Release Jun 7 2022 | Vol31 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Colors! Each volume is a tabletop collector’s item and Vol31 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @chrissythevocalist. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: ““Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” Explores Devotion and Relationship” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Stop The Deregulation of the NYS Natural Hair Styling License; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: Who Am I Outside of My Blackness?” by dCarrie; “Heart and Mind are a Power Couple” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “Sankofa — Go back but don’t forget to also go forward” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 31 contributed photo story, “Colors;” Fitness Highlight, Rose Rollins Rocks Long Slow Exhale as Head Coach Abernathy; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Black Bean Quinoa Burger; “Use Credit to Pay Off Debt While Building Wealth in 7 Steps” by M’Bwebe Ishangi, Founder of Cryptowoke Financial Sustainability Movement; “Healing With Hugs or Softcore Prostitution?” by Jehriko Turner; Featured Art Piece by Craig C The Artist; Comic Appreciation featuring “Kishi and the Island of Dreams” by AnimeHipHop; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
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Synopsis: Set in the high-stakes world of women’s college basketball, Long Slow Exhale stars Rose Rollins, Lyric Bent, Josh Lucas, and Ian Harding. The drama follows J.C. Abernathy (Rollins), a successful Head Coach of a competitive women’s college basketball team who finds herself in the middle of a potentially career-shattering sexual abuse scandal. As she tries to find the truth among the many secrets she uncovers, she has to make hard decisions that will affect her, her family, and the team of female athletes who all rely on her.
If you’re not familiar with Rose Rollins, let’s bring you from under the rock and get you familiar. Rollins is amazing as head coach, J.C. Abernathy on Spectrum Original’s smash series, Long Slow Exhale. Taji Mag had the pleasure to enjoy a brief chat with Rollins about her time as Coach Abernathy.
Taji Mag (TM): Without spoiling anything, what can you tell us about J.C. Abernathy?
Rose Rollins (RR): Where do I start? She is a very complicated woman. She leads with strength. Obviously, she’s gotta whole lot on her plate that she kind of effortlessly handles until she’s just blindsided by so much at once, so many issues and a major scandal. So it kind of throws her off her game. And, she’s compassionate. She’s flawed. She makes a few major mistakes, but I think that the most important part is not about the mistakes she makes. It’s what she does and how she goes about remedying and correcting those mistakes and redeeming herself. I think that’s important, you know, it’s how you take accountability for what you do in life.
TM: Absolutely! How did you prepare for this role? Were you able to speak with any other women head coaches?
RR: Cynthia Cooper. To be exact! Yeah. She was with me every step of the way and I couldn’t imagine it being anyone else. It was actually quite intimidating, especially on game days, where she’d be like, “all right, this is how you do it. You do this. Yo, yo, yo, come here.” You know? And I’m like, how am I supposed to do that?? That’s not what I’m going to do. I actually intentionally had to create J.C.’s dynamic that was a lot different from hers, just so that I don’t get in my head about how miserably I’m failing at what she’s doing. So I chose to do the exact opposite and that’s a true story!
TM: That’s actually excellent though, you did an amazing job! Were there any other challenges in preparing for this role that you came across?
RR: Yeah, just, um, the rawness in certain moments. The true honest moments that J.C. has. You can’t play those moments unless you are truthful in your own truth. That’s really hard to do sometimes because you know, human nature, we like to hide, right? Or we like to show you what we want to show you, but when you’re forced to be like, here I am, here’s my truth, it’s scary as hell. So that was definitely the biggest challenge.
TM: What do you hope the audience will receive from watching Long Slow Exhale?
RR: That you are heard, you are seen. We are fighting for you. Don’t be afraid to stand up. Your time is now.
James Baldwin once said, “Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.” The new AMC series, 61st Street, does just that. It’s a story about the struggles of a Black man named Moses and the obstacles he must face in pursuit of his college dream. Andrene Ward-Hammond, the actress portraying Norma, the mother of Moses, let Taji Mag know why 61st Street is not a typical courtroom show and talked about what makes the series relatable.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you choose to be a part of this project?
Andrene Ward-Hammond (AWH): Other than getting booked? Lol. I came off of the show Your Honor, and Peter Moffat (61st Street creator) sent this project to me. So I’m super grateful for that. A mom raising two Black kids, specifically black sons in Chicago. I don’t know if I would want to pass up the opportunity to portray the character. I’m a Black mom, a few different sides of her, you know?
DDF: How did you approach this role?
AWH: I am originally from New York and moved to Georgia. I [have] a daughter, and the part of Georgia we moved to, didn’t see much of us. It wasn’t a hard reach playing a mom, and it was easy to pull from experiences because I knew my challenges raising my daughter. Like, we are not seen in the best light in America…how we protect our tribe, how we protect our family, and how excited we are about our culture. It’s not hard to pull from because I am wildly protective of my daughter, my family, and of my friends. So to raise two Black men as characters, it’s already sitting in there ’cause we already fighting for Black men in America. So it’s like, we’re not way too far off from that.
DDF: What do you think Norma is thinking internally as her son is being blamed for killing an officer?
