15 STARS YOU SHOULD FOLLOW ON TWITTER SOLANGE
H O ! P A N S UE S IS O T O H P E TH
G N I R R A T S
AKON BUN B TEAIRRA MARÍ FLO RIDA FAT JOE CHRISETTE MICHELE
ASHER ROTH JESSE MCCARTNEY
HITS LAS VEGAS
FEATURES 36 RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE From rapping with The LOX to spitting 16 bars for his mentor, the Notorious B.I.G., Jadakiss’ art form has come a long way. But there’s more to this Yonkers native than just his coveted rhymes. 38 THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM Controversy surrounds Asher Roth, but his skin color and crass humor are what make him stand apart from his peers. Rap’s freshman puts the high jinks on hold to drop some knowledge on his lifestyle. 42 WORK OF ART Chrisette Michele is full of energy, even when talking about her Vickie Secrets. Learn about this soulful singer’s craziest fan encounter and which criticallyacclaimed rapper makes her sweat. 50 LUCK BE A LADY They say what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, except in the case of LeToya Luckett. The original Destiny’s Child member glams up Sin City and we’ve got the photos to prove it.
70 COLOSSUS Rick Ross is one of the biggest bosses the music industry has seen thus far. The large-and-in-charge rapper breaks down his model for success, starting from his days on the high school football team to captain of his own record label. Ciara photographed by Gavin Thomas
LEATHER DRESS BY VEDA; BODY CHAINS BY BLISS LAU
60 LIFE OF THE PARTY Crank up the volume, smash open a piñata, and blow out the candles. Ciara throws the ultimate celebration and you’re invited. This party ain’t stopping till six in the morning.
FREQUENCY 10 UPDATE 12 STYLIN’ WITH TWISTA 14 UPGRADE 15 TEAIRRA MARÍ: BEVERLY HILLS BABE 16 GET THE LOOK WITH J. HOLIDAY 18 TWITTERATI 20 PAUL WALL’S FAVORITE THINGS 25 UNRAPPED Rye Rye Yung L.A. Electrik Red 30 HUSTLIN’ Randy Jackson 78 HANDS-ON WITH MIMS
Asher Roth photographed by Gavin Thomas
MAKEUP BY MEAGAN HESTER; T-SHIRT BY PUBLIC DOMAIN CLOTHING; JEANS, ARTIST’S OWN
80 THAT’S A RAP
Publishers Devin Lazerine and Cameron Lazerine Founder/Editor-In-Chief Devin Lazerine Managing Editor Cameron Lazerine Senior Editor Georgette Cline Senior Writer Rajul Punjabi Art Director Ian Lynam www.ianlynam.com Chief Photographer Gavin Thomas Contributing Writers Tracy Garraud, Steven J. Horowitz, kathy iandoli, Bilal Morris, Jorteh Senah Contributing Photographers Zach Cordner, Jose Guerra Editorial Assistants Tashal Brown, Marcell Minaya National Advertising Sales Rap-Up 23679 Calabasas Road, #368 Calabasas, CA 91302-1502 (818) 591-5837 firstname.lastname@example.org Newsstand Distribution Curtis Circulation Co. David Lopatynski (201) 634-7400 Rap-Up 23679 Calabasas Road, #368 Calabasas, CA 91302-1502 (818) 591-5837 email@example.com www.rap-up.com Rap-Up ISSN (0-71486-02989-2) is published by Rap-Up, LLC. Rap-Up is a trademark of Rap-Up, LLC. No material in this issue may be reprinted without the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Certain photographs used in this publication are used by license or permission from the owner thereof, or are otherwise publicly available. PRINTED IN USA. On the covers: Ciara and Rick Ross, photographed exclusively for Rap-Up by Gavin Thomas in New York City. On Ciara: Bodysuit and fishnet tights by American Apparel; belt and earrings by Patricia Field; leather cuffs and bracelets by Rock & Republic; bangles by Erica Tanov; DianaF+ camera by Lomography USA On Rick Ross: Suit by 5001 Flavors; sunglasses by Louis Vuitton; watch and ring, artistâ€™s own
Photo Finish Lots of hard work, sweat, and a little partying went into making Rap-Up’s fourth anniversary issue picture-perfect. Here are just some of the Kodak moments that occurred while producing our first-ever photo issue.
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on his masterpiece, ll puts the finishing touches Hair stylist Keith Campbe on page 42. Art” of rk “Wo the View Chrisette Michele.
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When it comes to ladies’ style, Twista is all about simplicity and loving yourself. “Underwear,” he replies when asked about the sexiest article of clothing on a woman. His choices for the most fashionable ladies include eccentric yet fly gals like Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Kelis. For an MC who prides himself on intricate high-speed rhymes, that complexity carries into his personal style, sending a nod to designers like Marc Ecko and Kanye West. It comes as no surprise, considering Twista hit the mainstream swimming by collaborating with Mr. West on his breakout album Kamikaze. Now on his sixth studio album Category F5, Twista plans to bring his syllable-flips back on the scene. RapUp got the Midwest mic-controller to critique the styles of Lady GaGa, Rihanna, Solange, Kat DeLuna, and Jennifer Lopez. Find out which women had the one-time Guinness World Record-holding rapper tongue-tied. –kathy iandoli
LADY GAGA Looks like a hood ornament for an oldschool Chevy. I wonder if she has one.
RIHANNA I think Chris Brown knocked her in the head too many times. Her look is way off!
SOLANGE Her style looks lost. She needs a styling doctor, a professional one…ASAP!
KAT DELUNA Cute and sexy. Definitely someone to take home to visit mom.
JENNIFER LOPEZ Her style is too aged. You can tell married life has gotten the best of her. Oh well. RAP-UP.COM 13
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Teairra Marí: Beverly Hills Babe
PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAMERON LAZERINE
Teairra Marí is known to “Cause a Scene” when she’s walking the red carpet or tearing up the stage, but when she’s not in the spotlight, the Detroit gal keeps it low-key. Rap-Up tagged along with the 21-year-old singer on her day off, as she
shopped on Melrose, picked up some pet supplies, and made a stop at Pinkberry. Teairra was sitting pretty behind the wheel of a red-hot 2010 Mercedes-Benz GLK350 while cruising through Los Angeles’ priciest zip code, 90210.
Teairra first hit up trendy Melrose Avenue to shop at the adidas Originals store. This green track jacket caught her eye. “I love to wear adidas jackets around the airport with my shades and my cute little gym shoes on.”
She spoils her Maltipoo puppy Cherrie Cola with treats from Petco. “I wanted to get a dog because I was lonely at nighttime. So when I go to bed, Cherrie cuddles up right next to me.”
Time for an afternoon snack from Pinkberry. Her toppings of choice? Fruity Pebbles, strawberries, and kiwi. “I go to Pinkberry like every day. I love frozen yogurt.”
After spending her hard-earned money on designer goods, she unloads the bags from the compact SUV’s trunk, which closes with the touch of a button. “I cannot help myself. I love to go shopping.”
Teairra watches Desperate Housewives DVDs and plays Xbox 360 on one of the two LCD screens that come equipped with the GLK’s rear-seat entertainment system.
After signing with Warner Bros. Records and releasing her sophomore album At That Point, a Mars red GLK may be in this R&B vixen’s future. “It’s everything I need. Lady in red or what?”
GET THE LOOK WITH J. HOLIDAY From athletic to after hours, Donna Karan to Diesel, NYC’s trendy SoHo is the place to find everything needed to juice up one’s style. Although he’s a native of Washington, D.C., soulful singer J. Holiday knows his way around the cobblestone streets of the neighborhood and exactly which stores to hit up to complete his look—one of which is the adidas Originals store. J. strolls in, cameras in tow, to peruse the hottest in adidas gear, which is reminiscent of the retro, 3-Stripes swag of six decades ago when the line was created. Now celebrating its 60th year, the brand features apparel, kicks, and accessories inspired by those original designs. Always a sucker for the classics, J. Holiday begins picking out vibrant-colored pieces to pacify his flashy, yet never tacky taste. The slender R&B crooner, who’s promoting his sophomore effort, Round 2, says, “The smaller fit is perfect for me because, well, it works.” Although when asked if he rocked the baggy look when that was in style, he replies with a sly smirk, “Of course. And that worked for me too.” Words by Rajul Punjabi | Photography by Jose Guerra
“The colors on these kicks are retarded!” J. exclaims, rocking the vintage sneakers originally designed for the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Trefoil hoodie, $55 New Orleans Jazz tee, $32 adidas x Diesel Adi-Larkee vintage jeans, $230 SL 72 vintage sneakers, $80 Peachtree watch, $135
“Wow, I feel like I should start breakdancing right now, do a headstand or the windmill or something,” the “Bed” singer jokes, as he busts a move. adi-Firebird 1 track top, $65 adi-Firebird 1 track pants, $55 Ciero Mid sneakers, $80
A little fresh goes a long way. “I’d wear this out to a party, just out having a good time,” he reveals. “I like having clothes that no one else has yet.” Shell-toe print jacket, $110 Piqué polo, $40 adidas x Diesel Adi-Larkee jeans, $170 Pro Model sneakers, $75
15 STARS YOU SHOULD BE FOLLOWING ON
Cassie tweets after shaving her head (“Yeah, I did it”). John Legend tweets about getting advice from First Lady Michelle Obama (“She said hire a speech writer”). Erykah Badu even tweets while giving birth (“Home birth, no painkillers, ’bout 5 hours”). If the lingo sounds foreign, Rap-Up is here to school you. Tweet is a term coined by Twitter, a real-time microblogging service that enables users like President Obama and Oprah to tell the world what they’re doing at any moment.
Long-winded wordsmiths need not apply; Twitterholics must whittle their wisdoms down to 140 characters or less. So who else besides the Commander-in-Chief and Queen of Media is getting his or her tweet on? We’ve compiled a list of musical trendsetters whose pages deserve a view. From Beyoncé’s little sister to the Godfather of Hip-Hop to the King of Crunk, here are 15 celebrities who have us all A-Twitter.
Diddy - twitter.com/iamdiddy King Combs is the reigning Twitter champ when it comes to hiphop, uniting over one million followers with his “Let’s go” and “Lock in” catchphrases—though he may have lost (or gained) a few while tweeting about his Tantric sex session.
?uestlove - twitter.com/questlove He’s your favorite rapper’s favorite Twitterer. Last year, The Roots drummer posted tweets when the group’s tour bus crashed while on its way to a gig in Paris, France. Now that’s dedication.
Solange - twitter.com/solangeknowles While this proud mama shares the quips her son Julez professes, she also addresses pesky rumors, such as the LeToya Luckett comparisons and the real reason she passed out at the airport— too much NyQuil.
Estelle - twitter.com/estelledarlings She’s a British gal addicted to letting the world know she’s writing a hit and congratulating fellow celebs on their accomplishments. The singer also takes praise from her own fans. Just don’t send a demo, unless you want to be blocked.
Kid Sister - twitter.com/kidsistermelisa Besides sharing flicks of bedazzled fingertips and the newest addition to her stage show—her dog, Betsey—the “Pro Nails” femcee shares laughably random, often nonsensical ramblings on life.
Swizz Beatz - twitter.com/therealswizzz It’s no secret that this producer extraordinaire enjoys living a lavish lifestyle. Swizz proves the recession hasn’t hit his pockets, frequently posting photos of his ridiculously expensive toys.
Mariah Carey - twitter.com/mariahcarey M.C. doesn’t shy away from updating her “lambs” about married life with Nick Cannon. The songstress also incorporates her own slang for the world to digest, using words such as “good mornting,” “pon de,” and “piposity.”
Fabolous - twitter.com/myfabolouslife Rappers rarely hold their tongues, which is why when Fabolous openly bashed Cassie’s new ’do (“Edward Scissorhands”), he was all the rage with his followers, or twiggas as he calls them.
Russell Simmons - twitter.com/unclerush Hip-hop’s godfather is candid when it comes to his daily activities. His unabashed tweets have caught him admiring the ass of Jessica Biel, Justin Timberlake’s girlfriend, and revealing that Oprah donated $100,000 to his charity.
John Legend - twitter.com/johnlegend Political views, conversing with his girlfriend Christine Teigen, performing in front of Oprah at the TIME 100 event, and studio time with Estelle make up a majority of this R&B dream’s tweets.
Cassie - twitter.com/cassieventura As of late, the “Must Be Love” singer has been receiving both love and hate online. After debuting a photo of her shaved head and shrugging off nude pictures of her posing in lascivious positions, Cassie’s page has become a hot commodity.
Lil Jon - twitter.com/liljizzel Face to face, Lil Jon may be louder than an entourage in a green room, but via his page, the “Yeah!” man has no problem sharing his booming personality in the form of all caps. And that’s “OK” by his followers.
Erykah Badu - twitter.com/fatbellybella This soul sister may have caused an abundance of fans to initially jump aboard the bandwagon after she tweeted during the birth of her third child and chronicled her frightening encounter with a stalker.
Ciara - twitter.com/princesssuperc Super C makes an effort to give her fans advice on working out and maintaining positivity. She even shares Twitpics from her Paris trip, SNL rehearsals with Justin Timberlake, and girl time with her BFFs La La Vazquez and Kim Kardashian.
Keri Hilson - twitter.com/misskeribaby Whether it’s 2 a.m. or 6 p.m., Miss Keri never turns a finger away from her followers. Besides answering fans’ probing questions (i.e. Are you an only child? What’s the worst part about performing?), she also directly confronts haters.
Rap-Up - twitter.com/rapup Don’t miss out on another leaked song, celebrity scandal, red carpet pic, or music video. For hip-hop and R&B news as it happens, make sure you follow Rap-Up on Twitter.
PAUL WALL’S FAVORITE THINGS Although the Texas-bred rapper of Caucasian persuasion might be known largely for his grill glorification, there’s a lot more to Paul Wall than the diamonds surrounding his teeth. He’s got political opinions, a sentimental side, and his latest album, Fast Life, on shelves now. With featured guests from the hiphop side, as well as tracks produced by rocker Travis Barker, the icy MC boasts a versatile repertoire on his third studio effort.
