11Jun/21

In The Heights Will Make You a Lin Manuel Miranda Fan If You Aren’t Already

In The Heights

No way as a 30-something-year-old man did I think I would be fanboying over a Lin Manuel project but there I was – almost as excited as my niece, Lin Manuel’s #1 fan (in her opinion), to watch his latest film, In the Heights. Not to mention, the film was also helmed by Crazy Rich Asians award-winning director, John M. Chu, and had a cast full of colorful characters. Yes, literally the cast was full of diversity that was organic and not uncomfortable like it is in some other films. Trust me, you will become a fan if you are not already.  

Plots, Subplots, and Sub-subplots

Like the play, the film has multiple subplots that tie together perfectly. Kudos is due to Miranda and screenwriter, Quiara Alegría Hudes, for In the Heights’s last act takes a surprising twist. The way the film opens, the way it is shot, the character introductions, and the plot all had me fooled!

Benny (Corey Hawkins) and Nina’s (Leslie Grace) relationship was endearing. I enjoyed how Nina focused on her being back home as Benny tries to talk about Nina’s college life. She missed home so much she changed her hair from straight to natural – code-switching on deck! The love Benny has for Nina runs so deep. You can tell he wants to spend all of his time with her and support her future goals. Nina’s subplot definitely pays off as the film progresses and, to me, was one of the most important since her character’s choices could affect the most lives. 

Usnavi (Anthony Ramos) and Vanessa’s (Melissa Barrera) relationship was also interesting. Both were charismatic, admired each other, and desired a different life that would lead their lives in opposite directions. Their chemistry was strong though and their moments at the club were hilarious.

One of the stand out scenes was when the power outage occurred while the main cast was in the club. When “Powerless” was performed and transitioned to “Look at the Lights”, I really felt the emotion. This community feels powerless in their situations, mostly controlled by the government, but they all look toward a bright hope for the future. Poverty, social economics, cultural identity, and immigration were all heavily explored but not force-fed. 

In The Heights

I loved pretty much all the performances in the film but my top three were the flash mob-style “96,000”, “No Me Diga” and “Paciencia y Fe” by Olga Merediz as “Abuela” Claudia. Olga gave one of the best performances as her character chronicles her life as a New York immigrant through song. Applause to the creative minds of Chu and Miranda for making Merediz’s solo so visually stunning. The transition of time on the subway was memorable and kind of made me feel like I was watching the play. Also, I’m proud to see Corey Hawkins perform his dance scenes well because I’ve only seen him fight zombies (Walking Dead) and shoot bad guys. 

FYI: Lin-Manuel Miranda completed his first draft of the stage musical “In The Heights” during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University, where it was performed as part of the school’s Second Stage. There, the 80-minute one-act played for a mere three days, but the potential for a grander production was evident from the start. Even now, after a wildly successful Broadway run and film adaptation, Miranda is amazed that it all started when he was still that young. Having recently seen a stage production of the work, he muses, “I went to see something a child wrote—a child version of me.”

Miranda’s Music for In The Heights

If you are familiar with Miranda’s work you know his soundtrack is always on point and will most likely keep you singing in the shower for weeks. Seriously, songs like “In the Heights”, “We Gotta Go” and “Piragua” performed by Miranda himself, stayed in my head for a while… partly due to my niece singing the songs for hours. Since the movie soundtrack was not out when I screened the film I had to utilize good ole YouTube. 

I’m still amazed how one man can develop an awesome combination of storytelling and music composition. Plus, his adaptability is impeccable because to go develop powerhouse soundtracks from “In the Heights” to “ Hamilton” is just uncanny. I have to be honest, the music in this film made me want to take up salsa again. 

I think Lin Manuel Miranda fans will enjoy it and people new to Manuel’s work will become fans like I am. In the Heights is a movie many of you will eventually end up watching multiple times. The product of good acting, catchy songs, music that will make you dance, diversity, and cool cinematography, In the Heights, gets two thumbs up and a “ You better not watch it on bootleg!” Watch In the Heights opening June 10th in theaters and HBO Max.

