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Patti Cake$ is a tasty dessert [MOVIE REVIEW]

It’s not only hard out here for a pimp, it’s also tough for a young struggling would-be rapper named Patti (Danielle MacDonald). She’s the primary breadwinner in her household which includes her grandmother whose respiratory system is ravaged by decades of smoking and her mother who also has dreams of singing stardom. Between working a series of low-end jobs, Patti does everything she can to advance her career. And she’s not alone in her visions of fame; there’s Hareesh (Siddharth Dhananjay), an East Indian pharmacy tech who’s just as fascinated with rap as she is.

So you have a chubby blonde girl and her Indian sidekick in hot pursuit of becoming part of rap royalty. They can write and rhyme but their team becomes complete when they come across a black kid, Anti-Christ (Mamoudou Athie) who has a functional recording studio in the remote shack where he lives. They create a demo tape which gives them a product to promote.

Patti Cake$ is a production that has a lot to overcome to make it work. And it does overcome. Patti Cake$ is a See it!

It starts with the film’s writer/director, Geremy Jasper. Patti’s lyrics had to be solid, credible rhymes - with rhythm. They are. There’s a saying: write what you know. Geremy is a video music director. He knows and understands this genre. Next, Danielle MacDonald, a native of Australia, had to master the craft. She does. Her rapping is smooth, natural, and authentic. Her ability and familiarity with rap reflect the universal appeal of black America’s music. Rebel Wilson of the Pitch Perfect film series, who is also Australian, said her favorite song growing up was Jump! by Kris Kross, which reached No. 1 in the land down under. And you should “Believe dat”.

The film features the necessary debate as to Patti’s right to rap. While working as a server at a private party hosted by a rap legend, she bursts into a performance as he sits alone waiting for his guests to arrive. He is thoroughly unimpressed and accuses her of abducting a culture that is not hers. She also gets fired.

Another part of Patti Cake$’s successful recipe is the quirky but perfect performances of costars, Siddharth Dhananjay and Mamoudou Athie. However, Athie’s character keeps very expensive recording equipment in his shack where it could easily be stolen. Coupled with the fact that much equipment requires at least a 440 electrical system, unlikely wiring for that hovel, makes that part of the storyline dubious at best.

This film gets an “A” for cast diversity. The cast reflects both the working class white community Patti lives in and the rap world which has a primarily black following with a substantial number of fans of other races.

Ultimately, Patti Cake$ works because it combines an interesting story, strong acting and absolutely, necessary credibility from a white girl effectively performing what is considered a black art form.

Patti Cake$ is 108 minutes and rated R for strong language throughout, crude sexual references, some drug use and a brief nude image. And it gets our highest rating, See It!

R&G Innovator Terrell “T-Rex” Simon Talks Debut Album

VIDEO INTERVIEW: Terrell “T-Rex” Simon excited about debut album As the World Turns and upcoming performances at B.B. Kings and The Apollo

In this interview, R&G innovator, Terrell “T-Rex” Simon sat down with Onika McLean, co-host of What’s The 411 to talk about his new single, Let It Rain, off of his forthcoming album, As the World Turns. They also talked about the new music category, R&G; using music to create a street ministry, using the label R&G to create a new audience for Gospel Music; and how the church needs to meet people where they are.

Terrell Simon’s music career started in the church in Troy, New York. In 2003, Simon’s connections led him to platinum-selling singer-songwriter/producer Lyfe Jennings who took him on the road with his act. Simon began touring with such major artists as John Legend, Beyonce, Anthony Hamilton, and Musiq Soulchild. As a huge fan of Dave Hollister, coming up he adopted a similar sound, patterning his voice after the vocal sensation, and later touring with him as a backup singer. His TV appearances include Jimmy Kimmel, Good Morning America, David Letterman, Jay Leno, 106 & Park, and The Monique Show, among others. The pivotal moment in his career came when he appeared on MTV Unplugged with Neyo, which gained mass exposure for him.

