A Black woman is hosting the Academy of Country Music Awards for the first time

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Mickey Guyton wearing a long sleeve black gown smiling at the camera and holding up her country music award

By Alexis Benveniste, CNN

Country music singer Mickey Guyton will make history Sunday when she hosts the Academy of Country Music Awards with Keith Urban.

The 37-year-old singer from Arlington, Texas, will be the first Black woman to host the awards ceremony.
And this isn’t Guyton’s first time making history in the country music world. In September 2020, she became the first Black female solo artist to sing her own song at the ACMAs. And in March, she became the first Black solo female artist to earn a Grammy nomination in a country music category. At the ceremony, she performed “Black Like Me,” her song that address the discrimination she has experienced as a Black woman. The song was released just eight days after George Floyd was killed.
The door to country music has long been closed to many Black artists, with just a handful of exceptions. Starting in the 1920s, record labels deliberately marketed what was once called “hillbilly music” as the music of the rural White South, historians say.
But the thumbprints of African American culture are stamped on virtually every facet of country music, including its vocal harmonies, instrumentations, and some of its most popular songs. Black artists helped build country music.

Click here to read the full article on CNN Business.

Black tech entrepreneurs get $1 million boost from Pharrell Williams

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Pharrell Williams in a gray hat and army jacket shirt

By Adrienne Broaddus, CNN

Entrepreneur Justin Turk knew his start-up was special, but a $1 million prize from Grammy award-winning singer and producer Pharrell Williams came as a shock.

On Tuesday, Williams announced the winners of his Black Ambition prize competition — and Turk and his business partner, Andre Davis, are in the national spotlight.

Williams’ non-profit was founded in December to help Black and Latino business owners close the wealth gap through entrepreneurship.

Turk and Davis, co-founders of Livegistics, took home the top prize of $1 million. The Detroit-based entrepreneurs run a cloud-based material management software company, which eliminates paperwork in heavy civil construction and demolition. The company also provides data and metrics that construction experts can use for efficiency.

Livegistics is also helping the environment through the elimination of tons of paper each year and helps local communities accelerate the elimination of blight in urban cities and neighborhoods.

“We knew we had something special, but you don’t go in thinking you will walk away with $1 million. But when it happens you are like, ‘Wow, we just won $1 million,” Turk said.

But the 40-year-old said he never knew joy and pain could co-exist simultaneously.

Success can be bittersweet
On the day he learned his tech start-up won the grand prize, his father-in-law died before he could share the news.

“All in 24 hours, it was the greatest and worst moments tied together forever. There we were with the our biggest business success to date along with the worst day of our lives all in 24 hours,” Turk said. “It is weird. Sometimes I feel guilty for being so happy about what’s going on, but I know he would have been excited.”

Turk, who co-founded the business three years ago with Davis, said that hours after he learned about winning he watched a team of health care professionals try to revive his wife’s father, whom he admired. He was a veteran who loved architecture. And they shared the same passion for construction.

Instead of hosting a celebration party for friends and family, Turk said he will bury his father-in-law in a private ceremony Saturday.

“He would have been enamored with what’s going on. If he would have been able to see all of this, it would have just blown him away,” Turk said. “He would walk around the city of Detroit and look at buildings on his own. This would have just made his decade.”

More like brothers
Turk’s and Davis’ friendship goes back decades. The two met in elementary school when they were 5 years old, Davis said. Then, they were college roommates at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. Davis, the chief financial officer, said it was never a goal to become business partners but it made sense.

“He’s been in just about every special moment in my life,” Davis said. “Not only are we solving the single most significant reason construction companies go out of business (cash flow), we’re doing so in a manner that creates less work and makes the lives of our customers easier to manage.”

Davis, 41, said he worked at Financial One as an outsourced CFO to clients in the Metro Detroit area. He started and operated his own accounting and financial services practice for 10 years, managing to keep one foot in the non-profit sector to give back. He wants to encourage other Black and minority entrepreneurs looking to start their businesses to take the leap of faith.

