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



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'

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."

Alacrán Tequila helps fight breast cancer

Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle
Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle

Just because October has ended doesn’t mean the fight against breast cancer has. At least not for Alacrán Tequila. To help fuel the fight, proceeds from the Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle, on sale to December, are donated to various breast cancer charities.

Although founded in Mexico City in 2010 and launched in the United States in 2011, Alacrán wasted no time lending its resources to the battle. As early as 2012, the Alacrán Tequila Limited Edition Pink Bottle was available for purchase. In subsequent years, Alacrán, the distinguished pure blue agave white tequila, has continued to do its part and 2015 is no different.

For those living in New York City, Miami and Texas, it’s easy to pick up Alacrán. For all others, online sites like Wine O Mart  are the best bet. And do note that pink isn’t the only way to go. After drinking in the name of a good cause, feel free to pick up Alacrán Cristal, the latest, greatest addition to the tequila brand.

Alacrán Cristal Tequila
Alacrán Cristal Tequila

Alacrán Cristal gets its distinctive flavor from agaves ranging from 7-10 years old harvested in the highlands of Jalisco, Mexico that are then matured for 14 months in American oak barrels used for bourbon that enhance its woody flavor. On top of that, Alacrán Cristal has an exclusive clarifying filtration process that ensures a smooth taste every time.

Whether pink or clear, there’s nothing rough about this tequila! – ronda racha penrice

Alacrán Limited Edition Pink Bottle typically retails from $42.99 to $49.99 and Alacrán Cristal from $49.99 to $59.00

2016 Kia Sorento: The New MVP?

2016 Kia Sorento
2016 Kia Sorento

There’s no arguing that the NBA is great at getting behind new talent. Back in 2009 when it drafted Kia, there were skeptics. But Kia has proven up to the challenge. That’s very evident in the 2016 Sorento.

This crowd-pleasing Sorento has been elongated and the result is a sleeker and more sophisticated vibe. The exterior is harmoniously balanced, with nothing appearing to be out of place. Inside is a joy too. First of all it’s gorgeous. There are not enough words to praise the panoramic sunroof which allows the sun to gloriously do its thing, but there is a power sunshade for those who like to hide from it. And the premium Nappa leather is a nice touch. But it’s an SUV so the fact that it’s so spacious that it even has a folding third row seat is perhaps most noteworthy.  Of course those heated first and second rows are lovely too.

It’s impressive under the hood as well with several engine options, including the 3.3. Liter, V6 which clocks up to 290 hp, at the highest trim level. Thanks to Dynamax All-Wheel Drive, optimum performance is assured, plus the Torque Vectoring Cornering Control ensures more precise turning.

Safety is foremost: ample airbags, an advanced sensor system, lane departure warning, blind-spot detection and front and rear parking assist. The Sorento’s UVO system’s advanced voice-recognition technology allows you to be completely hands-free and make calls using only your voice.

Toccoa Falls
Toccoa Falls

There’s no substitute for putting a SUV on the road to see what it’s made of. Granted Toccoa Falls, the beautifully calming waterfall that is believed to be the highest single drop waterfall east of the Mississippi located at Toccoa Falls College, is just roughly an hour and a half away from Atlanta, outside the city, the Sorento still got a chance to flex what it does. Cruise control works well and smoothly. Navigation gets the job done even when some areas are questionably barren. It effortlessly navigated the Sorento over to the more well-known Tallulah Gorge which is nearby. Those who’ve witnessed the isolation of the area know how impressive that is!

2016 Kia Sorento at Tallulah Gorge
2016 Kia Sorento at Tallulah Gorge

Overall, the ride was very comfortable. According to Kia, gas mileage hits around 18 in the city and 26 on the highway and, judging by this drive, that’s pretty accurate.