After sharing stages with everyone including Wyclef Jean and Mario, Simon started managing Lyfe Jennings, and road-managing vocalist Shaliek while mentoring and developing him and other talents such as Day 26. In 2015, Simon teamed with artist, producer, and singer Lamar Casey who served as executive producer and co-wrote his debut album. Simon also teamed with Bernie Stevenson (Isyss, Kelly Rowland), who took his riveting raw vocals and created the soul-stirring track, In His Image, which set Simon's launch pad for a fresh start.

Terrell “T-Rex” Simon brings to the industry his own musical genre, 'R&G' for rhythm and gospel, which beautifully infuses his natural church boy upbringing with his love of Hip Hop. In His Image was in rotation at Music Choice and gained radio play daily. The song's immediate appeal pointed to a fast growing musical phenomenon (exampled by 100,000 Instagram followers to date), which laid the groundwork for Simon’s debut album, As The World Turns.

Terrell “T-Rex” Simon has recently performed for a BET Music Matters showcase in NY, opened up for Lyfe Jennings, Bobby V, and Keke Wyatt. This performance led to appearances at B.B. King's and The Apollo Theater.

Terrell “T-Rex” Simon’s music is available on every digital platform including Spotify, Pandora, iTunes, iHeart Radio, XM Satellite, and SoundCloud, with hard copy CDs available on Amazon.com.

Ava DuVernay and Harpo Collaborate on a Deal with Netflix

VIDEO DISCUSSION: DuVernay’s Central Park Five to be a Netflix limited series; Blue Ivy Carter is getting a lot of attention; Blac Chyna takes Rob to Court

What's The 411 Episode 113 consists of QUICK TAKES of topical news about Ava DuVernay; Chrissy Teigen, RYSE TV, Blue Ivy's Boom Shakalaka and lively discussions about Tupac and Madonna, Blac Chyna and Rob Kardashian, and Japanese men who are turning to life-sized anatomically-correct dolls for companionship.

QUICK TAKES:

Film director Ava DuVernay is tackling another tough subject affecting African-Americans. Using the Central Park Five case, DuVernay will explore the subject of social and criminal injustice. Central Park Five, a five-part miniseries will debut on Netflix in 2019.

Chrissy Teigen would like you to stop sending her photos of babies that look like John Legend. She’s sick of it already, so just stop it!

Be on the lookout for RYSE TV. What started out as a magazine is growing into a VOD streaming entertainment platform and mobile app. Based in Atlanta, RYSE, which stands for “Recognizing the Young Successful and Empowered,” will soon become a multimedia group, offering the magazine, TV content, and an app.

Rapper and business mogul, Jay Z’s new album, 4:44 is out and when the confessional album dropped, it had the world talking. But, when the world heard five-year-old Blue Ivy's Boom Shakalaka freestyle, let’s just say that the little rumble you heard was the Internet breaking yet again with people signing up for #IvyLeague!

Pictures of Khloe Kardashian, North West, and Tristan Thompson surfaced online and the Tristan Thompson haters did not hold back, from wondering why he’s not with his own child to God is going to punish him, to hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers dump him.

Kendall and Kylie Jenner's T-Shirt Debacle

The lawsuits keep piling up for Kylie and Kendall Jenner over their T-shirts infused with pictures of themselves and iconic rappers Tupac and Biggie. First, Voletta Wallace, Biggie’s mom, hit fast and furiously, and now according to Billboard, photographer Michael Miller is suing the sisters for copyright infringement over the use of photos he took of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.

WHAT’S POPPIN – AMERICAN CULTURE

A letter that rapper/actor Tupac Shakur wrote to pop star Madonna breaking off their relationship is going up for auction July 19th through the 28th on the Gotta Have Rock and Roll website, with bids starting at $100,000. The letter shows Tupac as very sensitive, thoughtful, and well-educated. Tupac seemed to have broken off the relationship with Madonna because of what half of his fans would think of him dating a white woman. However, he was hurt by a comment in the press that she was “off to rehabilitate all the rappers and basketball players”. Prior to reading that comment, Tupac thought he was the first rapper Madonna dated.