AWH: That (Norma) wants him alive by any means necessary. She knows who her child is. She knows who she raised Moses to be. He is not the criminal the police are making him out to be. It’s so outside of Moses’ character, she tells him to run. She saw a child who was always the good kid. So it’s always a battle internally, too. Like, what can save him? What can she do to ensure that his life is saved? [The authorities] do not see him in the best light. Norma just wants to see her kids happy.
DDF: What was it like on set with the rest of the cast?
AWH: Mr. C (Courtney B. Vance) is dope. He is like that uncle you always wanted. Ms. Aunjanue (many flowers given) is like a big sister I absolutely needed. It’s so funny because we were just texting today. Tosin and Bentley were the sweetest ever. They can’t get rid of me now. Tosin’s like my little brother. Bentley’s like my son. Holt is hilarious and the best host ever. As for Mark. I just want to be on a comedy show that Mark writes because he is absolutely fricking hilarious. You can’t say no to a project that’s led by Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue. It was a given, it was a gift. I don’t care how it turned out.
DDF: What do you think people will get out of this project?
AWH: It’s not your typical courtroom show. It shows how these cases, like the one in 61st Street, affect families outside of a courtroom. It doesn’t lean towards anybody being a good or a bad guy. It’s based on your moral compass. So you get to determine, “okay well, this is how I feel about that”, but, more than anything, start to engage in conversation that’s incredibly uncomfortable. But it’s not like it’s going away ’cause it’s happening now. Although the show is [only now] made, the creators started on it six years ago. To have it land at a time after the kneeling on the neck incident, it just shows you how relevant the conversation is and how it needs to continue. We clearly still have a fight ahead of us.
The first two episodes of 61st Street have provided more than enough interest for me to stay invested. I want to see what paths each character will choose since the Chicago environment places some tension between the police and its citizens, much like real life. Veterans Courtney B. Vance and Aunjanue Ellis bring their chemistry from Lovecraft County. The series looks promising as Andrene and other castmates add to the intensity and compelling stories in the series.
Promising high school teenager, Moses Johnson (Tosin Cole), finds himself running for his life after he is wrongfully accused of killing a police officer. His only hope is Franklin Roberts (Courtney B. Vance), a lawyer down to his last case and struggling with his health. Will Moses be placed on the path of prison or will he be able to live the life for which he’s worked so hard?
From Love and Basketball to House, Omar Epps has entertained us for years with characters that have been nothing short of memorable. With his new film, The Devil You Know, he serves as actor and executive producer. It’s a crime-thriller drama about a recovering alcoholic trying to piece his life together after being incarcerated. He is faced with a difficult decision to either tip off a detective (Michael Ealy) or keep quiet after discovering his brother, Drew (Will Catlett), was part of a horrific robbery. Omar Epps was able to sit down with Taji Mag to talk about his new project.
Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF): What made you want to be a part of this film?
Omar Epps (OE): Charles and I were having lunch eight years ago. He just pitches me what I thought was a great idea. I’m like, ”Yeah, let me read the script!” and he’s like, “I haven’t started writing yet.” I’m pissed off thinking “Why did you get me all riled up with ideas?” But you know, it’s been living with me and him for years. It took us eight years to actually get it made, which is a whole other conversation.
DDF: What else did you love about this film?
OE: I also loved the idea selfishly, as far as just the artists, to try to unpack this fractured human. The character I play in this film, Marcus, always looked like, if you can visualize it, a picture on the wall that’s ripped up, but then it has a bunch of tape on it.
So it’s still on the wall to me… Here’s a guy the audience meets and he’s newly sober, he’s just gotten a new job after a few years. He’s just growing and having enough confidence to maybe open himself up… He’s in a very emotionally precarious position, then you throw a grenade on top of that and let’s see what happens. That’s just really what drew me to it.
DDF: What makes this film stand out?
OE: You know, we (as a Black community) don’t get the chance to make films similar to like a Mystic River or The Town. You know, films that just have certain pacing to them. And that’s what really got me excited.
DDF: I noticed in the film that Drew and Marcus both struggled with adversities in life and dealt with periods of hardship. Where do you think that came from? It seemed like the other two brothers in the family were doing fairly well.
OE: I think it’s a true depiction of a real family, right? The more people there are in a family, the better chance that everybody ain’t gonna be able to stay on the straight and narrow. That’s just the nature of things, but we support the ones who may struggle more than others because it’s a struggle either way. It’s like King Richard [who] looked out for his girls who went on to become legends. With all due respect (and God bless them), the Williams sisters also have other sisters who are not sports icons. Do you know what I’m saying? No telling how things would be if they went a different way. To me, it’s a true depiction of life.
Sometimes you’ve got to love hard and sometimes you’ve got to love soft. It’s a push and pull in that way. It’s really a film for everyone because everyone comes from a family that is similar to the one in this film. Everyone knows what it’s like to sit around a table, the food’s being cooked, and your cousins are playing cards over here. Uncle such and such just cracked open a bottle of you know what and talks about social stuff [for] about a half an hour. We all know that feeling. We wanted to try to capture that feeling so that people could examine themselves in a sense, I guess, and live vicariously through Marcus.
DDF: Speaking of which, did you learn anything about yourself while doing this film that made you look at things differently? Perhaps anything you could turn into a book seeing as you’ve published books before?
OE: Well, that’s an interesting question. From a creative standpoint, I think if I do the job right, it’s up to the audience to try to learn about themselves in some way, shape, or form, you know?
