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Tag Archives: Jay-Z

YouTuber Vocal Synthesis says rappers label Roc Nation filed copyright notices against their AI impersonations

Jay-Zs company Roc Nation have filed takedown notices against deepfake videos that use artificial intelligence to make him rap Billy Joels We Didnt Start the Fire and Hamlets To be or not to be soliloquy.

The anonymous creator of the YouTube-hosted videos, known as Vocal Synthesis, has said that copyright notices were filed by Roc Nation, stating: This content unlawfully uses an AI to impersonate our clients voice. The two aforementioned videos have been removed, though others remain, including one of the rapper taking on the Book of Genesis.

Vocal Synthesis said via a deepfake video using the ersatz voices of Barack Obama and Donald Trump that they had no malicious purpose and were disappointed that Jay-Z and Roc Nation have decided to bully a small YouTuber in this way.

The Guardian has contacted Roc Nation for comment.

Deepfake videos have already caused great controversy in political and celebrity circles, with California outlawing them in 2018, and Facebook banning them in January. The technology has most notoriously been used to create fake pornographic videos featuring famous actors the PornHub website banned deepfakes in 2018.

Deepfakes differ from so-called cheapfakes, which dont involve AI and instead feature re-edited footage with the aim of distorting the truth. Famous examples include a video of Nancy Pelosi doctored to make her look drunk, and one of Keir Starmer created by the Tory party for social media where he appeared unable to answer a question. Posting on Twitter this week, Donald Trump shared a fake gif of Joe Biden sticking his tongue out.

There are debates over the copyright implications of AI-created videos such as the Jay-Z performances, with digital access advocates Creative Commons arguing: It is ill-advised to force the application of the copyright system an antiquated system that has yet to adapt to the digital environment on to AI.

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Acting on behalf of 152 inmates, the rapper and mogul argues prisoners constitutional rights are being violated

Jay-Z has filed a civil lawsuit against the Mississippi Department of Corrections on behalf of 152 inmates at a state prison, alleging barbaric conditions.

Parchman prison is accused of abhorrent conditions, abuse and constant violence, inadequate health care and mental health care, and overuse of isolation the people confined at Parchman live a miserable and hopeless existence confronted daily by imminent risk of substantial harm in violation of their rights under the US Constitution.

Among the problems detailed by the lawsuit and an accompanying documentary film made by Jay-Zs company Roc Nation are a lack of staffing that has allowed prisoner violence to flourish, sewage-filled cells, contaminated food and water, and a lack of adequate healthcare. Nine inmates have died at the prison so far in 2020.

The suit calls for the Department of Corrections to eliminate health and safety risks within 90 days. The department wouldnt comment on the suit, but has previously said that violence is gang-related rather than linked to staffing issues.

It is the second lawsuit brought against the prison by Jay-Z, in tandem with fellow rapper Yo Gotti the pair filed a suit on behalf of 29 other inmates in January.

Jay-Z has frequently involved himself in African American civil rights cases using his philanthropy arm Team Roc, including those of other figures from the rap world. He intervened over 21 Savages detainment by immigration officials, and the sentencing of Meek Mill following a probation violation, saying: Whats happening to Meek Mill is just one example of how our criminal justice system entraps and harasses hundreds of thousands of black people every day.

He has also reportedly bailed out protesters in Baltimore and Ferguson who were detained during anti-police brutality demonstrations, and has taken on dozens of other cases with civil rights lawyer Alex Spiro.

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From horrorcore fantasies to soul-searching nightmares, here are the greatest moments from the Detroit rappers tumultuous career

30. Rap God (2013)

Eminem illustrates all the cadences he has mastered over the years, channelling flows from influences such as Tech N9ne and Big Pun like an exorcist summoning spirits, and moving through an impressive 1,560 words in just six minutes. Some critics have dismissed this as empty rappity rap, but the fact a 41-year-old still cared this much about his craft deserves our respect.

29. Same Song & Dance (2009)

Although Marshall Mathers has repeatedly trashed 2009s Relapse in interviews, the record, which is a nightmarish ode to horrorcore rap, has aged well particularly this dread-inducing tale of a stalker who lynches Lindsay Lohan. Critics hated the creepy accent, which sounds like the bastard child of Borat and the Simpsons Groundskeeper Willie, but by embodying such a ludicrous pastiche of a serial killer, Em enjoyed a much-needed dose of escapism at a time where his private life was starting to unravel.

28. The Ringer (2018)

Just like Jay-Zs similarly misguided DOA (Death of Autotune), The Ringer is a track from a veteran unhappy with the direction rap is headed. Mocking the supposed cliches of mumble rap, Em is essentially an angry old man shouting at a (Sound)cloud. But after years of disappointing albums plagued with turgid stadium pop, it was just exciting to hear Eminem sound so fired up again he makes for a very convincing Victor Meldrew.

27. Dont Front (2013)

On this overlooked B-side, Eminem tears through the thunderous boom-bap of Black Moons classic street-corner drama, I Got Cha Opin. This is that rare museum exhibit that doesnt bore you to tears, with Em giving his fans a nostalgic serotonin boost after a duo of truly awful albums: Recovery, and The Marshall Mathers LP 2.