“In the Heights” stars Anthony Ramos (“A Star is Born,” Broadway’s “Hamilton”), Corey
Hawkins (“Straight Outta Compton,” “Kong: Skull Island”), singer/songwriter Leslie Grace, Melissa
Barrera (TV’s “Vida”), Olga Merediz (Broadway’s “In the Heights”), Daphne Rubin-Vega
(Broadway’s “Rent”), Gregory Diaz IV (Broadway’s “Matilda the Musical”), Stephanie Beatriz (TV’s
“Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), Dascha Polanco (TV’s “Orange Is the New Black”) and Jimmy Smits (the
“Star Wars” films).

07Jun/21

The Value of Values

If you type “value definition” into a search engine, the majority of results you will likely get are related to money. That is telling, and we’ll come back to it, but our first question is: what is value if there is no money? Does a child with no money value nothing, or have no value? How does a culture that exchanges energy without a token (dollar, cedi, rand, yen, etc.) set up its value system? What is the monetary value of being in a grandparent’s lap? We need to take time to examine what value is, and why it determines our motivation.

If you look further than the monetary definitions, you will find that value is a noun, verb, and adjective. Its definitions are associated with math, music, light, linguistics, and principles, among other things. My definition of value is the power to activate your own abilities by focusing love on something.

Ultimately, your values are what you think of yourself and the world that you’re in; actions (public and private) are the proof of your values. Low values mean we don’t think we have the capacity to accomplish great things (inferiority) or that there are no great things to be accomplished (apathy). High values mean we expect great things from ourselves (confidence) and see opportunities in the world to show it (vision).

In math, value means it is what it is! The value of 3 is 3. The value of 3+6 is 9. The value of 9×9 is 81. Value is the definition of a math object (number, equation, constant, variable, etc.), and the result of any math operation. The point is that these mathematical values are self-evident and always exist, so they can’t be falsified. If I give you three dollars and tell you it’s seven dollars, the math will prove me a liar or uneducated, instantly. So, it’s crucial to know there are universal values that help us navigate this existence.

Spiritual systems have numerical associations with ritual, celebration, sacred moments and places, galactic calculation, etc. There are numerology systems, zodiac systems, I Ching, obi, enneagrams, archetypes, tarot…and they all come down to assessing the value of numbers and aligning behavior to the numerical order of the universe. So, the principles of these various systems are all formulas/equations to arrive at a value of divinity. In other words, “What equation/ritual equals god?”

Value as a verb means to hold something as important; or to assess the importance of something. The way you get a society where dishonesty, theft, lechery, violence, etc. is the norm, is get the society to believe divinity is beyond reach, and thus an irrelevant pursuit. It encourages you to value earthly accomplishments over spiritual goals. To bring that into clear focus: which is most likely to be brought up in a conversation about dating potential, great assets or great record of community involvement? Which would get us closer to our life goals, vacationing multiple times a year or going into a week of meditative silence multiple times a year? Both have their benefits, but what outcome do we value more, if either?

What we have here are two truths that are at our disposal: 1) there are fixed values; 2) we can assign values. Our nose can smell a rose because it has a fixed chemical value. But once inside of our olfactory, we can assign a value of how we personally experience it. To one person, A/C on 59 degrees may be perfect, but to a “normal” person, that’s a home-sized freezer (bias showing?) Either way, the fixed value is 59. By using this simple understanding, it’s obvious why so much money is spent on advertising because it is suggesting what people should value. The simple truth is, whatever you value, you will spend energy on it. Your lover, family member, your pet, your job, hobby, vice…whatever gives a result that you consider important, you will figure out an equation. I’ll bet you know someone who you consider unmotivated, but I’ll also bet that person has something they do every day. Search those activities to discover their values. This is a crucial assessment tool, especially for parents or those involved in the lives of young people. It can help inform your guidance and allow you to create a space for children to learn cultural values. Use healthy lifestyle choices to celebrate moments (pop bottles of alkaline water). Invite family or friends over for bonding activities (dinner, game night). Make time for a spiritual practice daily. Submersion is how you activate values.