DDF: Your wife is making her acting debut in this film, how did that happen?
OE: Well, you know, that’s really all Charles. We would talk about funny things about my wife. She’s been under the tutelage of the great Tasha Smith for a few years now… Art is art is art. You know, it’s just the different formats, but she took it seriously. So, we threw around different names and one day he calls and says “You know who would be great to play this role?” And I’m like, “ Who?” He says “Your wife!” And I was like, “I should have thought of that. Well, I can’t be the one to tell her (lol).”
DDF: If you could describe The Devil You Know using music, what song would you pick?
OE: No one’s asked me that question, so my mind just went blank. That is a great question. Let me go seventies, “What’s Going On?” by Marvin Gaye.
DDF: You are widely known for your role in Love and Basketball. The film was about love. My question to you is how do you define love?
OE: Love itself? Honestly, I think that it is a verb. We can say it all day. You could have whatever [written] on tank tops, t-shirts, or whatever, but it has to be an action for it to actually be real, you know? I’m from Brooklyn, New York and I grew up around a lot of different people from a lot of different walks of life. I’ve seen various forms of love. If love is sort of the roots of a tree, you have compassion, empathy, and all of these other things that come along with that type of feeling that forms the trunk and branches of the tree.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see both sides of love and see the effects that it has on people. I choose the side of light. I choose the side of love because you just never know what someone’s going through.
DDF: Are there any moments in life where you learned about love?
OE: One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned so far on this life journey is from my mother. She was an educator [with] the Board of Education for 30 something years. She basically taught half of New York City. When Juice first came out, I was about 17 years old. I didn’t know enough. People would come up to me on the street and I’m like “They might recognize me from the movie” and they would say “You are Bonnie Epps’ son? She used to teach me in eighth grade”. You know, it didn’t matter if they become a doctor or a bus driver. They would tell me to thank her for the conversations she had with them when they were young. The crazy part is, I would always go back to my mom and tell her these things and she would remember exactly who I was talking about. She would say “Oh, big head Craig? Oh, yeah. He used to give me trouble”. What that taught me was the power of giving and if we’re not giving, we ain’t doing enough. And you don’t give to receive, you give simply for the act of giving. Whether that’s if someone is homeless and you give whatever you got in your pocket or whatever you can spend. You see a homeless person outside a restaurant and you go in. If you can afford it, don’t just give them the scraps. Maybe get them a small little plate of something. Whatever you can do, you know?
I’m just saying that to say, going back to my definition of love, it was instilled in me at a very early age. A big part of this cycle is all about giving because when you are giving for the sake of giving, the universe gives it back to you in some way, shape, or form. You just don’t know what that may be. And I’m not talking about material, I’m just talking about happenings, you know. So I know that was a long-winded answer, but it all kind of comes back to that.
Epps made a valid comparison when he mentioned movies like The Town and Mystic River because The Devil You Know is in par with the pacing of those movies. The film explores the dynamics of a blue-collar family and the lead character, Marcus, has to make choices that may jeopardize his relationships but also provide him an avenue for forgiveness and peace.
The Devil You Know will serve as a great conversational piece in regards to what we would do in Marcus’ or Drew’s shoes, how the actions of one person in the family can affect others, and how we should deal with the sins of our past. The film’s finale is filled with surprises and twists that I am personally not ready for but could see how these things could happen in real life. As Omar Epps mentioned in the interview, we all have that family member who suffers and struggles with temptation, but how do we deal with those individuals?
See how things turn out for Marcus and his family in The Devil You Know.
Synopsis: Boundaries and bonds are tested in this gritty crime-thriller drama about family, morality, and redemption. Once incarcerated Marcus Cowans (Omar Epps) is trying to turn over a new leaf with the support of his loving family. Upon discovering that one of his brothers (Will Catlett) may have been involved in a horrific crime, Marcus grapples with the limits of brotherhood and loyalty. He and his family, increasingly weary of the justice system’s failings, end up in the crosshairs of a seasoned but jaded detective (Michael Ealy). Written and directed by Charles Murray, The Devil You Knowevokes the question: Am I my brother’s keeper? And at what cost?
Starring: Omar Epps, Will Catlett, Glynn Turman, Curtiss Cook, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Erica Tazel, Vaughn W. Hebron, Michael Beach, Keisha Epps, Ashley A. Williams, with Theo Rossi, and Michael Ealy.
From writer/producer/director, Phil Augusta Jackson (“Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) and creator, Dan Goor (also “Brooklyn Nine-Nine“) comes a new comedy that proves life is better with your crew.
Synopsis: This group of young professionals are all trying to navigate the ups and downs of life and love in Los Angeles, and they always find time to gather at their favorite bar to “wine down” and unpack it all. There’s Noah, a hopeless romantic too eager to settle down; Nicky, a go-getter in real estate who’s adventurous in romance; Sherm, a low-key genius who plays the dating odds; Anthony, whose true love is his career; Wyatt, who’s relieved to be married and out of the dating scene; and Fay, who’s recently divorced and looking to start fresh in LA. And just like wine, their friendship gets better with time.
