Courtesy of Dana Lixenberg

Famed Photographer Dana Lixenberg And Patta To Host Pop-Up Shop For 'Tupac Biggie' Book

Additionally, a passage from her book was written by Rob Kenner, a founding editor of VIBE.

From Amsterdam to New York City, Dana Lixenberg has captured iconic images of pivotal figures in music. The acclaimed photographer's work has been published in Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, and our very own VIBE Magazine.

To celebrate Lixenberg's most memorable shots, the visionary publicized her contact shots of fallen rappers Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur for a pop-up beginning Wednesday, Sept. 25, followed by her Tupac Biggie book signing (Sept. 26), in collaboration with Patta, that hosts added images. The book also features a passage from executive Rob Kenner, a founding editor of VIBE Magazine.

"Guillaume Schmidt, with Edson Sabajo co-founder of Patta, contacted me years ago to do a collaboration for a small scale signature collection," Lixenberg says. "Basically we selected 10 portraits of cultural icons from my archive, including A Tribe Called Quest, Noam Chomsky, Aaliyah, PJ Harvey, Gill Scott Heron and of course Tupac and Biggie. It was like a mini-exhibition presented on shirts instead of on a wall, with a text about the shoot on the tag and my signature on the back of the shirts. This was the beginning of a continued friendship and work relationship."

Read an excerpt from the book below:

By Rob Kenner

When the legendary Quincy Jones established VIBE magazine, his stated goal was to found “a Rolling Stone for the hip-hop generation,” but the staff—which I joined at the magazine’s launch, in 1993—aspired to create something closer to Vanity Fair. Twenty five years ago it’s become clear that we created something much more important.

With all due respect to The Source, Rap Pages, and Murder Dog, VIBE changed the game in hip-hop journalism. With backing from Time Inc., we had deeper pockets than most, and we served up some of the best writing, photography, and design hip-hop has ever seen. Yet our multiracial staff and corporate connects were always viewed with some suspicion. We had to earn respect by doing great work—and we did a lot of it, printed on large format heavy stock paper, left over in a warehouse after Life magazine folded.

VIBE was the first periodical to cover rap, R&B, rock, reggae, dance music, fashion, sports, and politics—all through the prism of what people were just beginning to call “urban culture,” another way of describing what Steve Stoute would later dub The Tanning of America.

“At the time there was no Internet,” says Keith Clinkscales, the magazine’s first president and CEO. “There were no text message updates. There was VIBE. As the president of VIBE, I was the commissioner of the culture. CNN, all those guys—when shit got real they were coming to VIBE. It wasn’t just some rap magazine.”

Of all the talented creative spirits who collaborated to make VIBE, none was more indispensable than the late great George Pitts, VIBE’s founding director of photography. Deeply committed to artistic integrity, George was a remarkable creative force in his own right: he was a photographer, painter, educator, and writer whose work has been exhibited around the world. In addition to his work at VIBE, George served as director of photographic practices at Parsons School for Design. A tireless advocate for new talent, George would spend long hours in his cluttered office late at night, reviewing the portfolios of aspiring and established photographers and returning them with thoughtful written critiques to help them develop their craft. The chosen few who were blessed with the opportunity to work with him had earned their shot. George took his work seriously, ever conscious of his responsibility to create images that would come to define hip hop in the 1990s, long before most people foresaw that it would become the world’s dominant cultural force.

“With the catalyst of a great subject — that being the hip-hop explosion—VIBE’s photographers have explored a generous vocabulary of visual possibilities that jumpstart the intensity of picture making,” George wrote in the introduction to VX: 10 Years of VIBE Photography, a coffee table book that I edited with him. “Our photography runs the gamut of style and taste from glamorous fashion shoots to harshly realistic portraiture and documentary work. It’s a rare photographer who is truly suited for every story. Finding the right photographer for any given subject is a dare that we accept with love, acute attention to detail, and a competitive zeal to exceed all previous depictions. The right photographer can reveal the presence of an artist and weave a narrative that is built picture by breathtaking picture. We may buy into the mythology that encircles a star— their work, their look, their entourage, all refracted through the distorting lens of celebrity—while at the same time seeking to discover the person packaged inside the media image. Although pop imagery is considered disposable by cynics, an inspired editor can aim high, and assume there is a discerning audience for discerning images.”