26. Its OK (1996)

Much of Eminems forgotten 1996 debut, Infinite, is spent trying to imitate the multi-syllabic flow of Kool G Rap over beats that sound like cheap rip-offs from Nass Illmatic. But the playful nocturnal funk of Its OK, which is littered with enthusiastic ad-libs from best friend Proof, results in the records most inspired rapping, as an introspective Em uncharacteristically discusses finding God.

25. Till I Collapse (2002)

This shot of cathartic rage is still wildly inspiring, even if its appearance on every video game trailer sponsored by Mountain Dew might have diluted its impact a little. It was also fun to hear Nate Dogg sounding so emo and getting a chance to croon about something other than being a horny stoner.

24. Stay Wide Awake (2009)

With synths that appear to scream out in pain, this is one of Dr Dres weirdest concoctions. The songwriting may be the byproduct of a recluse spending his days writing raps amid Jeffrey Dahmer YouTube documentary binges, but Eminem mostly succeeds in trying to replicate the unhinged tone of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and thats impressive. Tyler, the Creator said this had the best flow ever.

23. Drug Ballad (2000)

On Drug Ballad, Eminem is high as a kite, resiliently throwing jabs from beyond the clouds and refusing to come back down. The funky thrusts of bass replicate the energy of a horny, if incredibly tacky, spring-break party in the nu-metal era. Its a window into a simpler, trashier time, where sniffing glue while playing with a Rubiks Cube was somehow considered an attractive personality trait.

22. Brain Damage (1999)

Turning his childhood traumas into whimsical entertainment, Eminem transitions from being bullied into being the bully, and his nutty turn of phrase and dark recollections of a Detroit high school where even the principal joins in with the beatings are frequently hilarious. Few artists can find light in such a dark setting and this song, released just a few months before the Columbine massacre, presciently hints at American schools dangerously abandoning their outcasts.

Eminem in concert in 2001. Photograph: Nicky J Sims/Redferns

21. Role Model (1999)

With jokes about the alleged OJ murders and Lauryn Hills mythical hatred of white men, this is Eminem starting to realise his power as a cultural provocateur. The fact he bluntly erases his predecessor (I saw Vanilla Ice and ripped out his blonde dreads) also feels significant, with the Detroit native reshaping the idea of the ascendant white rapper.

20. Without Me (2002)

With a mischievous beat that sounds as if it was crafted by Dr Dre rhythmically squeezing a bunch of clowns noses, this is a continuation of the silly pop theatrics of The Real Slim Shady and My Name Is. When Eminem claimed rap would be empty without him around, it was hard to disagree.

19. Cleanin Out My Closet (2002)

A bit like watching a white trash family drama unravel on the Jerry Springer show, this intensely autobiographical song works because Eminem isnt afraid to operate from a place of weakness. Em also shares his mission statement as an artist, rapping: Give em hell for as long as Im breathing.

18. Scary Movies (1999)

Eminem has always made an artform out of killing people and his absurdist pledge to Throw you down a flight of stairs / Then Ill throw you back up them is undeniably hilarious. Scary Movies is a reminder of a time when Em wasnt just a great rapper, but a great comedian, too.

17. The Way I Am (2000)

As good as The Slim Shady LP was, it was a bit too heavy on dick jokes, and this highlight from its follow-up showcases clearer artistic growth. A haunting meditation on fame, its a paranoid, inward-looking tale of being so famous that you get followed to the bathroom.

16. Hellbound (2000)

Rapping over regal music from beat-em-up game Soulcalibur, Ems promise to fuck the planet until it spins on a broken axis projects a larger-than-life confidence. Eminem slashes through the beat like a katana sword, writing the hyper-animated blueprint that Kendrick Lamar and Nicki Minaj would later follow.

15. Jay-Z Renegade (feat Eminem) (2001)

Originally an Eminem collaboration with frenemy Royce Da 59, Ems potent critique of middle America proves he was one step ahead of his broadsheet critics. He is operating at the height of his powers, with verses so vivid that Nas even taunted Jay-Z with the barb: And Eminem murdered you on your own shit.

14. If I Had (1999)

Em has rarely sounded this dejected, with the artist wondering what he must sacrifice in order to make a million dollars. When he would rap about his personal life later on in his career there was too much syrupy sentimentality and self-pity, but here (where he recalls earning $5.55 an hour) Eminem has never sounded so relatable.

13. Superman (2002)

The kind of song that might get an artist cancelled today, Superman is a twisted take on the love bops Nelly and Ja Rule were routinely pumping out. Endlessly catchy, its the closest Em has come to a club banger, and his problematic Lothario dazzles rather than disgusts because he dares you to take him seriously.

12. Im Back (2000)

Not all of Dres beats on the Marshall Mathers LP have aged that well, but Im Back remains truly compelling theme music for a comic-book villain. Eminem fans the flames by threatening to murder Columbine bullies; at this point, he genuinely felt like pop cultures most provocative son.

11. Guilty Conscience (1999)

Playing into media claims that rap music was leading young people astray, rarely has a mainstream rap single been so conceptual, as Em and Dre play the two conflicting sides of the male conscience. Em tells Dre who assaulted TV host Dee Barnes in 1991 hes in no position to lecture someone else on how to treat a woman. Its still bold.