“A thought today, backed by effort today, is one step closer to your dream tomorrow. Justin is brilliant. His background is the foundation for what I forsee as a unicorn in the making,” Davis said. “A third generation business owner, minority-owned, who understands all facets of large construction projects at an expert level…who also has a degree in computer science to speak tech geek language! You don’t find a Justin Turk walking around every day.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

From ‘Watchmen’ to ‘Blade’: Meet the First Black Woman to Write a Marvel Film

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Stacy Osei-Kuffour attends Premiere Of HBO’s “Watchmen” at The Cinerama Dome for Marvel

By Jasmine Alyce, Atlanta Black Star

Marvel‘s upcoming “Blade” reboot has tapped playwright Stacy Osei-Kuffour as the film’s head writer, making her the first Black woman to pen a Marvel movie.

Two-time Oscar winner Mahershala Ali will star in the film as the half-human, half-vampire vigilante, a role originated by Wesley Snipes in the late ’90s/early 2000s film trilogy, and was reportedly heavily involved in the “meticulous” six-month-long search for the talent that would craft the story that led to Osei-Kuffour.

The studio’s search centered around finding a Black writer for the film and Osei-Kuffour gained their and Ali’s attention following her successful involvement in HBO’s critically acclaimed series “Watchmen,” on which she served as story editor and writer. In 2019, she earned an Emmy nomination for outstanding writer in a comedy series for her work on Hulu’s “Pen15.” Additional writing credits for her include Amazon’s “Hunters,” and the HBO series “Run.”

In late 2020, it was announced that “Candyman” director Nia DaCosta signed on to helm “Captain Marvel 2,” making her the studios’ first Black woman director. Marvel Studios President and Marvel Chief Creative Officer Kevin Feige has previously expressed hopes that the diversity in front of and behind the screens during the next phase of Marvel films will eventually “become the norm.”

“We’re lucky that we have the comics to guide us. They have been relatively progressive over the decades for their time,” he told Variety in March. “The character lineup allows us — we’re not creating full-cloth any of our characters, they’ve been in the comics for years — and we’re finally able to tell those stories. Looking at the remarkably positive experiences we’ve had making sure that the room where it happens is not a room full of people that all look the same. When that’s not the case, when there are people from various backgrounds and genders, stories are better. Being at a company for 20 years and having released 23 movies, it is always been ‘How do you keep things fresh and surprising on a story level?’ “

He continued, “When you’re doing a story about a female lawyer who is giant and green [“She -Hulk], or a Muslim teenager with superpowers in Jersey City [“Ms. Marvel”], or working with filmmakers and writers of color as we are — it’s so prevalent and so much a part of who we are and what we do now, that it doesn’t seem abnormal. It’s no longer a headline. A woman is directing something! Wow! I hope this will become the norm to the extent that this is no longer a rarity.”

Click here to read the full article on Atlanta Black Star.

Lil Nas X ‘Will Never Trust Pants Again’ After ‘SNL’ Wardrobe Malfunction

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Lil Nas X seated on the set of Jimmy Fallon's talk show with special guest David Groll.

, HuffPost

Lil Nas X is setting the record straight about splitting his pants on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, assuring fans the wardrobe malfunction was not a publicity stunt. Appearing on “The Tonight Show” Monday, the two-time Grammy winner recalled what was going through his head during the memeable moment, which took place toward the end of his debut live performance of the No. 1 smash “Montero (Call Me by Your Name).” “I’m pretty much going down the pole, doing my little sexy drop down and boom! I feel air,” he told host Jimmy Fallon. “I’m like ‘OK, there’s definitely a breeze going on.’ And I also felt some popping still happening while I was down there.” Lil Nas X was unable to halt the “SNL” broadcast, of course, so he held a hand over for his crotch for the remainder of the song to avoid a Lil Nas X-rated moment. “You know what the worst part is? At the end of the performance, the dancers are supposed to touch me and tug on me and they were tugging on the pants,” he said. “I was like, ‘Please God, no.’”

Though the Atlanta rapper and singer has a sense of humor about it now, the wardrobe malfunction apparently weighed on his mind as he prepared for his late night television spot. As the interview aired, he joked on Twitter that he’d opted for a red tartan skirt for his “Tonight Show” appearance because he “will never trust pants again.”

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.

Billboard Music Awards: Drake’s son joins him to accept artist of the decade

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Drake and his son standing on stage accepting his award at the billboard music awards

By Mark Savage, BBC

Drake’s son Adonis made a surprise appearance at Sunday’s Billboard Music Awards, joining his father onstage as he won an artist of the decade prize. The rapper, 34, gripped his son’s shoulder throughout his speech, before hoisting him into the air and saying: “I want to dedicate this award to you.” The three year old burst into tears, and left the stage clinging to his father’s leg.

