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‘Empire’ star Jussie Smollett & more added to ‘ESSENCE Festival’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The ESSENCE Festival has added more star power to this summer’s lineup of music artists. Empire heartthrob, vocalist and activist Jussie Smollett will get to share his many talents in one of the Super Lounges on Saturday, July 7.

The triple threat performer will be singing songs from his new album, Sum of My Music, which debuted last month. It includes his hit single, “Freedom.”

In addition to Smollett, ESSENCE has also added R&B divas Ledisi and KeKe Wyatt along with jazz sensation Damien Escobar and iconic 90s trio SWV.

The ESSENCE Festival is taking place July 5-8 in New Orleans, LA and features Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Fantasia, Snoop Dogg, The Roots and Teddy Riley‘s New Jack Swing Experience with Guy and BlackStreet.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credits: and Instagram/Jussie Smollett

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Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Snoop Dogg + more to play ‘ESSENCE Festival’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

ESSENCE has released the lineup for this year’s highly anticipated ESSENCE Festival and it is fiyah!!!! I am so excited to announce that music icon—Janet Jackson—will be headlining this year’s festivities in New Orleans.  It all goes down July 5-8 with three nights full of unforgettable performances from over 40 acts.

Sharing the stage with Miss Jackson is Oscar nominated actress and history maker Mary J. Blige as well as Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, Fantasia and The Roots.  R&B vocalists Miguel, Kelly Price, Marsha Ambrosius and Dave Hollister will also rock the Superdome along with newcomers—H.E.R., Daniel Ceasar, Kelela, and DVSN.

Atlanta R&B divas Xscape are returning along with music icon Teddy Riley, who will produce a special produced segment featuring Blackstreet, Guy and Wreckx-n-Effect.

This year’s Superlounges will hosts a variety of DJ-curated experiences featuring hip hop icon MC Lyte and award winning actor and heart-throb Idris Elba.

D-Nice will make his debut as this year’s Main stage DJ and comedian Roy Wood, Jr. returns as this year’s Main stage host.

Stay tuned as additional acts will be announced in the coming weeks.

Click here to check out coverage from last year’s ESSENCE Festival featuring Diana Ross, India.ArieJohn Legend and more!

Photo Credit:

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UPDATE: Woody McClain to star in BET’s ‘Bobby Brown Story’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Casting is officially underway for BET’s Bobby Brown biopic and so far actor Woody McClain will reprise his role as the singer. Back in April, we reported that the network was producing a two-hour, two night event that would follow his meteoric rise to superstardom as a solo artist.

Also set to return are Abdul Williams as the film’s writer and Jesse Collins as executive producer. Both of them worked on the hugely successful “New Edition Story” that had everyone talking, texting and tweeting at the beginning of the year.

According to DEADLINE, “The Bobby Brown Story” will pick up where the New Edition mini left off. It will chronicle the talented but troubled singer’s exit from the popular ’80s boy band through his solo success, his affair with Janet Jackson and tabloid-fodder marriage to pop icon Whitney Houston.  Spanning 30 years of Brown’s life, the new project follows his story from the hard streets of Roxbury, where he turned to a life of drug dealing before being given the chance to prove himself as a solo artist.

Other key roles that are being cast include Houston and Jackson as well as Bobbi Kristina, Teddy Riley, L.A. Reid and Babyface.

“I am so excited and looking forward to everybody experiencing the B Brown Story. It will be shown through my eyes! I appreciate BET for teaming up with me and supporting my story. Get ready for an amazing journey,” said Brown earlier this year.

RC will continue to keep you in the loop as this one continues to develope.

Photo Credits:

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V-103 hosts Mary J. Blige Listening Party for ‘Strength of a Woman’

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

The reigning “Queen of Hip Hop Soul” Mary J. Blige teamed up with Atlanta’s Big Station, V-103 Wednesday night for a sneak peek of her new CD, Strength of a Woman + her new film, “The Making of Strength of a Woman.”  The album drops this Friday, April 28 and the film debuts on Tuesday, May 2 at 11 p.m. EST on VH1.

