“Will Zoe Have An Ever After?” by Christopher D. Weaver

Zoe Ever After

One of my favorite singers who is also a great sitcom actress, Brandy Norwood, has made her return to mainstream television. Norwood has returned to BET as Zoe Moon, soon to be divorced mother of a young son and the ex of Gemini Moon, celebrity boxer and womanizer.  The first episode I was super excited because it’s Brandy and her television runs usually are amazing. She starred in “Thea”, “Moesha” and most recently “The Game”. She also completed a fantastic Broadway stint in “Chicago”, portraying the lead of Roxy Heart. Her acting isn’t the issue. The writing and premise of Zoe Ever After, however, is.  I may have at best chuckled at some of the dialogue. It’s formulaic, dry and predictable. Her supporting cast is helpful in deterring some of the painfully dull moments. Dorian Missick “Gemini,” her ex was casted I’m sure to be eye candy and does a darn good job of playing the caring dad to their son “Xavier” portrayed by Jaylon Gordon. He’s adorable, funny and uses his screen time to his advantage.

One of the major disappointments was to see yet another stereotype brought to life – “Valente” portrayed by Tory Devon Smith. Valente is Zoe’s flamboyant, gay assistant who can be mouthy and man hungry.  I said to myself this has been done before, UPN’s “Half & Half.” The character was Asian and just like Valente, comical, flamboyant and worked in an office setting.

My favorite character is Zoe’s best friend and business partner, “Pearl”, portrayed by Haneefah Wood. Her comedic timing is refreshing. She is fun to watch and is very comical. She is water to the fallow ground of the scripting of the show. Brandy as Zoe is beautiful, attractive, smart and a great mother. She embodies the spirit of Zoe, but something is missing. Could it be the writing, character development or plot?? Is the storyline redundant and is in need of revamping?? Yes to all of the above scenarios!!

After polling some of my friends about the state of the show, I’ve come to the conclusion that Zoe may not have an ever after. My fellow Brandy fan and dear friend, Q, suggested she should’ve came back as Moesha and resume the role but as an adult. I said, eh maybe!! My other friend, CJ suggested allow someone else to play the role and position Brandy to direct and produce. I consider both to be amazing ideas, but no cigar. The script is in dire need of revitalizing that would help the longevity of what is meant to be a comedic staple for Brandy and BET.

Christopher WeaverChristopher D. Weaver is a PR consultant, freelance writer/editor and author of the site Running Across My Mind, where he opens his soul to share words of encouragement and honest conversation about daily life. Chris first shared his talents with MMT readers with his guest review of the independent documentary HOLLYWOOD BEAUTY SALON.

A ‘Philly-Yorker’ making huge moves: a quick chat with Yusuf Muhammad

Yusef Muhammad

To say Yusuf Muhammad is a busy man is an understatement.  I caught up with him at his Red Bull Sound Select/Veteran Freshman event last Friday night, held at The Blockley and headlined by the dynamic Kilo Kish, and he began our interview by briefly mentioning that he was heading to DC the next day to do a music festival.  Now some of you may not readily know his name, but at age 27 Yusuf has accomplished more than persons twice his age.  An engineer, photographer, filmmaker, and videographer by trade, the event curator has worked with BET News, and filmed music videos with Black Thought, Meek Mill & more.  His first two concerts, under Live Nation, had 850 & 700 attendees respectively.   He also contributed to the production, booking, marketing & promoting of 45+ shows in 2012, and has already been involved with 40+ shows in 2013.   He’s worked with both independent and major artists, including Kendrick Lamar, Kelly Rowland, Brandy,  Elle Varner, Miguel, Questlove, Nas, and Wale to name a few.   And he’s also been named the Philadelphia Ambassador for the Atlanta-based music & film festival A3C.

Born in Philadelphia and raised in both Philly and New York, he describes himself as a “Philly-Yorker” and currently resides in the former.  I started our interview by asking what he preferred most about each city.