Meanwhile, The Weeknd was the night’s big winner, taking home 10 awards. Among his prizes were best artist; top Hot 100 album for After Hours; and top Hot 100 song for Blinding Lights. The star, whose real name is Abel Tesfaye, more than doubled his career total of Billboard Music Awards, having previously received nine trophies.

Korean pop band BTS also picked up four prizes, winning best group for the second time in three years; and top social artist for the fifth consecutive year. The band is now just one year short of equalling Justin Bieber’s six-year hold on the social award from 2011- 2016.

Here are some of the other highlights and talking points from the show.

Machine Gun Kelly painted his tongue black

Best rock artist winner Machine Gun Kelly arrived at the ceremony with a rather unusual oral condition: A jet-black tongue. Had he gone overboard with the charcoal toothpaste? Developed a crippling liquorice habit? Been cursed by an evil dentist? Sadly not. A visit to his Instagram reveals that the musician had someone paint his tongue carefully with a cotton bud. On the red carpet, he made sure everyone noticed, sticking his tongue out for fans, sticking his tongue out for the cameras, and (hold your stomachs) touching tongues with his girlfriend, Megan Fox.

His reasons are still unclear. Is it a reference to The Rolling Stones Paint It Black? Or is he simply a big fan of giraffes? We may never know.

Pink admitted her childhood crush

Pink accepted the Icon Award from rock star Bon Jovi, and confessed she’d been obsessed with the star when she was eight – locking herself in her bedroom for a week after he got married.

“I’m very glad you found lasting love, Jon, but you broke my heart. I take this as an apology,” she laughed, indicating her trophy.

To celebrate her prize, the star performed a career-spanning medley of hits, including Who Know, Get The Party Started and Just Give Me A Reason.

But the highlight was a breathtaking aerial acrobatic routine, performed with her nine-year-old daughter Willow, set to their duet Cover Me In Sunshine.

Click here to read the full article on BBC.

Last Name Ever, First Name Greatest: Drake to Receive Artist of the Decade Award at 2021 Billboard Music Awards

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Drake poses in the press room during the 2019 Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada

By Shanelle Genai, The Root

Cue the “Toosie Slide!” On Tuesday it was announced that Drake will be receiving the Artist of the Decade Award at this year’s Billboard Music Awards.

Variety reports the award takes into account Billboard consumption data from 2009 through 2019, noting that during that time the Canadian rapper racked up a historic 27 awards—the most of any artist ever. Additionally, during his 10-year run, producers also pointed out that Drake had nine No. 1 albums, the most of any artist during the decade and 33 Top 10 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, the most by any artist ever. (GOAT shit, I know that’s right!)

This year’s BBMAs will also see Drake vying for eight more ‘“Ws,” including Top Artist, Top Male Artist, Top Billboard 200, Top 100 Artist, Top Streaming Song Artist, Top Rap Artist, and Top Streaming Song alongside fellow “Life is Good” rapper Future. I don’t know about you but as The Root’s resident Drake stan, I have to say—I’m glad to see the Certified Lover Boy getting this recognition.

But Shanelle, Drake always gets recognized. What are you saying?

OK, but not like this. This award is for Artist of the Decade, which means whether you wanted to or even knew it or not, you have been hearing Drake consistently in some form or fashion for the last 10 years. “Nonstop.”

I don’t think that’s technically what it me—

And if you haven’t heard Drake, then you’ve most definitely been privy to the influence he’s had on the culture. Whether it’s through his gif-worthy facial expressions and debatable dance moves or a caption on Instagram, Drake’s influence is unmatched. Period point blank. And I, for one, am always glad when people have to talk about it. He told us back in 2013 to see who’s still around a decade from now; seeing as how we’re just two years shy of 2023 and he’s still relevant—it’s safe to say that Drizzy Drake is here for a good time and a long time.

Click here to read the full article on The Root.

In ‘Them,’ a Black Family Is Haunted by Real-Life Monsters

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From left, Deborah Ayorinde, Melody Hurd, Shahadi Wright Joseph and Ashley Thomas in “Them,” a new horror series from Amazon. The malevolent force at work here is racism.Credit...

Want to hear a scary story? Here’s one: A family reckoning with a senseless, pervasive horror flees home to what they hope will be a place of safety and prosperity, only to find themselves pursued by that same demented presence.

