Kyle Scatliffe of 'The Color Purple' on what the story can teach men

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Kyle Scatliffe attends 'The Color Purple' Broadway Cast Photo Call at Intercontinental Hotel on November 20, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media Service
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 20: Kyle Scatliffe attends 'The Color Purple' Broadway Cast Photo Call at Intercontinental Hotel on November 20, 2015 in New York City. Photo by Raymond Hagans/Steed Media Service

 

Actor Kyle Scatliffe is starring as the conflicted Harpo in the latest revival of The Color Purple on Broadway. The acclaimed actor shared his thoughts on Harpo, the story and why he thinks those who criticize The Color Purple are ultimately missing the point.

On finding relatability in Harpo: "He's trying to understand what life is and who he is. It's a journey I'm still on--I'm 29, and it's a journey to figure out who you are and where you fit in the world. I think that's a basic journey we all go through and a lot of people can see that and experience that."

On Harpo's worldview: "I also love his being with Sofia [Danielle Brooks] and he's trying to have this happily ever after that he thinks exists. And he's trying to have it in the way that he doesn't know how to make it happen--he's flying by the seat of his pants and it all kind of crumbles but it comes back."

On criticism of the misogyny in the story: "I think what [detractors] are missing is the basic experience of trying to figure out who we are. The story teaches us--as men, honestly--how to treat each other and how to treat other people. I think a big thing about it is just respect. There's a lot of respect and love and forgiveness. I think people can learn from seeing this. I know that there can be criticism and [people] say it's misogynist, but I don't feel that when I step on stage or read the book. I just felt that there were people who'd been through these experiences. The men in this story came from slavery...and they're doing what happened to them. They're governing the world of women the same way that the slave master governed them. They're not just being who they are because they're men, they're who they are because they've learned it."

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Director Anthony Hemingway wanted to tackle slavery from a different angle

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Anthony Hemingway has worked steadily in film and television for more than 15 years. The director made his feature film debut with the WWII epic Red Tails, but even prior to that, he'd built a lengthy resume on the heels of his work with acclaimed shows like The Wire and features like Freedomland, on which he was an assistant director. In 2016, Hemingway's latest project, Underground, will hit the small screen. The mini-series is set on a plantation during slavery, and Hemingway says he went into this wanting to tell a different kind of story.

"One of our challenges was taking a story that’s rarely known and has rarely been told and finding a new voice," he explains. "I knew that would be a challenge, but it was something that we welcomed and was a risk that we weren’t afraid of. We wanted to definitely give agency to slaves and humanize them. Instead of continuing the path or journey that’s bene done many times before—done well—but its exhausting. We wanted to find the heroism in them, the strength and finding ways of tapping into the celebration of life. Those are beautiful things."

And he learned a lot from working on the project.

"I didn’t know that slaves had plantation dances where they were able to go and be human, dance, hook up, meet nad have fun," he admits. "You don’t really get to know or see those moments."

He wants critics who bemoan projects about slavery to understand that not every story has been told and that we shouldn't shy away from those stories.

"We were never looking to tell a history lesson, we wanted to make this an experience. There are small nuggets that represent the history and the history has been rooted. There’s a foundation. We wanted to spend our time on shedding light on dynamics we don’t get to see. We wanted to shed light on a whole new perspective."


Famed dancer/choreographer offers industry and fitness tips

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Tarzan is one of the more accomplished dancers/choreographers working today. Based in New York City, Tarzan has taken the stage with luminaries such as Grace Jones and Madonna, performing everywhere from Afropunk in Brooklyn to the Rebel Hearts Tour. He offered some words of wisdom for guys looking to break into the world of dance and choreography, sharing what he's learned throughout his career.

"Make sure that you research your business," says Tarzan. "It’s fun and amazing to travel and work with different people doing different gigs, but you want to make sure that this is the industry that’s for you and it will fit your lifestyle. It’s a business first, most people only see the performance side of it."

And Tarzan also believes in continuous learning.

"Always be in class," he says. "Take all styles, from anybody and everybody. Don’t just stick to one style or one choreographer. Especially if your goal is commercial dance, don’t just think about dancing for a Chris Brown, think about dancing for the people who work for Chris Brown; creative directors, styling team. They work with all of these people, so don’t put all your eggs in oen basket."

Fitness is important for your craft and Tarzan urges young dancers to not take it for granted.

"Take care of your body," he advises. "A lot of dancers think that the only thing you can dod is dance and that’s it. you have to make sure you’re eating well and treating your body well. Eating well, sleeping and working out. You have to work out. Dance is not just working out, it’s a cardio form but you definitely have to work out. Take care of yourself.

"I learned from Ciara’s choreographer Jamaica Craft--these words have stuck with me ever since--she said if you stay ready, you never have to get ready. Keep your headshots on you, keep your business cards on you. Make sure everything is appropriate and business-ready—have your personality in it—but stay ready."


