I wrote the last one of these columns almost a month ago, so this is really the five best videos of the last three weeks. Don’t worry, though. Not that many videos came out during the holiday, and most of the ones that did come out weren’t that good. Some of them were, though, including … More »
Jay-Z’s thoughtful and confessional 2017 album 4:44 has already yielded a great many music videos, including truly great ones for the songs “The Story Of O.J.” and “Moonlight.” Today, he unveils a new one for “Family Feud” that features appearances from members of Jay’s actual family. The lush, sumptuous clip, directed by … More »
Just last month, a photo of Rihanna and Lupita Nyong’o sitting next to each other at a 2014 fashion show made the rounds accompanied by a bunch of jokes about the two of them starring in a buddy comedy movie together. Slowly, the pieces fell into place to make that dream a reality. More »
(AllHipHop News) Ava DuVernay’s impactful documentary 13th is up for an Academy Award.
The Oscar nominations were announced today, and the film covering the history of the United States criminal justice system’s negative effect on African-Americans was among the picks for “Best Documentary Feature.”
Other films selected for the category include Fire at Sea, I Am Not Your Negro, Life, Animated, and OJ: Made In America.
After its release last year, 13th was highly promoted on social media at the height of the 2016 Donald Trump-Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.
Hip Hop representative Common was among the celebrities pushing the film.
The Chicago emcee/actor also contributed to 13th with the song “Letter To The Free” featuring Bilal.
DuVernay (Selma, Queen Sugar) publicly commented on her Oscar nod.
“Thanx to [The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences] for amplifying injustices of mass criminalization in [13th]. Love to our fellow nominees,” posted the filmmaker on Twitter.
13th earned significant critical acclaim prior to the Academy Awards announcements.
The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association, Women Film Critics Circle Awards, New York Film Critics Online Awards, Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, and African-American Film Critics Association Awards have all honored the documentary.
Ava DuVernay’s 13th is available for streaming on Netflix.
The 89th annual Academy Awards are scheduled to air February 26 at 7 ET on ABC.
— Ava DuVernay (@ava) January 24, 2017
(AllHipHop News) Director Ava Duvernay was reluctant to work with rapper Common again on her criminal justice documentary “13TH” so soon after the success of her movie “Selma.”
Common previously teamed up with singer John Legend to create the Oscar-winning Glory, the theme tune for 2014 film “Selma,” but he reveals it took some convincing before Ava agreed to use another of his tracks, “A Letter to the Free,” on her latest project.
He recalls rapping the first verse of the tune in her ear as they attended a birthday party for U.S. President Barack Obama in August, but his timing wasn’t the best.
“She was listening, but with the President and the First Lady standing seven feet away, she was trying to pay attention to them, too,” he laughs to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ava admitted she wasn’t too keen on the idea at first, but after paying closer attention to the lyrics of the tune, she had a change of heart.
“(She said),’I don’t want people to say we tried the same collaboration again,’” he told the publication. “I was like, ‘Ava, (Selma actor) David Oyelowo’s been in two of your films…’”
He continues, “After she sat with the song, she loved it. This film can change culture, especially when it’s shown in places of education. My biggest desire is to be a part of work that has that kind of impact.”
The lyrics to “A Letter to the Free” address the ongoing racial tensions between the white and African-American communities, a topic studied in Ava’s new documentary, which examines the links between racial inequality in the U.S. and the nation’s prison system.
One line heralds “America’s moment to come to Jesus,” referring to a difficult moment of truth, which Common believes is more relevant than ever in light of Donald Trump’s election as the next president of the U.S., after the Republican candidate made a series of offensive remarks regarding women, Muslims, Mexican immigrants, the disabled, and others throughout his election campaign.
“We’re having a come-to-Jesus moment (now) because we’ve seen something happen that no one ever thought would,” he explains of Trump’s shock win over his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.
However, Common is hopeful those concerned about the current state of the country will be encouraged to fight for a better world.
He adds, “We’ve got to think about the complexities within our country. I’m not inhuman. I woke up the day after the election with a heavy heart. But I’m still a believer. It’s what Frederick Douglass said: ‘Without struggle, there is no progress.’”
Common’s potent, timely new album Black America Again is out today. In tandem with the release of the album, the veteran Chicago MC has released a short film of the same name. The 21-minute visual is full of quiet, unflinching imagery. It’s bookended by lingering, striking, black-and-white portraits of black people of all shades and … More »
Common was on late-night TV last week for a powerful performance of the title track to his new album, Black America Again, which comes out at the end of the week. Last night, he sat down for an interview with Seth Meyers, and talked about what it was like to work with Stevie … More »
Gone ‘Til The 13 of November: How Lil Wayne’s Riker’s Island Journal Intersects with Ava DuVernay’s Amazing Documentary, “The 13th”
In 2010, Lil Wayne and Kalief Browder were both in Rikers Island.