Evil forces gather — their new home is haunted, too. Bloody visions terrorize them day and night. The dog is poisoned. It’s only a matter of time before the bodies start mounting.

PHOTO: NYTIMES

But in the 10-part Amazon series “Them,” as in any good horror story, there is a twist: The victims are simply a middle-class Black family in the 1950s, seeking a better life in a Los Angeles suburb; the senseless horror is the racism of their white neighbors, who want them out. As the situation devolves, certain terrifying events may be supernatural, or they may be psychological.

And yet, as the series, the first season of which drops on Friday, asks: Does that distinction matter when the danger is ever-present?

“As the sinister elements outside the home ratchet up, that obviously allows for the cracks and fissures within each of them to be infiltrated by something malevolent,” the series’s creator, Little Marvin, said of the Black family at the center of “Them.” “But that malevolent thing, as sure as there is a supernatural component to our story, is deeply rooted in the emotional and psychological lives of these characters.”

It must get hard to believe your own eyes when your senses are being shocked over and over by cruelty, I said.

“Welcome to being Black,” Little Marvin replied.

Welcome, also, to the legacy of codified racism in America, which provided Little Marvin with a conceptual starting point for “Them.” Like the Jordan Peele film “Get Out” or last summer’s HBO hit “Lovecraft Country,” “Them,” which counts Lena Waithe as an executive producer, uses horror-genre conventions as allegorical octane for racist machinery that is all too real. And as “Watchmen” did for the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, the show is likely to educate many viewers on an ugly relic of American history that is not widely acknowledged: racially restrictive housing covenants.

If real estate legalese doesn’t sound like fodder for an edge-of-your-seat horror story, consider the implications. Just as government redlining helped create and reinforce segregation by determining who was eligible for mortgages, racial covenants did the same by restricting who was allowed to buy a property at all, finances be damned. A deed might explicitly forbid all owners, present and future, from selling the home to anyone of African or Asian descent. Many older deeds still bear such language

“Any house that was built between 1938 and 1948, in a subdivision, I would be surprised for it not to have racial restrictions in them,” said Carol M. Rose, a professor emeritus at Yale Law School who has studied racial covenants extensively. Those restrictions, Rose explained, which first appeared in the late 19th century, exploded in the early 20th century as farmlands were subdivided for large swaths of new housing

Racial covenants were notoriously common around northern cities like Detroit and Chicago — the Midwest didn’t mandate separate drinking fountains, but segregation and violence were just as real. And California was no different. A Supreme Court decision in 1948, Shelley v. Kraemer, made racial covenants no longer enforceable, creating opportunities for nonwhite families in places like Compton, Calif., where “Them” is set.

Deprived of a legal means of keeping their neighborhoods white, some racists resorted to extralegal methods, which is where the horror really begins. Sometimes the method was vandalism. Others, a Molotov cocktail.

“California is part of the story because people think that California is this sort of easy, breezy racial space, and no, it’s terrible,” said Jeannine Bell, a law professor at Indiana University who wrote “Hate Thy Neighbor,” a book about the violence faced by people in integrating neighborhoods. “It’s terrible for precisely the reasons that this series explores. The methods used in the Midwest were also used in California.”

The Emory family of “Them” flees the South as part of the Great Migration, in which, from 1916 to 1970, an estimated 6 million Black people left the region for cities of the North and West. Like them, the Emorys seek economic opportunity; the father, Henry (Ashley Thomas), is a college-educated engineer and World War II veteran, and he has relatives in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts. When he lands a job out West, the family hits the road.

Read the full article at NYtimes.com

Beyonce Makes History Winning The Most NAACP Image Awards

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Beyonce performing in a rose gold off-the-shoulder gown with built in cape from Ralph and Russo’s Fall 2018 couture collection

Beyonce has made history at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards.

The music icon now has the most NAACP Image Awards in history after she racked up four awards for the 52nd event, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson announced on Saturday.

The NAACP Image Awards hosted a series of non-televised virtual events recognizing winners in over 60 categories in the five days leading up to its televised ceremony on Saturday. The two-hour virtual event, which was hosted by Anthony Anderson, aired live across ViacomCBS networks including BET and CBS.

Beyonce took home wins in the Outstanding Female Artist, Outstanding Hip Hop/Rap Song, Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Traditional), and Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration (Contemporary) categories during a virtual event on Thursday.