We live in a society where typing “value” in the web of the wide world speaks mostly of money. Money is just a storage battery that is charged by the work that people do. Why is money now the default container for all value? One reason is because all of our community needs have been capitalized, which means we’re paying for everyday humanity (survival). But, also, because it allows you to do business with people who don’t share the same VALUES. That isn’t necessarily to our benefit. Consider how realigned power would be if everybody only exchanged money, resources, goods, and services with people who are aligned culturally (i.e., self-sufficiency).

For a real-time example of how it might look to run a modern nation with high values, study Ghana under the leadership of Jerry Rawlings, or Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara.

Imagination and spirit give us the ability to do wonders. By setting values, we are deciding how to shape the malleable universe.

Everything is based on values, no matter what system or level you consider. We can use that intentionally to determine if the formulas we’re using in any area actually equal the results we want. If anything doesn’t add up to the right value, we can recognize it and move on. When something adds up to our intended future, then we keep stacking!

Photo by Aude Andre Saturnio

07Jun/21

Concrete Cowboy: Becoming a Man and Father

Editor’s Pick: Concrete Cowboy.

SYNOPSIS: When fifteen-year-old Cole (Caleb McLaughlin) is expelled from school in Detroit, he is sent to North Philadelphia to live with Harp (Idris Elba), his estranged father. Harp finds solace in rehabilitating horses for inner-city cowboys at the Fletcher Street Stables, a real-life black urban horsemanship community that has provided a safe haven for the neighborhood residents for more than 100 years. Torn between his growing respect for his father’s community and his reemerging friendship with troubled cousin Smush (Jharrel Jerome), Cole begins to reprioritize his life as the stables themselves are threatened by encroaching gentrification.

At first, I thought Concrete Cowboy was a western with Idris Elba taking out a bunch of bad guys with Caleb McLaughlin as his sidekick. Boy was I wrong… it was something better, unique, and necessary for Black viewership. A story about a Black boy reconnecting with his father and his father finding a way to be there for him, McLaughlin and Elba were moving in this father and son drama.  During a Taji Mag invited Netflix interview, they explained their preparation, experiences on set, and characters. 

Concrete Cowboy Taji Mag
CONCRETE COWBOY – (L-R) Ivannah-Mercedes as Esha, Lorraine Toussaint as Nessi, Idris Elba as Harp, Caleb McLaughlin as Cole, Jamil “Mil” Prattis as Paris and Cliff “Method Man” Smith as Leroy. Cr: Jessica Kourkounis / Netflix © 2021

Spoiler Alert

How to be a Man and a Father 

“Harp has been a cowboy all his life. The community of riders look to him as a leader. He’s also a dedicated father but doesn’t know how to be a father. When he sees his son for the first time in so many years, emotions start to bubble because he realizes what his absence has caused,” explained Idris Elba. This was evident as Cole felt Harp did not have the same love for him as he did the horses. There’s a particular scene where Cole says Harp is more than a father to the others in the community than he is to him. This scene was powerful and made me think back to when I learned my parents were not born parents. 

Cole’s issues stem from his lack of having his father around and not having something of interest he could funnel interest into. When he forms a bond with his horse, it’s a thing of beauty and great symbolism. That very same horse would not let anyone tame him and at one point broke loose from the stable, only to be tamed by Cole. “Cole is a complex character, who has serious abandonment issues,” Elba remarked.

Getting Out

“He’s angry with Harp because he wasn’t around. So, he’s having a hard time being separated from his mom, being in a world he’s not used to, and then having to deal with a father that hasn’t been there for him” McLaughlin reflected about Cole. At first, we see a troubled Cole dropped off in Philadelphia and he is scared out of his mind because of the unfamiliar surroundings. He then becomes more comfortable hanging out with his cousin, Smush, and also getting to know the local cowboys. 