Let’s just say that George Pitts aimed higher than most. He championed a fresh, profound and expansive view of Black celebrity, lifestyle and culture. And he respected the audience enough to believe that they would appreciate his efforts. “It’s a relief that at VIBE we’re encouraged to pursue beauty in our photography,” he wrote. “Too many music pictures are sight gags, with no other reason for existing than to fit some half-assed idea—commonly known as a ‘concept.’ Beauty implies that the photograph will warrant being looked at again and again. Beauty entails enough visual and psychological and emotional resonance that one wants to see deeper into the image. Beauty can also be so simple, and so purely (and so rigorously) on the surface, that one isn’t motivated to look harder; one can just rest with the sheer spectacle of the visual feast, which may be enough. But this is a problematic sort of beauty because it is an end in itself with no fear of being perceived as shallow. This brand of beauty is evident in virtually every magazine today. Newsstands are overflowing with ravishing, expensive-looking images that pander to alleged sophistication of their audience. Such images are destined to evaporate into the pop culture ether, only to be replaced by yet another set of beautiful, interchangeable images. But there is always the possibility that an image will outlive prevailing taste and lodge itself in the cultural archive, maybe ending up on a museum wall with the work of Avedon and Newton and Van Der Zee. One can only hope for such things.”

George was fearless in taking on new and untried talent, fostering the careers of many young photographers. It would have been much easier to go through the motions of hiring “Big Name” photographers to shoot superstar rappers. Instead he took the time to pair subjects and shooters in much the same way a sommelier pairs a fine wine with haute cuisine. He was famous for challenging talented if untested image makers with the chance to exceed even their own expectations. One of his favorite “discoveries” was Dana Lixenberg, who first caught George’s eye with a series she shot in Watts, Los Angeles. Her portraits of the residents of Imperial Courts housing project look every bit as iconic as the Prince cover she would later shoot in Monaco.

VIBE has had the good fortune to work with photographers who hail from all over the world, and we’ve turned them loose on subjects whose musical talent has also allowed them to travel the world,” George wrote in VX. “The reciprocity and exchange of transcultural perception discloses an obvious awareness of difference, as when Dutch-born Dana Lixenberg made it her mission to document the residents of Watts, L.A., but it also reveals how the difference there is in the core of our beings. We travel across distances and across streets. We connect, or resist connections, as a result of these differences, these distances, these streets. For many years, hip hop has been isolated in a sort of media penal colony. But really it’s an epic film that demands a cast big enough to bridge the distance between generations and cultures. At VIBE, we strategize over how to represent this culture to the fullest: with love, with flair, with wit, and with glamor — or without it.”

Dana’s Imperial Courts project started with an impulse to disrupt the prevailing visual narrative about people living in South Central L.A. “I wanted to make really decent portraits of gang members,” she explains. “That is how it started. In the end, it became a portrait of this entire community. For me it was all about subtlety, and George went on to say ‘Dana, you know, you don't always have to be so subtle. Sometimes maybe a bit less subtle is OK.’ He liked to challenge me in small ways.”

George reflected on the Biggie cover in VX: “VIBE’s decision to put a sober, confrontational, non-accommodating portrait of the Notorious B.I.G. on the cover isn’t necessarily commercial suicide—as conventional magazine marketing wisdom dictated in the days before VIBE came along. To this day, the unspoken policy of most magazines is to avoid putting “threatening images” of black men on their covers, a policy justified on the ground that they wont sell. VIBE recognized the strategy of marrying the image with the lyrical agenda, and the lack of bullshit in Biggie’s own persona. Such pairings of the artless visuals with the artless glamour of the subjects has often worked extraordinarily well for us. Although it may not be a strategy other magazines can use as effectively, it’s been a winning formula for VIBE, especially with regard to hardcore male rappers, who have disdain for looking too cute.”

“I’m trying to make an image that really can tell a story and you can spend time with,” Dana Lixenberg says of her intentions when approaching a photo shoot. “An image that can live beyond the context of what It was shot for.” With her Biggie and Tupac images for VIBE magazine she did that and then some. Her pictures of Tupac standing in the rain with the bandana tied around his head and Biggie in a Coogi sweater counting out Benjamins have been indelibly seared into the popular imagination, perhaps in part because both artists’ lives were cut short so soon after these photos were taken. But many people photographed these two artists during their all-too-brief time on earth. Almost a quarter century later, the staying power of Lixenberg’s images cannot be denied.

Creating images that take on a life of their own can be a mixed blessing for photographers. On the one hand it’s great to know that so many people have responded to your work. On the other hand, unauthorized reproduction of those images means that other people are profiting from your work. Lixenberg has no problem with he murals and tattoos, but all the bootleg T-shirts are another matter. “My lawyer made the point that you can’t separate the persona from the image anymore,” says the photographer, who won a landmark decision that set a precedent for photographers controlling the rights to their work. “When people think of the artist, they think of them through existing images.”