MMT: It’s almost the best of both worlds, so what is the vibe about both (Philly and New York) that you can’t do without or most enjoy?

Yusuf: The vibe about Philly that I can’t do without is if they actually support you, they support you. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to get that support.   Somehow I’ve been able to average about 200-300 people who follow what I’m doing and keep (things) going.  New York is so big, there are a million of me.  I tell people all the time I only stand out because I’m in Philly.  (However) before the year is out I’ll be doing consistent shows (in New York).   What I can’t live without there is its size. You can literally spend a week in one borough, and then another, and none of them feel the same. Philly is small and that makes it unique in its own way.  Everybody kind of knows everybody here and that’s something that I like.

MMT: I’ve read that you wanted to curate shows and give a platform to unsigned/independent artists.  Is the primary focus of your shows Hip Hop artists?

Yusuf: No, when I started doing shows in 2011 I did two R&B shows with soul, funk (artists) and live bands.  The majority of shows I’ve done have been Hip Hop, and tonight is my second Rock/mixed genre show.  My main goal is (to showcase) local artists in various markets.  I’m a big fan of local artists.  I always say I don’t book rappers, I don’t book singers, I book artists.  What I mean by that is there is a difference between a typical rapper/singer and an artist.  Some rappers just rap, and some singers just sing.  (An) artist takes it as a craft, and they are actually painting their path…that self-starter aspect.

MMT: Now you’re taking artists to Atlanta for the Hip Hop festival.  Have you selected those artists that are going, and what was that process like?

Yusuf:  Yes, I paid for a bus and there is a total of 10 artists.  A lot of it was loyalty.  For it to be my first big project there, I needed to make sure the camps on that bus would represent me.  Those artists who’ve kept their word, sold tickets to shows, those are the ones that I called.  Some of them were speechless.  And this is the first time there has been an all Philly showcase at A3C, so it’s historic. I’m going to film it actually, turn it into a short, and screen it when I get back.  And this will be the first of many!  I want it to be Philly to SXSW (South by Southwest), Philly to Art Basel (Miami). Anything I do is always with the foresight of what it will look like in the future.  So I’m working on the next four bus trips now.

With Yusuf also being a filmmaker, I had to ask that MMT signature question of which musician he would make a biopic about if he could; and this “old soul” who’d named Phyllis Hyman, The Jacksons, Philadelphia International, Patti LaBelle and several more old soul artists during our interview rapidly stated “Marvin Gaye.”    He also mentioned that one of his favorite Gaye albums was “Here My Dear.”  Now you all know this Yusuf Muhammad is my kind of music fan right?

Currently planning shows in New York for later this year, and planning to host Veteran Freshman shows in Toronto, Ontario (Canada), Muhammad will be one to follow for finding hot artists in a variety of locales; and to get to know if you’re an aspiring artist perfecting your craft.  You can find out more about the A3C (All 3 Coasts) Hip Hop Festival, being held in Atlanta, GA October 2-6, here.  You can also keep up with Yusuf Muhammad on Instagram or Twitter @yusufyuie and email him at YusufMuhammad215@gmail.

Until next thought family, Thomasena

Sparkle Singing Challenge Comes to Philly, PA (Saturday, July 14th)

Hey Music Movie Lovers!

Are you anticipating the release of the Sparkle remake like me?  Do you live in the Philly, PA tri-state area and like to sing?  If you answered yes to both, or at least to the second question and are curious about the new Sparkle movie, read on below for a chance to win a spot on BET’s 106 & Park plus additional prizes.  And make sure to be on the lookout in August for a special movie screening opp!

Good luck and stop back by and leave a thought if you audition!

Until next thought, Thomasena

SPARKLE Singing Challenge

The SPARKLE Singing Challenge is a nationwide challenge and will be held in Philadelphia on Saturday, July 14th at the Cheltenham Mall.  Registration begins at 12pm and the competition begins at 2pm.  Entrants will receive the opportunity to sing a 60 second part from the songs “Celebration” or “Something He Can Feel,” from the late Whitney Houston’s upcoming film, SPARKLE.  Please click on attached flyer below to enlarge for more information.