Q. What are your thoughts about this revelation of the Tupac letter to Madonna?

WHAT’S POPPIN – RELATIONSHIPS

In more Kardashian news, it looks like Rob Kardashian has gotten himself into a whole lot of hot water. In a series of extremely graphic and expletive-ridden posts, which have since been taken down, Kardashian blasted his ex-girlfriend and mother of his only child, Blac Chyna. Chyna responded to the onslaught of messages in a since-deleted Snapchat post, alleging that Kardashian hit her. She has also lawyered up. Famed attorney Lisa Bloom is now representing Blac Chyna and it is not looking good for Rob Kardashian. In fact, Kardashian now has a temporary restraining order against him.

A source close to Blac Chyna told People magazine that Chyna is the victim in this situation: “She’s had to have a new phone number every month and constantly has to change her number. While everyone is writing stories and thinking it’s fun gossip, it’s actually dangerous.”

Q. Does Rob need psychological help? Are we being sucked into the marketing machine of a new season of Rob and Chyna?

WHAT’S POPPIN – RELATIONSHIPS

The NY Post had an article about a new trend in Japan. It seems that Japanese men are turning to life-sized anatomically-correct dolls for companionship because they feel that their wives are neglecting them.

What happened to the notion that women are supposed to do whatever their husbands want?

PHOTO OF THE WEEK

Our Photo of the week is a photo of Madonna and Tupac hanging out at the club.

THE 411onBOOKS INTRO

Coming up next, Troy Johnson, CEO, and webmaster of AALBC.com and Ruth Morrison are giving a shout out to Go On Girl Book Club for the way it gives back to the community.

And, they can help you to find a good book to read!

MOTIVATIONAL QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

Our Motivational Quote of the Week is:

Success belongs to those who chase it.

This is a quote from Chris Louis. Chris posted his quote in the comments section in one of our YouTube videos. So, keep posting motivational quotes and you never know where we’ll find your quote.

CARIBBEAN COOK-UP

ONIKA: And now….here’s Ms. Kizzy with her Caribbean cook up. What’s in the pot, gal!?

KIZZY: Now, Fay Ann Lyons might have made the song famous, but this is what I call "Heavy T Bumper!" Soca artist Destra invited a man from Belize onto the stage and had him lay down. Destra dropped herself butt first onto his groin area. That did not go well, she burst the man’s bladder and he sued Destra for medical fees, 2 months of missed work as well as pain and suffering. A Belizean judge ordered Destra to pay the man just over $55,000 TT dollars which amount to less than 10,000 USD.

What’s The 411 Ep. 112: John Singleton starts feud over Tupac Movie

VIDEO DISCUSSION: Benny Boom claps back at John Singleton; Katy Perry attempts to mend fences with Taylor Swift; Mary J. Blige has to pay up; and more!

This episode of What’s The 411 consists of QUICK TAKES of topical news about Mariah Carey, Katy Perry, Mary J. Blige. Next, there are lively discussions focused on what would you do if a marriage proposal was accompanied by a $35.00 engagement ring; colleges declining promising students because of their social media activity, and; film director Benny Boom claps back at director John Singleton over the Tupac movie. Rounding out the episode are the following segments: Photo of the Week; The 411 on Books with AALBC.com president and webmaster, Troy Johnson, and Ruth J. Morrison; a Motivational Quote provided by Denise Hurley; and upcoming events in Brooklyn.

 

Woman Speaks Out at Press Conference in Usher Herpes Saga

VIDEO: Attorney Lisa Bloom holds press conference in New York City standing by the side of brave female who accuses Usher of exposing her to herpes

Today, attorney Lisa Bloom held a press conference in New York City, to announce that her law firm would be filing a lawsuit against R&B singer, Usher Raymond IV, on behalf of her client, Quantasia Sharpton, and two other people.

At issue, according to Attorney Bloom, Usher allegedly had sexual contact with people without telling them that he was infected with herpes.