Favorite place to escape? It’s gotta be Cancun. I love the water; it’s always nice there. Sometimes when you go to Hawaii or Cabo [San Lucas, Mexico], the water gets to be too cold and the waves are too rough. When you go to Cancun, you can go snorkeling, you can go swimming, surfing… I’m not too good on a surfboard though. Ain’t no way I’d get my big ass up on a surfboard.
Favorite thing about Barack Obama? He motivates everybody. Everybody was making up so many excuses about everything, but with Barack Obama, everybody seems motivated to make a change for themselves rather than wait for someone else to do it for them.
Favorite piece of jewelry? Gotta be this chain I have that says “family.” A friend of mine, Travis Barker, he sent it to me for Christmas one year. It reminds me that I have friends, and family always has my back. It’s big but also has a lot of sentimental value. Favorite TV talk show host? Jimmy Kimmel. He’s funny and he’s had me on his show like three times. He’s a big baseball fan like me, too.
Favorite book you read in school? A Tale of Two Cities. I liked that one because it was gangster. Dudes getting their heads cut off; that’s how it was going down. I was like, “I can’t believe they’re letting us read this.”
Favorite thing about your wife? The fact that she loves me just as much or maybe even more than I love her.
Favorite rap beef? When Katt Williams got into it with somebody. It was a while back. I think it was Young Chris from Roc-A-Fella. That was the most shocking because I don’t think people knew Katt Williams could really rap, but he can. He has a whole rap album out. He’s funny but he’s also really got rhymes.
Favorite way to charm someone when you want something? I guess the best way is to get ’em drunk or get ’em high. They say food is the way to somebody’s heart. If you take someone out to eat something good, you still might not get your way, but if you get them high or drunk…
Favorite place to watch baseball? Live from the stadium, of course. My favorite team is the Houston Astros. I’m a season ticket holder. –Rajul Punjabi
PAUL WALL: PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE FROST
Jovial yet frank in his manner of speech, Paul Wall takes a dubbed-out ride down memory lane to clue us in on what he’s always treasured and what he’ll never take for granted.
Favorite thing about Southern women? Their extended cab. Their rear ends. I think [Southern men] tend to appreciate thicker women.
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Touring around the world with M.I.A. has matured 18-year-old rapper Rye Rye, but she still giggles like a school girl—a lot. The Baltimore native can’t suppress her laughter while talking about current crush Mos Def (“He real cool”) or dissing the “Stanky Legg” dance (“It’s dumb [and] sounds ugly just saying it”). Suffice to say, Rye has a colorful personality, much like her hair, which today is streaked with hues of lime green and blue. Before the cartoon aficionado made her Internet music debut with her selfpenned, rump-shaking tune “Shake It to the Ground,” she was a rambunctious teen, climbing on roofs of the Chapel Hill projects and winning trophies in a dance troupe called the Unknowns. Now she’s releasing her first album, Go! Pop! Bang!, on the “Paper Planes” hitmaker’s label, N.E.E.T.—quite the taste of fame for a teenager who has experienced all this in the span of four years. Yet Rye Rye’s still herself, as weird as that may be to some. “I like some of Hannah Montana’s stuff,” she reveals with a chuckle. “Every time I sing one of her songs, people look at me crazy.” Your album title, Go! Pop! Bang!, is reminiscent of the onomatopoeia used during Batman fighting sequences. How did you decide on this title? It was actually lyrics to my song “Bang” [featuring M.I.A.]. We were writing down a list of slang that I used and words on my album. It was just exciting. It reminded me of the cartoon expressions too, like when one of the cartoons gets hit in the head and the expression comes on the top of the screen. When did you realize you could rap? That was in 2005. I was playing around with it. I used to try to come up with songs, like write half of songs [or] just write the chorus. My sister knew DJ Blaqstarr [produced M.I.A.’s “The Turn”], he asked me if I knew how to rap, so I just took one of the verses I wrote previously and turned it into a song. I started going to the studio after that. We did “Shake It to the Ground,” put it on the Internet, and then it created a story for itself. Your hair has been multiple colors. Describe the first time you dyed it. When I first got into the music industry, my hair was magenta and red. It was M.I.A.’s idea [to dye my hair]. She came up with the two colors. When I first heard about the idea, I was like, “I can’t do this.” But my mother, she usually speaks the truth about stuff, likes it. She don’t look at it crazy like she used to. What do your siblings think of you being M.I.A.’s protégé? My 11-year-old sister’s like, “That’s not fair.” If you were attending college after high school, rather than rapping, what would you be studying? Childcare. I love kids. I get along with them well. I’m used to growing up taking care of my little sisters when they were babies. Now I think babies are so cute. –Georgette Cline
Orange or cranberry juice? Orange juice Favorite place to get your hair done? Flair Hair Boutique Read a book or listen to your iPod? Listen to my iPod. Pet peeve in the studio? Watching me record. You need to learn to… Keep my mouth closed when the time is right. Favorite M.I.A. song? “XR2” Favorite souvenir? A rock engraved with my name from Mexico Place you go to clear your mind? My room by myself Favorite B-more hangout spot? Club Paradox What should someone do when they hear your song? Wild out!
Rye Rye: She Bangs
I like some of Hannah Montana’s stuff. People look at me crazy. RAP-UP.COM 25
Long before his deal with Grand Hustle Entertainment, Leland “Yung L.A.” Austin was a neighborhood star. “I took 700 mixtapes and put them all out in Thomasville,” recalls Atlanta’s Mohawk-maned MC. “Everyone said I was the truth, but they knew that even before the music because I was already fresh,” says the fashion-forward Southerner who was discovered by Young Dro in 2006. L.A. gained local celebrity status from his noticeably avant-garde street style (“We was dressing like pirates one time”) to his unmistakable flair for vivid, off-the-top rhymes (“A mixtape full of freestyles got me my deal”), which can be found on his debut album Futuristic Leland. But it wasn’t all instant fame for the 23-year-old, who was expelled from high school in freshman year. Coming from a family who hustled anything from cigarettes to liquor, the “Ain’t I” rapper quickly realized that music was his route out of the ’hood. During a trip up the West Coast, T.I.’s newest signee takes a break to turn his swag on and explain how he’s ahead of the game. When did you first start rapping? My aunt wrote my first rap when I was seven. She was in a rap group and I would go to the studio and hang around them. I thought she was the best auntie in the world! Do you remember the rap? Well, my name is Leland and I’m the best/ Other sucker MCs tried to put me to the test/ But I rap all day and I rap all night/ Till my homies on the side say/ Go Lelo, go Lelo! [Laughs] How long did you perform that rhyme? I sang that everywhere for about two years. And it wasn’t just for my family either. I would do that rap around my friends too. What have you learned from being around T.I. and Young Dro? I now understand the way to handle business professionally from being around consistency and success. These guys know what they’re doing, so I pick up on all their good habits. What made you get a Mohawk? I’m a spur-of-the-moment kind of cat. It’s just about being Futuristic Leland and being ahead of the game. Kids are rocking the Mohawk, but I had it three years ago, so I was ahead of that trend. I was also rapping about swag before it got too popular. Now you hear everyone making swag songs. That was something that I was talking about three or four years ago. Would you say you were the first to rap about swag? I think I was one of the first ones in ATL to go hard and brand it to say this is what I’m about. I’ve gone from stupid fruity swag to offset swag to black boy-white boy. When I use swag, I’m not wearing it out and labeling myself as a swag rapper. I think my talent and everything I do is much bigger than one label. I’m just constantly talking about my confidence and attitude. What does the future hold for you? I work hard and right now I want to sew my seeds, so I can reap them in the future. As long as I’m working hard right now, the future just seems bright to me.
I was rapping about swag before it got too popular. 26 RAP-UP.COM
Favorite Southern dance? Bankhead Bounce Best white-boy swag? I like my boy Travis Barker. He goes hard. Best black-boy swag? Yung L.A. ’cause I mix mine up. The black with the white, so I’m light-skinned. Favorite female MC? Foxy! I was so crazy about her. If you could be in an all-star rap group, it would be… Me, Lupe Fiasco, B.o.B., and Cee-Lo. A female must have… A positive attitude. Favorite Southern dish? Hamburger Helper What needs to be invented by 2020? An automatic toilet paper dispenser Favorite physical features? My eyes, teeth, skin, and dimples Favorite clothing brands? True Religion and American Eagle
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZACH WOLFE
Yung L.A.: Swag Surfin’
HARDER. BETTER. FASTER. STRONGER.
THE ALL-NEW RAP-UP.COM
We’re out for world domination!
A bundle of feisty, fearless firecrackers, Electrik Red explodes with new-age female empowerment on their debut album How to Be a Lady: Volume 1. “We’re out for world domination!” the redlipped, say-all Binkie declares, while glimpses of an “I [Love] NY” tattoo flirt from her finger. And why not? Their movement doesn’t come without a credited believer. Signed to The-Dream’s Radio Killa Records/Def Jam, the former backup dancers aren’t looking to fall short of the singer-songwriter’s reputation for spewing racy, Einstein-laced tracks— they’d rather just live up to it. As glittering nails dig into a basket of toasty calamari, the foursome talk redefining girl power and refusing to kiss ass. How did you come together? Binkie: Electrik Red was established maybe six years ago. Myself, Sarah, and Lesley were on the Confessions tour with Usher. When the original member got prego, we asked Sarah to join [laughs]. Sarah: I said I’d love to be a part of it, but I can’t do it without my good friend Naomi. So they were like, “Who the hell is she?” We had a show in Toronto and Naomi came on the road with us. We played around with ideas and it all just made sense. Have you ever self-choreographed your dance routines?
Binkie: We know a lot of very well-versed choreographers that are our friends, but yes, at one point when money was tight, we were definitely in our backyard coming up with the show.
Electrik Red: High Voltage
What makes Electrik Red different from other girl groups? Lesley: For one, we weren’t placed together, we actually chose to do this. We give universal girls, of any ethnicity, a platform where their voice can be heard. You can be who you are and not make any excuses for it. I feel like that’s our main stance musically. If you’re feeling frisky one day and like a hot puss, then fuck it, be the best hot puss that you can be [laughs]. We’re not your stereotypical urban girl group. What’s your definition of girl power? Naomi: I think that lady power is being able to be sexy, funny, whatever, but not having to impress anybody. Knowing when to eat properly and also knowing when to get on the dance floor and shake it all the way down. Knowing who you are in every place you need to be. Some people may view your overt sexuality as catering to men, whereas others may see it as neo-feminism. Naomi: Whether we’re wearing summer dresses, turtlenecks, or tassels, you can’t win. I feel like what we do the best is enjoy our lives, enjoy ourselves, make music we love, and get this movement going. What’s the Electrik Red movement? Binkie: Girl power on crack!
Favorite drink? Naomi: Vodka soda; Binkie: Starbucks What’s your secret? Sarah: I’ve been sleeping with my stuffed animal Gandhi since I was six. Favorite song by The-Dream? Sarah: “Playin’ in Her Hair;” Lesley: “Nikki” Flavor Flav or Ray J? Sarah and Lesley: Ray J; Naomi and Binkie: Flavor Flav Who has it better, U.S. or Canada? All: America for opportunity, Canada for quality of life. On guys, skinny or loose fit jeans? Binkie: Tight jeans! I wanna see what I’m working with! Last celebrity you spoke to? Binkie: I spoke to Jesus this morning. Mr. Right or Mr. Right Now? All: Mr. Right Favorite old-school dance? Sarah: Butterfly; Binkie: Electric Slide Heels or sneakers? Sarah: Sneakers; Lesley: Heels
PHOTOGRAPHY BY WARWICK SAINT
The girls of Electrik Red don’t want to play it safe and sweet. “If I want to wear shimmery panties on stage,” proclaims Naomi Allen, the curlycoiffed, Toronto-bred vixen, “I’m gonna wear ’em!” Lounging in a slinky nook of Manhattan’s well-noted Serafina restaurant, the other three unapologetic ladies, Sarah Rosete, Lesley Lewis, and Kyndra “Binkie” Reevey, thunderously agree.
American Idol’s Randy Jackson
As an A&R person, you are really coveted as some sort of god between the public and the music. 30 RAP-UP.COM
“Everyone wants to do it when they think it’s easy, but when the going gets tough, everybody bails,” says jack-of-all-trades Randy Jackson, fresh from inspiring rambunctious tweens during career day at his children’s school. The “it” he speaks of is his career. While Jackson may come off as a bit pompous in his revelation, his actions are warranted. The Grammywinning record producer, reality TV star, band manager, radio host, and avid guitar collector (“I’m always on eBay bidding”) finds little time to sleep between scoring gigs for alternative rock band Paper Tongues, executive producing MTV’s Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew, launching contestants’ careers on American Idol, and guiding Mariah Carey in her musical endeavors. Studying just one page from this entrepreneur’s handbook puts other music industry veterans to shame. Even when he reveals his favorite pastimes—shooting hoops and smashing balls on the tennis court—Jackson subconsciously mentions his business: “I’m a pretty busy workaholic.” Can’t knock his hustle. During your years as a record label A&R, what was the most difficult aspect of your job? As an A&R person, you are really coveted as some sort of god between the public and the music because you sign the act, you develop the act, you make the record, and you expect the public to like it. That is a very tough place to be, because I know everyone on the planet thinks they’re geniuses, but none of us really are. It’s a very tough job. What artist or record are you proud to have made a success? When I was at Columbia [Records], specifically, there was an artist I signed named Dionne Farris out of Arrested Development. I signed her and made a solo record with her. That came out and we had a No. 3 pop record, the song
called “I Know.” It’s one of the greatest signings and the most pleasurable records that I’ve ever produced. Then when I was at MCA, there was an artist I signed named Avant. He’s still around and has a bunch of records on the charts. Mariah Carey is one of the many artists you’ve collaborated with during your 20 years in the music business. What projects did you work on together? I worked with Mariah, I call her M, since the first album. I was her musical director for many years. I was her A&R for many years. I produced and wrote songs with her. I worked with her since day one and just enjoyed so much success, so many tours, so many album sales. [We were] nominated for Grammys, we worked on movies together. She’s one of my dearest friends in the world. You got your big break after joining Journey. What was one of the more memorable moments you had in the group? One of the first concerts that I ever did with them was at the Calaveras Fairgrounds in Northern California. We arrived in on helicopters. We played to an audience of 200,000 screaming fans. I’ll never forget standing up there and hearing all of the fans singing the words and the lyrics to every single song. It was mind-blowing. You’ve seen many artists come and go. Which of today’s stars do you feel have the total package? Lil Wayne, T.I., Kanye West, of course, Jay-Z. There’s Beyoncé, Mariah, Rihanna, Usher. The list can go on. I love The Killers, U2, love Coldplay, love this band Kings of Leon. I think there are a lot of artists that are doing really well.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
Love to be Hated
On a brisk morning in New York City, Fat Joe is wide awake, despite going to sleep at 4 a.m. Though the family man made his requisite club rounds with fellow Miami brethren DJ Khaled several hours ago, he still managed to tuck his two-year-old daughter, Azaryah, into bed. All in a days work for a man who’s on his ninth studio album, Jealous Ones Still Envy 2 (J.O.S.E. 2). While Joe slings bibs and baby strollers at home in his Miami oasis, he’s never lost sight of his roots. The Bronx-born rapper returns to his old stomping grounds, on the corner of 165th Street and Trinity Avenue, when he needs to get a grip on reality. “I’m the only rapper who’s a millionaire hanging out on the corner of the South Bronx for years after,” says Joe. He’s used some of that hefty sum to amass an exclusive sneaker collection, within reason. “Shit, it’s the recession!” exclaims the Puerto Rican father of two. “[It’s] the only thing that I’ve invested in.”