10. Deja Vu (2009)

This is a three-dimensional account of what its like to be a person with the kind of privilege that might fuel a drug addiction. Em recounts being in an ambulance after an overdose, but the fact he does so while joking about his fears of suffering a cliched death like Elvis makes for an endearing listen.

9. White America (2002)

Aware that he was every parents worst nightmare, Eminem dissects his cultural influence with real precision. Screaming his vocals from the very back of his throat, he also grapples with his white privilege, acknowledging: If I was black, I wouldve sold half. White America showed rappers they could be rock stars, too punk rappers such as Slowthai and Denzel Curry will have learned a lot from this.

8. Remember Me? (2000)

Designed to be blasted out of a car in a dingy alleyway at 1am, this abrasive shot of horrorcore is as raw as an exposed nerve ending. Each verse is more unhinged than the last, with Eminem fully embracing his growing mythology as raps angry blonde.

7. My Name Is (1999)

You couldnt make these kind of jokes today, but back in 1999, this subversive doozy really felt like Slim Shady was breaking through MTVs glass ceiling. Em played the role of pop cultures Dennis the Menace ever so well, mocking the misguided idea that rappers should be considered role models over a catchy Labi Siffre sample.

6. Square Dance (2002)

Eminem is too self-aware to create truly transcendent moments, but this experimental banger is the closest he ever got to crafting one. Tapping into post-9/11 paranoia, Em plays the role of the demented ringmaster, bringing you into his garish circus with aplomb. It is basically the rap version of Being For the Benefit of Mr Kite!

Eminem in 8 Mile, the film featuring Lose Yourself. Photograph: Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

5. Lose Yourself (2002)

This is the Rocky theme song reimagined for millennials, with Eminem at his most inspirational while forcing you to empathise with the plight of the working class. Its rare that a whole generation knows the lyrics to a rap song, but Lose Yourself is more than worthy of that honour (even if Marty disagrees).

4. Kim (2000)

Arguably the darkest song to ever appear on a diamond-selling album, the murderous chaos of Kim powerfully reflects a misguided lovesick rage. Em switches between male and female voices with an unsettling schizophrenic power, with the bittersweet chorus also strangely enchanting. This broke new ground for storytelling rap, and made your mum lock away your copy of The Marshall Mathers LP in a safe, for ever.

3. Dr Dre Forgot About Dre (feat Eminem) (1999)

This track perfected the juxtaposition between Dr Dre as the world-weary OG and Eminem as his deranged apprentice. Rapping like a cartoon rottweiler, Em chomps his way through the beat in a way that is linguistically dizzying. As far as perfect producer and rapper dynamics go, this remains the one to beat.

2. The Real Slim Shady (2000)

If MTV had become a little safe and too draped in shiny suits by 2000, this was Eminem attempting to liberate it from its excesses and give pop cultures trashier icons (Will Smith, Fred Durst) a much-needed spanking. This was a single so big that it opened up hip-hop to the suburbs and made millions of white teenagers dye their hair blond.

1. Stan (2000)

Six-minute epics about crazy fans who drown their pregnant girlfriends dont usually top the pop charts, but Stans storytelling was so vivid and claustrophobic that it grabbed you by the neck and forced you to get into the back of that car. This shifted the pop paradigm completely and gave a face (and name) to the kind of toxic fan culture that would later multiply with the explosion of social media. As far as rap storytelling goes, it is unlikely Stan will ever be bettered. This is Eminems Stairway to Heaven, and the fact he could even make Dido sound bearable is testament to just how good he used to be.

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US rapper accuses Jessica Chiha and her online retailer The Little Homie of knowingly infringing on his trademarks

An Australian woman says shell fight US rapper Jay-Zs copyright lawsuit because she thinks she should be able to use the Grammy winners name and lyrics to sell childrens books.

Jessica Chiha and her business The Little Homie are being sued in the federal court by the US billionaire, legally named Shawn Carter, who accuses them of knowingly infringing on his trademarks and misleading conduct.

We are unbelievably disappointed to find ourselves caught in a legal battle with someone whose music we love and adore, Chiha said in a statement on Thursday.

She said The Little Homie was created so parents could connect with their children through something they love during the transition to parenthood and her love of hip-hop and the artists I grew up listening to.

The online retailer raised $8,000 on Kickstarter to publish the AB to Jay-Z picture book, which refers to well-known rappers to teach the alphabet, and has since expanded to include a colouring book and clothing.

Other artists featured include the Notorious BIG, Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dogg.

The book reportedly came to Jay-Zs attention after controversy broke over accusations of cultural appropriation and racism in 2017 when a customer asked if the company was black-owned.

The back of the book includes the quote If youre having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs aint one.

Jay-Zs song famously opened with If youre having girl problems, I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but a bitch aint one.

To have someone like Jay-Z file legal proceedings is daunting beyond belief and hugely dispiriting, Chiha said.

We maintain we have done nothing wrong and intend to give it everything weve got for common sense and common good to prevail, to the extent we can fight the fight.

Its that persistence to keep trading that has landed the company in court.

Documents filed earlier this month by the rappers Australian legal counsel note Carter asked Chiha to stop in March 2018 and again in July this year.

Letters were sent between lawyers until September.

Unless restrained, the respondents threaten to and intend to and will continue to engage in the conduct referred to above, the statement of claim reads.