Johnson celebrated Beyoncé’s achievement on Twitter, writing, “Congratulations
@Beyonce on winning the most #NAACPImageAwards in history!”

Representatives for the NAACP Image Awards did not immediately return requests to confirm Beyoncé’s total tally of wins, but the “Black Parade” artist has won at least 20 Image Awards as a solo artist since the 2004 ceremony when she first won the Entertainer of the Year award. She won that award again in 2019. Her former group, Destiny’s Child, racked up a handful of wins in the Outstanding Duo or Group category in the early to mid-2000s.

Beyoncé has already made music award history this month.

She won four awards at the Grammys on March 14, bringing her total wins to 28 ― the most Grammys won by a female artist.

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.

Dwayne Johnson reveals new ‘Black Adam’ release date

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Animated photo of Dwayne Johnson as a super hero surrounded by electricity rays.

By Toyin Owoseje, CNN

There have been some roadblocks along the way — but Dwayne Johnson is one step closer to living his dream of being a superhero. The Hollywood actor and former wrestler has announced that his DC Comics movie “Black Adam” will now debut in July 2022.

Johnson, who plays the powerful villain attempting to redeem himself, took to Instagram on Sunday to share video footage from Times Square, showing an animated graphic of the movie plastered across the New York landmark’s digital screens.
As the premiere date appears in flashing neon lights, an ominous voice-over declares: “The hierarchy of power in the DC Universe is about to change.”

“A disruptive and unstoppable global force of a message from the man in black himself. ‘Black Adam’ is coming July 29, 2022,” the caption on the Instagram post reads.

“Black Adam” will mark Johnson’s debut as the DC character, who is the enemy of Shazam — played by Zachary Levi in the DC Extended Universe.

Revealing the project in 2019, Johnson said the role of Black Adam was “unlike any other I’ve ever played in my career.”

“As a kid, Superman was the hero I always wanted to be. But, a few years into my fantasy, I realized that Superman was the hero, I could never be. I was too rebellious. Too rambunctious. Too resistant to convention and authority,” he wrote in an Instagram post.

He added that Black Adam is “blessed by magic with the powers equal to SUPERMAN, but the difference is he doesn’t toe the mark or walk the line. He’s a rebellious, one-of-a-kind superhero, who’ll always do what’s right for the people – but he does it his way.

Click here to read the full article on CNN.

Macy’s Celebrates Black Creatives With Icons of Style

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The group of black honorees stand posing fiercely for the camera

-Macy’s celebrates Black creatives with today’s launch of Icons of Style, a collaboration with five Black visionaries to help move the fashion world forward. Featuring exclusive designs across ready-to-wear, men’s, and shoes by Zerina Akers, Misa Hylton, Aminah Abdul Jillil, Allen Onyia and Ouigi Theodore for brands found only at Macy’s, each creative artfully designed a fashion-forward capsule of must-have spring items, inspired by their unique perspective and dynamic style. Icons of Style is available now on macys.com and select store locations nationwide.

Zerina Akers for Bar III is designed with functionality, versatility, and a touch of statement making moments in mind. The capsule consists of mixed media suiting, chain link embellished body suits, strong shoulder knit dresses and a new play on proportion with the classic sweatshirt. True to the Bar lll aesthetic, the capsule is the perfect mix of both feminine and modern components.

Photo: Business Wire

“This collection is probably the most special because it is my first design collaboration. Through my styling work I have designed many things but never something under my own name. This is very special,” said Zerina Akers.

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts

Misa Hylton for I.N.C. International Concepts is inspired by her personal style and love for fashion. The collection features bold, vibrant prints that take form in feminine suiting, printed blouses, and her love of the kimono; a symbol of her Black and Japanese heritage. Known for creating iconic looks for some of the music industry’s biggest stars, Misa’s extraordinary vision pairs well with I.N.C.’s focus on representing the most current trends.

“My designs vibrate on a high frequency. They bring happiness and excitement to the people who see them and want to wear them,” said Misa Hylton.

Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts

Extending her love for creative self-expression and bold fashion moments, Aminah Abdul Jillil for I.N.C. International Concepts brings forth the power of the statement heel. Using her performing arts background as inspiration, Aminah mixes unexpected shapes and dramatic details to spark confidence in every step. Using gold hearts and chunky chains as signature details, the collection features a breadth of styles that are timeless, versatile, and collectible.