As this book was coming together Dana reflected on how those images came to be: “I barely knew who Tupac was when I first photographed him—I did not come from the sort of ‘music scene.’ I mean, I listen to music and I've photographed many musicians. But my approach was different from someone who specializes in music. I was getting more acquainted with gangsta rap when I was doing the Imperial Courts series. That was the time when The Chronic had just come out. I started listening to Tupac more after I photographed him. At the time I was aware of him as someone important, but in some ways, I was coming to this assignment as an outsider. George was not concerned about that at all.

“Tupac had just been through some court stuff and on the day of the shoot he showed up hours late. That happened with many shoots, it was a part of the experience. I didn't mind waiting for hours. I was very serious and I didn’t let myself get distracted by all the noise surrounding Tupac and the entourage. He did show up with a lot of people. There were people hanging around the shoot and his publicist and a stylist but I was so focused on what I need to get I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to be all friendly with the people.

“I’m always thrilled when you can kind of win someone over by just being really professional and being really focused. I think with the writing it’s different because the writer has to really have a conversation, so it’s almost a dance. You have to get a little more personal and talk to everybody. But with the shooting, I find it’s very intimate because you have this moment you share with the person. You meet so many people, especially with celebrities, but it all comes down to that exchange between you and the subject.


You can read the full passage within Tupac Biggie and mark your calendar for January 12, 2020, for Lixenberg's American Images book launch at GRIMM in New York City.

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French Montana Sued For Sexual Assault, Battery And Emotional Distress

French Montana is being accused of sexually assaulting an intoxicated woman, according to a lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court on Thursday (March 26). The accuser claims that she was sexually assaulted at the rapper's home two years ago.

The woman, identified only as Jane Doe, is suing for assault and battery, sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and more. Montana, his Coke Boys Records imprint, and employee, Mansour Bennounare, are named in the suit, which alleges that on or around March 28, 2018, the woman was invited to a recording studio where Montana and Bennouna were “working.” The documents allege that Montana and Bennouna were “drinking and using drugs” in the studio and offered her drinks, before inviting her back to Montana’s home in Hidden Hills, Calif.

The woman allegedly arrived at the home at around 6 a.m. Thirty minutes later, the woman claims that she stepped outside to phone a friend but was “lucid” and “unable to carry a conversation.” The woman went back inside Montana’s kitchen and although she “wanted to leave” she was urged to “take a shot,” the documents assert.

After being given a drink, the woman says that she blacked out and was therefore unable to give consent to “engage in any sexual activity” but remembers “several men” coming in out of the bedroom. She believes that Montana was one of the men.

The accuser says she woke up on a couch in a room “filled with curtains” at around 1 p.m. She was “confused” and “intoxicated” and felt pain in her pelvic area, vagina, and lower back, the suit states. The lawsuit also alleges that Bennouna was laying behind her in a “spooning manner,” groping her, and rubbing his genitals against her back.

The woman began “crying hysterically” because she believed that she had been drugged and raped. She grabbed her things and left the home. According to the suit, the woman went to a local hospital where a rape kit was administered. She also reported the alleged incident to police, the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit goes on to allege that the defendants earn money from “promoting drinking, taking drugs and having sex with women,” and use their business as a front to “lure” women to their homes where they provide them with drugs and alcohol to have sex, with or without consent.

“Defendants had a longstanding practice of inviting women to their recording sessions, or choosing women at bars, and inviting them back to the Hidden Hills house which is also a hub of EMPLOYER DEFENDANTS business enterprises,” the lawsuit reads. “There Defendants would supply the women with drinks and drugs, with the purpose of engaging in sexual acts with them, without any regard to whether or not they consented, or were able to consent.”

The alleged assault caused the woman to have anxiety, “extreme emotional distress,” flashbacks, depression, and prevented her from continuing to pursue a career in modeling and acting. The suit is asking for a jury trial.

Montana, whose birth name is Karim Kharbouch, hasn’t publicly responded to the allegations.

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Prince’s Siblings Reportedly File Petition To Get Money From His Estate

The heirs to Prince’s fortune want his estate to pay up. According to The Blast, the music legend’s siblings, Norine, Sharon and John, filed legal documents in hopes of green lighting “payment for service and efforts provided to the Estate.”

The trio claims that while “others” have been compensated, they have yet to be paid after putting time and energy into “business matters” related to the estate, which is being run by Comerica Bank.