One was a famous rap star, and the other was a poor teenager from The Bronx. Lil Wayne was sentenced to Rikers to serve a one-year sentence for Attempted Criminal Possession of a Weapon. He entered the prison in March of 2010 and was released in November of 2010. His experiences, which are at once sad, scary, funny, and moving have recently been published in his memoir, “Gone Til November.”
Kalief Browder, who was arrested on false charges of second-degree robbery was held on $10,000 bond. For three years. Unlike, Lil Wayne, Browder was not convicted of his charges. He was literally sitting in jail because he and his family could not afford to bail him out. Without a trial, Browder was held for three years and two of those years were spent in solitary confinement. He was eventually released when his charges were dismissed, and two years after his release he committed suicide by hanging. The horrific conditions of Browder’s detention contributed greatly to his terrible depression, and eventual suicide.
The two stories which happened at nearly the same time have some surprising parallels, and many major differences. Wayne was held in restrictive custody, that means that he was in a unit that was fairly insular. In his book, he writes about his fellow inmates and captains as if they are a cast of recurring characters on a sitcom or at least a dramedy. While Browder was booked into the Robert N. Davoren Center which houses male adolescents ages 16-18. The jail is known for having a “deep-seated culture of violence.”
Rikers Island is New York City’s main jail complex. It sits on a 400-acre island floating halfway between Queens and The Bronx. There are eight jails for men, and one for women. At any given time, on any given day, there are about 11,000 people housed at Rikers. Most are awaiting trials are serving short-term sentences. Rikers has repeatedly been ranked one of the 10 worst correctional facilities in the United States.
Rikers also has the dubious distinction of having one of the country’s highest rates of solitary confinement. Both Browder and Wayne both experienced solitary confinement. In solitary, Browder was deprived of food, and was only able to leave his cell for showers, which were not daily. Wayne was taken to solitary during his sentence for possession of an MP3 player, which is writes about in the book as one of his greatest sources of comfort. He went to solitary confinement in the infirmary ward and writes in detail about being taken to the showers to discover pools of blood.
Both Lil Wayne and Kalief Browder contemplated suicide at Rikers. The bleak circumstances that he was in, without conviction, Browder became depressed and attempted suicide after sitting in Rikers for two years.
Wayne did not attempt suicide, in fact, early in his sentence he worked as a Suicide Prevention Aide where his job was to walk the unit with a flashlight at night, and shine it into cells every half-hour to ensure that no one is “hanging up.” However, toward the end of the book, he did ruminate on his thoughts about suicide in jail:
“I ended up thinking about all types of shit. One thing that stood out was how I’ve never been this close to suicide before. It’s truly a new reality for me. I was actually there when this kid that was in mental isolation tried to hang up. What’s really fucked up is that it all could’ve been prevented if the [correctional officers] would’ve just brought him some water. P. 139”
One could only imagine what would have happened if their paths had crossed. If they had known about the other, if they had been able to speak. Would the young Browder, who entered jail a 17-year-old student, and would depart a 20-year-old man, have been impressed to hear from or meet a famous rapper? Would it have helped at all? We will never know.
After Wayne’s release from Rikers Island in November 2010, he was back partying at Liv in Miami the following Sunday. When he left, he rode out in a Phantom. He would go on to record more music and make more money.
Kalief Browder was a different story. He returned home to his family, quieter, sullen, broken. He would stay alone in his room with the door closed, often pacing the same way he did in solitary. While Wayne asserts in “Gone Til November,” “they can lock up our body, but not our mind,” Browder’s mind was still locked up even though his body was free and in June of 2015 two years after being out ofRikers, Browder hung himself at his Bronx home. His body was discovered by his mother, who herself passed away this week, of what the New York Daily News calls, “a broken heart.” (Editor’s Note: New York Mayor de Blasio terminated solitary confinement for 16- and 17-year-olds, a move highly influenced by the Kalief Browder case.)
The intersection between the release of Lil Wayne’s memoir, the debut of DuVernay’s The 13th on Netflix, and the death of Venida Browder are all unrelated coincidences, or are they? Could they be the universe nudging us to act? To make prison reform the next, and perhaps, most important next step of the Black Lives Matter Movement? Either way, they are all evidence that we are living in the midst of a moment. A moment where we, the generation who grew up writing book reports on Martin Luther King, Jr., have to become activists. We have to become more than social media activists and hashtaggers, we have to take action. We have to save lives, and by saving others, we may just save ourselves.
Lil Wayne’s moving memoir, Gone Til November is available now in stores and online, published by Plume Press. Ava DuVernay’s outstanding documentary, The 13th is streaming on Netflix.
Rest in Peace to Kalief and Venida Browder.
Biba Adams is a NYC-based writer, dreamer, and doer. Follow her @BibatheDiva and visit her blog, www.bibathediva.com where she writes eclectic personal essays.