The lawyers said the retailer and director deliberately and knowingly attempted to trade off the reputation of the rapper, who is married to singer Beyonc.

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Leading a creative revolution whose ripples were seen from Kanye to Donald Glover to Little Simz, Beyonc consigned the idea of performers sticking to the music to history

By now, its a cliche. You have as many hours in a day as Beyonc, the saying goes. You can find its words slapped on mugs, T-shirts and Instagram quotes or murmured into the bathroom mirror as a bleary-eyed morning affirmation. The backlash (largely led by white women) to this tongue-in-cheek attempt at self-motivation has already pointed out its blind spots around class. Of course, you, regular human with looming mounds of debt and bills, cant maximise your time like a pop star with entire creative and personal teams to eliminate her drudgery. Thats obvious.

But the sentiment that Beyonc would, at one point, have been a nobody just like you, with as much time to work with still holds true. Like her or not, she leveraged a childhood work ethic into a career that spreads beyond her role as a performer. Yes, Beyonc is a singer. Yes, she often co-writes. In addition, she is also an all-round entertainment mogul, directing documentaries and music visuals, executive-producing film soundtracks and commanding a wider, ephemeral level of cultural influence not to mention moving into fashion.

She isnt alone. Over the past decade, black labour in music has produced a new understanding of musicians as curators a word that neatly describes the ways black artistry has evolved with the times. As music has become more visual and omnipresent, weaving itself into ads, apps and other art forms, the most impactful acts of the 2010s have found ways to integrate those outlets into their own output: theyve become industries unto themselves. Music may be their anchor, but for everyone from Rihanna to Janelle Mone to Kanye West, its just one part of their contribution to culture. Working within the framework of an exploitative industry, these black musicians have created a space that allows for at least a semblance of autonomy.

Her work functions like a mirror held up to black women … Janelle Mone performing in October. Photograph: Chelsea Lauren/WWD/Rex/Shutterstock

In January 2010, Beyonc announced a hiatus. She retired her Sasha Fierce alter ego and didnt release new recorded material until the following year. (For Beyonc, a hiatus only lasts 18 months.) It marked the first time she had put an explicit homage to soul, classic R&B and more ambitious arrangements ahead of profit. Shed never sounded blacker.

She also retired her father, Matthew Knowles, as her manager and took on that responsibility herself, via her company Parkwood Entertainment. When I decided to manage myself, it was important that I didnt go to some big management company, she said in 2013. I felt like I wanted to follow the footsteps of Madonna, and be a powerhouse and have my own empire and show other women when you get to this point in your career, you dont have to go sign with someone else and share your money and your success you do it yourself.

You can almost follow a direct line from this moment to her current work, which is increasingly pro-black, self-examining and intimate. Her quest for self-affirmation played out publicly when she came forward in 2015 as one of the artist-owners of streaming service Tidal, along with husband Jay-Z and just about every A-list musician around at the time. With more economic freedom came the ability to do as she pleases: that much was obvious from her heavily autobiographical self-titled album, surprise-released in 2013, then Lemonade in 2016.

This transition reverberates in the work of peers whove followed in her wake. On opposite sides of the pond, London rapper Little Simz and Afro-futuristic artist Janelle Mone embody the importance of owning the means of production. Simz self-released her first mixtape in 2010, aged 16, on label Age 101 a place for her and the rest of her Space Age rap collective to share their work. By 2013, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar had taken notice. Since then, Simz has branched off into comics, curated a genre-hopping festival Welcome to Wonderland: The Experience and returned to acting (see her now in the Netflix revival of Top Boy). Shes navigated the industry as both an eternal outsider and one of Britains most talented rappers, which seemed to frustrate her at first. The business caught up eventually a Mercury shortlisting here, some Radio 1 airplay there though these days she appears less bothered about external validation, perhaps having realised that the industry needs her more than vice versa.

Rihanna scaled unprecedented levels by becoming the first black woman to head up a luxury fashion brand. Photograph: Caroline McCredie/Getty Images for Fenty Beauty by Rihanna

Mone, meanwhile, co-founded the Wondaland Arts Society which is a film and TV production company, a record label and an organising core for activism in Atlanta. When she moved there from Kansas City in 2001, her art-pop sound and left-field approach soon piqued the interest of Outkasts Big Boi. He introduced her to fellow polymath Sean Combs, who signed her in 2006. As a producer, social justice activist and actor (Moonlight, Hidden Figures) she chooses to uplift black people while acknowledging our complexities. Her 2018 album Dirty Computer confronted questions of gender, sensuality and desire; she can model in a Cover Girl campaign, lead a Black Lives Matter march and be CEO of a record label all roles that show dark-skinned black women theyre more than a worn-out stereotype. Her work functions like a mirror held up to black women, offering them representation in ways that white gatekeepers wouldnt instinctively understand.

This decade, I watched black musicians defy other traditional gatekeepers in the hard-to-crack world of fashion. Like Beyonc, Rihanna entered music as a teen, signing to Def Jam at 17. Now, shes scaled unprecedented levels by becoming the first black woman to head up a luxury fashion brand, with Fenty in partnership with French company LVMH. At the start of the decade, few would have seen her evolution coming. During her Loud era, all shrill EDM production and flame-red hair, she felt easy to dismiss as a pop-machine puppet, singing words written by other people. Now shes a savvy businesswoman, equally at home with music as with philanthropy, acting, design and beauty. Her line Fenty Beauty has shaken the cosmetics industry to its core, forcing a diversity of makeup shades into the market as her competitors scramble to react a sign of what will become a norm. Her Savage x Fenty line does the same for lingerie, essentially ringing the death knell for the Victorias Secret catwalk show by employing a diverse cast of models, as she did at New York fashion week in September.