According to Ms. Sharpton, she came in contact with Usher after attending one of his concerts. Ms. Sharpton said she was wearing a crown for her birthday at the Usher concert and she and her friends were invited backstage. She gave her number to security and then back at the hotel she received a call from the She Got It Bad singer.

“We spoke for a while and then we engaged in sexual contact. He never warned me about any STDs, it was just after my 19th birthday,” Sharpton, 21, said during the press conference. “When I first heard he had herpes I couldn’t believe it...I would have never consented if I had known.”

After Ms. Sharpton gave her statement, Attorney Bloom said in part:

“By filing this lawsuit, we seek to ascertain the truth. We hope the reports are not true. We hope that Mr. Raymond is negative and that this can all be cleared up quickly. We hope that he has not knowingly endangered his sex partners, fans who revered him, and who were thrilled to receive his personal attention. In addition to the three plaintiffs in this lawsuit, several other individuals have contacted me with the same concerns. My Bloom firm team is in the process of reviewing their facts, evidence, and witnesses as we do in any case and as we have done for the three plaintiffs who are suing today. So more people may be added in the days to come. No one in America, not even a popular celebrity is above the law. And everyone, even ordinary people who find themselves swept away by a superstar has the legal right to be respected, which includes being warned about STDs so that each person can make a decision about her own health and her own body.”

The other two people represented by the Bloom Firm are a woman and a man, identified as Jane Doe and John Doe.

Check the video below to see the full Attorney Lisa Bloom press conference announcing a lawsuit against Usher Raymond.

Attorney Lisa Bloom Usher Herpes Press Conference

Dress for Success Worldwide Celebrates 20 Years

VIDEO: The Celebrating the Journey Gala, attended by industry leaders from the worlds of fashion, entertainment, media, retail, philanthropy, and finance

The Dress for Success Worldwide annual fundraising gala held at Cipriani Wall Street brought out the organization's staunch devotees, new supporters, and celebrity advocates and benefactors to help celebrate the organization’s 20th Anniversary. On the red carpet, Joi Gordon, Dress for Success Worldwide CEO, welcomed the organization’s champions including those with boldface names such as UK rapper Estelle; America's Next Top Model's (ANTM) former creative director, Jay Manuel; fashion designer Nicole Miller; Miss USA 2016, Deshauna Barber; Dress for Success board member Carmen Rita Wong; Sunny Hostin, a co-host on The View; Mara Schiavocampo, ABC News New York-based correspondent and others.

During the evening’s festivities, Estelle treated Dress for Success supporters to a performance of Conqueror. The audience also learned about the mission of Dress for Success and its updates. Women who were beneficiaries of Dress for Success gave testimonies of how the organization helped them. For some, the donated clothing was more than a garment to wear, it was the difference between getting a job because they were dressed appropriately and continued unemployment. For all, obtaining help from Dress for Success was a self-esteem booster.

During the evening, Dress for Success honored its founder, Nancy Lublin. As a second-year law student in 1996, Lublin created Dress for Success in a church basement with the help of a few nuns. Today, Dress for Success is helping women achieve economic independence with the help of more than 149 affiliates in 26 countries.

Detroit – See it now or visit later. [MOVIE REVIEW]

In 1967 Detroit, an illegal “party” which includes drinking and gambling leads to the mass arrest of the attendees and sets off five days of rioting in Motown. The police raid the riot area. When they hear shots originating from a nearby hotel, they believe the shots are directed at them, so they converge on the lodge with dire consequences for the young black men and the two white women staying there.

Based on a true story, Detroit attempts to tell a sad segment of Motown’s history. Unfortunately, the filmmakers fail to deliver a product worthy of this important event.

First, the screenwriter, Mark Boal, neglected to lay a foundation of the conditions in Detroit that set off the riots. The story begins with the police raid of a party, which is led by a black detective with the support of a black informant. The uniformed cops, who were mainly white, are generally restrained in their dealings with those arrested.