Entrants will be competing for a $500 cash prize, along with a $25 BEBE gift card, and a chance to win the Grand Prize.  The Grand Prize winner will win a trip for 2 to New York City to professionally record a song with the Punch Monkeys producer & writing team, a Myspace homepage feature and a chance to appear on BET’s very own, 106 & Park! Head to www.myspace.com/Sparkle for official contest rules and 60 second clips of both competition songs.   To pre-register, entrants can email SparkleSingingChallengePhilly@gmail.com.

The official trailer for the film can be viewed here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JBXGhbpMMrw

Sister Chats from the Praise Party (Part 2) – A Conversation With Y’anna Crawley

What’s new Music Movie Lovers? Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of attending Tamika Patton’s Praise Party at World Cafe Live here in Philadelphia, PA, and what a beautiful evening of worship it was!  What happened next was a pleasure as well, as I was further ushered into God’s presence and reminded of His promises when I interviewed two of the most amazing voices in Gospel music right now, Tamika Patton and Y’Anna Crawley.  In this post, you will read my conversation with one of those amazing women, Sunday Best season 2 and 2012 Stellar Award winner Y’Anna Crawley, whose highly anticipated début project entitled The Promise was released in 2009 to rave reviews. Currently in between labels and working on a new project, I asked Ms. Crawley to talk about some of her experiences since Sunday Best and what she would like to do in the future.

Me: I’m going to start by saying I am a fan from Season 2 Sunday Best.  I mean, I still You Tube your Grandma’s Hands performance for inspiration!  And (from watching the show) you could tell that music was just in you and a natural part of your being.  Who are some of your biggest musical influences?

Y’anna: Well, my uncle was the late great Reverend Julius Cheeks, he sang with Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers.  My aunt is (gospel singer) Genobia Jeter, and another uncle is (R & B artist) Glen Jones.  My family is musically inclined and it’s in me, I can’t get away from it.  It’s just a beautiful thing.

Me: I’ve read in the past where you’ve described yourself as a non-traditional gospel artist, and in your first project you specifically chose songs that would crossover.  Tell me what challenges, if any, you’ve experienced being a non-traditional (crossover) gospel artist in a hip hop generation?

Y’anna: That’s always a challenge because I think people want to “keep God in a box,” and God is so outside of the box.  My thing is, I want to reach the world.  You can’t reach church people, because they’re already in there and they already have it.  Some people may say I’m too edgy or I’m doing too much, and it’s not the traditional.  But I don’t worry about that because I know what God tells me. Like Paul (the apostle wrote) you have to be all things to all people.  I sang secular music before I went on Sunday Best.  But I tell people there’s two kinds of music, good music and bad music.  Because I sing music that uplifts, embraces, touches the heart and encourages.  I will never sing anything that degrades or makes a person feel unworthy.  If I can’t put a smile on your face my music is not good.  So, the challenges I face I overlook them because I know what God has said about me.  And I am unapologetically doing what I need to do.

Me: Are you working on a new project?

Y’anna: I am.  I’m not with a label right now, but there are some things on the table.  And I am kind of doing things independently, I want to mash some stuff together. I’ve got some producers in Philly I want to work with, and some in LA I want to work with to get the music together, then present it to (labels) and say hey listen this is it.  I want people to know all the way around who I am and what I give to the kingdom.

Me: Earlier this year, you won the coveted Best New Artist award at the Stellar Awards.  Tell me what that meant to you.