This matters on two levels. Rihannas success in fashion and beauty moves her away from seeming like a product that belongs to her record label. She becomes a person and force of her own Fenty, after all, is her real-life surname. And by steering all these seemingly disparate parts into one brand, she is creating a new set of norms for black art. Plenty of her peers have seen how investing in and executing a broader vision can support, rather than distract from, their music. Consider the likes of Tyler, the Creator, Solange, Kanye West, Dev Hynes, Frank Ocean and Donald Glover, and you realise how their multifaceted work shaped some of the most important western pop culture of the decade.

Our notions of what counts as black art no longer need to be defined by the global norths white mainstream. Since the 80s, black genres from hip-hop and house to R&B have led countercultures. But those genres used to be put into neat boxes black culture, to be consumed in specific ways and places, without needing to care about the experiences behind the work. Now, black music soundtracks global teendom. Now, Kanye West can endure being laughed out of fashion circles before turning Yeezy into a billion-dollar company. West brought a certain kind of self-conscious tastefulness to his work as a designer, continuing to kick back against convention just as he had as a middle-class art-school kid during his mid-2000s backpack-rap era. (Hardly the usual thug life backstory easier to sell to white consumers.) Glover, meanwhile, can rap (and sing) as Childish Gambino, and also create and executive produce a TV show as lush as Atlanta. Solange can create performance art, with installations for New Yorks Guggenheim and LAs Hammer Museum and Londons Tate Modern. Once you realise youre more than a preconceived notion of a black artist, or of black industry, entire worlds open up.

These polymaths show that you can eschew one neat categorisation and do so on your own terms … Donald Glover as Earn in Atlanta. Photograph: FX Productions

These musicians stories are aligned in a quest for true independence. Such a thing cant exist within the parameters of a business designed for profit historically, recording contracts let labels exploit artists. Yet this type of multifaceted black labour rebukes the idea that youre only worth the figure on your first contract. Frank Oceans Endless album/livestream, a quick way out of his Def Jam contract before he released Blonde, brought these delicate chess moves to life. One of the most boring critiques of Beyonc is that shes just a cog in a corporate machine. But the fact that any of these artists turn their talent into products doesnt negate their overall value.

Black children are always taught that we have to work twice as hard to gain half as much recognition. These displays of black labour, of a relentless drive to excel in various ways and a refusal to be defined by one skill, push that adage to an extreme. These polymaths show that you can eschew one neat categorisation and do so on your own terms. Black American fans of Beyonc would have recognised the cultural references others missed in Homecoming, her 2018 Coachella festival performance, an ode to historically black American universities. Later, it was turned into a Netflix special produced by you guessed it Parkwood Entertainment. The decade in Beyonc drew to a close with her executive-producing 2019s pan-African Lion King reboot soundtrack, The Gift, in addition to voicing Nala in the film.

The idea of performers just sticking to the music is all but dead. In the next decade, it may well become the norm for black artists to explore other creative avenues without being mocked or cut down. As pop music shifts away from English as lingua franca, new global acts could begin to dominate in spaces previously only held by this crop of multitalented public figures.

Seen at a glance, they can inadvertently make hard work appear effortless, and as though youre failing if youre not squeezing as much productivity out of every day as Beyonc. But that misses the point. These artists have poured buckets of themselves into these accomplishments, and have done so while working in an industry still mired in institutional racism, sexism and one that treats duty of care as an afterthought. They made the choice to seek self-determination sometimes at a high cost. What you do with your 24 hours is up to you.

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From Offset interrupting Cardi Bs show to Birdman ambushing Toni Braxton, could male artists please keep their gestures private?

At a gig, there is only one thing worse than an artist playing something from the new album a surprise special guest. Worse still is one thats a surprise even to the performer, AKA the worrying new trend of men making a public apology in the middle of their other halfs live concert. The video of Offset who got dumped by wife Cardi B after she allegedly caught him cheating invading the stage during her Rolling Loud festival set is worth watching just for the look of sheer disgust on her face.

Still, that didnt put Cash Money boss Birdman off ruining his ex-fiancee Toni Braxtons Atlanta concert last month by pulling a slightly-less-prepared version of the same stunt. Interrupted halfway through her final song by Birdman sheepishly ambling out of the wings, Toni took the stage invasion better than Cardi, in that she hugged him, then dragged him off the stage by his hand, throwing him a well talk about this later look on the way.

Weirdly, both couples are back together now, so public apologies clearly work that, or Cardi and Toni just want to make it through a gig without their other halves trying to steal the spotlight and this is the easiest way. It is unclear if these men are so stupid they dont see anything wrong with ruining their exs concerts (the crowd actually boo in the Offset video, and he has since said he didnt give a damn about the criticism, claiming hed do whatever it takes). Or is it just a natural extension of living on social media? The saying sorry by posting a screengrab of the Notes app on Instagram method, but IRL!