To any filmgoer unaware of the conditions of the City’s black residents in the 1960s, they might reasonably believe that what they saw didn’t merit five days of rioting. Detroit doesn’t fully address the root causes of the riot: high unemployment, governmental neglect of communities of color and the overall sense of hopelessness that many in America’s urban areas felt at the time.

The film does go into painful, exacting details of the brutality – and killing – which the police committed against the hotel guests.

Another flaw is that Boal, and director Kathryn Bigelow, did not authenticate the characters’ dialogue with 60’s lingo. Phrases like the “The Man” which referred to authority figures – white men - who maintained the corporate, legal and political status quo was widely used during the 1960s, even on TV, was not uttered in this film. “Ticked Off” which can still be heard today meaning angry didn’t make the cut. These and other rich and popular 60’s slang were not included in the film, which took away from Detroit’s authenticity.

However, one exchange was amusing. When a white cop asked one of the white women what she was doing in a hotel room with a black guy, she responds: “Wake up Man! It’s 1967!”

The cast, diversity-wise, reflects Detroit in the 1960s when almost 100% of the city was black and white.

Ultimately, you should see Detroit. I’ll leave it to you to decide to See It now or Rent It later.

Detroit is two hours and 23 minutes – which is much too long, particularly when the film doesn’t take the time to describe the socio-economic-political climate of Detroit in the 1960s and provide nuance through language.

Detroit is rated R for extreme violence.

Kidnap will grab you and not let you go. [MOVIE REVIEW]

Karla Dyson (Halle Berry) tries to make the best of a difficult day. She’s working as a waitress in a coffee shop dealing with rude and other times, confused customers, while her son, Frankie (Sage Correa) waits for her to take him to a carnival. On the ride over, she talks to Frankie about his father, who is her estranged husband, and his new girlfriend. They arrive at their destination and while watching some of the activities, Karla gets a call from her lawyer and learns that her husband seeks full custody of Frankie. So she can talk more freely, Karla moves to a quieter location leaving Frankie alone to continue viewing the performances. When Karla comes back, her son is missing. As she looks for son, she sees a woman dragging him into a Ford Mustang. The car drives away. Karla gets into her van and takes off in hot pursuit and her valiant efforts to save her son begins.

Kidnap is a thrilling, nerve wrecking, and cinematic adventure. It is unpredictable while also being highly implausible with a TV drama feel about it. Nevertheless, Halle Berry is amazing. She’s strong, but not in an inauthentic way that Hollywood often portrays its heroes. Although Berry’s character, Karla has a lot of self-doubt, she remains laser-focused on getting her son back.

Kidnap’s casting is excellent. Chris McGinn and Lew Temple, who play the husband and wife backwoods kidnappers, are beyond despicable. I have always said you cannot have a truly great hero, without a truly evil villain, and they are evil.

However, much of the film stretches credibility. For example, when Karla goes to speak to her lawyer and leaves Frankie seated watching the show. Frankie’s surrounded by people but amazingly no one sees where he went. And, the scene where Karla wrestles with the kidnappers in the carnival parking lot full of cars, but there are no people or no law enforcement around.

Without giving away too much of the story, there are just too many events in Kidnap that seem highly unlikely.

Set in Louisiana, the cast of Kidnap reflects the makeup of that state which is primarily black and white, but with a growing Hispanic population. So, Kidnap gets an “A” for cast diversity.

Kidnap is 90 minutes and rated R, for violence and peril. You won’t be bored with the story but there’s no compelling reason to see it during its opening weekend. Kidnap gets a Rent It rating.

New Jersey Community Stands up to Violence

A Triple-Shooting Sparks a Love-Not-Hate Movement and March in East Orange, NJ hosted by rap icon Vinnie Brown with the Rev. Sharpton invited to speak

Long before the tragic murders that shattered their peace, Deborah, and Dy-Shawn Simpkins were committed to providing kids with alternatives to street violence. The New Jersey couple's after-school programs and day care centers have created safe havens for over 650 Irvington kids annually for the last nine years alone. Additionally, their community outreach has been active in the region for over 15 years.