Issa Rae’s popular series, Insecure, recently aired its last episode, posing the question “What Black-led series will be the next to have genuine relatability to the Black community?” My answer is Grand Crew! Not only is the series Black-led, but it’s mostly a male cast. Something not commonly seen on television. Grand Crew is a show about Black people navigating everyday issues where drugs, police, and violence are not the main focus. Taji Mag was able to talk to the cast and producers of the show to discuss the importance of having shows like Grand Crew on television.
Representation is Everything
When asked about the show being the next big hit like Insecure, Jackson said “Anybody that is saying it’s the next Insecure…I think that’s very flattering. I do think that the shows are very different [though]. I think highly of Issa Rae and Prentice as a team and as leaders behind the scenes. I was able to learn so much from them about the craft and the business. You know, like how to run a room and every job that I’ve had working with Dan on Brooklyn‘, too.” Jackson also added “As far as those comparisons go, we are not setting out to replace Insecure, especially after having worked on the show. I knew how special that show was. I think, tonally, the show’s different. I think the point of view is different. It does take place in Los Angeles, but it’s also a different part of Los Angeles.”
What does the cast want people to get out of the show? Grasie Mercedes stated, “I would love it if people watch the show and are inspired to create more characters like this; to create more shows like this that just show different black, different Latin, different Asian, different people’s of color experiences, and not try to put us in these monolithic boxes that we are constantly portraying over and over again.”
Justin Cunningham added, “[With] the majority of black characters or diverse cast or diverse crew or diverse producers, whatever the makeup of the show, we can start to open our eyes to what is possible and not try to place labels or limits. Not to say what something should or should not be in society’s eyes, but what things could be. This could be a show that is just about people who happen to be Black and has Black themes. But there are people who go through the same things and themes in the show.”
The Actors on Their Characters
With part of the show exploring the dating lives and relationships of the characters, I had to ask what advice would the actors give their characters? When asked what advice Nicole would give to her character, Nicky, she said, “I would tell Nicky to keep doing what she’s been doing. She’s pulling them in and getting dates. She’s getting what she wants. She’s having the relationship she wants. I would tell her to not dim her light for anybody.”
For Noah, Echo stated, “I would definitely tell him to be true to himself. Don’t try to force anything. Let it come naturally and really take your time with love. Because the truth is that if love doesn’t come from within, it can’t come from anywhere else. To do yourself justice for the rest of your life, I think you have to deal with yourself, love, and aspects of yourself before you can brag now.”
Grasie Fields encourages her character, Fay, to continue to be “open to love”, especially after being divorced. “It hasn’t discouraged her from finding love again. And I think she believes she has a good relationship with her ex-husband. Maybe we’ll see him, if we continue to be able to do the show, in a future episode. But I think she’s very open to love”, Fields says about Fay.
Noah, Fay, and Nicky all have unique ways of approaching dating, and the audience has seen some development towards a season finale that has everyone wondering with whom they will end up. Part of the reason why we need a season 2!
One of the things I love about the show is its coverage of Black masculinity. Wyatt, the level-headed voice of reason in the group, is a stay-at-home husband. He isn’t ridiculed or insulted because of the arrangement he has with his wife, his situation is normalized by not focusing on his status.
When asked how Wyatt embraces his masculinity, Justin exclaimed, “How does he embrace his masculinity [while] being a stay-at-home husband? By vacuum cleaning the floor as perfectly as possible, by cooking meals as an expert like Gordon Ramsey would. That’s it. It’s fabulous. It’s great. I think that because that’s part of myself (as I’m [also] a perfectionist in that sense), I’m gonna do my best to be good at whatever I’m doing. I’m going to find joy in whatever I’m doing.”
Episode two of the first season, titled “Wine and Serendipity”, I found to be very funny because it addressed the topic of men crying and one of the characters, Sherm, talked about how he doesn’t cry. The episode even poked fun at how some men perceive that being caught crying is worse than being caught naked, a notion that is tested when Wyatt is caught naked in the bathroom by Sherm and, indeed, was more concerned about being caught crying.
When asked what would make Sherm cry, Carl Tart said, “The only thing that would make Sherm cry is the LA Clippers winning a championship. That would make me cry.” Tart added, “I have a $10,000 Clippers crystal ball sitting in the cart online now for when they win a championship.” “Yeah, by the time the Clippers win a championship, you’ll have enough money to buy the Clippers”, Aaron Jennings jokingly replied.
Aaron Jennings and Carl Tart as Sherm and Anthony have great chemistry as roommates. Various episodes have resonated with me and brought back memories of my experiences with a roommate. When I asked them what sports duo they could be compared to, Carl responded “I’m going to say their relationship is like two teams at odds. This is the Lakers versus the Clippers. Sherm and Anthony are like those two teams. We share a home like they share a home court.” Aaron jokingly replied, “It’s like greatness versus mediocrity. Lol!”
I love the fact that the show explores some of the very same topics my friends and I have discussed and they utilize a group chat, which my friends and I have also used. If you are a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Living Single, or other single-camera comedies like those, you will love this show. I do, however, find a few moments where the dialogue is not authentic, or at least not relatable to me and my friends. Then again, dialogue is difficult to write.
With the lack of representation and exploration of the dynamics of the Black community on television, Grand Crew is considerably one of the better shows to watch. With a helluva cliffhanger, an awesome cast, and more room for relatable content, we all hope to see this series renewed beyond season 1…and hopefully beyond a season 2! Tune in to NBC Peacock to catch the first season of Grand Crew.