The Sorento’s starting price of $41, 300 for the Limited V6 definitely gives its competitors—the Toyota Highlander, Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo, Ford Edge—reason to worry. Clearly Kia is going for MVP status. -ronda racha penrice

London boast of Black culture and pride

Photo courtesy: Sandra Jackson-Opoku
Photo courtesy: Sandra Jackson-Opoku

The fact that London has a distinctive Black presence should come as a surprise to no one. After all, we’re in the midst of a latter day British invasion. There’s supermodel Naomi Campbell, actors Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and that magnificent hunk of maleness, Idris Elba. And who among us who came through the ’80s and ’90s can forget Sade, Soul II Soul and Floetry?
Searching out Black London on the ground takes a bit of effort. Don’t go looking for the ‘hood on Black Boy Lane, okay? It’s named for a horse, not a human being.

“Now, if you huff and puff and finally save enough money/you can take your family on a trip across the sea.”

My hidden inner black girl geek may be showing when I admit to drifting through this 2000-year-old city with British-themed melodies playing in my head. I date it to the times before I started traveling, when my exposure to the world came through books and movies and songs: “A Foggy Day in London Town”, “England Swings”, “London Bridge is Falling Down.”

“On The Street Where You Live” is quintessentially London, though the city’s name is never mentioned. It’s about that fierce, almost stalkerish delight that comes from nearing the vicinity of a loved-one’s dwelling. “And oh, the towering feeling/just to know somehow you are near.” We’ll let that song be our signpost in finding our way to some choice spots on the Black London roadmap.

Where “does enchantment pour out of every door?” When you’re in hip and happening Soho. Once a notorious red light district, this central London entertainment district is now known for its nightclubs, bars, and restaurants.

For more, visit rollingout.com.

W Chicago Lakeshore offers travelers star treatment

CHICAGO - APRIL 26: Hancock Tower, W Hotel and other buildings near Lake Michigan on April 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hancock Tower has USA's highest indoor swimming pool on the 44th floor. (Photo credit: Ffooter / Shutterstock.com)
CHICAGO - APRIL 26: Hancock Tower, W Hotel and other buildings near Lake Michigan on April 26, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Hancock Tower has USA's highest indoor swimming pool on the 44th floor. (Photo credit: Ffooter / Shutterstock.com)

As you step inside the W Chicago Lakeshore hotel, the black-and-white motif peaked my interest in seeing more. The W Chicago Lakeshore hotel is filled with beautiful plants. Nestled in the coastal city, near Lake Michigan, it's reminiscent of Italy and seaside towns near the Mediterranean.

The marble floor boasts of streaks of gray and black and leads you around this palatial venue that has the architecture of a church. Meyer Davis Design didn’t miss a beat when they unveiled the $38 million renovation last summer. Ahh! So European.

You simply can’t ignore the sounds streaming from the DJ’s tracks curated to spur you to move energetically. There are moments when you feel quite Parisian and as if you’re walking a fashion runway. Tummys in, chests out … your posture changes as does your swagger and sway as you feel your inner celebrity come forth. Even the most ordinary understand that this something special taking place in the environment.

The décor is so charming. The white glows. The gray and black ooze status and power.

Photo by Steed Media Service
Photo by Steed Media Service

Upon opening the door and walking through having walked through a black, totally black hallway one will see more chrome and more black conveyed in an artistic manner. The chandelier will be clear with the chrome base. And the walls and the comforter will once again reunite the attitude of success and design and a special moment in the bedroom. This is continued throughout the dining room at the W it continues throughout the entire field walk-through steel can be felt.

That is a classic field that doesn’t delve into necessarily a ’60s or ’70s vibe, but instead uses the presence of color simplistically to elongate the value of the color, which ranges from grays to black silvers, to grays almost black to purple hues that are found within the room.

The W Lakeshore is classic. From top to bottom but it isn’t edge of classic that robot requires an interpretation of cool and I do request for balance and understanding of it that’s action taking place. Not boring and still but with movement inside the wallpaper that can be seen. Everything is giving directions heading someplace, whether it is the marble in the floor the movement of the walls the placement of the chandeliers leading toward the beautiful view looking outside at the lake Lake Michigan.

The W Chicago Lakeshore is an exhibition of classic monotones that are crisp, cool and relaxing.