The invitation only event took place at the SCADshow in Midtown and was hosted by Big Tigger. The evening began with the documentary which delves into the creative process of the new album. If you’re a real Blige fan, then you’ll know that she is going through a very painful divorce right now from her husband, Kendu Isaacs and much of the project is about her picking up the pieces and moving forward. Fans will see her laugh and cry in the studio as well motivate the songwriters, artists and engineers that helped her shape this new sound. It is narrated by Sean “Diddy” Combs and features a number of guest appearances by many of her collaborators and close friends like Missy Elliott, Jazmine Sullivan, DJ Khaled and Teddy Riley. For Blige, working with these award winning musicians and artists was as much of an honor for her as it was for them.

“It really meant so much to me because I really wanted to work with them. Like, I really wanted to work with Jazmine. I really wanted to write with her. I really love Khaled. He’s so positive and is such a role model. Kayne has always been a positive role model. Many of us are in the public and sometimes you wanna knock somebody out or curse somebody out and he does what we think about doing. (LOL) But seriously, I have always wanted to work with him because he’s a genius and he’s so real and expressive. Missy is my friend. She’s been my friend since the beginning of all of this,” said Blige to host Big Tigger.

Strength of a Woman also includes a track produced by ATL’s own Ne-Yo. In the film, Blige asked him about whether a certain female artist worked in his studio and warned him about not letting her know that he was working on this new album. Apparently this “mystery” artist is the alleged “side chick” of her husband and the one who is responsible for their divorce. Blige refers to her as “My Becky with the good hair,” a term used and made popular by Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Believe me when I tell you the audience “went up” over Blige’s comment and caused everyone to wonder who she is.

In addition to discussing the new album, Blige also talked to Big Tigger about some of the lessons she has learned over her 25 year career and the one thing that has changed the most for her professionally and privately.

“My self-esteem,” said Blige to a thunderous applause.  “Me being able to sit here and keep my head up and not worry about whether I am stumbling and mumbling and all of that. I just accept it and try not fix it…I am not trying to be perfect but trying to be the best me that I can be. I’ve never felt like this before.”

SIDE NOTE: For fans who are desiring that “old Mary” sound (you know what I’m talking about), I believe you will be satisfied with her new album. It features a number of songs that I believe are reminiscent (no pun intended) to the music featured on her classic My Life album. The title track, “Strength of a Woman,” is a clear stand out to me not only because it was produced by Teddy Riley and Benjamin Wright Jr. but it also features Blige with a live orchestra. That’s a rare sound that you just don’t hear that often on the radio anymore and it reminds me of a golden age of music.

See more photos + a sneak peek of the film below:

Strength of a Woman will be available this Friday, April 28!

Photo Credits:

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NMAAM to salute Patti LaBelle, Kirk Franklin & more during BMM

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) will kick off Black Music Month in June with its fourth annual My Music Matters: A Celebration of Legends Luncheon on Thursday, June 1, 2017 at City Winery in Nashville, TN.

This year, the event will honor living legend Patti LaBelle, multi-GRAMMY ® Award winning gospel music icon Kirk Franklin, world renowned producer / songwriter / artist Teddy Riley, and acclaimed producer and composer David Porter for their enduring contributions to music and American culture. Phil Thornton (SVP & GM, RCA Inspiration) and Catherine Brewton (VP, Writer / Publisher Relations, BMI) will serve as the event co- chairs and masters of ceremonies.

NMAAM launched the Celebration of Legends Luncheon in 2014 to recognize African American music icons. The event is an extension of the Museum’s successful My Music Matters program, which is a platform for leaders and influencers to explore the global influence of African American music. Proceeds from the luncheon will benefit NMAAM, which is scheduled to open in Nashville in 2019. NMAAM, the only museum dedicated to all dimensions of African American music, is focused on preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of African Americans who have created, influenced and inspired more than 50 music genres around the world. The museum will share the story of African American music – the soundtrack of America – with exhibits that integrate history with interactive technology.

“Recognizing each of this year’s honorees solidifies NMAAM’s vision, which is to be the global destination for music lovers of all generations and to inspire, educate, and transform your appreciation of American music,” said H. Beecher Hicks III, President and CEO of NMAAM. “We have all been touched by the music of these legendary icons so the Museum is honored to bring them into the city of Nashville to pay tribute to their stellar careers.”