Despite such passionate devotion, the nation's violence has grown exponentially. This was never more apparent to the couple than when their own son, Dy-Shawn Simpkins Jr., 18, along with their nephew Kee-Ayre Griffin, 29, were killed in a triple shooting in East Orange. The senseless murders interrupted the promising lives of Simpkins, Jr. who had a promising athletic career at Norfolk State University (NSU); and Griffin, a former student athlete at Temple University where he played football after attending Saint Peter's Prep.

In dealing with the hateful killings, it was the East Orange community's support that showed the couple the tool to fight the trauma. The entire NSU football team arrived to join in a massive outpouring of love at Simpkins Jr.’s funeral. Now everyone is asked to participate in a march with the theme, Love and Not Hate March & Movement, as the core message. Organized by Simpkins's own non-profit of seven years, the GAP Program (Gang Alternative Program), and other nonprofits collectively known as Community United As One, the groups, along with the title sponsor, the East Orange City Council, will use the march as a kickoff to an annual event that brings awareness to the ongoing violence epidemic.

The march will culminate in a musical segment where Dy-Shawn Simpkins, Sr. will perform the song, Seeds in the Field that he recorded with his son before the tragedy. Simpkins Sr. will release the spiritually potent music as Deacon Don DyDy, as a beacon to lure the hip hop generation toward a holier message.

Invited guests include the Reverend Al Sharpton and a lineup of pastors and political luminaries: Ted Green Council President and newly elected Mayor of East Orange, NJ; Reverend Timothy Huff; Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss; and, Pastor Jerry Smith. Rap icon Vinnie Brown aka Uncle Vinnie from Grammy award winning hip hop trio Naughty by Nature is set to host.

The march will commence on Saturday, August 12th at 8:00 am beginning at Hollywood and Central Avenues in East Orange, NJ and ending at Oval Park in East Orange, NJ. From there, all will celebrate the Community United As One from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm with events, music, food, youth activities, vendors, sports, back to school giveaways and more!

Updates will be made via Simpkins' Facebook social media account at https://www.facebook.com/deacondondydy.simpkins

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Atomic Blonde, you’ve seen it all before [MOVIE REVIEW]

A British undercover agent is murdered in East Berlin. But to Western governments, it’s not the spy’s life that matters but instead the secret files embedded in his watch, recovered by his killer, which puts their nations at risk. M16 (British Intelligence) sends in Lorraine Broughton (Charlize Theron) to recover the lost timepiece.

If Atomic Blonde’s entertainment value was placed on one scale and its filmmaking flaws placed on a counter balancing scale, they would be equal to each other.

On one hand, Broughton’s goals are clear: find the watch and also locate a traitor among the spy network she encounters in Germany. There’s violence in epic proportions and the movie advances the notice that women can play the lead in an action film.

But on the other hand, the title of the film, Atomic Blonde, sounds like the name of a cartoon character. And this movie is so formulaic: one spy investigating the death of another and locating lost and invaluable secret files. Then there’s the constant guessing game of who can she trust among the various contacts and intermediaries involved. However, I give a nod to the screenwriters; while spies in passionate love making screens are run of the mill, Atomic Blonde gives that practice a new twist with the two participants being women.

There’s Hollywood’s usual stretches of credibility. Like a female undercover agent who is already 6 foot tall but then decides the best way to blend in and be non-conspicuous is be a platinum blond. And if these characters really received this many crushing blows to the head from their numerous fist fights, they’d be nuttier than a veteran NFL running back.

And for the first time ever, I am giving a film an “F” for cast diversity. Set in Eastern Berlin in the late 80s, as in any large European city at that time, even under communist rule, there would have been people of color, likely African and Asian. There is not a person of color to be found in this film, none of the stars and not one individual in background scenes.

The verdict for Atomic Blonde is, do not rush to see it. Enjoy your summer activities instead. And if you get a chance, Rent It, sometime in the future.

Atomic Blonde is rated R for sequences of strong violence, language throughout, and some sexuality/nudity. It is 115 minutes which could have been edited down to 100 minutes.

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