“This collaboration is exciting to me because it means for me, personally that dreams come true. That hard work pays off. That being different and not like everyone else is ok,” said Aminah Abdul Jillil.

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts

Allen Onyia for I.N.C. International Concepts pays homage to Macy’s traditions as a leading department store incorporating iconic details with a modern, trend-forward look. The men’s collection is a nod to his own personal style while focused on accessible design. Allen effortlessly uses his exceptional eye to combine dynamic use of colors, patterns, and silhouettes into instantly covetable items all geared towards statement making style.

“This is a collection that celebrates this amazing opportunity Macy’s has provided me, and I wanted to put that celebration and feeling back into the collection and pay homage,” said Allen Onyia.

Read the full article at businesswire.

 

Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music

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Singer Miko Marks poses for a portrait outside a studio

By Andrew Gilbert, Datebook

Nashville can be a lonely place for a Black woman breaking into the country music scene. And Miko Marks knows this firsthand.

The Oakland singer, who recorded two well-regarded albums during a Tennessee sojourn in the mid-aughts, said she found a warm welcome just about everywhere she performed except for the home of country music itself.

“I was always open to wherever my path would lead, but things did not work out in Nashville,” Marks said, noting that she felt fitting in required tamping down her identity.

Music City may not have been ready for Marks, but she helped clear a country music trail for other Black women, and now she’s getting back on the horse with her first new album in 14 years. Working closely with the creative team at the recently launched East Palo Alto label Redtone Records, Marks recorded “Our Country,” a rollicking, gospel music-infused session that thrums to the justice-seeking frequency of Black Lives Matter.

“These songs were made out of the experience we’re going through right now,” said Marks, who celebrates the album’s Friday, March 26, release with an acoustic performance that will be live-streamed on her YouTube channel and Facebook page. “The music is there to speak to the times.”

Miko Marks sins autographs in front of a wall of her album covers
Miko Marks is blazing trail again as Black women find place in country music. Photo: Paul Chinn, The Chronicle 2008

The album grew out of a vivid dream Marks had, but not in the sense of fulfilling a long-held ambition. Rather, late in the summer of 2019, she literally dreamed about musicians she hadn’t worked with for more than a decade. A quick phone call put her back in touch with Justin Phipps and Steve Wyreman, the Redtone Records founders who perform together as the Resurrectors.

Phipps and Wyreman were excited to get back in touch with Marks and realized a song they’d recently written, “Goodnight America,” would be ideal for her rich contralto. An elegy for a country headed in the wrong direction, “it didn’t fit anyone we were currently working with,” Phipps said. “When Miko reached out, we sent it to her and she sat with it for a while. Ultimately, she felt it resonated with where she was and where she wanted to be going.”

When Marks released the song as a video last year, a few weeks before the pandemic lockdown, it was definitely a departure from where she’d been. Before “Goodnight America,” she’d always avoided taking a political stance in her music, preferring to focus on personal themes. With “Our Country,” she’s jumped into the fray.

“I definitely feel like there’s a conversation being had that’s long overdue,” Marks said. “I am hopeful. I feel that the times are different than when I started out.”

Marks grew up with gospel music, singing in church in Flint, Mich., “but I was always drawn to country music,” she said. “Loretta and Patsy, Kenny Rogers and ‘Hee Haw’ were huge in my household. It was a normal thing. It wasn’t until I was older that there was this line clearly drawn, but country music has its roots in Black music. Even the banjo is from Africa.”

She met her San Francisco-raised husband David Hawkins when they were students at Grambling State University in Louisiana, and by 1996 the couple settled in the Bay Area. Though she loved singing, Marks said she wouldn’t have pursued a career in music without Hawkins’ encouragement, and after recording a Jeffrey Wood-produced demo at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, she decided to give up her day job in San Francisco as a legal secretary and try her luck in Nashville.

Working with producer Ron Cornelius at Mirrome Records, she released her debut album, “Freeway Bound,” in 2005 and followed it up with 2007’s “It Feels Good.” Both albums featured first-call studio talent that caught the attention of mainstream country music audiences. And yet, while the sessions were well received, the indie label couldn’t break Marks into country radio and it became clear that Nashville didn’t really know what to do with her.

In 2006, the Bay Area welcomed her back. Marks became one of the region’s most visible country music singers, performing everywhere from the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo and San Francisco’s Pier 23 to the Saddle Rack in Fremont and Oakland’s Overland (the latter two permanently shuttered during the pandemic).