Nobody makes hit records like Fat Joe.
In these turbulent economic times, excess is no longer popular. Now, instead of splurging, Fat Joe’s saving. Instead of focusing solely on his next record, he’s thinking of his next artist, which happens to be an R&B beauty that he’s keeping under wraps, for now. After all, if the self-professed “elephant in the room” lets his secret weapon go too soon, there’ll be less for others to envy. What do you miss most about living in the Bronx? Just the sense of community. Like I’m not really cool with all my neighbors now [in Miami]. I don’t have problems with them or anything like that, but in the Bronx everybody’s cool. Do you think a New York rapper loses credibility if he moves away? I done did New York more than you can do New York. I’ve been in the clubs seven days a week. The fact that I want to get a crib somewhere nice in warm weather doesn’t mean my heart ain’t in New York. Even when I’m in Miami, they don’t get it confused. They know I got that New York flag on that [car] mirror. Your Akon-assisted single “One” is about having that special person in your life. Is the song about your wife, Lorena? Most of it is, but it’s really about everybody’s life. It’s a song I wrote that everyone can relate to, whether you’re fat, tall, skinny, short, blue eyes, whatever. God only gives us that one, that one we can’t control. Sometimes we hate that we even love them. You know, Chris Brown, Rihanna, they love each other. The song is about the struggle between a couple, high school sweethearts, and the parents think the guy shouldn’t be with their daughter. He proves them wrong. It’s a love story that everybody can relate to. So what does your wife mean to you?
[Laughs] I’m gonna say something sweet. She means the world to me. Since you started releasing albums the independent route, have you made more money than when you were signed to Atlantic Records? Absolutely. I’ve been on albums that sold two million records and never received the royalties. Being on a major label, they just give you a couple of points, so that they can recoup all the money, like for doing a video. It’s just funny math. The industry is designed for the artist to make no money other than the advance. When you’re signed to an independent, you make six, seven dollars off a record.
Do I have to pay for a track? Nah, that’s my brother. We work together and we enjoy working with each other. It’s all love. These days, what do you think the “elephant in the room” is with regards to the music industry? The elephant in the room will always be Fat Joe. Nobody makes hit records like Fat Joe. But they still try to ignore like he doesn’t. Last year, I was the elephant in the room with “I Won’t Tell.” Now I’m back. But I’m still the elephant in the room.
Now that you’re an older rapper… Hey, hey, hey… We’ll say respected rapper. Older doesn’t sound right [laughs]. Now that you’re a veteran, was there a time in the past when you excessively spent money? Once, I threw an after-Grammy party in New York; I was nominated for “What’s Luv?” I bought $50,000 worth of Cristal. And every fucking person in the party, whether I knew ’em or didn’t, had a bottle of Cristal and they all threw Cristal bottles all up in the air. It was movies. You worked with Lil’ Kim on a song called “Porn Star.” How did that come about? Well, Jim Jonsin produced the track, and it’s so fucking hot. It sounds like fucking porno music to me, in a weird way. So I came up with this provocative chorus. Who else but Kim, the Queen B, to get on there? I’ve always been a huge fan of hers.
Favorite activity to do with your son? Criticize hip-hop music. Person who puts you in a good mood when you’ve had a bad day? My daughter, Azaryah Marc Anthony or Jennifer Lopez? That’s a scary one. This is automatic trouble for me. I’m not answering that question. 50 Cent or Rick Ross? Rick Ross Last thing you bought your mother? A flat-screen TV. She hustled me. Word you overuse? Nigga Favorite sneakers? Air Force 1 Ueno Take the stairs or the elevator? Use the elevator all the time. New artist you favor? Red Café Place you go to think about life? Back to my old projects
Is “Porn Star” a good song for the strip club? Super absolutely. It was made for that. Do you frequent them often? Nah, nah, nah. I don’t frequent them often. I do go sometimes. Have you or your friends ever been mesmerized by a stripper? Absolutely. I think they’re beautiful. I don’t want to sound like a fucking hornbag, but what guy wouldn’t want to be mesmerized by a stripper? Which female artist have you most enjoyed working with in your career? I would have to say working with Remy Ma in the happy times was fun. Just because she was very talented and we used to make music in the studio where she understood the music just as much or even more so than the fellas. You’ve previously said that Lil Wayne is one of the best rappers today. Do you still think that? Absolutely.
Chrisette Michele wants to know: Can we do something together? I want you to do the hook and I’ll do the lyrics. The answer is yes. I would love to work with you. I happen to think you’re a very talented artist. I almost went to your show, but I missed it because I had my own show that day.
When you work with him, do you have to pay for a track?
HAIR BY NOEL FOR THE WILLIAMS IMAGE GROUP; MAKEUP BY KATIE WEDLUND FOR THE WILLIAMS IMAGE GROUP; DRESS BY TRAVEL JERSEY; JEWELRY BY ANDREW HAMILTON CRAWFORD; NECKLACE BY SHOPTHELOOK.NET
ALL THE ABOVE
Melanie Fiona is a blunt girl. She’s the type who will clutch her opinions tighter than 10 Benjamins; the one to say no when 99 others say yes, and a woman with sincere plans of taking over the world. That is, right after she beats you in air hockey. It’s one of those balmy days in Manhattan that is unexpected yet welcomed, when introverted strangers exchange subconscious smiles and a communal bliss drapes the air. “I want to be the voice of the people,” declares Melanie under shades darker than ink. “I want to be the one to connect every age, ethnicity, gender, and genre,” which is exactly why she titled her SRC/Universal Motown debut The Bridge, a medley of classic soul, brushed with strokes of pop and world rhythms. And although these vibes are often desolate on popular radio, the “Give It to Me Right” songbird could care less. She’s willing to work and believes that at some point “real has to recognize real.”
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
I was literally known as the girl who was always singing.
Cross-legged in comfortable jeans and knee-high leather boots, the 24-yearold Canadian appears unnerved. Slouching back, she pushes thick strands of her lengthy West Indian hair behind an ear and cracks a smile. How did music play a part in your upbringing? I grew up in Toronto. My parents are Guyanese, so naturally they listen to a lot of reggae, soca, calypso. But even before I was born, music was always in the house. When I was born, the doctor said that I was clearing my throat and that, “We either have a smoker or we have a singer.” Were you known as “the singer” in high school? When I first started, I had moved out of the inner city to the suburbs because it was getting really bad with crime. So we moved to an area that wasn’t really culturally diverse. And it was tough. I went through a lot of transitions, with loss of loved ones and a lot of tragic things that happened. But the funny thing is that when I started school, nobody knew I could sing. I didn’t even show people that side because it was so personal to me and I think that I was just really unhappy. But halfway through high school, I met a really great guidance counselor who literally helped me switch my whole life around. That’s when I was like, music, music, music! Then I was literally known as the girl who was always singing, but before then I was just in a really dark shell.
As an artist with no record out, how did you end up opening on the European leg of Kanye West’s Glow in the Dark tour? My manager’s like, “Yo, Kanye’s getting ready to do a tour and do you want to do it?” And I was like, “Hell yeah!” Then it was like, “Well, we’re going to have to have a meeting with him because Kanye isn’t about to put anyone on his tour.” I didn’t go when they had the meeting. They just played the record and they’re like, “Kanye said yes.” I was in Toronto and I didn’t even want to tell anybody because I was so afraid that I would jinx myself. He did it completely based off the fact that he liked the music. How does it feel to perform live in front of thousands of people? I just kinda black out to be honest. Sometimes I do shows that I don’t remember—literally. It’s just me and the music, but it’s just beyond something. It’s an out-of-body experience. I don’t know what this looks like for people out there, I just know how it feels. What was your goal with this album? I wanted to make an album that was timeless. It’s reminiscent of the songs that people loved to listen to and that they miss listening to. I wanted to have people know that I could sing and believe what I’m saying. And I wanted to make music for old people and for young people, for black people and for white people, and that’s why I called it The Bridge, because I wanted something that wasn’t for one type of person.
Wow. Really? Yep, you don’t even know. “What have you been through? Like, you’re not even black.” It was at that point where I was like, “Alright, fuck you guys.” I want young girls to feel like Melanie Fiona did this the right way and to focus on the music. After all, there’s no longevity in gimmicks and stunts, right? Exactly. I could gig every night if I wanted to, but I want a career. I want to change the face of music. So it’s like, do it now or never.
Shower or bath? I like to take a long shower. Pop music or Pop Tarts? Pop music. I hate Pop Tarts! Favorite quote? “Whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” Favorite holiday? Christmas Favorite ice cream flavor? Roasted marshmallow Bad habit? I procrastinate. I am so bad. Downtime destination? Always back home to Toronto Favorite new artist? Ryan Leslie Favorite TV show? Past, The Cosby Show. Present, Heroes. Dream vacation spot? I want to go to Fiji and have that hotel on the water.
What has been the toughest bridge to cross thus far? Getting into this game, for sure. It was transitioning from being a singer in Toronto to an artist. It’s been a long walk across the bridge, but it’s worth it and I’m stronger for it. It was a real test of my character, but I feel like I did a good job of fighting for myself. Was there ever a point when the stress was just too much? There was a definite moment. It was right when I stopped working with a bunch of producers in the States and I just started writing and producing everything myself. It was right before then that pushed me over the edge. People were as ignorant to say, “Well, if you wanna sing R&B, you have to be ghetto. Do you smoke weed and do you have drama like that, because you need it to sing R&B.”
Teyana Taylor wants to know: How did it feel when you finally got the chance to follow your dream? I feel like I’ve been following this dream my whole life, and now that I’m actually living it, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I don’t plan to stop dreaming.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE 36 RAP-UP.COM
“Throw money to them,” says Jadakiss, while chuckling in a Def Jam conference room 29 floors above the Manhattan pavement. The rapper thinks tossing green to audience members is the “something new” that label employees are looking for during his appearance on BET’s 106 & Park later that week. Jada may joke about enticing teens to jump aboard his bandwagon, but he’s in a good position even before he pops a knot of $100 bills; he sold 135,000 units of his latest effort, The Last Kiss, in its first week. By current industry standards, that’s hitting the jackpot. “I came into the game to be a lyricist, critically acclaimed, and sell some records,” he reveals.
NOW THAT B.I.G.’S NOT HERE, IT REMINDS ME OF HOW MUCH MORE WORK I GOTTA DO.
Seated at a large ivory table, Jada flicks at the zipper on his Crooks & Castles Crossbones jacket as he recalls the memories of his come-up as a fledging rapper under the tutelage of one very large-and-in-charge MC. “I used to sit around and write rhymes to try to please B.I.G.,” the Yonkers native remembers. In an effort to please him once more, Jadakiss crafted an album cut in his honor, “Letter to B.I.G.” While the D-Block member peppers the record with a few self assurances, he gives credit where it’s due: “I got my own plan, handle mine like a grown man/ Long as I know I’m nice, fuck it, I’m my own fan/ Remixed the joints you had/ But they could never ever duplicate your swag.” Like his fans’, Jadakiss’ life is full of ups and downs. He’s lost a mentor, aspired to be a basketball player, climbed slowly to the top for failing to make commercial rap, became a father, and picked up a heavy smoking habit. “My whole motto is ‘hope for the best and expect the worst,”’ he says without hesitation. Luckily for Jada, the worst is behind him. How did you get the rap moniker of Jadakiss? One of my older friends in my ’hood gave it to me. My real name is Jason. One day he was on the phone saying, “I’m on the block with K, Day Day, and that kid Jadakiss.” I said, “What?” He said, “Yeah, Jadakiss.” So I said, “OK, I’m gonna try that name out in the industry.” I was on Bad Boy at the time so I was like, “I’m gonna see what Diddy thinks of the name.” Then I just used it on my own. I was about 18 then. On “Can’t Stop Me,” you say, “Ringtone rap, this is not the season.” Are there any rappers you feel make “ringtone” rap? There’s a lot of ringtone rap. I don’t pay attention to the ringtones so I wouldn’t know. But that ain’t what I came into the game to do, that ain’t the music that I try to make. [Making ringtone rap] is the label’s way of getting their money back. I ain’t with that.
The Rap Phenomenon DVD chronicles some of the Notorious B.I.G.’s performances during his career and features rappers, such as yourself, describing his lyrical gift. How did Biggie personally impact you? After I’d finished writing rhymes, I’d say ’em and wonder what B.I.G. would say of this rhyme, nah mean. So then after getting signed to Bad Boy, that was just like [gasps]… Jesus Christ, ya know. And then after him acknowledging and embracing us… He thought we was nice. That was the battery in our back that we needed to make our way in the industry. If B.I.G. said we was nice, we was nice. It didn’t matter if we were new or none of that. We talkin’ like we been here. Now that he’s not here, it reminds me of how much more work I gotta do.