W Chicago Lakeshore hotel is the perfect place for beach, fireworks and Lake Michigan

W Chicago Lakeshore
Photos by Munson Steed for Steed Media Service

The W Chicago - Lakeshore underwent a $38 million makeover, and it's the best restyle effort to date in the area. The only Chicago hotel overlooking Lake Michigan, it's complete with all the amenities sophisticated travelers desire. From the very moment you walk in the lobby's atrium, it's cool factor flows through your veins.

For those families who thought they were just going to the local hotel when they booked the Lakeshore property, they realize they are steps from iconic attractions like Navy Pier and The Magnificent Mile. There's nothing ordinary or boring about this hotel. Spray-painted bottles adorn the walls, the marble floors are illustrious, notable jazz and house music are jumping through the speakers.

Check-in is easy. And there's a silver tray filled with Granny Smith apples for the famished traveler who needs something to nosh on before their dinner reservation at Current.

The colors, decor and magnetism at this high style hotel define the mood and is just what the soul seeking respite needs. Agua? You have so many choices: the over-the-lake fireworks display at the beautiful Navy Pier, the beautiful beach, and the seventh floor pool. There's nothing like a great stay and customer service to match. The staff from the bar to the rooms are there to serve.

There seems to be some synergistic relationship between this hotel and the city. For the romantic, it is the ideal accommodation. The ambiance is one that compels the poet to pen a special love letter, the writer to conclude his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, and the romantics to cuddle.

Picture Me Rollin: The 2015 CLS400 4-Door Coupe

2015 CLS400 Coupe
2015 Mercedes-Benz CLS400 Coupe

Okay, so the 2015 CLS400 4-door Coupe in Cardinal Red with the show-stopping diamond-block Benz emblem grille, flashy full-LED headlamps, sexy AMG body styling and sweet 19-inch twin 5-spoke alloy wheels on the outside and soft black semi-aniline leather and black body ash wood trim on the inside was my ride for the week. And, suddenly, I had so many places to go. Showing off? Me? Never. (wink)

Previewing Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was the first outing. And, like the Benz, it was so a winner. Love, love Rebecca Ferguson. Like, seriously, where did they find this badass? Only quibble: Did Mission Impossible feature the right car? Fantastic Four was no Mission Impossible. After that screening, a friend checked out all the premium goodness that is the 2015 CLS400. His warning:  Stay away from any trap-like settings Future would approve! Remember “Benz Friends” where Future insists to not give a [bleep] about a Benz? Sure, we believe you! After a private listening event for Vivian Green, another friend, who spied the CLS on social media, wanted to play Robin. Her verdict: way too low to the ground but pretty.

Valet looked too happy to see it at a press luncheon for comedic actor Brandon T. Jackson and, later, at one of his UPTOWN Comedy Corner shows. An outing with friends for sangria became a “how can I be down?” moment once valet rolled it out. The most fun: hanging with my teenage girl cousins from Chicago who loved, loved the ride inside and out. Yes it totally seats four comfortably.

Mercedes-Benz CLS400 CoupeBut it’s not all paradise. Something about grabbing the center console gear shifter is just so much sexier than shifting gears on the steering wheel. Stepping up to the Benz didn’t always open sesame either. Still it’s hard to go wrong with 329 horsies, a V-6 engine, 7-speed automatic transmission and a top speed of 131 mph. As a bonus, eco-mode assures more than decent gas mileage, with 30 highway and 20 city serving as totally plausible numbers. Safety features are on point too. Just let a car try and hit you! And it’s truly spacious with enough trunk space to hold three reasonably-sized luggage.

Of course it’s not cheap: the 2015 CLS400 Coupe starts at almost $66,000, with amenities like navigation, power-folding mirrors and WiFi included with the premium package, the surround view camera system in the parking assist package and pre-safe brake with pedestrian recognition in the driver assistance package, tallying up to just over $84,000.

Oh there’s a reason rappers prefer Benz the most in their rhymes!

ronda racha penrice




5 ways to be fabulous on your island vacation

Photo by Christina Steed for Steed Media Service
Photo by Christina Steed for Steed Media Service

When we are lucky enough to be able to escape on a vacation, we must make the most of said vacation. That’s easy to do when you land someplace fabulous like St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Its cousin islands, St. John and St. Croix, are also places of heavenly beauty. Put exploring the island of St. Thomas on your next vacation vision board. Below are five ways to keep it super fabulous when you get there.