Starring: Oscar Isaac (“Show Me a Hero” and “Star Wars [Trilogy]”) as Steven/Marc, May Calamawy (“Ramy” and “The Long Road Home”) as Layla El-Faouly, and Ethan Hawke (“The Good Lord Bird” and “Before [Trilogy]”) as Arthur Harrow.
Synopsis: When Steven Grant, a mild-mannered gift-shop employee, becomes plagued with blackouts and memories of another life, he discovers he has dissociative identity disorder and shares a body with mercenary Marc Spector. As Steven/Marc’s enemies converge upon them, they must navigate their complex identities while thrust into a deadly mystery among the powerful gods of Egypt.
Who is Moon Knight?
For those who are not familiar with Moon Knight, he is what many consider the Batman of Marvel. Basically, a vigilante with dissociative identity disorder imbued with powers from an Egyptian God. What makes him interesting is he has multiple identities and they change so often that he sometimes is unclear about what is real and what is not. This synopsis makes for a perfect series and it does not disappoint!
Oscar Isaac, as both Steven Grant and Marc Spector, is spectacular. His portrayal of the soft-spoken Englishman, Steven, is quite convincing! Honestly, I could not believe that was his voice. Although he’s not of much use as a scrapper, Steven’s knowledge of Egyptian history proves to be useful during the series. He even provides some comic relief that breaks up the serious tone without interrupting the flow of the series. Issac’s mannerisms, posture, and responses were so different when playing each character that both were unique and clearly distinguishable.
The mercenary and fearless Marc Spector is the complete opposite of Steven. He is better suited for tense situations and impending combat. It’s interesting how these two talk to each other through reflective items (windows, mirrors, etc.) about the predicament they’re in and the past life of Marc Spector. It is during these moments that Oscar Issac seems to shine and shows his range of skills.
Dr. Paul Puri, an Assistant Clinical Professor at UCLA and past president of the UCLA Psychiatric Clinical Faculty Association, was brought onto the project to help the actors and filmmakers understand Dissociative Identity Disorder and its implications. This was key in making the performance as authentic as possible.
Khonshu, the ancient Egyptian god of the Moon, looks amazing and his introduction is what nightmares are made of! With lights flickering, objects moving, and Khonshu’s eerie invisibility, Marc/Steven’s reaction provides a great display of true horror. The way the directors kept Khonshu as a shadowy figure before showing him on screen was great camera work. The moments between Marc, Steven, and Khonshu remind me of Venom and Eddie Brock. Hmm, that would be interesting to see on screen…Moon Knight and Venom. Let’s make THAT happen, Marvel!
The beautiful scenery of Egypt and the artifacts in the series are a plus. I could tell the directors paid attention to every single detail, from the background actors to the venues. My favorite scene is when the characters are looking at the stars in the desert, completely ignoring the colorful diversity of its people. Speaking of which, May Calamawy (an Egyptian-Palestinian actress), as Marc’s wife, Layla, is also a great screen presence. She has a vulnerability towards Marc/Steven, but also gets her hands dirty when needed. All I can say is she can definitely handle herself! Sidebar: since Black Widow is dead, maybe she could join the Avengers? Just a thought.
Ethan Hawk as the main protagonist, Arthur Harrow, is convincingly evil. His menacing and manipulative ways made me want to punch him right in the face (what can I say…I got sucked in). Harrow is definitely demented and has a warped idea of justice. However; his followers all seem grateful for his leadership and are loyal to his cause. Being the former avatar to Khonshu, Harrow serves as a formidable opponent and plays off of the weaknesses of anyone he crosses.
The scenes where the identities switch in order to take over, especially when Steven wakes up from his blackouts with no recollection of how he arrived there, are very cool. The most hilarious scene to me is when Steven comes to after his alter ego, Marc, has murdered henchmen around him. The flashes of light, the smash cuts, and other edits make for great transitions. Egyptian director, Mohamed Diab, sets up some great scenes specifically in the third episode when the characters are in Egypt. Action-wise, this series has some kick-ass fight scenes like when Marc turns into Moon Knight. Let’s just say he kicks a lot of butt! Even some of the dog-like demons he faced were afraid of him.
I’ve only seen up to episode four thus far, but I can assure you that Moon Knight is worth watching. The series has plenty of intriguing storylines to follow and cliffhangers that will leave you wanting more…not to mention director Mohamed Diab makes sure the audience is aware the basis of the story comes from Eygpt. In addition, there are lots of easter eggs I’m sure Marvel fans (and history buffs!) will have fun with. This series is far from family-friendly due to the amount of blood and violence, but it wouldn’t be the same without it. If you love Batman, Deadpool, or the original Moon Knight comic, then you will enjoy this project.
Synopsis: You think you know Kanye West, but you really don’t. Get to know the man — from his budding producer days to his rise to global icon — in jeen-yuhs, Netflix’s epic Kanye West documentary Trilogy event chronicling 21 years of West’s life and legacy. Meet the college dropout who produced for Jay-Z, fought for a record deal, won 22 Grammy Awards, and became one of the most controversial figures in pop culture. Award-winning duo Coodie & Chike, the creative forces behind West’s “Through the Wire” and “Jesus Walks” music videos and other projects, directed and produced jeen-yuhs, which features hours of legendary footage, including studio sessions, live performances, West’s conversations with his late mother and appearances from top musicians like Jay-Z, Jamie Foxx, Common, Mos Def, Scarface and Beyoncé.