Do you feel like there is a correlation between science and rap? There probably is, but I ain’t that deep to figure it out. Nah, I’m just playing.
What do you mean by “more work”? I just think about if he was here, where I [would] be [in the music industry]. Knowing that he’s not here, that’s how much work I gotta do to try to get to the same place that I would be if he was here.
What do you think of the Twitter phenomenon? Hit me up, baby! Twitter.com/ therealkiss. I got down with it doing an interview on Shade 45. I was talking to [host] Angela Yee and she’s interviewing me and she’s on her Twitter. She’s like, “You got a Twitter?” So I signed up right there. I got like 1,000 followers immediately. I put Styles [P] on, then he put Sheek [Louch] on. Any outlets we find that you can get to the people, we hop right on and get on board. Recently Diddy tweeted about having tantric sex. Would you ever get that personal with your fans? I mean, why not? This whole Internet thing is crazy. Stuff like that will give the people what they want to hear. It don’t necessarily got to be true, but if it’s coming from someone like Diddy, you already know.
How do you feel about the new class of rappers? I’m proud of them. Maino, Red Café, Uncle Murda, Joe Budden, even though he ain’t new, Joell Ortiz, Kid Cudi. They makin’ good music. Just got to be original. I’m proud of anybody that does they own thing and not get on that god damn voice machine and start doing some stupid shit. So you would never use Auto-Tune? My voice is more priceless than one of those machines. I ain’t getting on that damn machine. My voice is a machine.
Charles Hamilton or Kid Cudi? Kid Cudi Way you cut back during the recession? Less shopping Jimmy Kimmel or Conan O’Brien? Jimmy Kimmel Age when you first asked out a girl? Twelve. We went to the movies. Favorite rap verse from D-Block? There are too many to name. Woman you dreamt about as a kid? Whitley from A Different World Favorite CNN host: D.L. Hughley or Anderson Cooper? D.L. Hughley Last thing that inspired you? The Notorious movie Pet peeve? When people keep tapping me Breakfast in bed or your mom’s home cooking? Mom’s home cooking, by far.
You’re unapologetic about smoking weed. Has there been a point in your life when you felt you should stop? I stop every couple of months. My throat is so sensitive. I got to take a month off or a couple of weeks. I ain’t a chain smoker like that, even though I enjoy it. So I got to be smart. What did you aspire to be as a child? A football player until I got to high school. Then I made it on the basketball team, but then I was too short and too slow. So then I had to switch it to rap after that. I’m just giving it to you real. In school, what subject did you enjoy most? Science. I liked the charts and making volcanoes, all of that. Science was just interesting.
J. Holiday wants to know: Why has the industry been hating on you for so long? I don’t know. It takes a special nigga to grind, nah mean.
The Elephant in the Room Words by Rajul Punjabi Photography by Gavin Thomas
Asher Roth isn’t the new Eminem. Take a look beyond his milky skin, his frat-boy image, and the elephant suit, and get to know rap’s new kid on the block, who would rather create his own pedestal than stand on someone else’s.
The Pennsylvania native’s relaxed attitude is evident on his frat-house anthem “I Love College,” from his debut album, Asleep in the Bread Aisle. With a slight stature, strawberry-blond hair, and an impish grin, Asher barely fits the prototype for a rapper, which works out fine since he tends to shy away from the title and its implications. Though his album is a smart buy just in the strength of features (“I’m connected to everyone I worked with in some way—from Busta to Keri Hilson— there’s no random collabos”), it’s a versatile pick that glides across the spectrum from playful to political. At a high-profile photo studio in the heart of Brooklyn, hip-hop’s freshman tries not to take himself too seriously, while he explains why he’s an eternal student—no matter how far grown-up life takes him. Describe your wildest college party. Well, we used to have them every night. They usually ended up with some articles of clothing being shed and dancing in the kitchen sink. How do you dance in the kitchen sink? How do you not dance in the kitchen sink? We would just end up throwing stuff around. The kitchen is the war zone for the most part; it’s the slept-on part of the house. There’s always naughty make-out sessions. All the wild parties usually ended in the kitchen, lights off, probably with some music on… Something we could just grind up on the wall to. Were you in a fraternity? Nah, it wasn’t my thing, but to each his own. Fraternities are totally different from school to school. Sometimes you can’t have a social life if you’re not in a fraternity or sorority at certain schools. I feel like I can get along with a lot of different friends. So you got along with everybody? Yes. Even in high school, I just never made any enemies. I didn’t see any reason for hating on anybody, whatever you were, jocks, goths,
nerds… I got a little bit of everything in me. My older sister was the high school cheerleader, my middle sister was the indie-rock chick in high school, and I got a little bit of nerd in me, so I got the whole kit and caboodle. Is the music industry like college? I think high school and the music industry are exactly the same thing. College, not so much because you’ve broadened your horizons and you’ve started to find out who you are at that point. High school and the music industry have so much in common because it’s so cliquey. Everybody knows everybody and there are rumors and the hot girls are dating whoever’s cool. You’ve seen all that in the short time you’ve been in it? Oh my God, it’s ridiculous. And whatever is fashionable, you gotta run with [it]. People are scared to be themselves. That’s really what I’m trying to bring—just be yourself. You’ll be much more comfortable that way. Has fame helped with the ladies? Fame has not made my girl situation better; it’s made it worse. I was an incredible Cyrano de Bergerac before this and it’s allowed me to speak to more girls on a broader scale. What turns you off? Girls that are all sweaty and gross and obvious about their intentions aren’t really attractive to me. Play hard to get, we might be able to get somewhere. You can’t get lost in the groupie love ’cause it’s not real. They didn’t care about you when you didn’t have a song about how great college was on the radio. Where does your elevated sense of self-esteem come from? I’m a Leo, and Leos are confident, arrogant people to start with. I don’t want my confidence to be confused with arrogance. It’s just something people need to work on. A lot of human beings’ actions stem from insecurity. I want to get past that point. The beautiful, rich people are the very rare breed. Not to mention, a lot of those “beautiful” people that I meet aren’t cool at all. They’re completely self-centered, constantly looking in the mirror, and happen to be some of the most insecure people I’ve ever met. Being yourself and doing what makes you feel comfortable—and not following what everybody else is doing—is what’s actually sexy and cool. It’s especially the case with girls, because there are these magazines that are like, “This is what you have to be. You have to be 100 pounds.” It’s so ridiculous.
I just never made any enemies. I didn’t see any reason for hating on anybody.
They say life is a constant learning process, and it couldn’t be truer for Asher Roth, the new white heat in hip-hop. The 23-year-old lyricist, still in college party mode, is drowning in tireless Eminem comparisons, red Solo cups full of beer, and thankfully, his own humble nature. Though far from flamboyant in style, Asher lives life vibrantly, savoring every attribute as he city hops on business (“In New York, every fourth woman that walks by is beautiful”).
As you rise in this business, do you see yourself getting involved with any charities? I do Pencils of Promise, which is an organization that builds schools and foundations for a good education all over the world. I do think we need to start questioning our educational system because during this recession, they’ve started cutting things like music, art, and physical education—a lot of the things that allow kids to think left. They just program us for the cubicle. How do you keep a middle class from rising? You make them go to a job every day; you keep them on deck. It’s sort of genius how they set it up. We’re getting to a point now where people are like, “Hold up, a lot of shit’s fucked up.” And that’s why when I say this, people are like, “What are you talking about?” But George Bush was an incredible president. Why? Because he brought to light that everything is very fucked up and manipulated and people are not being told the truth. We needed something like that, otherwise, we would have just kept twiddling our thumbs like everything’s all good. Do you believe everything happens for a reason? I do believe that. Even in my career, I didn’t want to push the river and make anything up that’s kind of the same thing. I get to a point where you just have to let things go. Talking about spirituality and energies—it’s very real. And karma is a very real thing. Obviously, people go through ups and downs and rough patches, but you have to put it out there. I feel like the universe takes care of good people. So I continue to try and be positive, and when anyone asks me why I have such a positive vibe on things—you have to. That’s the only way to think.
The College Dropout or Graduation? The College Dropout If you could battle any rapper, it would be… Charles Hamilton. Hottest R&B chick in the game? Beyoncé Favorite pair of kicks? TOMS or no shoes at all Stupidest thing you’ve done for attention? Make out with two girls at a video shoot. Rapper or poet? More of a poet. I like the term MC. Chick you want to party with? Jazmine Sullivan Favorite Eminem album? The Slim Shady LP Most trusted confidantes? My mom and pop. And my sisters. They keep it 100 with me. What type of nerd are you? The science-y, conspiracy theorist, History Channel type.
Rick Ross wants to know: Do you bang out black girls? I’m a fan of women of [every] ethnicity. We’ll leave it at that.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
Work of Art
One of the things that Ne-Yo figured out about me is that I’ve been through some crap.
STYLING BY JUNE AMBROSE FOR MODÉ SQUAD; HAIR BY KEITH CAMPBELL FOR EPIPHANY ARTIST GROUP; MAKEUP BY JJ FOR MAC COSMETICS
Chrisette Michele is colorful. From her vibrant personality to the fuchsia lacquer on her fingernails, the soulful R&B songstress is never dull. Even her anecdotes are splashed with screeches of excitement that make a listener feel as if it’s afternoon story time. Today, at Electric Lady Studios in New York City’s West Village, she brings to mind a memorable fan encounter in a very unlikely place. “Out shopping for underwear at Victoria’s Secret!” she shouts. “I’m getting my five for $25, and this girl is like, ‘Oh my God, it’s Chrisette Michele!’ I gave her my autograph, then I had to carry my underwear to the cash register. I was so embarrassed.” Despite her expressive attitude, the Long Island darling is a self-proclaimed shy person. When Chrisette teamed up with The Game last year to record “Let Us Live,” she brought her brother and three of his friends to the studio while she recorded, all because of her timidness. His tall frame and largerthan-life persona was a bit intimidating. But as usual, looks can be deceiving. “If anybody has any questions, Game is a sweetheart,” she reveals. Then there’s Jay-Z. He’s the one “co-worker” that makes the 26-year-old lose her cool. But Hov has also made Chrisette’s stock soar. After adding her distinct vocals to his track, “Lost One,” she became a household name. Now, she has a Grammy (“Be OK” featuring will.i.am) and a No. 1 sophomore album (Epiphany) to add to her résumé—quite the musical feats for a girl who once planned to join the Peace Corps. While that’s an occupation she hasn’t given up hope in pursuing, at the moment, it’s being put on hold while she tends to creating masterpieces. Seriously. “A lot of girls can write a song, but can a lot of girls compose an orchestra?” asks Chrisette, with an air of confidence. “That’s something I can do.” During your first album release, you wore your hair long. Now you have a short cut. What prompted the change? I am a victim of I-get-bored-reallyfast disease. So as soon as I feel like something else needs to happen, I do it. I did my last single with short hair. People were like, “Who is this girl?” I just enjoy my hair short. When I got signed to the record label, I had short blond hair. I actually had this same style that I’m wearing now about a year before I got signed. The long hair was just me having a good time. You graduated with a degree from Five Towns College. How did attending that school help shape you as an artist? That school could take a commercialminded person, a jazz-minded person, and a classical-minded person, or
someone who loves hip-hop and R&B, and give them classical training and teach them how to apply it to this pop world and R&B world. I earned a degree in jazz commercial music. I met one of my first managers at Five Towns College. Me and friends were also doing shows all the time, while being in school. Curvy girls like Jennifer Hudson and Jazmine Sullivan are in the limelight more and more these days. Are you satisfied with the attention? I was just on the phone with Jennifer Hudson a couple of days ago and I was like, “So yeah, I’ve been working out more and eating less carbs, etc., etc.,” and she’s like, “You better love them thighs, girl. I love my curves.” So you know what, so do I. They are very confident girls so it’s a cool place to be in a community of thigh lovers. Is there anyone who intimidates you in the music industry? Jay-Z. I rap and he’s one of the best rappers that ever lived. So for me to go into the studio with him, that was like, this is gonna make me or break me. I have family that’s from the same neighborhood as him, so I had to prove to my family that I could do what they do. That moment in time was a lot of pressure. ’Cause this just wasn’t my cousin who had been rapping since he was five, this is the real deal. This is Jay-Z. I was shook. Church girls are usually known as being good girls. Do you fall into that category? As a church girl, one of the things that you pride yourself on being is “a good girl.” One of the things that NeYo figured out about me is that I’ve been through some crap. I’ve been through some stuff that really hurt. Good girls don’t allow themselves to be in relationships with guys who aren’t worth their time. I was in a relationship with a guy who I got hurt by, just like any other girl who’s not a church girl. So this album is letting people know, yeah, she may have been brought up in the church, dad may be the deacon, etc., etc., but you know what, she’s been hurt, she’s cried.
One.” Whereas with Nas, all I did was go in the studio, do what felt right, and leave. That song, “Can’t Forget About You,” is not a very perfect song; it’s not a very cut-and-dry, this-is-how-a-songis-written kind of song… It changes keys; it’s kinda all over the place. It’s a beautiful melody and a beautiful song, but it’s not a perfect song. It just kinda happened. Whereas with Jay-Z, nothing sort of kinda happens. You find out the situation, what the song is about, and then it has to be perfect.