Although Smush is a drug dealer, we later find out that he plans to flip ranches to escape the poverty and social strain of his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his means of raising capital is also a game of roulette as the drug game never brings money without consequences. 

Love and Support

The death of his cousin, both a hurtful experience and a reality check, allows him to see what the future may hold for him if he remained on his current path. This family trauma allowed the opportunity for both Cole and Harp to be vulnerable, to be father and son. From there they both make amends continuing to do what they both love, raise and tend their horses. Even Cole’s mother has an opportunity to reconnect, or at least it’s implied.

In the end, Concrete Cowboy was a great film about the growth of a boy and his father while providing exposure for the Fletcher Street Urban Riding Club in Philadephia. It is a welcomed change from the normal Black suffering themes creatives use as a carbon copy. If you haven’t seen it yet, I suggest you add it to your Netflix playlist. 

07Jun/21

Just My Imagination?

“The greatest nation is imagination.” Everyone who goes there is the ruler. It’s not limited by borders and won’t disappear in history, but do you know what it is? How does it work? Can it be impaired like hearing or sight? How much thought have you given to what it actually does? 

Physiologically, imagination is connected to the pineal gland. It’s also known as the third eye and depicted with its associated surrounding brain structures as the eye of Heru or Ra (depending on which hemisphere of the brain you’re looking at). It has photoreceptors, which means it knows when there’s light. The pineal gland produces melatonin, the hormone that regulates our sleep and circadian rhythms, from serotonin, the day time hormone. It not only tells us what time of day it is, but also what time of year by how much light and darkness we experience in a day. That means it’s specifically there to interact with galactic vibrations. It influences the pituitary gland, which is the master gland of the endocrine system (emotions). The pineal contains piezoelectric crystals which create a spark when compressed (many lighters use this technology). It also has piezochromatic crystals that create all the colors in the spectrum of the rainbow. So, inside your brain is a gland that knows what’s happening in the cosmos, affects how you feel and when you sleep, and can create light and colors inside your head. It’s a spiritual/organic virtual reality kit! Using machinery to download info into your brain is just lazy!

Think about it like this. Chromosome means color (chroma) body (soma). We know that colors are fragments of light. If consciousness is light, then chromosomes are a library of filters that the light uses to project images of its parts into the world. The mind is the control console with access to all the filters, and the imagination is the real-time projection of which filters are being activated.

Consciousness is the “knowing” of existence. It’s the thing that says, “I am.” The mind is a tool of consciousness to interact with creation. Imagination is the result of consciousness using the mind to interpret the various vibrations it encounters. When something moves, our eyes process the changes in light vibrations and our mind interprets what we see (right or wrong). When a co-worker calls our name, ears process the sound vibrations and then we can act like we didn’t hear them. On a subtler level, when someone is attracted to us they secrete pheromones. We may not “know” what those smell like, but when the receptors in our nose are triggered by them, the mind processes it, and you might get a mental image of leaning in for a kiss. The imagination is the faculty that takes all of the vibrations you encounter and projects a “view” of the world.

Simply put, the imagination is the 6th sense. While our 5 external senses perceive the present world around us, the 6th sense is also able to perceive what came before (memories/ancestors) and what has not come yet (possibilities/inspiration). When we close our eyes and imagine, we’re doing more than just seeing an image. We “conjure” holographic representations of a thing, person, or place, in our mind. We can also “hear” things that aren’t in our vicinity through imagination. You can remember a song in your head or makeup one you’ve never heard. You can remember your favorite food and smell it for just a moment, even taste it, until your body starts to act like you’re about to eat. Imagination is not JUST seeing, it’s actually synthesizing that thing/experience in the inner realm known as consciousness. Whatever takes place in this internal plane of reality determines what we experience and how we interpret the world around us. It determines our physical body’s moment-to-moment biochemical balance.