CONGRATS to all the Legends!

Photo Credits: and

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WORD UP! Erykah Badu returns as Host of #SoulTrainAwards + More

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

CONGRATS to the godmother of soul, Erykah Badu! BET Centric announced today that the four-time Grammy award winning soul music singer and songwriter will once again take over the Vegas stage with her eccentric style, cerebral music, incomparable spirit and comedic commentary. The yearly celebration will honor the best in Soul and R&B from returning legends to the next generation. Filmed November 6 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, “SOUL TRAIN AWARDS 2016” will air on CENTRIC and BET on November 27th, 2016 at 8PM ET.

CENTRIC also announced the all-star nominees they will honor at the SOUL TRAIN AWARDS 2016 across 12 different categories. Drake leads the pack with 12 total nominations including two nominations for the highly coveted Video of the Year Award for his feature on Rihanna’s single “Work” and this year’s mega hit “Hotline Bling.” Beyoncé follows with 8 nominations including Best R&B/Soul Female Artist, Album/Mixtape of the Year for her groundbreaking album “Lemonade,” and multiple honors for lead single “Formation” including Song of the Year, Best Dance Performance and The Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award. Rihanna, Kanye West, DJ Khaled and Usher also received multiple nominations this year including Video of the Year, Album/Mixtape of the Year and Best Collaboration.

The next generation of soul is also being recognized, including Bryson Tiller, Chance the Rapper and Anderson .Paak who are multi-nominees across categories including Best New Artist, Best R&B/Soul Male Artist and the Rhythm & Bars Award (Formerly Best Hip-Hop Song of the Year.)

Multi-platinum and three-time Grammy award-winning producer, singer-songwriter, artist, musician and technology expert Edward Theodore “Teddy” Riley, also known as the creator and king of New Jack Swing, is set to receive the coveted Legend Award. His major accolade was Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous LP” which sold over 32 million copies worldwide. Riley produced number one hits for countless icons which have governed the airways for decades. As a founding member of the multi-platinum Grammy winning group Blackstreet and a member of the group Guy, which became a multi-platinum group, Riley’s New Jack Swing sound was the epic lifeline that forever changed the design for R&B and Hip-Hop music. He is the first African-American producer to bring Korean Pop (K-Pop) music to the USA and has been producing number one hits on Billboard charts for nearly a decade.

The 2nd annual Lady of Soul Award will be presented to singer-songwriter and actress Brandy. The platinum selling artist and actress has sold over 40 million records and received numerous awards and accolades, including a Grammy Award, one American Music Award, and seven Billboard Music Awards. Last year’s inaugural Lady of Soul Award went to R&B torchbearer Jill Scott. Both Brandy and Teddy Riley are being recognized for their longstanding presence in the music industry and influence on the world of soul and R&B music past and present.

The SOUL TRAIN AWARDS will feature an exhilarating lineup of memorable performances and viewers can expect special appearances by some of the brightest stars in entertainment. The event annually showcases Soul Train’s impact on the history of music and dance from the 70s to today.

Click here for more information!

Photo Credit:


Shanti Das & Friends Host ‘No Reservations Needed’ Thanksgiving Dinner at The Atlanta Mission

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Tuesday night entertainment executive and philanthropist, Shanti Das hosted her 4th Annual ‘No Reservation Needed’ Food Drive and Dinner benefiting the Atlanta Mission. The event was presented this year in partnership with R&B maestro Teddy Riley and noted actress Keisha Knight-Pulliam.

12250047_1108646239153333_3500240899492525164_nOver 400+ men were treated to a day of grooming by local Atlanta barbers from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Shortly after, the special guests were served a delicious Thanksgiving Dinner prepared by volunteers and The Art Institute of Atlanta. Dinner included turkey, ham, stuffing, side dishes and sweet desserts.


“I am very excited to host this annual dinner. Each year, the community support continues to grow…from our sponsors to my friends/colleagues and gracious strangers who helped” stated Shanti Das, founder of ‘No Reservations Needed’ Thanksgiving Dinner.