It is oddly performative, and counterintuitive to do something so publicly when it would be more meaningful in private. Its unconvincing, like when men make birthday photo collages of their girlfriends and post them on social media with an OTT caption. It doesnt make you think that theyre head over heels in love; rather its a huge red flag that theyve been caught exchanging flirty texts with the girl who sits next to them at work and now have to pay a weird Facebook-based penance.

It isnt just apologies that go wrong. Rihanna says her friendship with Drake ended after he hijacked her moment at the MTV VMAs in 2016. He introduced her as the girl Ive been in love with since I was 22 and tried to kiss her as she accepted the award. Two years later, she said his comments made her uncomfortable, probably because to turn around and tell him to piss off would make her look heartless. There is, though, a right way to do a public apology. Jay-Zs 4:44 was basically one giant Im sorry to Beyonc; then he had the good grace to sound rubbish next to her on The Carters album. Men of hip-hop: please take note. Jay-Z finally got something right. Please stay off the stage.

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Music royalty Beyonc and Jay-Z paid respect to literal royalty.
Image: Larry Busacca/PW18/Getty Images for Parkwood Entertainment

Beyoncé and Jay-Z continue to be icons. 

The power couple accepted the BRIT award for Best International Group on Wednesday for their collaboration album “EVERYTHING IS LOVE.” 

The pop culture royalty couldn’t attend the London ceremony, so they sent a pre-recorded acceptance speech with a nod to literal royalty. 

Standing in front of an oil painting of Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex and television star turned princess, the Carters were dressed in colorful suits similar to the ones they wore in the “APES**T” music video

“Thank you so much to the BRIT awards for this incredible honor,” Beyoncé said, holding the award up in front of a jewel-laden, crowned Markle. “Everything is love. Thank you.” 

“You’re welcome,” Jay-Z responded, never looking away from the camera. 

In a longer statement on Instagram, Beyoncé gave a shout out to Markle.

“In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas,” she wrote. “Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy.” 

Some saw it as a critique of British media treatment of Meghan Markle and her family. George Clooney recently defended the Duchess, stating that she was “pursued and vilified” by tabloids, and at the beginning of her relationship with Prince Harry, the monarchy put out a rare statement condemning the “the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls and Web article comments.” 

Some thought the Carters were shading the Grammys, where they won Best Urban Contemporary Album but didn’t make an appearance. Fans theorized that they were done with the awards show after it snubbed Beyoncé in 2017 and Jay-Z in 2018, and has consistently chosen non-Black artists for Album of the Year. 

Leave it up to Beyoncé and Jay-Z to make the most subtle but powerful statements.

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Rapper rejects Trumps claim hes been good for African Americans and says presidents shithole remark was disappointing and hurtful

Trump hits back after Jay-Z calls president ‘superbug’ in racism debate

  • Rapper rejects idea Trump has been good for African Americans
  • Trump tweets: Black unemployment lowest rate ever recorded!

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Meek Mills incarceration for minor probation infractions has prompted protest, shedding light on the plight of African Americans in the US justice system

The entry in the Pennsylvania database is stark and direct. Inmate number: ND8400. Name: Robert Rihmeek Williams. Age: 30. Height: 6ft 2in. Location: State Correctional Institution Chester.

Behind those blunt words lies a story that has exposed a running sore within the US criminal justice system. The incarceration of Williams for minor probation violations related to a crime he committed as a teenager more than a decade ago has brought some of the biggest names in music and sport rallying to his cause, spawned a new hashtag and drawn hundreds of people to the steps of Philadelphias City Hall to protest.

From Jay-Z to Colin Kaepernick, influential supporters have spoken out against the perceived mistreatment of Williams and what it tells us about the experiences of a generation of African Americans. The outpouring has lifted the lid on a largely overlooked iniquity, in much the same way as the unmasking of Harvey Weinstein has laid bare the sexual misconduct of powerful men.

Despite his branding as prisoner number ND8400, Williams is no ordinary inmate. When he is allowed out of his cell and on stage, he metamorphoses as Meek Mill, the Billboard chart-topping hip hop artist managed by Jay-Zs Roc Nation with major albums including Dreams Worth More Than Money and the current release Wins & Losses to his name.

His sentencing earlier this month to two to four years in state prison for seemingly minor breaches of his probation terms has unleashed an outcry from influential voices. Jay-Z blasted what he described as the entrapment and harassment of black people, accusing the Philadelphia courts of stalking Williams and using the slightest violation to lock him back inside.

The former 49ers quarterback Kaepernick has metaphorically got back down on one knee to champion the defendant as a victim of systemic oppression. America professes to be the land of the free, yet it has the worlds largest prison population disproportionately Americas prisons are filled with Black bodies, he said.

Such high-profile focus on the plight of Mill has in turn cast light on thousands of other young black people whose stories typically have no hope of being aired. In Philadelphia alone, there are 45,000 men and women who have served their time but routinely remain caught in the grip of the penal system through probation that stretches on for years, often sending them back to prison for slip-ups that can be as insignificant as turning up late for an appointment with a parole officer.