You already know that something in our consciousness affects our physiology as if it is real. If you watch a horror movie from the complete safety of your home, your body will still react as if you were the dummy going in the basement. The thought of a sexual encounter (remembered or hoped for) can get the juices flowing, even if it’s not the right time! Remember that these thoughts have hormonal correspondences that enter the bloodstream. That’s why deep breathing helps to change moods, it helps flush out the rush of chemicals that occur from/as emotions.

When a child is scared of something and you tell them “it’s just your imagination” you are diminishing or denying their reality. Pretending and imagining are not the same. Pretending is one of many things you can do with imagination. But it is not appropriate or intelligent to always dismiss things that children say as pretending or unreal. They are often perceiving something, even if it’s inside of them. You would do best to investigate and communicate instead of telling them to ignore it. Give them art supplies to recreate what they experienced. Acknowledge that they may not have the vocabulary (because of inexperience and, well, English) to actually express themselves. Ask them open-ended questions and encourage creative answers like sounds, movements, dances, etc.

Like any of our senses, imagination can be controlled and honed. You can adjust your vision by squinting or changing focus. You can hold your breath and breathe deeper to control smells. Here are a few ways to strengthen and expand the imagination. It recognizes patterns and makes use of them, so study sacred geometry, starting with the properties of a circle, and how that creates the flower of life. Engage in abstract visualization, like staring at clouds and looking for recognizable images. Imagine the best possible outcome you can think of for your life. Do arts. Enjoy arts. Play with children. Create a lesson plan to teach something you’re good at.

Did you know that western culture leads to the calcification of the pineal gland?

I’ll leave the “why” to your imagination.

07Jun/21
Finance

How to Fight Racism…Financially

“If Black people started getting million-dollar Life Insurance Policies, the police killings would immediately stop.” 

May 25, 2020, George Floyd was killed at the hands (really knee) of former Minneapolis policeman-naow-convicted-murderer, Derek Chauvin. From May 26th to August 31st, the police killed another 288 people. The same day Chauvin was pronounced guilty, 15-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant was fatally shot by police in Columbus, OH. She was one of six police shootings 24 hours post-verdict! A few weeks before, Andre Hill (age 47) was shot and killed by former cop Adam Coy. April 11th, Daunte Wright (age 20) was murdered by Brooklyn Center, MN officer, Kimberly Potter, who claimed she mistakenly pulled her gun despite tasers being known to be significantly lighter in weight and having bright neon colors to help tell the difference.

Police could’ve used tasers instead of guns in each encounter. Since 2005, 15,000 have died by police—that’s 1,000 annually. Only 104 officers have been charged with a mere 35 convicted of any crime.1 

Unarmed Black people are four times more likely to be killed by police. This civil disparity is continually evident: 

1) June 2015, after shooting nine Black people in a Charleston, SC church,  Dylann Roof was taken by police to Burger King before being booked. 2) October 2020, Lithia, FL, Nicholas Furgason (age 21) stabbed a cop in the neck and then fled. Deputy Charles Williams’s bodycam showed him changing from his gun to tase Furgason without taking his life. 3) On March 16, 2021, eight people, including six Asian-American’s, were gunned down in Atlanta, Georgia. April 22nd—just 37 days later—the  COVID-19 (Asian) Hate Crimes Act, passed 94-1. 

Black people have been the victim of hate crimes since we were brought here to be enslaved, and still, there are no hate crime laws for us! 

When will we realize chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands up. Don’t shoot”  doesn’t work? What does work? Re-read the quote at the beginning of this piece… 

The life/annuity insurance sector totaled $678.7 billion in 2019. If we made sure we’re properly insured, insurance companies would demand and get police reform because death benefit payouts are a major financial loss for them!  Simple, we know what talks; not politricks, not marching, not voting…  shmoney! 

This strategy can lower police brutality AND simultaneously build Black wealth, empowering us for generations! Once we self-determine economically, congress may begin to take us seriously. Even if the killing of our people doesn’t decrease, properly insured, our families are able to create sustainable lives that enable living off annuities. This is the way of the rich! 

Want to know how to use insurance as a wealth-building tool? I invite you to join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement. I’ll show you how to live off your savings and investments using insurance and other methods without needing a job. 