The Bad Girls Club or The Real World? The Bad Girls Club is a guilty pleasure. Last movie you saw in the theater? He’s Just Not That Into You When did you have your first kiss? 17 Favorite place to buy shoes? Saks Fifth Avenue, if my mother’s paying. Person you call the most? My best friend, Corey. Song you can’t get out of your head? “Like This,” Kelly Rowland Lady GaGa or Christina Aguilera? They’re both amazing. I can’t choose. Write it down or type it in your phone? Write it down. Favorite gadget? BlackBerry Storm Item you never leave home without? Lip gloss
Do you tend to curse a lot? I don’t think it’s cute. I’ll say stupid stuff like “beans” [in place of an obscenity]. I’ll joke around though, like if I’m doing the voice of somebody, but I’m not really a curser. I don’t knock anybody who does though. What is the main difference between the work ethics of Jay-Z and Nas that you noticed while recording with them? Jay-Z is a perfectionist. Nas isn’t. [With] Jay-Z, I wrote the same song four times and each time it got better and better and better until you came out with “Lost
Paul Wall wants to know: What’s your favorite restaurant? Right now, it’s kinda cheesy. It’s Ruby Foo’s.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ZACH CORDNER
“You know I don’t eat while I’m working. Get that away from me!” Akon shouts to one of his handlers who attempts to serve him food. The singer, born Aliaune Thiam, is focused on the task at hand, which right now is completing a photo shoot for Rap-Up at The London West Hollywood. In the hotel’s veranda suite high above the Sunset Strip, the workaholic is dapperly dressed in a crisp Dolce & Gabbana shirt, dark jeans, and a blue tie. “I admire that look—fast cars, suit, and tie,” says Akon of his James Bondinspired getup.
My idol is Warren Buffett. He’s the richest man in the world.
But the Konvict’s humble beginnings are a far cry from 007. Akon’s family relocated to the U.S. from Senegal when he was seven years old in pursuit of the American Dream. Three charttopping albums, more than a dozen Top 10 hits, and five Grammy nominatons later, he’s become the music industry’s weapon of choice. Just ask his satisfied customers, including Gwen Stefani, Young Jeezy, and T-Pain. As the sun sets over the City of Angels, Akon sits down to a BLT sandwich and French fries, rubbing the salt off each fry one by one. Although in the past he’s come under fire for his onstage antics and criminal record, the “Beautiful” hitmaker bites the bullet when conversing about crafting comeback records for Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, his Trump-like aspirations, and warm homecoming in Africa. Hip-hop’s special agent, whose latest album Freedom is fully loaded with hits, is saving careers, his motherland (“We built our first elementary school in Africa”), and his hard-earned money. But for Akon, the world is not enough. What kind of reception do you get when you go back to visit Africa? I haven’t been nowhere in the country or in the world that do it like Africa does when it comes to Akon. It’s indescribable. You gotta see it. It’s like when the Beatles first came to the U.S. times 10. Ridiculous! Your friend Michael Jackson is planning a career comeback. In your opinion, how can he achieve this? I think for the comeback to really be efficient, he has to personally address his fans. He can no longer be a mystery. There’s a lot of things about him that people don’t know, that they need to know. Like he’s just a humble, cool, down-to-earth, normal person, but you would never know that ’cause there’s no access to Michael. He needs to come out to the front and let his fans really
get to know the man behind the music.
of money and give the money back.
Can you understand why he has to hide himself and his kids in public? He has to because of who he is. He would get trampled [laughs]. Everyone from everywhere would come rushing him. It’s hard, man. It’s a gift, but it’s a curse at the same time.
Kanye West said he’s aspiring to be the next Elvis. Is there anyone whose career you seek to emulate? I listened to a lot of music from a lot of different artists, but growing up I never knew who the artists were. I just admired the songs. That’s why I’m so into the music now. I always felt the songs made the artists. I think I always want to be known as a great song creator, from a song producer to a songwriter. At the end of the day, when the artist is dead and gone, the song still stays here.
You know him better than most people do. What’s something you were surprised to learn about the King of Pop? Normally you would think someone like that is a diva. He was a cool, humble dude. And mad funny, like always just wanna have fun and talk and conversate.
You were also in the studio with Whitney Houston. What’s she like? That’s my girl right there. She’s straight ’hood, but at the same time she can switch it up [laughs]. I love Whitney, man. She’s really down-to-earth. That I can say. She hasn’t lost her roots. T-Pain originally caught a lot of flak for using Auto-Tune. Now everyone from Kanye West to Jennifer Hudson is using it. Did you always see where it was going? Yeah, we knew it was the future way then. As the technology’s growing, music has to grow, so I saw that coming a mile away. I used to watch Alvin and the Chipmunks, I just never knew what process it was they were using. I knew once the kid got a hold of it, it was gonna grow to become a phenomenon. The adults grabbed it and it was over. You’ve run into some trouble with fans at your shows. Has that made you more cautious? Absolutely. ’Cause in the beginning you don’t really know how the media’s gonna take it. The public is always lenient. They understand because they’re regular people. The media always has this sense to overexaggerate the story to where it makes it seem unreal anymore. I had to really be careful because certain things that I do as a normal person are magnetized as a celebrity. I do keep that in mind when I’m performing and when I’m in public.
Which actor would play you in a movie? Mekhi Phifer Favorite holiday? Thanksgiving Martha Stewart or Rachael Ray? Martha Stewart. She’s a convict. Strangest body part you’ve signed? Pubic hairs If you could sign any act to your label, it would be… U2. Most prized possession? Dreamland. That’s my house in Atlanta. Most expensive car you own? Lamborghini Murciélago Favorite TV show? 24 Celebrity you’ve been mistaken for? Tyrese. He gets it too. Song you wish you produced? “The Way I Are.” I love Timbaland. He did a lot of records I wish I did.
Which business moguls do you admire? I love [Donald] Trump and [Russell] Simmons. My idol is Warren Buffett. Why Buffett? He’s the richest man in the world. And Bill Gates too! With the Bill [& Melinda] Gates Foundation and all the incredible stuff they’ve done on the foundation side. I try to model my foundation, Konfidence, after that. I always admire people like that, who actually make a lot
Christina Milian wants to know: How do you come up with these crazy hooks that play on the radio constantly? It’s really simple. You just find a catchy phrase with a melody that really matches the track. It’s a win-win all the time.
GIVE ME ANYTHING I CAN’T HANDLE.
Prior to leaving for a week of overseas touring, the surprisingly low-key, but visibly flashy rapper, took a second to sit down and reminisce about being a hype man for 2 Live Crew, how he stays motivated in light of the economic downturn, and his fascination with Lil Wayne’s studio insomnia. Despite his ringtone-ready singles, this Floridian is all natural. Sophomore albums tend to make or break an artist’s career. Do you feel any added pressure being that this is your second time around? I honestly don’t feel any pressure. My first single sold more than 636,000 [units] in a week. I’m just grateful to have loyal fans all over the world. I feel like God won’t give me anything I can’t handle.
Which artists inspire you? I love a lot of soulful music. I like Marvin Gaye. I’m a big fan of Jimmy Hendrix, James Brown, Michael Jackson. They all inspired me to want to make music. As far as hip-hop goes, Run-DMC, LL Cool J. I used to really like the flava of the Fat Boys. I used to always bump OutKast, Biggie, and ‘Pac—I still do. How do you keep in such good shape? I used to play a lot of basketball, that was my first love. Now I just go to the gym. I used to go to the gym a lot. I would stay in the gym for like two hours every day. I do a lot of push-ups too. You just gotta create a routine and stick to it. If you did push-ups for a month, you would see a big difference. What music do you listen to when you work out? I really don’t listen to music when I work out. I don’t need that. You gotta stay
focused on the actual task of exercising. Plus, I like to motivate myself. Music tends to drown your thoughts when you’re working out. How was performing your first rap gig with 2 Live Crew? They said I could perform well and would be a great hype man. They were going to Hawaii to do a concert and they needed a hype man. So I was like, “Hey, here’s my chance to go to Hawaii.” That was my first taste of seeing girls jumping on stage doing things unimaginable. It was pretty funny too because people would want my autograph thinking I was a member. In these trying times, how does it feel to know your fans might be strapped for cash, but they’re still paying for your songs? It’s humbling. I try to take the initiative to give when I can, whether it be Thanksgiving, Christmas, or whatever. I’ve definitely seen this recession affect a lot of close friends and family. You’ve worked with everyone from Ne-Yo to Rick Ross. Who has had the biggest impact on you? I see so much that’s gifted in each one of them dudes. Being with Timbaland, I got a chance to see that some guys like to be alone to get into their craft. He takes it real seriously. He peeps your vibe before he opens up. I got a chance to work with Lil Wayne. Wayne never leaves the studio. You might be asleep, wake up, and Wayne still in the same studio chair. Will.i.am, he’s a perfectionist. I feel like all these guys have helped me get to where I am now, just off the strength of seeing what it takes and being around success. Do you have any in-studio rituals? I’m not one of those guys who comes to the studio and just freestyles tracks. I already have verses written or I’ll just chill in the studio and write it there. I also don’t need much to get it going either—a bottle of water and a good engineer at the most. I don’t need candles burning or anything ridiculous like that. People may not realize how much work goes into having a successful rap career. On average, how many hours of sleep do you get a week? I get about 12 to 20 hours of sleep a week—that’s about it. Prior to having a deal, I used to sleep like an hour [and] 30 minutes a night. I would go out and only come home to change my clothes,
never to lay in the bed. What advice would you give to an aspiring MC? Definitely put God first. You have to be thankful for all your trials and tribulations because that’s what makes or breaks you. If you do make it to that next level, and something were to happen while you’re on top, you know how to fight your way back up because you’ve done it once already. The closer I got to my dream, the worse things got. I used to travel to L.A. with no money on the Greyhound. I would take any job I could get, getting paid $4 an hour when I should have been getting at least $8. Every single dollar went to the studio.
Celebrity you’ve been mistaken for? LL Cool J Most famous name in your cell phone? Flavor Flav Twitter or MySpace? MySpace 50 Cent or Rick Ross? I hope everything is resolved. It’s never fun when beef ends in a body bag. Timbaland or Dr. Dre? Timbaland. That’s my boy. LeBron James or Kobe Bryant? LeBron as beast, Kobe setting records. Tropicana or Minute Maid? Minute Maid Last book you read? My rhyme book Favorite superhero? He-Man Do you like them thick or thin? I like beautiful women, period.
Asher Roth wants to know: What’s your favorite cereal? Frosted Flakes
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
“ I FEEL LIKE GOD WON’T
There is a falsity in hip-hop, a vicious stereotype that the genre solely promotes hooliganism and glorifies the common thug. Fortunately, Flo Rida is crushing that misconception by producing history-breaking tracks that lack talk of gunplay, dope dealers, and the occasional funeral. Returning from the lab with the secret hitmaking formula, Flo seems to have his head focused on success. His second No. 1 single, “Right Round,” eclipsed the all-time one-week digital sales record, selling 636,000 units. The 29-year-old Dade County, Fla., native’s sophomore album, R.O.O.T.S. (Route of Overcoming the Struggle), is packed with enough infectious rhymes to continue his assault on the charts.
THE MIDAS TOUCH RAP-UP.COM 47
HUNGRY FOR MORE
Multi-tasking is no problem for Jesse McCartney. The 22-year-old singeractor could be on set of one of his TV shows (Greek), voicing cartoon characters (Theodore from Alvin and the Chipmunks), or writing his—or someone else’s—next hit single (he co-wrote Leona Lewis’ smash “Bleeding Love”). While his Zack Morris blonde hair and Prince Charming blue eyes could have easily typecast him into a box, he’s played a variety of characters on TV and vocalized a variety of sentiments while recording in the studio.
I’VE EXPERIENCED ENOUGH WITH THE FEMALES TO KNOW WHAT TO WRITE ABOUT.
At this moment, the New York native (and current California resident) is on the way to a rehearsal for a performance at the NCAA Final Four games in Detroit. With not a minute to waste, he’s conducting this interview, diplomatically praising mentors and artfully downplaying anything that could border on scandal. Aside from promoting his latest album Departure: Recharged, Jesse is currently focused on turning his newly purchased house into a home with his penchant for the culinary arts. Whether he’s feeling fancy or it’s a PB&J kind of day, this teen heartthrob’s plate is always full. How did the remix to “How Do You Sleep?” with Ludacris come about? I was working with Sean Garrett, who is a renowned R&B songwriter. After I did the single, he called me and asked what I thought about Ludacris jumping on this record with me and doing it as a feature, and I was stoked. I’m a huge fan of his. So Ludacris got in the studio, did his 16 bars, and then the next week we were shooting the video.
Did you work well together? Yeah. Ludacris is a total professional and he’s very anxious to hear what you have to say; he wants to hear all of your ideas. He’s very creative, obviously, and he’s one of those real visual rappers.
MAKEUP BY CARLENE K FOR MAKEUPEXPERT.COM PHOTOGRAPHY BY CAMERON LAZERINE
Let’s get into some rumors. What was the nature of your relationship with Aubrey O’Day? [Laughs] Sounds like you were Googling or Wikipedia-ing from a year ago. Actually, we’re still not totally clear on it… One night after this big show in New York, we went out. We never really did anything. It was like my band and her band. It was nothing—literally, it became this huge thing. Well, she is going to come out with her solo album eventually. If she asks you to collaborate with her, will you? I’m open to collaborating with anyone and everyone. At this point, who am I,
Location provided by Cantoni www.cantoni.com
really, to say yes and no to anybody? I just finished working with Toni Braxton. Did you write songs for Toni’s new album? Yeah, I wrote a few records. Atlantic [Records] is doing it… She hasn’t put out a record in like five years. They’re trying to kind of make a big statement with her new record. There’s a lot of really talented people [working on it]. What was it like to write for someone that’s almost twice your age? I think she’s great. Her records were huge when I was six or seven years old and I remember listening to her when I was a kid, so it was kind of surreal writing for her now. She’s still got it. She looks amazing and she sounds great too. No question about that. But when it comes to the content of the songs, can you relate? I’m a melody and lyrics guy, so I try my best to tap into the female perspective. The songs that I wrote were kind of relationship-based. One is more of a fun record. There’s another that’s more dramatic about being in a relationship. I may be half her age, but you know, I’m 22. I’ve experienced enough with the females to know what to write about. Twenty-two is definitely grown. And you’ve moved into a new house in the Hollywood Hills. What’s your plan for decorating? It’s pretty much finished. It’s very midcentury modern, kind of sleek-looking and minimalist. I’m there by myself so I don’t need a lot of stuff. But I kind of like that style—that kind of ’50s, ’60s look.