Hundreds of people have rallied in support of Meek Mill at Philadelphias City Hall, seen in the background. Photograph: MediaPunch/Rex/Shutterstock

Its like having a full-time private babysitter, said Paul Butler, a former federal prosecutor and Georgetown academic who wrote Chokehold: Policing Black Men. If I had a probation officer intimately looking into everything I did for five years, I think I might be in trouble I think most people would be.

African Americans are bearing the brunt of the burden. They form 12% of the overall US population but 40% of all parolees, and studies show they are far more likely to be sent back to prison for probation violations than their white peers.

Mills own story begins on 24 January 2007, almost 11 years ago, when he was stopped by police on the streets of Philadelphia. Aged 19, he was living in the north of the city with his mother as sole parent, his father having been killed in a robbery when he was five.

He had been rapping since the age of 12 and was starting to be noticed in local rap battles under his then stage name, Meek Millz. His first single, In My Bag, was still a year away.

Mill was found by the arresting officers to be carrying an unlicensed handgun and a stash of drugs. The following year, he faced a trial in which the judge, Genece Brinkley, acted as both judge and jury, convicted him and then sentenced him to up to 23 months in prison, with five years of probation to follow.

Mill was rewarded for good behavior inside prison by being let out early after eight months, on 16 January 2009. He picked up his music career where he had left off, acquiring as his first manager Will Smiths bodyguard Charlie Mack and releasing his first studio album, Dreams & Nightmares, in 2012.

While the hip-hop community came to embrace a new rising star, few of his growing band of fans realized that behind the scenes, he remained in the clutches of Judge Brinkley. Her decision to send him back to prison earlier this month imposing on him double the time for which he had originally been sentenced, though no new crime had been committed was the culmination of a decade of extreme surveillance by her court.

The latest sentence was handed down for two relatively minor probation violations, both of which have been or will be dismissed. One was for a dispute with a fan trying to take his photo in an airport, the other for popping a motorbike wheelie on a Manhattan street during the filming of a music video.

The nature of the tight rein under which Mill has been held during probation a virtual prison outside a prison is vividly recorded in a docket filed with the Philadelphia court of common pleas, where his case has been processed. It sets out a seemingly bottomless list of interactions with the court, running to 42 pages and counting.

The docket shows that since his release in 2009, Mill has been hauled back in front of Brinkley no fewer than 34 times, 22 of them for probation violations.

Despite the fact that Mill is now 30, and barely resembles the 19-year-old who carried that gun and drugs in 2007, he is in effect treated as though he were still a child, dependent on the firm disciplinary hand of the court for his wellbeing. The docket shows that this successful musician and touring artist has to plead with Brinkley for permission to travel whenever he has a concert outside Philadelphia.

The defendant is to report to the Probation Department to sign a new travel schedule is a typical entry in the docket. No travel outside of Philadelphia, Montgomery, Chester and Bucks Counties is permitted by this order is another made seven years after his original arrest.

Nicki Minaj, left, and Meek Mill at the BET Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles in 2015. Photograph: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP

The log for 15 March 2013 is particularly striking. The defendant is to take an etiquette class as per the courts discretion, it says.

The reference is to an order made by Brinkley that Mill attend etiquette classes as redress for what she considered to be his regrettable use of social media. The judge thought he needed to learn how to post on Instagram and other outlets with more poise, telling him in court that such lessons were more important than any concerts he might have.

In December 2015 by now almost nine years after the original offense and at the time of his chart-topping Dreams Worth More than Money album the docket entry records: Defendant must report every two weeks, and only do charitable events but can not do paid performances. Also not permitted to go to New Jersey (visit his mother).

Court documents raise questions about the intense interest that Brinkley has shown Meek Mill over the past 10 years. An African American woman elected to the court in 1993, the judge has displayed what Mills lawyers suggest is an inappropriate level of curiosity about the defendants hip-hop career.

At one of the hearings, Brinkley expressed her personal disappointment at Mills behavior, after all Ive done for you over all these years trying to help you have a career and to move your career forward. She said of the rapper: He has the ability to be like Jay-Z, to make Jay-Zs kind of money.

Filings in court show that Brinkley has on several occasions urged Mill to break with Jay-Z and Roc Nation and return to his old manager Charlie Mack. I dont want this to be taken out of context by anyone, she once said, adding: It seemed as if while Mr Mack was representing him there were fewer problems with the probation department.

Mills lawyers allege that in February 2016 Brinkley called him and his then girlfriend, the musician Nicki Minaj, back into her chambers for a private conversation in which she made an unconventional proposal. According to a court motion, she suggested that Mill record a version of a song by the popular group Boyz II Men called On Bended Knee and to mention the judge specifically in the song. When Mill refused, she allegedly replied: Suit yourself.

The Guardian invited Brinkley to respond to allegations about her treatment of Mill, including complaints that her recent decision to send him back to prison was excessive and cruel and driven by personal animus. She declined to comment on grounds that the matter is subject to future litigation.

Rashad Robinson, executive editor of the online racial justice organization Color of Change, said that Brinkley had gained a reputation in Philadelphia for using probation violations as justification for putting defendants back behind bars. She stands out, he said, even in a city that has the highest incarceration rate of any of the 10 largest US cities, where one out of every three inmates in its prisons are there for probation or parole violations rather than fresh crimes.

Its hard to know for certain her intentions, but what is clear is that Brinkley is a person who is comfortable wielding her power in ways that fall far short of the ethical standards of public officials, Robinson said.