Join the Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 

M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder and Author 
A Pot to Piss In: Intergenerational Wealth Planning for Black People 
Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement 
cryptowokemovement.com 
cryptowokemovement@gmail.com 
Facebook & Instagram: @cryptowoke

07Jun/21

Building Confidence Through Travel

I’ve learned my share of things the hard way.  I’ve also learned a thing or two from incredibly enjoyable first-hand experiences. One of my favorites of those lessons happens to be discovering how much I’ve grown. The greatest teacher of those lessons has to be travel. 

One of my favorite sayings is “you don’t know what you don’t know.”  Before I started paying attention to my experience of myself while traveling, I only brought home memories, photos, souvenirs and a tan. The more times I told a travel story, the more I started to see how I was changing as much as my scenery. I found that I was less anxious (not to be confused with anxiety-free) about not knowing what was going to come next in uncertain situations back home because I’d figured out what to do when my first solo trip out of the country got canceled the morning of. I realized that I can speak up simply when I’m displeased with something and not just when there’s a major problem because I was successfully upgraded after expressing my dissatisfaction in Costa Rica. I realized the power of my words when the creative collaborations and warm connections I expressly declared I wanted manifested in Colombia. 

Now, I can’t say that any of these lessons are exclusive to travel. I can absolutely see how similar scenarios could happen at home. However, these are lessons I was able to see more clearly because they were framed with the excitement of travel! I constantly had a reason to think about the environment and situations they were created in. We relive and reminisce about travel frequently, but how often do you reflect on who you were before said trip?  When was the last time you asked yourself who you were while abroad? 

I’ve made it a practice to consistently check in with myself while traveling.  I take an audit of the major discomforts and concerns I’m dealing with at the time and do my best to look at them from the perspective of making some good of it all.  Something about “vacation mode” has me willing to see the brighter side of so many dim corners. I invite you to travel intentionally and take inventory of ALL the gifts you bring home. 

For stories and resources on how you can travel more intentionally, visit travelnshitpodcast.com.

07Jun/21

The Childhood Challenge

In the Age of the Challenge, our children deserve to be victorious.

Every day there is a new challenge popping up on the internet via social media and our children are rising to engage in them. I see melanated youth engaged in TikTok dances, making slime on YouTube, pranking one another. 

Let’s observe these phenomena objectively. Children who have access to social media observe an image or video and the defined challenge associated with it. They proceed to record themselves engaged in the challenge for others to see and the cycle continues. Obviously, this phenomenon is not exclusive to the melanated child, but I aim to shed light on the possible effects and propose a new challenge. The desired outcome is fun and, sometimes to go viral, gain more followers, etc. 

Our children are ancestors returned and although they are not the only ones on these challenges, I wonder what they are winning if they rise to every challenge that is brought about through social media. As ancestors returned, they are here to do something, to teach someone, to lead, build, and grow in service of and in dedication to the collective. As engaged as I see young people with social media, I also talk to many parents who don’t know what their children are connected to… beyond social media, video games, etc. These outside influences are not encouraging our children to tap in, to be in tune with their individual purpose, the collective values and morals, and goals in service of liberation. 

I feel another challenge coming forward, for the adults rather than the children. I propose a #childhoodchallenge; a challenge to see what we have learned from a child today. Intentionally engaging with our children will affirm them in many ways, but it will also teach us as adults. All too often when engaging with children, I feel like I may be coming from an entirely different world. Metaphysically this is true, but our thread is common and if I am humbled to learn, listen, and engage in their world(s), I can make deep and meaningful connections with the children in my life.

13May/21
Chris Blue Taji Mag

Chris Blue Discusses How He Rose After the Calls Stopped

Chris Blue Taji Mag

Oftentimes, viewers of shows like The Voice and American Idol wonder what happened to the contestants after the show. The Voice has a solid Country following so a few of their artists are able to chart, but what about everyone else? I had a wonderfully candid conversation with The Voice season 12 winner, Chris Blue, where we discussed what he did after the phone calls stopped and the excitement for his current projects. If you haven’t yet, check out his recent release, Moon, on all major platforms. See the full Video interview below.