Sounds good. What’s a simple go-to comfort food for you? Probably a toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich. What would you rather be known as, a singer or an actor? I don’t think I’d rather be known as anything. I’d rather stay as arbitrary as possible, sort of mix it up and keep people on their toes. One minute I want to be making hit records and the next I want to be making some great movies or TV shows. I’d like to be known as an entertainer.
Favorite restaurant? Kazu Sushi in Studio City, Calif. Commercial or private? Private, but that’s not always an option. Nike Dunks or adidas Superstars? adidas Favorite chef? Anthony Bourdain Best birthday gift you’ve received? A day off! Title of your future autobiography? How Did I Sleep? Current cologne of choice? I don’t wear cologne. L.A. girls or New York girls? New York Favorite TV mom? Lori Laughlin in 90210 Most famous name in your cell phone? My little brother Timmy. Not too long from now, he will be the most famous person in my phone.
Do you get a chance to stay home and cook? Yeah, I have an amazing kitchen and I try to cook as much as I can. I do a lot of dining as well. I try to go out and dine at different restaurants that I haven’t been to. I love food in general and I’m kind of a foodie. I love to cook and watching the Food Network is like a day off for me. Say you’re trying to seduce a woman… What’s your closer meal? Oh man, here we go. I think a nice bottle of wine is always key, a nice bottle of red wine. And then it depends. Because in L.A., you don’t find a lot of people that eat meat. So I would maybe make an amazing salad with fresh fruits—sort of an arugula salad with feta and raspberries and vinaigrette. And then for an actual meal, an actual protein, maybe a casserole with cheese and bacon and pineapple.
Ciara wants to know: Can we co-write a song together? Absolutely. I’m a big fan and I’d love to get in the studio and write together.
Luck Lady When your last name is Luckett, luck runs through your blood. Yet despite her namesake and the allure of Las Vegas, LeToya Luckett isn’t tempted to blow her cash on blackjack tables or slot machines. “I don’t like losing my money, hun,” the Houston native says with a playful chuckle. A fan of lavish designers like Balenciaga, Christian Louboutin, and Gucci, the former Destiny’s Child member, who owns her own clothing boutiques, jumps at every opportunity to slip on pricey wares. At the stunning Red Rock Casino, Resort, & Spa, not far off the Strip, the chanteuse takes a spin on the roulette table, sparkles under a Swarovski crystal chandelier, reclines poolside by the clear blue water, basks in the red glow of the Cherry nightclub, and retreats by night to the plush VIP Strip Suite, all while donning such chic threads as a Collette Dinnigan fringe dress, a studded Philipp Plein head-turner, and a glamorous Lanvin sensation.
Although LeToya, whose sophomore album Lady Love is a sure-bet, has a bit more self-control on the casino floor (“I know how to walk away”), when it comes to high-fashion risks, this lucky lady goes all in.
Photography by Gavin Thomas Styling by Brea Stinson for Balan Inc. Hair by Ursula Stephen for Motions/Epiphany Artist Group Makeup by AJ Crimson for Kissable Couture
DRESS BY ARDEN B.; SHOES PROVIDED BY PETIT PETON; NECKLACES AND BANGLES, STYLIST’S OWN; CLUSTER JEWELED EARRINGS AND NECKLACE, VINTAGE
FRINGE DRESS BY COLLETTE DINNIGAN PROVIDED BY BARNEYS NEW YORK, LAS VEGAS; SHOES BY GIUSEPPE ZANOTTI; BRACELETS BY SCOTT KAY; EARRINGS BY L’IMPASSE
GREEN DRESS BY LANVIN PROVIDED BY BARNEYS NEW YORK, LAS VEGAS; SHOES, STYLIST’S OWN; HEADBAND BY PINK PEWTER; VINTAGE BEADED EARRINGS AND RING, STYLIST’S OWN
For behind-the-scenes footage from LeToya Luckett’s photo shoot, visit Rap-Up.com
SWIMSUIT BY MYCHAEL KNIGHT; BELT BY H&M; SHOES BY FENDI; NECKLACE AND CHARM BY WHITE TRASH CHARMS; EARRINGS BY PATRICIA FIELD; RING BY SCOTT KAY; BANGLES BY FOREVER 21
You don’t have to be a high roller to indulge in the opulence of Las Vegas’ Red Rock Casino, Resort, & Spa. Enjoy the breathtaking canyon views while relaxing poolside, dine at one of 10 diverse restaurants, partake in the exhilarating nightlife, and unwind in the modern guest suites. For more information on the billion-dollar desert oasis located just off the Strip, visit redrocklasvegas.com.
STUDDED DRESS BY PHILIPP PLEIN PROVIDED BY ENSEMBLE AT ENCORE LAS VEGAS; SHOES AND EARRINGS, STYLIST’S OWN; BANGLES BY FOREVER 21
DRESS BY L’IMPASSE; SHOES BY DOLLHOUSE; EARRINGS, STYLIST’S OWN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
Chairman of the Board
It’s hard not to look down on your competitors in the rap game if you’re ambitious, confident, and stand at 6 feet 6 inches. Slim Thug has the build of an NBA power forward with a nonchalant attitude and a constant what-do-you-want-from-me look on his mug. A recent addition to E1 Music, formerly Koch Records, Slim prides himself on the creative control he was able to have on his second solo album, Boss of All Bosses. “That title is not about me being better than everyone else because they don’t matter,” he says, listlessly tapping away on his iPhone. “It’s about me being in charge of me.” His selfpossessed demeanor does more than just push his career—it moves him to reach out to others who are trying to achieve greatness too. Though he’s not the loudest mouth in the business, he’s got an opinion on politics, love, and everything in between. And if you ask him, he’ll tell it like it is.
If I were to partner up on a venture, it would be with Steve Jobs.
Who is your favorite corporate boss? It’s got to be Bill Gates or Oprah because they really get into the money. Nah, actually Steve Jobs is a boss too. There’s so many of ’em. But if I were to partner up on a venture, it would be with Steve Jobs. I really do think he’s got the future on lock. He’s killin’ ’em with the iPhones. What are you doing to cut back during the recession? Oh man, there are a lot of moves I want to make in real estate that I’m holding back on. I’m just afraid to put a lot of money into anything. I think it’s going to take a few years for America to get back to a good place. I have made investments when it comes to properties, but right now, everyone is holding onto their money real tight. I’d love to open a soul food restaurant in Houston in the future, when things get better. I know there’s going to be a lot of things done differently now that Obama is making moves. From one boss to the next, how do you feel about the way President Obama is dealing with foreign policy? I think it’s much smarter. Bush, from the beginning, came in there like a bully, saying things like, “If you don’t do this, we’re going to kick your ass.” If someone said that to me, I’d say, “Fuck you,” too. Threats don’t fix anything. You need to know how to talk to people if you’re going to be president. You honor your hometown a lot. You’ve worked with Beyoncé before, who’s also from Houston. Are you supportive of other H-Town artists? Yes, in a big way. There’s a lot of regional loyalty over here. Anybody who is really working hard and wants
some help, I’m always ready to work with them, free of charge. It’s really important to me to help people in any way I can. I think I’ll be rewarded in another place. I’ll stick my neck out for someone to a certain point, until they start taking advantage of me. Who are the most underrated producers right now? Drumma Boy. He makes really good music, but I don’t think he has that look that everyone else has, like Kanye West and them. But him and Mista Lee, who had a lot of hits in our region. Is image that important when you’re a producer? In the rap game, it’s definitely important. I know a lot of ugly-ass dudes that can rap well, but they don’t get no money [laughs]. Nah, I’m playin’, but it’s kind of true. If you got the look, the females might like you more, or if you look like someone other people might want to be, that helps. You’re tall for a rapper. Do you think that the shorter a hip-hop artist is, the more insecure he is? Oh, the short man complex? I don’t know. It might be. I do see a lot of short dudes talk a lot of shit. It is like that a little bit. I guess they could have the little man complex. How much shit do you talk? I don’t talk too much shit. If I do talk a little bit, it’s the truth. What’s the current situation with you and LeToya Luckett? That’s my ex-girlfriend. We don’t talk no more like that, but we’re still friends. We still talk on the phone from time to time. I keep up with her career and she keeps up with mine. We support each other. She’s cool; we had a good relationship. We’re not fighting at all, but we’re not together.
anything, someone I can really kick it with. I’ve dealt with many beautiful women that I just can’t have a good conversation with. What’s a topic of conversation that a woman could bring up to immediately grab your attention? Sex. My focus would be on her when she says something about [her favorite sexual positions]. That’s not too forward. My first baby mother, we slept together the first night, but we stayed together for three years. If you click, you click. If you grown, you can do what you want to do. I don’t judge nobody. If you know what you want, go for it.
Favorite breakfast food? French toast You hate to be called… My government name. Everyone should call me Slim, except my mother. Grey Goose or Cîroc? Grey Goose Favorite gadget? iPhone Favorite charity to donate to? I bring truckloads of toys to the projects sometimes and donate straight to the ’hood. R&B chick you’d like to wife? Alicia Keys Favorite music video? Mine. “I Run” directed by Mr. Boomtown. Favorite YouTube video? I watch a lot of new artists. Favorite sports commentator? The guys from ESPN2’s 1st and 10. What’s on your iPod? Some ’90s rap, a lot of Tupac.
Were you planning to get married? We were back in the day. Is it weird that people know about the nature of your relationship? Well, I didn’t put all our business out there. We were open… I mean, I have nothing to hide at all. Some things were kept under wraps, but that was out of respect for her. I’ll talk about anything; I’m really open. I wouldn’t go through all that trouble to keep things quiet. It’s about the other half—whatever the other person would want. I don’t give a damn. If it were up to me, I’d say anything. So you’re single right now. What do you look for in a woman? She’s gotta be beautiful, but also somebody I can just have a blast with. She’s gotta be a friend more than
Bun B wants to know: Do you think you’re fresher than me? How dare you! I’m the freshest muthafucka on the face of the planet, and I know you and [your wife] Queenie can’t stand it [laughs].
LIFE OF THE PARTY
WORDS BY DEVIN LAZERINE | PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
At her festive Rap-Up cover shoot in New York City, under the watchful eye of a burly bodyguard, Ciara arches her back and teeters in high heels while holding balloons and taking aim at a piñata. Her Maltipoo, Tyson, and teacup schnauzer, Tinkerbell, run around the fourthfloor studio, as The-Dream’s Love vs. Money provides the soundtrack. Today, the 23-year-old has traded in her Jordans for Christian Louboutins, but despite the high-price upgrade, she’s still the same tomboy from Atlanta, Ga. Her favorite word to use is still “fun,” she still has trust issues, and even with prodding, she continues to shy away from discussing her love life. Back home in ATL a couple weeks later, wearing her preferred hoodie, white Hanes T-shirt, and baggy gray sweatpants, CiCi is rehearsing for her European tour with Britney Spears. Known to be guarded, the selfdescribed Army brat always played it safe in interviews because she was afraid the media would misconstrue her words. But with her third album Fantasy Ride, the Grammy winner is blowing out the candles one by one. “It took me a little time to become more confident with myself,” she reveals. “I don’t really care as much anymore about the small things.” While she’s not quite partying like a rock star (she refrains from drinking and smoking), Ciara is tearing back the wrapping paper just enough to enjoy the celebration…even if she only has one drink. Your image is much sexier this time around. Did it take you a while to get comfortable with revealing more of your body? Well, it just took me a while to embrace the woman in me. I’m at a
point now where I’m a young woman and I’m embracing my womanhood. Certain things that I may do and wear are a part of my womanhood and me growing and getting a little older. Is the new look part of a larger emancipation for you? It’s just really me showing the woman in me. Everything that you’ll see at this point for me on the Fantasy Ride is a part of the emancipation of me. There’s a lot that I haven’t shared with the world, and I’m excited about it because that’s what this album is about. Back when I released my first album, I was much younger so there’s a lot of things I wouldn’t do at that time period. Now that I’m a bit older and my body feels different, I feel different about things. With all those changes, it’s kinda like what I do is a reflection of that, or some of the things that I am doing creatively are a reflection of that. You’ve said in the past that it’s hard for you to trust people. Do you still have trust issues? Oh, absolutely. It’s very hard to trust people because you really never know their motives. You never know where a person is coming from. I’ve seen it enough times to where the person can be really cool and seem like your closest friend and they are doing something you never would imagine or expect from them, whether it’s talking about you or being around you to get information about you. It’s really weird; it’s scary. Do you still surround yourself with a small inner circle? Absolutely, four to five people. It’s funny ’cause I don’t include my family in that circle, but they are included in a sense. They would be considered one unit, like my mom, my dad, my grandmother, and my grandfather. Then the other four are my closest friend Jasper [Cameron], then my other close friend La La [Vazquez], Missy [Elliott]’s one of my closest friends, and a young girl named Erica [Hudson] that I get along with very well. You’ve remained pretty controversyfree throughout your career. Is that something you’re conscious about? As of now, things have been pretty simple for me. When things do happen, they somewhat happen organically. I will say that over the
years, especially when I was younger, I was a bit more censored or a bit more conscious. That’s who I naturally was. What I have realized over the years is that some things that can be personal become controversial and you have no control over that. I’ve seen it happen to people, whether it’s a breakup or whether it’s drama in a relationship or whether it’s just something that happens at a show. I think a lot of those things happen whenever they do. Have you let down your guard? Oh, absolutely. ’Cause heaven knows when I started with my first record, I was very, very, very protective. I’ve always been a very private person away from my music, so that will never change. At that time period, I was adjusting to the world we call music industry and entertainment. I’m in a new space I’ve never been in before. You feel you want to protect yourself, even with the media. You’re so scared to say something because you’re afraid they’re gonna take it and twist it. There’s so much you can worry about, but nowadays it’s kinda like it is what it is. My intentions are to be the best that I can be and to have fun. You can’t stop rumors, you can’t stop people saying negative things, you can’t stop that stuff, so I’m not gonna let it stop me. I’mma keep on with my Super C coat on. Do you enjoy seeing yourself in tabloids and on blogs? It’s definitely cool when people are into you, no matter what they say, the negative and the positive. I feel like when people sit around and create negative things all day, either there must be something wrong with them or you must mean something for them to keep talking about you. It’s like you sure are important enough for them to be spending time out of their day mentioning your name. It’s definitely cool when the kids keep up with you and your fans follow you. I love it. I live for it. Have you ever had to disguise yourself when going out in public? You must get recognized everywhere you go. Yeah, I just dumb it out. I put a hoodie and baggy sweatpants on. The only way you’d be able to tell I was a girl is if I pulled my hoodie off. Just total tomboy it out. I always keep my head down. It’s very simple, nothing dramatic.