Y’anna: It meant everything to me, because as you know I won Sunday Best in 2009 and here it is 2012.  Things happen, people look at shows and think everybody has it all together, the money, glitz and glamour, but it’s not like that. There is stuff that goes on behind the scenes that may get to a point where the artist says “I don’t want to do this anymore.”  Because a lot of people in the gospel field, sad to say, they don’t have the Spirit at all, it’s about business.  And I get it, but you still have to have integrity and the Spirit in you to do this music.  It’s been rough, and I’ve overcome a lot.  I have two boys, and had my first child when I was 17, so people said my dream was going to die.  But I couldn’t let people tell me what God didn’t, and He didn’t tell me that.  My Stellar award gave me that extra boost and let me know, like I said in my (acceptance) speech, just when people forgot about you, God always remembers.  Once He has a promise for you, if you keep moving towards it, He’s going to make it manifest.

Me: Now you mentioned your two sons, how old are your boys?

Y’anna: 17 & 4.

Me: Wow, you don’t look like you have a 17 yr old!

Y’anna: Thank you girl (laughs).

Me:  What do you want your legacy to be for your sons?

Y’anna: I want my sons to know that anything you want you have to put God first and fight for it.  Nobody’s going to give you anything.  If you want to make a mark in this world you’ve got to be seen, and be seen for who you are not trying to be somebody else.  Always be a follower of someone that’s great, your elders, and then you can become a leader once you learn what they did, to get what they’ve got.  So, I want to leave that fight for my children, because they’re men and they’re Black men and it’s already going to be hard for them.  And they already have a statistic placed on them because I’m a single mother raising them.  But I tell them all the time your father is not present, but your heavenly Father is omnipresent (and) He’s always around.  So, they’re gonna have that fight in them.

Me: Okay, last question.  I want to throw in something for my movie fans.  If you were blessed to segue into film…

Y’anna:  You’re about to speak my life, I’m getting chills.  Okay, keep going.

Me: Okay, you’re blessed with the opportunity to pick a role portraying any music legend, who would it be?

Y’anna: You see these tears about to come to my eyes, because this is about to come to fruition.  Aretha Franklin.   I want that role so bad. I am studying her, I’m reading her book.  And I’m believing God is going to give me that role.  Our stories are so similar.  Even her having children at a young age.  How she crossed over from gospel to secular, but still people respect her.  And that’s just going to be my movie.  I love her.

Me: I am going believe God and keep that in prayer for you, because I can see you in that role!  And I want to say thank you so much for taking the time to bless me this evening.

To say that Ms. Crawley was approachable and open would be an understatement.  I am very grateful for the time she spent sharing her personal experiences and those extra words of wisdom.  It’s not hard to see why God has been faithful with manifesting the promises He keeps in store for her.  And if, not if but when we see her portraying the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin, please remember that you read it here first ;).  Check the link below to view the Y’anna Crawley moment, from Sunday Best, that I still view when I need that extra bit of motivation during my day.  Let me also take time to mention the originator of the tune Grandma’s Hands, the magnificent storyteller and singer Mr. Bill Withers.  And, for those who don’t have it already, go pick up Y’anna Crawley’s début project The Promise (available at many retailers including amazon.com and target.com; you can find those links below as well :)).

Until next thought family, Thomasena.

Grandma’s Hands,Y’anna Crawley 2009 Sunday’s Best performance (© BET Network): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJSekWNccvI

The Promise Amazon.com purchase link: http://www.amazon.com/Promise-YAnna/dp/B003UPPNY0

The Promise Target.com purchase link: http://www.target.com/p/the-promise/-/A-12854276

In Time for Black Music Month!

Hello fellow music movie lovers!  Been a minute since I’ve posted, but had the most wonderful past two weeks helping my youngest sister prepare for her middle school graduation (which occurred last Wednesday).  In the midst of all my preparation with her, and my excitement to screen Bella…I mean Snow White and the Huntsman earlier this month, I truly forgot to acknowledge something I deem important…Black Music Month!  But no worries, since this is an area I celebrate all the time. 🙂  Whether it’s sharing remember when moments, enjoying a show or discovering the latest breakthrough, or yet to breakthrough, musical talent, I enjoy the rich heritage and contributions of African-American artists in the music community.  Now for those who are not familiar with this historical fact, I’ll share that Black Music Month was first decreed for observation by former president Jimmy Carter on June 7th, 1979, after a bill (House Concurrent Bill 509) was pushed through the House of Representatives.   Quick Philly fact: the bill was co-written by local radio legend and media personality Dyana Williams.  More recently, President Barack Obama has referred to the observation as African-American Music Appreciation month.  So in the spirit of appreciation, I’d like to offer a few recommendations (with my cutting it close self 😉 ).