1. Pack the right outfits. The weather is perfection with slight breezes and sunny, blue skies. Shorts, cute dresses, flat sandals and plenty of bikinis and cover-ups are in order. Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen and wear a hairstyle you don’t mind sweating in because it does get hot and steamy on the island.
2. Bring your appetite. If you’ve been waiting to flex your bikini body on the beach, you are now free to eat some of the delicious island food. Check out Gladys Café for a breakfast of omelet, pancakes, or even oatmeal if you want to stick with your pre-beach diet. For lunch, her menu also features delicious local fish selections, big salads, and sandwiches. For a more romantic and expensive dinner occasion, the Banana Tree Grille should be on your list – the most delicious grilled lobster ever.
3. Plan to attend at least one local event. Whether it’s a comedy show or music concert, there are a ton of exciting activities to explore in St. Thomas. Or, for the more adventurous, reserve a catamaran excursion or do some scuba diving.
4. Squeeze in some time at the spa. No vacation is complete without some time at the spa. Choose one that fits your style. If you want the full on spa day (massage, facial, etc.) check out Prana Spa. If you want to indulge in a manicure and pedicure, the Lazule Spa and Salon can’t be beat. Be sure to build in time to lounge at the private spa pool at the Lazule.
5. Shop for unique finds. The island has several shopping areas ranging from the high end Yacht Haven and its luxury stores to the Royal Dane Shopping Mall. Be sure to grab stuff at street stands in different spots around the island that you wouldn’t find back home. Local artisans' jewelry designs will stand out as items you couldn’t leave the island without.

Tijuana Picnic is the new hot spot in New York fall 2015

Tijuana Picnic

The highly acclaimed Tijuana Picnic is one of the most popular restaurant additions to the Lower East Side. Offering a wide variety of authentic Mexican cuisine, Tijuana Picnic is a spicy getaway for brunch, dinner, original cocktails focused on agave spirits such as tequila and mezcal, and dancing in the downstairs lounge. The restaurant is frequented by chic, in the know New Yorkers and has been featured in an impressive lineup of publications including W Magazine, The Last Magazine, Vogue, The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, Harpers Bazaar, The Daily Front Row, Thrillist, Gothamist, The Infatuation, and more.

In December 2014, Jon Neidich and Jean-Marc Houmard, managing partners of Acme, together with Huy Chi Le of Indochine and designer Robert McKinley, opened Tijuana Picnic on the Lower East Side. A menu of high quality ingredients with non-traditional flavor accents transforms casual Mexican fare into bold, balanced and surprising dishes of fine dining-caliber. The cocktail program, headed by New York bartending veteran Jim Kearns, currently of The Happiest Hour and formerly of the NoMad Hotel and Mayahuel, focuses on tequila and mezcal, and other lesser-known agave spirits.

Chef Alex Lopez, formerly of Kittichai, leads the kitchen and riffs on the flavors of his native Mexico City with Asian accents. Highlights from the menu include Grilled Corn with cricket aioli and coffee-chipotle powder; Red Snapper Ceviche with citrus, avocado, cilantro and red Thai chili; Mezcal-marinated Shrimp Tacos with red cabbage & purple potatoes; and Juki Skirt Steak Tacos with shiso, spicy aioli & pickled veg. Chinese sausage Gorditas, pork dumplings in the Sopa de Tortilla, and yuzu in the Churros’ butter exemplify Lopez’s original, Asian-influenced approach to Mexican fare.

Tijuana Picnic 13

The downstairs dining room and lounge at Tijuana Picnic, features a late-night menu as well as an extensive selection of 40 tequilas and 40 mezcals. Retro tunes played by DJs most nights of the week, the peripheral deep blue banquettes and fewer tables make for a Mexican dance party and playful “south of the border” ambiance. The poured concrete floors, brass lamps and a plywood bar that glows from yellow resin, contribute to the bodega sensibility, elevated to the understated chic of Tulum at night. Open late Thursday through Saturday.
Tijuana Picnic is located at 151 Essex Street between Stanton and Rivington.