Taji Mag super duo, Dapper Dr. Feel (DDF aka Felipe Patterson) and NayMarie, tag-teamed this feature to bring you double the viewpoints. They both received early access to view the first episode of jeen-yuhsand Nay interviewed Coodie and Chike after watching Episode 1, but wanted to see more episodes before releasing this feature (as understood caution because Kanye).
DDF: If you are like me, you become instantly uninterested when you hear anything with Kanye West attached because of his recent behavior and viewpoints. But I decided to give his docuseries, jeen-yuhs, a view and mainly because the project was helmed by the duo Coodie and Chike. Coodie and Chike were responsible for West’s debut music video “Through the Wire” and the recent Stephon Marbury documentary, A Kid From Coney Island.
Nay: If you are like me, you are totally interested in everything that comes out of Kanye’s mouth because you don’t think he’s “crazy” and understand (despite not agreeing with) most of everything he says.
DDF: The film opens with Coodie interviewing Mase and his group Harlem World, introducing a young Kanye West at Jermaine Dupri’s birthday party in 1998. We see Coodie interview other artists from Run D.M.C. to Snoop Dogg, and one name kept coming up – Kanye West. The narrator, Coodie, explains to the viewer that the consistent mentioning of the up-and-coming producer caused him to keep tabs on West.
Nay: I pay attention to the little things, especially when it comes to artistry. I immediately started laughing when the opening paused and Coodie says, “I bet y’all wondering who I am and what the hell I got to do with this story.” I had to ask him.
Nay to Coodie: How intentional was the opening? It gave me real nineties vibes.
Coodie: Well, when Chike, Jay Ivy, and I were writing, and also Max our editor, we knew that I needed to put some of my personality into this narration. You know, Jay Ivy is such a prolific writer that they felt like different moments like that and my comedy because I was a standup comedian, they felt like I needed to do it. So that’s where that came from.
Jay-Z and The Roc
DDF: We see Jay-Z talk about how his hit “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and performing it on the B.E.T. awards put Kanye on the map. This prompted Kanye to make his major push for a record deal and for Coodie to move to New York in 2002 to accompany West on his journey. A&R’s loved Kanye and saw he had talents, but the head of record labels did not agree, delaying his lifelong goal. It was interesting watching lower-tier record label employees show no interest in Kanye’s “Jesus Walks.” With the lack of fanfare and artists asking him for beats instead of bars, although Kanye has the look of defeat on his face, he is still persistent and ambitious to be the rapper he desires. He even mentions he used to practice his Grammy acceptance speech on his route to the train station.
Nay to Coodie: When you see Kanye going into different record labels and they’re answering phones and throwing papers everywhere, what was that like for you behind the camera?
Coodie: Well, I think in those times it was all about gangster rap or flashing, you know, I got the Benz and the Christal. Then you have somebody like Kanye talking about Jesus Walks. I don’t think they understood the message, and it took us to do the [Through the] Wire video to actually tell Kanye’s story. Steve Jobs said it’s not the product, it’s the story. It’s not about the products, it’s the story that sells and by us being able to use the documentary footage, which, full circle to today, to be able to tell Kanye’s real story, then people understood like, ohhhh. They understood the messaging. How did they not embrace that? It’s all about capital and it’s all about making money and they didn’t know that that can actually make money.
DDF: Young Kanye West was determined to make a name for himself by any means necessary. One of the ways was through MTV’s You Hear It First. Kanye knew if he was featured on MTV, it would make the world know he was not only a producer but a great rapper. The documentary shows Kanye finally getting his shot. Coodie was able to be a part of the experience. MTV requested he work on the set using his footage of Kanye.
Nay to Coodie: When they used your footage for MTV’s You Hear It First, what was that like for you?
Coodie: That was exciting, you know, that they even asked to use it. Everybody has dreams and MTV was super huge at that time. For us even being in the halls and walking, and then that [happens], thank God for that. Yasmine originally took me in and I met Chike at MTV so that was a magical moment, but it just let me know that I was on the right track. Me and Chike, we joined forces and then we did Through the Wire and we stayed together, you know, and moved in faith together.
DDF: The film revisits Kanye’s moment of betrayal by one of his mentors, Dug Infinite, who dissed Kanye on the radio following his success with “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).” Kanye confronts his old mentor about the diss, and they are able to talk things out before West makes a trip to see his mother.
DDF: When West’s mother, Donda West, is on screen, you see she is Kanye’s anchor and haven. The setting is calm, the walls of insecurity are down, and we get the vulnerability of Kanye West. A beautiful moment is when Donda recited one of Kanye’s old raps that she loved and almost did it without messing up. That showed how much she loved her son and how much she believed in him. Donda’s nurturing spirit and charisma were so effective that she inspired Coodie to be the best he could be and visit his family. The episode ends with Kanye finally getting his record deal with Roc-A-Fella Records and his near-fatal accident.