Color for Change has organized an online petition under the hashtag #FreeMeekMill demanding that Brinkley be taken off the case before the rapper gets a chance to appeal his latest sentence. So far, more than 60,000 people have signed it.

While Robert Williams, aka Meek Mill, is in SCI Chester, with little chance of getting out for at least the next two years, one small compensation may be the public attention his story has drawn to a largely hidden abuse. The criminal process is designed to set up black men to fail, Butler said.

What happened to Meek Mill is a perfect example of that.

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The DJ and producer on Jay-Zs new album, the Philadelphia 76ers and the great taste of blue crab

Born in West Philadelphia, DJ Jazzy Jeff has been spinning records since he was 10. The skills he developed in his familys basement soon became the basis for hip-hop duo DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince. As well as winning DMC Championship and American Music awards, he was the first hip-hop artist (together with Will Smith) to win the first best rap performance Grammy for Parents Just Dont Understand (1988). The groups second Grammy was earned for Summertime, peaking at No 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, his work has featured in Boyz n the Hood (1991), Strange Days (1995) and Jersey Girl (2004). Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff will make their first UK live performance at Livewire festival on 27 August.

1 | Documentary

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

Shep Gordon: Hes kind of like a modern-day Forrest Gump. Photograph: Dogwoof

This is about Shep Gordons life as a talent manager, the things he accomplished and the people he managed, from Michael Douglas to Sylvester Stallone. Its one of the most special documentaries Ive ever seen definitely a must watch. As a character, hes very funny, with a distinctive laugh. He talks about the passion of business, which isnt something a lot of people in the entertainment industry do, so that really stuck out. Hes kind of like a modern-day Forrest Gump: hes done so many different things, youre left trying to figure out how this can be one persons life.

2 | Music

Jay Z: 4:44

Jay Z: You realise that someone has made a great body of work, not of a bunch of songs. Photograph: Matt Rourke/AP

I am absolutely in love with Jay Zs latest album. Hes the first artist of our time to have made an adult hip-hop album. Its very bold and daring, making music thats not specifically for the club not everything has to be for the club. What I like most about it is that I dont have a favourite song I like them all. You can almost feel that this album was made to be presented as a whole and not split up.

3 | Podcast

Mogul: The Life and Death of Chris Lighty

Chris Lighty: Mogul took a delicate situation and handled it very carefully. Photograph: Joe Kohen/Getty Images

[Music industry executive] Chris Lighty was a friend of mine, who unfortunately took his own life. This podcast delves into some of the trials and tribulations that the music industry can put on you, the stresses, and how some people cant handle those stresses. I felt it took a very delicate situation and handled it very carefully. They go through his life and his journey, how he got started, the different people he represented and the emotional connections he had with a lot of his artists. I didnt know many people who didnt like Chris Lighty; he was just a generally good guy. When he took his own life it was a shock to everybody.

4 | Food

The Crab Claw Restaurant, St Michaels, Maryland

The Crab Claw Restaurant in St Michaels, Maryland: Im that much of a fan, I break up blue crabs with my hands. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Im a massive blue crab fan and in the summer I have crabs once or twice a week. Theyre pretty much from the area that I live in, from Philadelphia to Virginia. I dont use the hammers Ill just break them with my hands. When I went down to St Michaels with my wife to celebrate our anniversary, we stumbled across this restaurant right beside the water. We were the only ones in there, but it was absolutely amazing. Its a two-hour drive from my house, but if they tell me they have big crabs there Ill get in my car and drive to get them.

5 | TV

The Defiant Ones, HBO

An incredible journey: Dr Dre and Jimmy Iovine. Photograph: HBO

This four-part documentary looks at [Interscope Records co-founder] Jimmy Iovine and Dr Dre, their past, how they met and what theyve done. Jimmy was learning how to be an audio engineer and realised he was a producer, while Dr Dre was making iconic records. I really enjoyed seeing how they came to sell Beats to Apple for $3bn with an incredible journey behind them. Dre and I are around the same age, so its like looking in the mirror I had a personal connection. Hes pretty much hip-hops first billionaire and we never thought one of us could get to that level, so you really have a lot of appreciation for what hes done.

6 | Sport

Philadelphia 76ers

Resurgent: Alex Poythress of the 76ers dunks the ball in a game against LA Lakers last month. Photograph: Jack Arent/NBAE/Getty Images

I am a massive Philadelphia fan, being from there, and Im incredibly excited about the Philadelphia 76ers basketball team. We have been very, very bad over the past few years and its really hard when youre passionate about your team. But I see a light at the end of the tunnel as I think we have probably the best young and talented team in basketball [at the moment]. There was a point when Id go to every game and even purchased a streaming device so I could watch them when I was on tour. I didnt use my season ticket much when they were losing, so Im excited to go back to some games with the outlook being so bright.

7 | Art

Justin Bua

Justin Buas art is similar to Ernie Barness, who did iconic Marvin Gaye artwork with very exaggerated figures. Bua does a lot of hip-hop artwork and I got a piece from him called The DJ which I thought was incredible. The structure of it and the exaggeration almosts tells a story about DJ culture. The colours are very vibrant and rich. When I look at this picture I see myself.

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