'Sweet Jones: Pimp C's Trill Life Story'

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The life of Chad "Pimp C" Butler was tragically short, but the UGK rapper-producer's legend looms large for fans of hip-hop, and Southern hip-hop, in particular. Much more street than OutKast but less macabre than Scarface, UGK's legacy is as much a part of Southern hip-hop music and culture as those iconic mainstays. Surviving member Bun B carries the torch, but with her biography of the late Pimp C, Julia Beverly reminds us how much of a void was left by his untimely death.

"People often remember Pimp C for his flamboyant style and controversial interviews, but few understand just how complex and talented he was and how connected he was to the success of many other artists," Beverly says via press release. "Initially, I felt this was an important project because he hadn't received a proper tribute. The more I researched, I realized his story is one that needs to be told, and I'm in the perfect position to tell it."

Beverly worked on the book with the help of Pimp C's late mother, Weslyn "Mama Wes" Monroe, who died in 2013. Over more than four years, Beverly compiled interviews from Mama Wes, Bun B and UGK's hip-hop contemporaries like Rick Ross and Paul Wall. Sweet Jones reveals Chad Butler to be a complex and intriguing individual beyond the Pimp C image, someone who was able to draw people together and influence his environment in a way that made him an influential figure in Texas rap and a respected man in hip-hop circles all over. But the most touching component of Beverly's book is the way that Mama Wes frames Pimp C's story. The role she played in his life and legacy form the soul of Sweet Jones. It elevates the book from mere hip-hop recollections to something deeper; an examination of one man's impact as defined by how his family shaped him.

One of the most pervasive myths about hip-hop is that it's still a "young" art form. It isn't, really. It may be younger than blues, jazz, R&B and rock, but it's been around 42 years and 36 years as a genre. That's about as old as rock and R&B were in the '80s and '90s — and no one was regarding those genres as still "young" by that point. So hip-hop is well past the point of canonization. The legendary artists, albums, eras and styles should be elevated by literature and film. Biopics like Straight Outta Compton, documentaries like Time Is Illmatic; all help to champion the genre. and Sweet Jones: Pimp C's Trill Life Story is another win for that aspect of celebrating the genre. Beverly captured the spirit of Chad Butler and helps to keep that spirit alive for a new generation of fans. And UGK's music is too good to ever be dismissed or forgotten.

 


Mint Condition on their clean living: 'There's no heavy drugs or alcohol'

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photo courtesy: MINT CONDITION

R&B veterans Mint Condition have been making beautiful music for almost three decades. The versatile band from Minneapolis recently released the holiday collection Healing Season, and reflected on the long road to where they are today. Looking back over the course of their career, the guys admit that things could've taken a very different turn.

"It’s definitely not easy," says Rick Kinchen (bassist.) "We are not all cut from the same cloth or think the same way or do the same thing or react the same way to the same thing. I don’t know if we realize that at all, but we also haven’t had some of the problems that a lot of groups have. I’m sure some of us sit around and look at what each other does, but it’s nothing compared to what you see on ‘Unsung’ and all of that. We’ve been blessed in a lot of ways to not have so much strife."

Frontman Stokley Williams adds: "When we work close together, it’s like family. We’ve had bouts and fights and all that stuff—that’s just the nature of it. But you realize what things are important. What things are worth being more passionate about vs less passionate about. But we learn that we’re all men here and you have to jockey for position to make your voice heard."

For this particular band, the sex, drugs and rock & roll lifestyle never became an obsession. 25 years after releasing their first hit, Mint Condition's relative sobriety is recognized as part of what has kept them going. And an understanding of each other.

"I just realize that we’re all not the same. Some are going to be tougher, some are going to be softer—some have other things to think about," says Rick. "There’s no heavy drugs or heavy alcohol. Those things never really…there’s nobody that’s beating down some chick every week to end up on the news. There is stuff that irritates you, but at the end of the day, we’re not all cut the same."


What have been the keys to success for these five black actors?

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There are demands that come along with being in the public eye. The weight of celebrity is often dismissed because of the glitz associated with the lifestyle, but there are a wealth of potential mine fields to navigate. Everyone's perspective is different, obviously. But these five black actors offered their take on how they approach their careers, handle stardom and address hot-button issues under the glare of the public eye.

Craig Robinson (This Is the End, Brooklyn Nine-Nine): "In Hollywood, you’ve got to grow a thick skin,” he says. “There were times when I just knew I had the audition. I auditioned for this movie and at the end of the audition the director held my hand in the air and said ‘The winner is!’ After that—I never heard from them again. I was like ‘Dang. Welcome to Hollywood.’ The movie didn’t get made, but I’d heard ‘They’re looking at Chris Rock for that.’ I was like ‘No! They can’t be! I’m the winner!’ Wait till everything is signed on the dotted line and wait until the check is cashed. Then you can celebrate.”

Laz Alonso (The Mysteries of LauraWhy Did I Get Married?): "The people that you see in pictures on Instagram and Twitter, the majority of those people I’ve had in my life since before my career. They don’t see me as an actor. They see me as a friend. These are people that I consider mentors or confidants or friends or business associates. They’ve been with me through my ups and downs and many different facets of my life. New people are going to see you from the lens they meet you in. And the new people I meet, I try my best to have a very discerning mindset regarding who’s who. You get fooled sometimes but that usually comes to light fairly quickly. But for the most part, I’ve found that I can keep my life normal as long as I keep my circle of friends true from Day One. My Day Ones are always with me."