Click here to read the full article on Datebook.

Power: LaKeisha star LaLa Anthony reunites with 50 Cent for huge new Starz project

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LaLa Anthony as LaKeisha on the set of Power seated next to co star.

By LISA WEHRSTEDT, Express UK

After her amazing performance as LaKeisha on the Starz show Power, LaLa Anthony has now landed a major new role alongside Power producer Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, on an upcoming drama. Inspired by true events, Black Mafia Family will tell the story of two brothers from 1980’s Detroit who started one of the most influential crime family in the country.

LaLa Anthony will plat Markaisha Taylor, the wife to flamboyant drug dealer and head of the family Demetrius “Big Meech” Flenory.

She is also best friend to her husband’s brother and fellow boss Terry “Southwest T” Flenory, which will make for some interesting dynamics as family loyalty is called into question.

The brothers’ vision is to take their business beyond the drug trade and into the world of hip-hop to become global icons.

Meanwhile, Markaisha has her own plan to harness Terry’s seriousness and sense of purpose to make herself rich.

As the two grow closer and ultimately intimate, their relationship will mean the demise of Markaisha’s marriage as well as Terry’s reputation on the streets.

Snoop Dogg has also joined the cast as Pastor Swift, the Flenory family’s spiritual advisor.

His character description reads: “He’s a man of The Word, with the aura of an ex-con.”

“The Pastor believes in the power of the Lord, and does his best to keep Meech and Terry in good graces.”

He will eventually make his way into the family and become a close confidant, although “Meech and Terry’s father resents all the attention the Pastor showers over the Flenory’s family, but no one can deny all the good the Pastor does for them.”

Joining the show is also Serayah, who will play Demetrius’s girlfriend, Lori Walker.

She is a smart, driven, yet naive college athlete who fell for Meech’s bad boy charm when the couple was younger.

After having a daughter with him, Lori is now more mature and clear-eyed.

Her world centres more around her daughter, and she expects less out of Meech, which makes him want her more.

Click here to read the full article on Express UK.

Grammys: Read Trevor Noah’s Opening Monologue

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Trevor Noah poses with his head resting on his hand with a Grammy award in a tuxedo

By Jackie Strause, The Hollywood Reporter

The host kept his jokes to a minimum while introducing a very different version of music’s biggest night amid the pandemic era of awards shows.

Trevor Noah kicked off a very intimate Grammy Awards show on Sunday, using his opening monologue to tour viewers around the CBS telecast’s COVID-safe, indoor-outdoor set.

Opening the night outside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles, Noah explained that the nominees were seated in a tented limited audience outside the venue, while the artists would be taking the stage for the night’s performances inside the nearly empty convention center. While he quipped about hot-button topics like COVID-19, the U.S. Capitol insurrection and the royals, his opener was intended to set-up the different-seeming and yet hopeful night.

“Tonight’s about bringing us all together as only music can. I mean — music and vaccines,” said the Daily Show host in an introduction fit for the pandemic-era of awards shows.

Good evening, everyone. And welcome to the 63rd annual Grammy Awards. My name is Trevor Noah and I’ll be your host tonight as we celebrate the last 10 years of music that got us through the last 10 years of coronavirus. I know it’s been one year, but it feels like 10.

As you can see, this year, people, we have made the decision to socially distance from the Staples Center, but we’re still broadcasting to you from the heart of downtown Los Angeles. This is not a Zoom background, alright? This is real. My uncle isn’t going to walk behind me naked even though I told him I was having an important meeting. That’s not going to happen tonight.

Tonight, we’re going to celebrate some of the fantastic music that has touched our lives and saved our souls over this unprecedented year. And as you can see, we are outside. Meaning, we get to enjoy the great Los Angeles air — which I know maybe as dangerous as COVID, but we’re willing to take the risk.

Tonight is going to be the biggest outdoor event this year besides the storming of the Capitol. Because, you see, right here in this elegant, open-air tent, we will be presenting the most prestigious, sought-after, peer-voted trophies in music, giving out shiny new Grammy awards live throughout the evening. But we have to do it quickly because tomorrow this tent is reserved for an outdoor wedding in Malibu and I do not want to lose my security deposit.

Click here to read Trevor Noah’s full monologue transcript on The Hollywood Reporter

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