12226945_1108650572486233_3116770640806676903_nPrior to Tuesday’s dinner, Das hosted a food drive at the Walmart off MLK Drive in Atlanta. Hundreds of patrons came out to donate various non-perishable canned goods needed for the preparation of the upcoming dinner. In addition, The Art Institute of Atlanta supported this worthy-cause by hosting a food drive on their campus.


Notables in attendance for Tuesday’s dinner included: Demetria McKinney, actress and recording artist, Ryan Glover of Bounce TV, Sheri Riley of GLUE, Inc., Councilman Kwanza Hall, President Myvett and faculty members from The Art Institute of Atlanta, Quincy Springs of Walmart, R&B Artist Donnell Jones, Dr. Raphael G Warnock, senior pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church, Jasmine Crowe of and many more.  Big Tigger from V-103 and Derrick Boazman of WAOK broadcasted live from the event.

Check out more photos below:







12247793_1108646985819925_8663670120927608121_oPhoto Credits: 10SquaredPR

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Broadway Director Kenny Leon host Celebrity Gala in Atlanta [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Tony winning-director Kenny Leon hosted his annual Celebrity Gala on Saturday evening in Atlanta, GA. The star-studded event raises funds for Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and its educational programs including the National August Wilson Monologue Competition for high school students. The program offers students from low-income neighborhoods, where arts programs are minimal to non-existent due to budget constraints, the opportunity to study theater. Competition finalists also get a chance to travel to New York City to see a Broadway show and meet the actors after the show.

group photo

 Actors Tory Kittles, Edwina Findley and Eltony Williams with the cast members from Bessie

The Celebrity Gala took place at the Millennium Gate Museum at Atlantic Station and was attended by a number of Leon’s famous friends including acclaimed dancer, actress and director, Debbie Allen;  actress and singer, Jasmine Guy; basketball legend, Julius “Dr. J” Erving; HGTV personality, Egypt Sherrod; CNN’s Holly Firfer; media personality, Tavis Smiley; Broadway actress and singer, Jennifer Holliday; media personality, Gary With Tha Tea; American Idol contestant, Ashton Jones; actor and Bessie star, Tory Kittles; television and film actor, Leon; television and Broadway actor, Dule Hill; OWN actress, Edwina Findley; OWN actor, Eltony Williams; veteran television and stage actor, Glynn Turman; television and film actor,  Mykelti Williamson; super music producer and artist, Teddy Riley; Being Mary Jane’s Richard Brooks; veteran stage and television actor, Bill Nunn and more.

group 2

 Leon with celebrity friends Teddy Riley, Glynn Turman and Jennifer Holliday and monologue students

The event also included a dinner buffet featuring southern cuisine, complimentary cocktails, live entertainment and an opportunity to rub elbows with Leon’s famous friends. This was my first time attending and I must say that it was an awesome experience and a “must” for next year!  Congrats Kenny!

Check out more photos below:

Tavis and Jennifer Holliday

 Tavis Smiley with Jennifer Holliday

Leon and friend 90

Leon and guest

Kathleen and Myra J

BronzeLens Film Festival’s Kathleen Bertrand and media personality Myra J

Monologue finalists

Competition finalists who will be traveling to NYC for Broadway show

Glynn Turman

A Different World alum Glynn Turman

Ashton Jones and Teddy Riley

 Singers Ashton Jones and Teddy Riley

Richard Brooks

Being Mary Jane star  Richard Brooks

Kellie Cheesecake

 Kelli Fair of KheeseKakes by Kelli

Bill Nunn 23

Do the Right Thing actor Bill Nunn and his daughter

Debbie and Jeremiah

 The one and only…Debbie Allen with Jeremiah Griffin

Bubba Gump

 Mykelti Williamson aka Bubba Gump

Dule Hill with a fan

Actor and Broadway star Dule Hill posing with a fan

Gary and Jennifer dancing

 Gary With Tha Tea jamming on the dance floor with Jennifer Holliday

Edwina and Torry Kittles

Actors Edwina Findley and Tory Kittles

Tavis, Egypt, DJ Fadelf, Charmaine and Co-host

 Tavis Smiley, Holly Firfer, DJ Fadelf, Egypt Sherrod and Charmaine Ward 

Photo Credits: Ray Cornelius