perspective of contronyms that approached both the literal and lustful world. What he calls “the woes and the woes.” “Meaning the shit that I hate. [What] is terrible about life right now that’s fucked up, fuck the world on the negative end, middle finger fuck the world,” he says. “And then it’s ‘Fuck the World’ where it’s like the girls and the money and the clothes and the bullshit.”

He later dropped his latest track a month later. “Rehab (Winter In Paris)” mirrors a story when the singer was balancing his personal time while being addicted to a person who is addicted to a substance. With “Rehab” already penned, Faiyaz went to producing the track alongside No ID, known for his work with rap greats like Jay-Z, Common and Kanye West. “He’s an OG. I soaked up a lot of game from him. I locked in with him for a whole week and cut a bunch of ideas.” Observing the producer's process, Faiyaz implemented some of No ID’s ways into his own. “I would take certain shit he said and put that in my own shit. Real talk, he is one of those niggas that will put you on game.”

With a uniqueness to his voice that is charming yet elusive, the singer has raised eyebrows by not resembling the stereotypical genetic makeup of a rhythm and blues artist. “I don’t really know how a sound is supposed to look. If somebody tells me how a sound is supposed to look, I will understand,” Faiyaz chuckled. “I don’t really connect the two. I can’t change how I look; I can’t change how I sound. I’m going to keep doing me.”

During what one could consider a hiatus, the vocalist used that time to focus on his craft, give back to his mom, jump on A$AP Ferg’s album Floor Seats, and walk in Pyer Moss’s New York Fashion Week Show. As he has geared up for a musical return that will unveil a different side, Faiyaz is under renovation. “I [don’t] want to give people the same sh*t that I’ve been giving them this whole time. I’m not about to put out a new project and it sounds the exact same as the last project. I want to keep reinventing myself as this sh*t goes on.”

“Right now, I am probably the most creative that I’ve ever been.”

Brent has successfully left his fans longing for more all while remaining authentic, not purposefully trying to create any kind of enigma around himself. “It’s not a goal of mine to be on the tip of everybody’s tongue all the time.”

With the year wrapping up, the 24-year-old is “pushing boundaries” as he prepares to release more original melodies. While he experiments with the production elements of his music and strengthening his vocals, the artist is effortlessly surprising himself in the studio. “I’m kind of saying whatever the fuck I want to say on the track and somehow it’s coming out pretty good. I know how to put it in a way where it comes off ill.”

Plotting his next moves, the creative has become enthralled with art all across the board in his performances as it translates to visual art. “I’m really learning how a bunch of different avenues go aside from just music. I’m on my young renaissance man shit.”

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