First up, and  just in time for this month of appreciation, comes the June 25th season première of TV One’s hit show Unsung.  Now as the title suggests many of the artists profiled are not currently hailed by the masses, or in the immediate mental Rolodexes of most, but their musical contributions are no less important.  This season’s line up includes shows on Gerald Levert, The Marvelettes, Con Funk Shun, Kool Moe Dee, Low Rawls, and Sly Stone (the latter being the season opener). The episode I am most excited to see features songbird Angela Bofill, and I love, love, love her! Unsung airs weekly on Monday nights at 9pm.

The BET network will air its award show nominations special The Chosen on Wednesday, June 20th at 7:30 pm EST.  The actual ceremony will be televised July 1st at 8 pm and hosted by actor Samuel Jackson.  I can’t wait to see who they’ve selected for their Whitney Houston tribute, since BET executive Stephen Hill tweeted and described it as unbelievable.

Next up are a few book recommendations I’d like to share about one of my fave eras of music, early Motown.  If you look to the right and hit the green arrow, you can find all of these titles listed under my Goodreads shelf:

  1. My Sister Tommie – The Real Tammi Terrell by Ludie Montgomery
  2. Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye by David Ritz
  3. Motown: Music, Money, Sex & Power by Gerald Posner
  4. Dreamgirl: My Life as a Supreme by Mary Wilson

And while we’re on the subject of Motown, if you’re a music lover and you still don’t know who The Funk Brothers are, shame on you!  Go to your nearest Wal-Mart, go online to Netflix, Xfinity or something and purchase/rent Standing In The Shadows of Motown.  If you purchase it will be money well spent, trust me :).

Okay music movie lovers, drop me a note or share a thought below if you check out any of the Unsung episodes, the BET Awards or read any of those books!  And definitely let me know what you think if you watch Standing in the Shadows of Motown for the first time 🙂

Until next thought, Thomasena

Production begins for BET Original Movie “Gun Hill” starring Larenz Tate

Yes BET, it’s about time!  In case you haven’t heard, production has begun for Gun Hill, a BET original film starring none other than the “Brother to the Night,” Love Jones hottie himself, Larenz Tate.  Set and filmed in New York City, the movie is about twin brothers (one good, a cop and one bad, a con of course) whose lives take a tragic turn one fateful night with the con assuming his brother’s identity.  It will also star Aisha Hinds, who you may remember as the black female district attorney from Madea Goes to Jail), and Tawny Cypress.  Word is that this may develop into an original series for the network, and I hope that happens.  But I am just happy to finally see an original drama program on the BET network, and even more ecstatic that Larenz Tate has been cast in the lead role.   I’m praying this is just the beginning, and that BET finally becomes more than reality tv and videos by providing more deserving actors an opportunity to be cast in original programming.  And since their acquiring of the sitcom The Game has proved successful, here are just a few suggestions for shows that could be next:

  1. Sleeper Cell (former Showtime series starring Michael Ealy and Oded Fehr yanked after two seasons)
  2. Girlfriends (we need a reunion movie/finale for this series at the least!)
  3. I need to put this in caps SOUL FOOD: THE SERIES!  By the time the brainiacs (not) at Showtime cancelled this show, it had become the longest running drama with a pre-dominant African-American cast in North American primetime history (2000 to 2004).  Sorry just had to vent, and yes I’m still bitter 7 years later 🙂

Anyway, kudos to BET for taking this first step.  What are your thoughts?

Til next thought, Thomasena