Taji Mag (TM): What do you feel is the difference between this project and your previous projects?
Chris Blue (CB): I think for this one, it’s something people have been asking for. People have been asking for Moon, essentially, since I finished my time with NBC. It was a journey getting them here but now they’re like ‘thank you, finally, this what we’ve been wanting and we gon blow this thing up’… and that’s what they’ve been doing! So I think that’s what’s different. Back2TheFuture was a great song because I felt like I needed to say something, I needed to have my imprint on society, but as far as my musicality and my art and my VISION… Moon, to me, is it. It’s that cross between what’s new and the respect of what I have to what’s old. It’s old school/new school. You’ll hear influences of the Weeknd, Michael Jackson, and you get to the end of it and it’s like where’d this Afrobeat vibe come from? The reason I did that was because I’m still learning about my heritage, I’m a descendant of the Jamaican-Caribbean-African heritage. I’m really digging into my ancestry now. I was like maybe THAT’S why I love curry chicken…

(TM): Did you feel like you couldn’t produce the same type of artistry during your time at NBC?
(CB): Yea… I mean… Yea. I feel like I was somewhat restricted on what I could do. My first anything as a solo career happened on NBC. I wasn’t out here grinding grinding grinding before that show. So when I won and got the accolades, the money, and the deal, it was great, I get to do what I want to do. I’m telling people now, I won but at the same time I lost because for about 2 years, I think, I realized like I’m losing myself. I’m losing who I am. I’m losing Chris Blue…

(TM): Was there a lot of outside influence on who they wanted you to be as an artist.
(CB): There was. There was a lot of influence on what they wanted because, again, it’s a business. A lot of people have to remember it’s the music business. So that word business sometimes outshines the music in most cases, especially when you’re dealing with other people and other people’s money and they have to figure out how am I going to make my money back? So when you start to see this is trending and this is what most people will like and this is selling, let’s reshape and redefine you and make you fit this. The issue with that with me is and was I’m not that. I’m me. I can only do me well. I can’t do that well. So I lost. I lost a lot of confidence in myself. I lost a lot of belief. Because I’m not becoming that, the telephone stopped ringing as much, my emails weren’t blowing up, I wasn’t getting as many messages on Instagram, and everything just started to collapse. I was just like well maybe I wasn’t that good… It messed me up in a lot of ways, so much that my family started to feel the effects of it. My mom just sat me down one day and was like you’re changing. I was like dang, what you mean by that mama. That was one of the defining moments for me that brought me back. If I’m gonna do music, I gotta do it my way, I gotta do what I love and I can’t do it to spare feelings or to pacify anyone else.

You can’t sustain living a certain way that’s not conducive to what you want to live like. You can’t do it. It don’t work. You’ll wake up every day hating yourself. You’ll become the perfect example of the person who wakes up to the 9-to-5 job that you hate.

Chris Blue Taji Mag

(TM): Makes note of how I’ve watched contestants change from the beginning to the end of the show to fit cookie-cutter molds and that, by the end of it, I’m just skipping through each episode to see who they chose as the winner.
(CB): It’s funny you say that. I had to learn this as well. The American public ain’t stupid. Y’all are not dumb. You watch artists on them shows and you be like ok dope, they this, they that, but ya’ll know, nah, this is show. Some people have to be reminded it’s a show, right, so the expectation that as soon as you come off of a show like that you’re supposed to just blow up… I didn’t realize that going in. That’s a TV show. They have to do what’s best for them. It’s on me to get out here and actually work and grind and build. I tell people, I wish… If could do it all over again, with the same result (big smile), I would. I would go in thinking like an artist. I wasn’t thinking like an artist. I was some green, wet behind the ears, new-to-this-thing singer. I wasn’t an artist. I just want to sing. Put me on the stage, give me a microphone, let me SANG, let me do what I do. If I could go back and do it again, I’d have my team in place, I’d have everything ready to go so that by the time they said and the winner is I’m ready to use that launching pad to actually launch off.