Reflections on jeen-yuhs
Nay: What was something that was difficult about this doc for you guys?
Coodie: First, is understanding that Kanye was dealing with mental health. I always thought it was a part of the show, you know, that they were doing that for publicity or whatever, to sell records or whatever the case, when he would go on rants. Then to find out that he was really dealing with something, which is understandable by him losing his mom who was so precious to him and was guiding him throughout this whole journey. When they get to the point of success, he loses that anchor.
You know that right there hurt me tremendously when she made her transition. Then I understood after my father made this transition as well as my grandmother, that we don’t die. Our spirits live forever. That right there helped me to understand that I didn’t lose my pops. We didn’t lose Donda. We gained them, they are here with us, their spirits are with us. Chike didn’t lose his pops, his pops is with us. When we did the Stephon Marbury documentary, A Kid From Coney Island, we knew all of our fathers were up there huddling up like, yo, okay, this is what we going to do. We’re gonna have them do this and that. That’s the same with this film.
Nay: What are you hoping people get out of jeen-yuhs?
Coodie: When you trust in God, that trust would really help you to not have fear to move in your passion and move in your genius. When you understand that the creator that created everything, then the universe created you, you start to understand that the creator is with you at all times and is navigating you through. It’s like how Kanye says, Jesus walks with me, you will move with confidence and with no fear. We know that’s one message that will come out of this to the dreamers.
Chike: And apply yourself. Like really, if you’re in a tough position in life where you just feel like you’re not really doing what you’re passionate about doing and if you’re not doing it because of fear, watch this film to see that it’s possible. It’s all the way possible. You know what I mean? It’s a hundred percent going to happen if you believe in it.
If you allow God to navigate you through this journey and have faith and trust and actually embrace the adversities that you’re going to go through because they’re going to come. The only way around it is to just embrace it, see them as blessings, and learn from them. They’re going to make you stronger. That’s where your character is going to be built and that’s what’s gonna make you amazing. Hopefully, this can become a tool and device that people can use.
For those who are already moving in their passion, hopefully, it’s just continued affirmation that they are. That’s what it is for us! Editing this [film] is like the ultimate dose of inspiration to walk into every day. Then you just leave the editing room charged.
Nay to Chike & Coodie: Trust this as confirmation. That’s exactly what I got from watching it. I was sitting there and I was like, YES. You guys nailed it. I felt like it was insightful to watch somebody literally go from the bottom up to where they are now being a billionaire. Seeing what you captured just from that first episode was amazing. It was really beautiful.
DDF: Coodie and Chike did a phenomenal job putting together this docuseries. Giving the audience a look at Kanye’s humble beginnings and struggle, the series is inspiring and relays a very powerful message. It also features cameos from hip hop legends, celebrities, early stages of his hits, and a few events in the archived footage. I have to be honest, the moments between Kanye and his mother were most touching. Although some may still have their opposing opinions of Kanye, jeen-yuhs humanizes him and shows respect for his craft. The series is worth watching and will be a discussion piece on social media.
Watch the current 3 episodes of jeen-yuhs on Netflix.
After watching Episode 3 of jeen-yuhs, both Dapper Dr. Feel and NayMarie are confident in standing by their opinions.
Kevin Wallace Jr. is a model and aspiring actor who keeps it fit. | @1KevinWallaceJr | #FitBlackTatted
What inspires you to stay fit?
Seeing the results after the work I put in, most definitely, and definitely the compliments I may receive. Taking your body to a level it has never been was always something that inspired me and continues to do so.
What does self-care look like for you?
Well, peace is definitely a part of my self-care. Exercising 5 days a week, eating healthy, and staying focused on the next project is my routine, always.
What does your diet generally consist of?
At the moment, all plant-based products, but previously I would just eat lean foods. No pork, no fried foods, maybe a few cheat days here and there, but majority clean, healthy food.
In your opinion, what does it take to build a healthy self-image/worth as a Black man?
Clean and professional appearance. Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water, and less stress.
What is one thing about the fitness culture that you enjoy and one thing that you would change?
I enjoy the result but hate the work!!!!!!! That’s simple and plain for you! But far as us as the fitness culture, everyone motivating each other is the main thing I enjoy. I would change the laziness of people that wares off on others.
What is one exercise that you love?
Abs, definitely. It works on your back and your stomach.
What’s an accomplishment that you’re proud of?
Becoming the face of Haagen Dazs Ice Cream.
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
Watching tv and movies, searching YouTube – being noisy, riding motorcycles, and actually hanging out with my friends.
Where can people join you on your journey?
People can join me on my Instagram to follow my journey! My Instagram is @1kevinwallacejr.
If you love films that are compelling, artistic, entertaining, and, most of all, made by Black people, the DC Black Film Festival (DCBFF) should definitely be on your radar. The DCBFF presented its fifth year virtually this year due to COVID and, just like years past, it showcased a lot of great films and amazing talent. I even had the opportunity to do one this year.
The brainchild and curator of the DCBFF, Kevin Sampson, has been optimistic since the change from in-person to virtual screenings stating, “The pandemic has kept us at bay as an online festival during the past couple of years. So I think we should be bigger than we are, but the festival’s reputation has grown nicely since its inception. I’m grateful that we’ve been able to provide filmmakers with a 5-star festival even while adapting. Without filmmakers, we don’t have a fest, so what they think matters a lot to me.”