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IT JUST TOOK ME A WHILE TO EMBRACE THE WOMAN IN ME.
Rumors of dating 50 Cent. Beyoncé comparisons. Subliminal disses from her peers. Sometimes it’s too much for Ciara Princess Harris to handle. That’s when she calls on Super C, her inner strength that helps her overcome professional and personal bumps in the road. Less Barbie and more Wonder Woman, Super C comes with bionic powers, a showstopping wardrobe, and a sexed-up image (just check her tantalizing “Love Sex Magic” video with Justin Timberlake).
THERE’S A LOT THAT I HAVEN’T SHARED WITH THE WORLD.
How many sips before you get tipsy? I’m just naturally off the wall. I don’t need anything else to enhance that. It’s just too scary for me. I fear not having control over myself and I know that it’s possible to drink to the point where you can be in that state. I’d rather be the sober one in the room. Do you enjoy going to parties? Now I do. Back when I used to go to them, it’d be for work, and I’d be 30 minutes in and ready to go home. I used to be like that, even at my birthday parties back when I was younger. Not too long ago, I was not really crazy about parties. But now there’s so much to celebrate when you go out. I live for the music, so that’s what I do when I do go clubbin’. I dance. I feel normal. It’s a cool way to release things. You collaborated with Justin Timberlake on “Love Sex Magic.” What do you think of him as a person? He’s so amazing. He’s so humble, so down to earth, and he’s very, very confident and passionate about his work, and that’s what I love and respect about him. I think as artists we have to be very sure about what we do. You gotta be confident and you gotta be passionate because your fans feel that when they watch your show. Was there any sexual tension on the video set? Noooo. Working on the set together, everything kinda flowed and it was organic. It was one of the most easygoing shoots I’ve ever done in my career and a lot of fun. When it came to the moments when we got a bit more touchy-touchy, we were just going for it to make the best video we could possibly make. You want it to feel good. You don’t want nothing to feel contrived. Everything just kinda flowed. What does your family think of the “Love Sex Magic” video? They love it. It’s so funny because years ago this probably would’ve
been like, “Oh no, no, no!” My mother freaked out when she saw me dancing on top of the car in “Oh” ’cause I was a baby. But now I’m getting older, I’m a young woman, and our conversations change. My daddy’s like, “That’s hot, suga!” He calls me suga. He watches the video like three times a day. My mom’s like, “Oh, my gosh! The video is sick!” She loves it. They’re both excited about it. And my grandma too. Young Jeezy lends a hand on “Never Ever.” What’s your relationship with him like? Jeezy is really cool. I’ve known him for years. Back when I started my Goodies album, he and I kinda worked in the same crew. You notice in my “Goodies” video, he’s in the car. I’m like, “You know I put you on the map.” I joke with him like that. I know I can call him up. We definitely have a cool relationship. He’s definitely one of my homies from Atlanta. Would you say he’s like a brother to you? Well, I always joke with him and tell him that, but we don’t talk as much for it to be that type of relationship. I tell him he’s one of my brothers from afar. He always kicks it to me straight. He’s down to earth. Your love life is always a hot topic. Are you dating 50 Cent? Set the record straight. I’m dating my music as of now. I’m in love with my music. Did you and 50 ever date? Did we ever date? No, we always been just cool. On a friendly level or romantic level? Friendly. Friendly, yeah. Are you dating anyone right now, besides your music? My music [laughs]. What does CiCi look for in a man? Someone that’s confident, understanding, and loving. Confidence and being secure with yourself kinda run hand in hand… Someone who has their own thing going. Did I say fun? I like someone who likes to keep themselves together. Has a celebrity ever asked you out through your people?
Yeah. That’s happened before. Have you ever done that? I haven’t done that. I don’t think that’s cool, for ladies to be reaching out like that [laughs]. What’s the best birthday gift you’ve received? Some diamond earrings and a bracelet. Who gave you that? Umm… A good friend. 50 Cent? No! You’re crazy! [Laughs] Do guys approach you? Do you find that they’re intimidated by you? Well, what’s so funny is it’s very common for guys not to really say anything to you. It happened to me sometime this year. A guy tried to talk to me through somebody else. They look at you and kind of insinuate that, but don’t ever really come up to you. Maybe it’s because of the people you have around you. The Internet was buzzing about Keri Hilson’s “Turnin’ Me On (Remix),” which includes the lyrics: “Your vision cloudy if you think that you the best/ You can dance, she can sing, but need to move it to the left/ She need to go have some babies/ She need to sit down, she fake … Go ’head and tell these folks how long I’ve been writing your songs/ I been puttin’ you on/ Just check the credits, ho, and if you want me, you can find me in Decatur, ho.” People thought she was dissing you and Beyoncé on the record. What did you think when you first heard it? Well, I mean, you can interpret that song in many different ways. My first time hearing it, I just thought like if it was, I didn’t think it would be cool for us ladies to be doing that to each other. It’s easy to misconstrue, but to my understanding I know people were really saying it was about Beyoncé. Whatever the case, [Keri] ended up saying that it wasn’t. I just had to leave it at that. Keri called into Atlanta radio station V103 to apologize to you for any misinterpretation. Do you accept her apology? Uhh, I just—whatever people say, I’ll
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You don’t drink or smoke. Is that right? Correct. If I drink, it will be at a birthday party or a big celebration, but it will be like a Malibu, something that’s fruity. I can’t do the alcohol thing. It doesn’t work for me.
For behind-the-scenes footage from Ciaraâ€™s cover shoot, visit Rap-Up.com
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DRESS BY ALEXANDER WANG; BODY CHAIN BY BLISS LAU; EARRING BY CHRIS HABANA
IT’S VERY HARD TO TRUST PEOPLE BECAUSE YOU REALLY NEVER KNOW THEIR MOTIVES.
You’ve worked with Keri in the past. What do you think of her? I’ve always thought she was a dope writer. I knew her back when she was really trying to get in pocket and become an artist, and I know she had been trying way longer than I had back then. I knew she had been around in Atlanta. When I met her, I thought she was talented. I thought she could sing very well. Back in the day, I used to ask her to sing for me. I would be like, “Can you sing?” I forgot what song she used to sing, but vocally I thought she was crazy. As a writer, I thought she was dope. We did one song together on my first album. That was back when we were kinda around each other. You did a remix to Beyoncé’s “Diva.” Did you ever hear from her after recording that? Nope. What made you want to jump on the song? I wanted to approach it like a rapper would do. That beat reminded me of the “A Milli” beat by Lil Wayne. I love doing stuff like that. There’s a little rapper deep down inside of me [laughs]. It’s kinda cheesy, but I love expressing myself and that’s also me as a writer just having fun. With the “Diva” record, I just wanted to approach it like a rapper would do and just have fun with it and treat it that way. I thought the beat knocked hard, so I just wanted to hop on there and have fun with it. You can’t seem to escape the Beyoncé comparisons. What do you make of them? I think they’re funny. I think it’s entertaining. All you can do is laugh at stuff like that. I know what work I put in to what I do and I know where I get my inspiration from. My whole goal is to do something different. I think I would be cheating myself if I was to emulate anything else that’s been done before me or that is being done now. I would be cheating myself and I’d be cheating my fans. That’s not a real artist to me. I know what work I put in to what I do and I know where I get my inspiration from and it’s definitely not the references that they put up on the Internet. People live for it. Negative energy travels
faster than positive energy. Whoever it was, for them to dig deep down and find all those references, that’s ridiculous. That would be a shame if I did that. I stay in the room and do me. I don’t go and look at someone else for references to do anything. I’m very, very passionate about what I do and it’s important for me to come with my own energy. You opened for Britney Spears on her Circus tour in Europe. As a fellow entertainer, what do you think of Britney? Everything about Britney makes you like her. I feel like she’s a star. She’s got that energy that’s just magnetic. She just glows. It’s not just one thing about her that makes her cool, whether it’s her personality or her energy. As a dancer and as an artist, I can say I appreciate her level of production. She never fails to deliver when it comes to her shows. What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned from being in the music industry? You can’t trust everybody. You have to always remember, at the end of the day, you’re in a business, so you have to make decisions and work as if you’re in a business. A lot of times you can get things confused, whether it’s somebody you’re cool with or if they work with you. You just gotta be careful. On a more positive note, you gotta have fun. And take a second to sleep [laughs]. That’s important. If you could go back in time and tell the 18-year-old Ciara something about the future, what would you say? Take your time! Take your time! Take your time, girl! There’s a lot of nice guys in this world. You ain’t gotta rush into a relationship. You don’t have to rush, period. Patience is everything, but you learn that as you get older. What has been the happiest day of your life? Having my first No. 1 single in my career, “Goodies.” Woohoo! That was awesome. That was huge! I was actually graduating from high school and had an interview where I was asked, “Where do you see yourself a year from now?” I was like, “I see myself having a No. 1 song on the Billboard charts and selling three or four million records.” And heaven knows I had more than one No. 1 single and I sold millions of records.
Jordans or Louboutins? [Sings] I can rock stilettos, but I’d rather rock them J’z. Favorite junk food? Houston’s brownie and ice cream. A brownie with walnuts and almonds in it. It’s stupid. Favorite superhero? Batman If you could have one superpower, it would be… To stop war. Wildest fantasy? I don’t know if I could tell you that one [laughs]. Fashion icon? Madonna. Jennifer Lopez always makes good fashion choices too. Sleep in pajamas or in the nude? Pajamas Secret hobby? Riding on motorcycles. I have a Can-Am Spyder. Career you want to emulate? Michael Jackson TV shows you’re addicted to? Real World/ Road Rules Challenge and Making the Band 4
Christina Milian wants to know: How did you get so fit? You look great! I train five to six days a week for one hour and I do a little weight training. I probably eat five to eight meals a day, depending on how long my day is. Small meals. It helps to speed up my metabolism.
Styling by Lysa Cooper for Brydges Mackinney Assistant Styling by Anna A. Shimonis Hair by Kiyah Wright for Muze Agency Makeup by Yolonda Frederick for MAC Cosmetics
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just let that be your word and let that be that [laughs].
photography by Kai Regan
Although he’s no longer bullying kids on the schoolyard, Rick Ross is the same ol’ Boss he’s been since middle school. Whether he’s directing a board meeting or just impressing some fine females, Ross remains all about his business. Hip-hop’s commander-in-chief loosens up his tie and leads Rap-Up down his path to greatness, one colossal step at a time. Words by Jorteh Senah Photography by Gavin Thomas
The way Ross pantomimes, while a photographer snaps away in a loft in New York City’s posh SoHo district, makes one think he practices his poses behind closed doors. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if he does, for the Miami-bred rapper’s meticulous and highly organized nature aptly correlates with his macho moniker, The Boss. He carries himself in a much more professional manner than your average MC, apologizing for any delays or inconveniences that occurred in acquiring this interview and dodging prying questions with the guile of a seasoned politician. From the looks of it, his image is everything. But as Ross sees it, if he continues to make good music, his image will take care of itself. After all, if Lil Wayne kissed Baby and sold a million records in a week, Ross can kiss naysayers goodbye with the release of his third LP, Deeper Than Rap. It’s an effort that the larger-than-life star hopes will cement his position amongst rap’s elite, which he’ll have no problem doing considering it’s his third consecutive No. 1 album. “You got to understand, man, when you’re somebody who understands business,” he begins, “all you need is the opportunity.” And plenty of those have been knocking on Ross’ door. The first single off Deeper Than Rap is called “Magnificent.” How does one live a magnificent lifestyle? Really, it’s somebody whose mind state is in a space where they are comfortable with who they are. It has nothing to do with material things or financial things. I feel like sometimes the simple things make life magnificent.
You have another song on your album called “Murder Mami,” which features Foxy Brown. How did that collaboration come about? You already know, that’s natural. We just made it happen. What’s the nature of your relationship with Foxy? At one point you guys were rumored to be engaged. It was rumors, man. We just making music. So you’re not married? Nah, I’m single. Are there any females in the industry that you consider attractive and would like to meet? Uh… There’s a lot of beautiful women, but I don’t have any serious interests right now. I ain’t even going to front. You’re giving the politically correct answers. Of course, but it’s serious. It’s like going on a video set. It’s a lot of beautiful women there, but after you do that for so long, you get over that. If it ain’t nothing serious, I don’t even entertain it. A few rappers that were signed to Def Jam have made statements that things went awry at the label because L.A. Reid is now overseeing projects instead of Jay-Z. You’re signed to Def Jam, what’s your opinion? What the fuck does an executive have to do with you in the studio with a hit record? I made hit records without anybody. That’s how I make my music. I ain’t put shit in anybody else’s hands. I’m responsible for my shit. That’s the difference between me and anybody else that talk like that. So as far as you see it, it’s business as usual over at Def Jam? As long as I got budgets to handle the business that I need to handle, that’s what I’m focused on. I love the machine that I’m involved in and it’s most definitely working for me. But you got to know how to work it. Outside of music, what are some of your entrepreneurial efforts? We do a lot of things. We partnered up with some young kids who had visions of being chefs. Me and NFL running back Willis McGahee, we gave them that start. Was this your way of giving back to your community in Miami? Yeah, these kids from a culinary school, they put the proposition
together. And they felt like they wanted to ask some other young entrepreneurs in the community [to be a part of it]. It was something that was real easy, and it felt good to see their dreams come true and watch them open the doors and serve their first meal. When it comes to fashion, who is your favorite designer? Man, I love different styles and flavors, and I appreciate all kinds of styles. I love what Louis Vuitton do. I’m a big fan of the shades and sneakers. I splash my own swag with denim jackets and a top or whatever. I believe in really stepping out there and doing my thing. A lot of times I may do something that’s customtailored, if not, I may just throw on some Polo jeans and shell-toe adidas. 50 Cent said you talk about wearing Gucci and Louis Vuitton suits, but they are only made in an Italian cut. He said they can’t even fit him, far less you. I’mma tell him, “Hey, that’s what I do.” I get it custom tailored. I could get shit made. I know people. It’s unfortunate that he doesn’t take advantage of Louis Vuitton and Gucci and dresses like a monkey. He needs a stylist; he needs to retain Groovey Lew [Ross’ fashion stylist]. Why do you feel Eminem never gets involved in 50’s beefs? Because he knows  is a monkey. He’s Eminem’s personal monkey. Eminem is a genius for signing the monkey. Once Eminem is through with him and Jimmy [Iovine]’s through with him, he may end up on Maybach Music and be my monkey. Like it or not, 50 Cent has become a household name. Do you think he’s lost his street credibility in the process? He doesn’t have street credibility. His days of having that are over. What about his claim that he was shot nine times? You’re a journalist, you know he wasn’t shot nine times. Fifth grade kids know that, so you know that. Don’t get it twisted. We all like a good story and they come in different forms and fashions. That’s what I think it boils down to. You’ve worked with Kanye West and know him better than most. What do you think of the Louis Vuitton and Nike sneakers he released? It’s incredible, man. I’mma support Yeezy on all his fashion endeavors. I trust his fashion sense.