(TM): What else are you working on now? I hear you’re doing a docuseries?
(CB): Yea so ya boy just got a leading role in a docuseries that we’re getting ready to shoot next month at a studio in Atlanta. So I’m excited about that. The role I’m playing is a guy who I feel like is me right now. Everything this bruh is going through, that’s ME. Everyone feels good about this docuseries, It’s real. It’s raw. It’s uncut. You’ll see a lot of truth a lot of reality. I believe highly in putting things into the atmosphere, when you put things into the atmosphere, God’s ear, he hears.

So happy that Chris Blue is stepping into his true artistry and exploring multiple avenues of his creative genius. Click here to stream Moon. Follow Chris Blue on YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, and Twitter. Stay tuned for more updates and real conversations.

Click below to watch the full video interview.

13May/21

Taji Vol27: Utopia

Release Jun 7 2021 | Vol27 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Utopia! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @UniquelyWiredM and @JaymisonBeverly by @iamNayMarie. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Concrete Cowboy: Becoming a Man and Father” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight; our highlighted Hair Feature with Tajah Olson; “Solo Travel: Building Confidence Through Travel” by dCarrie; “Just My Imagination?” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “The Childhood Challenge” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 27 contributed photo story, “Utopia;” Fitness Highlight; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Spicy Sushi Rolls; “How to Fight Racism…Financially” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; Featured Art Piece; Comic Appreciation; Black Business Highlights; and more!!

Purchase your copy now at ‘Shop Taji’!

Taji Mag Vol 27 Utopia

Purchase Taji Mag | Vol 27

Taji Mag is the epitome of ‘Cultural Drip’ – elevating Black brands, narratives, and imagery to new levels of Black Excellence. We embody the traditional and modern royalty of Pan-African people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.

28Apr/21

Black Luxury Brands to Frequent: Adele Dejak

Attention all accessorizing and glamorizing sistas!! The sistas who love a beautiful statement piece. The sistas who love good, quality accessories. Adele Dejak is the brand for you. Eponymously named after its Nigerian creator Adele Dejak in 2008, the brand creates the most beautiful afro-futuristic jewelry ranging from rings to chokers and they also carry an array of rustic calfskin clutches. 

Although I am not an avid accessorizer, the ÁMI I & II collections of chokers are truly a masterclass of metalwork and craftsmanship. The pendants are either hammered brass or aluminum and are paired with a smooth black leather cord or are attached to a large brass ring. I would not be a reliable fashion contributor if I did not tell you how wonderfully brass and gold hues compliment melanated skin. 

Adele Dejak Accessories Nigerian Afro-futurism
Models wearing the ÁMI II collection of neckpieces; Photo Credit | @adeledejak on Instagram

Aside from being wonderfully and carefully crafted by African artisans, Adele Dejak has been endorsed by the Queen Bee herself!! Flaunting the Afrika Comb in the Black Is King film and, on another occasion, wearing the Margret Aluminum Statement Bracelet in tandem with the Dhamani Kanini bracelet in the music video for My Power from the soundtrack of the 2019 remake of the Lion King. 

Adele Dejak Accessories Nigerian Afro-futurism Beyonce
Beyonce wearing the Afrika Comb necklace from Adele Dejak; Photo Credit | @beyonce on Instagram

AD is also big on sustainability, according to their website, only using recycled and upcycled brass and aluminum for their jewelry. They also have a partnership with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Australia to train people in the Dadaab and Kakuma camps to produce goods using upcycled materials to sell to provide for their families.

The pieces may be a little pricey for some (150$+), but the cost of supporting a black business is priceless. Besides, who doesn’t want to step into their next board meeting looking like they stepped off the first flight back from Wakanda? Go check out Adele Dejak and tell them I sent you ♥!

This is the second piece in a 5 part series about my favorite Black Luxury Brands, check out the first part here!