“I will be bold enough to say, I have gotten so many wonderful film roles, but I’ve gotten even more film roles where I haven’t been the show. It’s like I’ve been invited to a really fabulous party, only to hold up the wall. I wanted to be the show. I wanted to have a character that kind of took me out of my comfort zone, and that character happened to be in a Shonda Rhimes show. So I did the only smart thing any sensible actress would do—I took it.” —Viola Davis
There are some past DC Black Film Festival participants that have made the move in some mainstream projects like Kyra Jones and Angel Hobbs. “I’m like a proud dad any time I see artists go on to do big things! Not that I have anything to do with their success, but I’m rooting for them. The reason I started the festival was that I heard from so many indie filmmakers who said they have stories but no outlet to exhibit them. So being able to see them come through the festival and continue on to bigger opportunities is awesome! Any time a film gets into the festival it’s hard-earned.” Sampson said with delight.
Sampson said some of the best moments for this year’s festival were the social events and programming. He further explained the filmmakers were able to get together multiple times virtually and connect. Sampson continued with, “That spark of collaboration and networking is important to a festival and I’m glad we were able to cultivate that. We had a lot of heavy hitter professionals in the industry that joined us and I was grateful for the time and knowledge they dispersed to everyone!”
Sampson’s goal for next year’s festival is to be in person again. He explained “I believe having an online element will be a part of the festival but I can’t wait to be back in person. So that’s the number one goal, but it’s not up to me if that happens. (laughs) From there, I’d like to continue to have great special guests. We’ll see what the future holds, but I know we’ll continue to bring the quality festival people have come to love.” Sampson also hopes to screen a major film next year, that is the one goal he hasn’t achieved. He still loves showing independent projects, which is the reason the DCBFF was created in the first place.
With the popularity of streaming services growing due to the influx of COVID cases, that lends more opportunities for more diversity and inclusion right? Well, the entertainment business has some ways to go but with film festivals like DCBFF, new stories by Black creatives are given a platform. DCBFF is definitely worth checking out every year and you are also supporting the Black artists. For updates on the DC Black Film Festival go to DCBFF.org.
My DC Black Film Festival Favorites
“Eavesdropping on the Elders” by Kiah Clingman, Robinson Vil – A story influenced by Kiah and her father, Jim Clingman. The story is about a young woman that must take care of her father struggling with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) and finds herself getting assistance from her elders with help of magical glasses. The elders consist of Historical Black figures Frederick Douglas, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and more. The film was touching and provided some information about life with ALS.
“We Deserve Better” by Keya Rice, Mariam Khan – What were some tenants going through during the pandemic? With cities shut down, workers were laid off, many property owners were evicting tenants or allowing them to live in terrible conditions. Keya gives the audience a look from her perspective as a tenant in a New York apartment complex. With conditions poor and tenants battling COVID, this story had me feeling sorry for Keya and the other tenants. I commend Keya for being brave enough to tell this story.
“Blue Cave” (Best Student Film Winner) by Muhammad Bilal – A story about a young Black man who escapes the harsh reality of the environment and his verbally abusive father, through his writing. This film is a coming-of-age story and a story about overcoming toxic masculinity. The personal project by Bilal is well told and would recommend people watch it.
“Check Out Time” by Calvin Walker– When two friends settle into a creepy hotel, their relationship encounters not only hidden feelings toward one another but a bitter hotel owner. This film was definitely a tale from the Darkside, pun intended. It made me think about just checking into hotels like the Hilton.
“TNC” by Bobby Huntly (Best Director Winner) – A film that combines Tales From the Crypt with Tales From the Hood but with cool 80’s effects. Bobby Huntly does a good job visually with the fluorescent blue and red hues in the bar. A story about a young Black Man in a bar with other Black strangers, who have a common reason for being at the bar. The twist is both surprising and reflective.
Release Mar 7 2022 | Vol30 of Taji is packed full of Black Beauty & Culture fulfilling its theme of Grounded Earth! Each volume is a tabletop collectors item and Vol30 is no different! This volume’s cover features the #SlayBells of @justhalo_. Gracing the pages are the Editor’s Pick, #BlackLoveConvo: “Aunjanue Ellis, One of the Best to Portray Black Mothers” by Dapper Dr. Feel; our Community Spotlight, Earth’s Pot Kisses Your Taste Buds; our highlighted Hair Feature with Debra Hare Bey; “Solo Travel: You’re More Prepared for Solo Travel Than You Think” by dCarrie; “Paper Can’t Hold A Marriage” by Jashua Sa’Ra; “And how are the children?” by Janelle Naomi; Our Vol 30 contributed photo story, “Grounded Earth;” Fitness Highlight, actor, Kevin Wallace; Vegan Fun with Earth’s Pot’s Hit Meh Walnut Burritos; “3 Tips For Lowering Your Grocery Bill” by Naomi Bradley; NURILENS Eyewear Prioritizes Eye Care Maintenance, Wombilee Menstrual Pads are Helping to Combat Unhealthy and Unprotected Wombs; Featured Art Piece by Craig C.; Comic Appreciation with Concept Moon; Black Business Highlights; and more!!
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 OUR people via our quarterly digital and print publication and live events.