Romany Malco (Think Like A Man, Top Five): "I just want to help people get out of this indoctrination. I want them to get off of this hamster wheel. Acting gives me the opportunity to speak to kids, give my perspective and maybe they’ll say ‘Damn, he just changed my whole game.’ That’s why it’s worth it to me. They could tell me to be a stand-in all day, if I get to do that I’ll be that stand-in."

Anthony Mackie (Ant-Man, Black Or White): "We’re all bred and raised a certain way. We’ve all had certain b.s. put into us. The question we have to ask ourselves: are we going to take the homophobia, racism and sexism that we’ve been taught and we’ve learned—are we going to pass that on to our children? Or are we going to let that become extinct and let our children grow up and paint their own slate instead of imposing our views on them?"

Michael Ealy (About Last Night, The Perfect Guy) : "I thought that when I got married and as soon as I had a kid, I was going to take fewer chances. I thought I was going to be like ‘I gotta get this check. I got a wife. I got a kid, I’m gonna get this steady paycheck.’ But ironically, I’ve been more creative since my son was born and I’ve been taking bigger chances since my son was born. I’m approaching my career in ‘bet big or go home’ [way.] And I want him and my wife to be proud of the choices I make and approaches I take to my career. I want them to see my chocies as fearless now. That’s where I am. In ten years, it might be different. In five years, it might be a different story. I might go back to wanting to get the check! [laughs] But right now, when my son is old enough, I want him to be proud of the choices his dad made."


Men's style tips from Raheem Nelson and 'Dandy In the Bronx,' Diego Leon

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Diego Leon is fashion blogger Dandy In the Bronx and he and fellow "dandy" and artist Raheem Nelson offered some advice for young men looking to step their style up a bit. Leon says that he loves high fashion, but advises guys to discover whatever style works for them.

"If this is your style, people will respect it," Leon explains. "I'm from the Bronx, and we have a mix of styles. If you're wearing a hoodie or a fitted cap and you're feeling 100% in that, more power to you. But I wnat that power right back."

Both Leon and Nelson advise fashion fans to focus on suits first and foremost.

"For someone starting out, I know you have that one suit," says Leon. "Get it tailored. You can get a suit that you bought at Macy's and take it to get tailored and it will look like a thousand books. And borrow grandpa or dad's clothes and get them tailored as well."

"I enjoy wearing a suit because it's like another artform for me," adds Nelson. "I approach like any discipline."

"Start with your basics: get your black, get your grey/charcoal and get your navy. Accessories? Keep it simple to start."

"Dressing this way has shown me a lot in terms of how poeple treat you. We say 'you can't judge a book by it's cover,' but sadly, that's not true," says Leon. "People judge you based on the way you look. Since you have control of that, you might as well offer the best presentation of yourself. Putting on a suit, with a flower and a tie, raises my confidences level."

"I used to just dress like this if I had a meeting with a client," shares Nelson. "But I think just doing this regularly, I feel great about myself. And you do notice that you're treated differently if you're wearing a nice, tailored suit."

 


Ta-Nehisi Coates 'Between the World And Me' is essential reading

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Famed author Ta-Nehisi Coates has become one of the more respected voices on race in America. Coates' writings for the Atlantic, his participation in several panels on race and culture have placed him at the forefront of a national conversation on race that has intensified over the last two years with the high-profile deaths of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Mike Brown drawing police brutality against black people back into the spotlight. Coates released his book, Between the World and Me, back in July and serves as an unofficial sequel to The Beautiful Struggle, his 2008 memoir about his formative years in Baltimore.

With Between the World..., Coates addresses the perils of being black in America as framed through a conversation with his teenage son. Coates writes of the exhausting defensiveness that young black people embrace to protect them from an environment full of antagonism and hostility, both from authorities like the police and from peers. He criticizes the dream of suburbia, a culture that was largely created out of racism and divisiveness, as well as funded by the exploitation of undesirables--particularly black people.

"[They] have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them their suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world," Coates writes.

Between the World and Me has drawn comparisons to James Baldwin's essential The Fire Next Time and has also drawn criticism from those who think that Coates isn't directly acknowledging "progress" or who feel that he's further centering young, black cis manhood in the dialogue surrounding American racism--to the exclusion of black women and LGBTQ members of the community. Coates recently discussed his book during an interview at the Schomburg Center For Black Research in Harlem and said that he only seeks to be honest in the hopes of furthering this conversation.

“You would talk to folks and they would be aware of certain truths and you could feel them pulling their punches. I think that’s disrespectful to white people. I don’t see how you are respecting folks by not speaking truthfully and from the heart. I don’t personalize stuff, but the history is what the history is. But it’s disrespectful to white people to soften the history or talk to them like they’re three years old. If I go hear a lecture on feminism or LGBT rights, I don’t want you to soften it for me,” he said.