“As this Court is aware, the Estate has now been on-going for over three years,” the documents reportedly state. “In this time, millions have been paid to the Personal Representatives, their accountants, attorneys, and legal advisors.”

The heirs accused Comerica of making money decisions without notifying them, which the bank has denied. Last year, a Minnesota judge denied the siblings’ request to limit the bank’s power over the estate.

Prince’s brothers and sisters want a judge to force Comerica to compensate them so that they can get out of financial ruin, including paying legal bills.

The Purple One’s estate is worth an estimated $200 million (down from $300 million) since his death in 2016. Prince died without a will but a judge ruled that his estate would be split between his six half-siblings. His brother, Alfred Jackson, who was 1/6 of the estate heirs died in 2019. Last December, Prince’s sister, Tyka Nelson, sold off a chunk of her percentage of the estate to cover legal bills.

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Here’s How New Orleans Is Being Affected By Coronavirus

New Orleans has twice as many COVID-19 cases per capita than any other county or parish in the country. This time last month, the Big Easy welcomed over a million visitors for Mardi Gras, which likely contributed to the diseases spreading rapidly around the city.

New Orleans registered its first case of COVID-19 on March 9. As of Friday (March 27), the city reported more than 20 additional coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the total to 119. The death tole increased by 19% in one day, according to the Times-Picayune. That said, the number of those who have contracted the disease could vary due to a lack of testing in Louisiana, and around the country. The state reported 441 new cases as of Friday.

Male patients account for 43% of the COVID-19 cases in the state, while women make up 57%. The largest number of cases by age group are adults between the ages of 50-59. Orleans Parish, which is Louisiana’s third most populous parish behind East Baton Rouge and Jefferson Parish, reported 57 of the 87 coronavirus-related deaths.

At least 24% percent of New Orleans residents are living below the poverty line, and 1 in 5 households are without a vehicle, further limiting access to testing and treatment, USA Today reports. The poverty stats, compounded with lack of access to proper health care and those with underlying medical conditions, contribute to the spike in cases.

“New Orleans is preparing to mobilize in a way we hope we will never see again in our lifetimes,” New Orleans Homeland Security Director Collin Arnold said, per USA Today. “This disaster will define us for generations.”

The city is running out of hospital beds, and ventilators could be next on the list. Of the more the 773 reported patients hospitalized over COVID-19, 270 of them require ventilators. Louisiana has close to 2,800 ventilators statewide. While the city works to gain access to necessary medical supplies, others are stepping forward to help feed NOLA residents.

Earlier in the week, New Orleans Saints player Drew Brees and his wife, Brittany, announced that they are donating $5 million to various charities including Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health, Jimmy Johns, and Waitr, to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana.

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Brittany and I are committing $5,000,000 to the State of Louisiana in 2020. The priority now is helping our communities get through this tough time. After considerable research and conversations with local organizations, we will be mobilizing our partnerships with Second Harvest Food Bank, Ochsner Health Systems, Walk-Ons, Jimmy Johns, Smalls Sliders and Waitr to prepare and deliver over 10,000 meals per day throughout Louisiana for as long as it takes to children on meal programs, seniors, and families in need. Let’s all do our part, maintain hope, and get through this together.

A post shared by Drew Brees (@drewbrees) on Mar 26, 2020 at 8:31am PDT

In neighboring Mississippi, there are 570 confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths out of 3,139 tests administered. Mississippi also has more women battling the disease (59%) than men (41%).

According to the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago and other “hot spots” will have a worse week next week than they had this week.

In Milwaukee, the city’s Black community is being hit harder than any other group in the state. All of the eight deaths (five men and three women) in Milwaukee County were Black people, and seven of the eight were Milwaukee residents.

Philadelphia has at least 475 cases of the disease with over 2,200 confirmed cases statewide. On a positive note, more than 21,000 people  have tested negative for coronavirus in Pennsylvania.

With over 42,246 people testing positive for the disease, New York tops the list of coronavirus cases around the country and has been receiving the brunt of nationwide press around the pandemic, while states like Michigan, which falls fifth on the nationwide list, aren't generating the same amount of national headlines. The Midwestern state has been considered an epicenter  for the disease, and cities such as Detroit and Flint, where residents have been without clean water for years, are among the most vulnerable.

As of Thursday (March 28), the U.S. confirmed more cases of COVID-19 than any other country in the world. Over 100,000 people tested positive for the disease and while hospitals are still in need of critical supplies and testing kits, there is one small glimmer of hope: the fatality rate in the U.S. remains at less than 10% (1607 confirmed deaths), and over 2,000 people in the country have been reported as recovered from COVID-19.

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