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Rick Ross may be the most selfassured heavyset rapper that has come along since the behemoth Brooklynite the Notorious B.I.G. He poses for as many photos with his shirt off as his sinewy peers, as if he’s taunting those of us who wear T-shirts to the beach in hopes of disguising our tubby torsos. Today, however, Ross chooses to channel his incomparable swagger through another medium—a finely tailored suit that fits his 300-pound frame like a glove. As he gloats at his reflection in a mirror, while rapping along to his remix to Chrisette Michele’s single “Epiphany” blaring from a laptop, it’s highly apparent that Ross relishes opportunities to display his fashion sense and overall aplomb.
Styling by Groovey Lew Assistant Styling by Kesha Janeeâ€™ McLeod
You signed Magazeen to your label. Why did you choose a reggae artist over a rapper? You got to understand that in Miami, reggae music is a heavy influence. There are Jamaicans and a lot of Trinis. It’s just a lot of islanders there, period. It just so happened, where I grew up at the apartments that sit directly behind where I live, one of my best friends was Jamaican. So I grew up eating the bully beef and eating all those different foods. Who helped mold you into the man you are today? Matter of fact, my high school football coach. He was the toughest dude I ever met, and he had to be tough dealing with us. I remember he disciplined me when I was acting up in class one day and the teacher came and complained. He called me and anot her one of my dudes that was in the teacher’s class. He called us out in front of the team. We were considered the captains ’cause we were the best football players and the bullies all wrapped up in one. So he just brought me out in front of the team and slapped me in my chest real hard. How did you react to that? He told me if I thought I was bad, jump on him—do something. And it just put me back in perspective. Me not having a father—my father, he dead and gone right now, but at that time he had just moved away—so that was like my first time really being encountered. And I really remember me just kind of checking myself, even though I felt like I could have whooped him right there. I felt like I could have killed him, but it was just the fact that I knew the time and the love that he put into me over the years. I had that much respect for him. So when he punched me in my chest and hit me, I sucked it up like a G and kind of checked myself. Do you ever wonder what would have happened if you had pursued a football career? Most definitely. When I started playing football in little league, all the small dudes could play, but I was too heavy. I was so focused that by the time I got to the eleventh grade, I was a blue-chip All-American. Over
two years, I went from being nobody to being considered one of the top three linemen in Florida. That was my competitive mindset. Instead of going to the gym once a day, I wanted to go twice. I would be curling in the middle of the night. Your past employment had the streets and the Internet abuzz. Why is being a correctional officer so frowned upon in hip-hop? I think street credibility is very important when you talking about certain things. But I feel like I’m a special situation because I come from that and that’s what I do. So me talking about that in the streets and where I come from, that’s natural. I come from the M.I.Yayo and that’s why we called [my movie] that. So me talking about coming from the White House and being trilla, I understand the definition of that and I feel like people will too. You have cars named Oprah, Lindsay Lohan, and Rihanna. Have you added any new ones to your stable? I got a new truck/motorcycle with one wheel in the front and three in the back. It’s a custom bike and I called it Soulja Boy.
Twitter or MySpace? MySpace Favorite celebrity couple? Nas and Kelis Bigger boss: Tony Danza or Bruce Springsteen? Bruce Springsteen Whose hustle do you admire most? Birdman Most money you’ve spent at once? Too much to talk about Best music to make love to? Lionel Richie Most exotic country you’ve visited? Colombia First album you bought? As Nasty as They Wanna Be, 2 Live Crew Most famous person in your cell phone? DJ Khaled Last book you read? The 48 Laws of Power
Why Soulja Boy? ’Cause it’s a little soldier. I’mma put it in a couple car shows and bike shows. It’s new to the game and it’s a youngster, so it’s just something fun I do. Soulja Boy has come under fire from other rappers, some even claiming he’s responsible for killing hip-hop. What do you think about those comments? I got love for Soulja Boy and I want him to keep doing what he doing. I hope a lot more of these young kids start producing and getting into different things other than going to the street. Your record label is called Maybach Music. Did Daimler, the company behind the Maybach automobile, give you any problems clearing the name? Of course not! Really, they never even contacted you about it? What, you want them to? Uh… No, but if someone called their label Lamborghini Records, the company might have a problem with it. Nah, I haven’t had any problems. Wow, that’s some bossy shit. [Laughs]
Kid Sister wants to know: What’s your favorite thing to order at La Carreta [Cuban restaurant] in Miami? I usually get the black beans and rice with grilled chicken. I’m a grilled chicken with the onions type of guy.
OPPOSITE PAGE: JACKET AND T-SHIRT BY JORDAN BRAND; JEANS BY LEVI’S; SUNGLASSES BY LOUIS VUITTON; WATCH AND RING, ARTIST’S OWN
What do you say to those who consider Kanye a little too flamboyant? He’s supposed to be. What is he supposed to do, not be flamboyant, not be fly, not be arrogant? Why not? I feel like why should another nigga be insecure about another man. That’s a man; he got his own lane.
For behind-the-scenes footage from Rick Rossâ€™ cover shoot, visit Rap-Up.com
PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
WORLD ON HIS SHOULDERS
Stepping off the elevator into Jive Records in New York City, Houstonbased MC Bun B looks run down. Each step requires all his might, and as he lumbers towards his publicist, his bulky shopping bag seems to be weighing him down. His gruff baritone, made deeper by the impending threat of a nasty cold, gives away how truly wiped out he’s become in the past few days. But it’s just another byproduct of carrying the weight of two MCs on his own as he chats up his group UGK’s most recent release 4 Life.
listened to different verses, and I was like, “Wow, that’s the last time we’re going to hear Pimp tell these bitches to get down on the floor.”
Bun, one-half of legendary duo UGK, is used to having his partner Pimp C by his side to help out with promotions. But in December 2007, Bun was left to carry the UGK name when Pimp unexpectedly passed away while recording the follow-up to their charttopping double album Underground Kingz. Now, with their final studio album, Bun is left to his own devices to keep the UGK name alive. Rocking a sparkling diamond bracelet, a thin gold chain with a cross dangling at its end, and a black fitted, Bun spoke with Rap-Up about how T.I. reached out to support him during his loss, how he finished up the album without his other half, and why it will always be UGK for life.
Earlier in the recording process, you weren’t entertaining the idea of having any guest stars, but now there is a handful of them. What was the reason you decided to change your mind? I just didn’t want to seem advantageous of a situation. I don’t want blood money and I don’t want to make blood music.
What kind of closure do you think this will provide for UGK fans? Musically, I think this will be a fitting end to UGK. If you pop in The Southern Way, all the other albums from the beginning all the way down the catalog, and you pop in 4 Life, it’s going to fit right in and sound like the end result of what UGK was.
time. I think this album will show how far UGK has come as a family. Forging ahead with your solo career, do you plan to keep it consistent with the UGK sound or take it in a new direction? I’m taking it in the new direction that UGK was taking the UGK sound. I’m definitely going to be incorporating a lot of the young producers. Just looking to take the same movement that we already represent forward to the next level.
–Steven J. Horowitz
T.I. AND I HAD VERY STRONG CONVERSATIONS. HE IMMEDIATELY REACHED OUT TO ME.
You said the bulk of 4 Life was recorded before Pimp C passed. How difficult was it to record once he died? Physically, writing and recording wasn’t so difficult. It was really just getting through the emotional aspect of it. It was still very fresh for people at the time when we first started to try to get into it. Everybody had their own little emotional bridge to cross. Once it was you on your own, how many songs had been done and how many were needed to complete the album? For one, Pimp is on every song, so we didn���t have to do anything from scratch in that sense. I think three songs were fully mixed, mastered, and knocked out. Even if he didn’t have a hook, he would do a little talking at the beginning and do his verse, and then pretty much tell you where the song was going. So we didn’t have to build anything from scratch. Everything was built around ideas that were already set. What was your emotional state while being alone in the studio? One can only imagine it was really difficult. It was just different. I had recorded without him for solo projects while he was incarcerated, but it was different knowing that he was never going to be in the studio again and that what I was listening to was the last of it. I just
After Pimp passed, was there one artist in particular that came out and offered emotional support, more so than anyone else? I would hate to say that, because I know everyone wanted to be there as much as possible, but I’d have to admit that T.I. and I had very strong conversations. When my situation came about, he immediately reached out to me and helped me share different cathartic ways of trying to get myself through everything. Now that you’re in the promotional phase, is it more difficult to do all this on your own? The schedule is hectic. I will admit that. There’s a lot of ground we’re trying to cover in a relatively short time. I don’t have a problem with talking about Pimp and don’t mind getting emotional if I talk about him, because I feel the people need to understand where I’m at mentally.
Favorite H-Town chick? My wife, Queenie Favorite Pimp C verse? Something on this new album Next artist to blow? Somewhere between Kid Cudi, Wale, and Drake You can’t leave the house without… A lighter. Iced-out chain or watch? Watch King of Auto-Tune? Still T-Pain Hottest mixtape DJ at the moment? Infamous in Atlanta Dream collabo? Me, Nas, Royce Da 5’9”, Raekwon, Ghostface, produced by Dr. Dre. That’s not so far-fetched either. Rapper you’d like to see come back to the game? Mr. 3-2 and Big Mike Five years from now, you’d like to be... Hopefully in the same tax bracket. I would like to be richer, but as long as I’m not poorer.
When you have your down time, do you ever throw on old UGK or Pimp C albums and reminisce about the past? My wife listens to UGK, so if I’m in her car, it might change from one CD to the next and it would just come on. I’ve never been one to just listen to myself. As an artist, there’s a disconnect between performing and listening to the songs. UGK has had a profound effect on shaping Southern hip-hop. Do you think this album will be the end of a chapter for the genre? I think it will, but I also think it’s going to open up doors, because with every album, Pimp always wanted to innovate the way music was recorded. He didn’t want to change his sound, he just wanted to strengthen his process every
Jadakiss wants to know: Let me get one of the old Pimp C verses. We know you’re holding on to them couple little classics. See that’s the big misconception, Jada, is that I’m sitting on a bunch of Pimp C music and verses, and I’m not. And even if I was, I couldn’t just give ’em out that easy. But if I did have verses, you could get one.
High above Hollywood in a conference room in the historic Capitol Records building, MIMS has his ears on the beat. The New York rapper, who catapulted to the No. 1 spot with his 2007 hit “This Is Why I’m Hot,” is no novice when it comes to technology. “Growing up, I was always the person that was taking apart Walkmans and VCRs, while everybody was playing with G.I. Joes and Barbies,” the audiophile divulges. “I always wanted to figure out how things worked.” So MIMS was more than qualified to test out two high-end earbuds, a considerable upgrade from the $20 headphones that came with his first Sony Walkman. Monster’s Beats by Dr. Dre Tour headphones and Ultimate Ears’ super.fi 5 earphones had to do more than just meet this tough critic’s criteria of providing crystal-clear audio, canceling outside noise, and looking fly.
While listening to his single “Move (If You Wanna)” from his sophomore album Guilt on his BlackBerry Bold, MIMS revealed which in-ear accessory made the loudest impression. Words by Devin Lazerine | Photography by Cameron Lazerine
BEATS BY DR. DRE TOUR IN-EAR HEADPHONES $150, beatsbydre.com
ULTIMATE EARS SUPER.FI 5 EARPHONES $170, ultimateears.com
PROS: For hip-hop use, it’s definitely A+ because it brings out the bass. I like that ’cause it also separates the sounds very well. You can hear your highs, mids, and lows. I love the design. It’s innovative. It gives you a little bit more fashion.
PROS: The sound is very crisp and balanced, so if you want to range more into classical and alternative music, cool. I like the fact that they incorporate the actual control for the phone. I listen to all my music on my cell, so I want to make sure I don’t miss calls.
CONS: They don’t have the call control button to answer your cell phone when it rings. That’s important for me. I tend to stay away from in-ear headphones because they slip out of your ears. If you’re walking and these fall out, that’s not a good thing.
CONS: They’re very top-heavy, not a real considerable amount of bass with these things. I wouldn’t put them in the hip-hop classification ’cause they’re very bass-light. That would bother me because I need to hear bass in my hip-hop music.
VERDICT: I’d go with the Beats by Dr. Dre for the sound quality, by far. I haven’t heard any other headphones that cater to hip-hop as much as these do. I’m gonna ride with ’em. They provide a little bit of flavor too. When you start paying above $100, you really want to get the whole shebang, and if you’re not, I’d rather just get $20 headphones ’cause they’re probably gonna break in a year anyway.
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PHOTOGRAPHY BY GAVIN THOMAS
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