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Big Boi hosts Advanced Screening of USA’s ‘Unsolved’ [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out photos from the recent ATL screening of the new USA dramatic series Unsolved: The Murders of Tupac and The Notorious B.I.G. The event was hosted by hip hop star Big Boi and was held at the home of former NBA star Theo Ratliff.

The invitation-only screening was a lavish, intimate event attended by some of Big Boi’s friends including his Outkast partner André 3000, RHOA star Porsha Williams,” Praise 102.5FM Radio personality K.D. Bowe, Upfront Entertainment’s Devyne Stephens, singer Alexis Branch and NBA Player Tyrone Hill. STAR actor Luke James was also in attendance and portrays Sean “Diddy” Combs in the series.

The screening began at 7pm with a warm welcome from Ratliff, Liquid Soul and USA Network, followed by a brief introduction of the series by Big Boi. It ended at 8pm to astounding applause. Everyone couldn’t wait to see the next episode.

Unsolved: The Murders Of Tupac And The Notorious B.I.G. is a 10-episode scripted true crime limited series that chronicles the dual police investigations of Detective Greg Kading (Josh Duhamel) and Detective Russell Poole (Jimmi Simpson) and revisits the controversial murders of two of the rap industry’s most legendary players, Tupac Shakur (Marcc Rose) and Christopher Wallace aka The Notorious B.I.G. (Wavyy Jonez). The show is directed and executive produced by Emmy winner Anthony Hemingway

See more photos below:

Theo Ratliff

Porsha Williams 

Big Boi

Luke James 

K.D. Bowe + guest

Devyne Stephens + Alexis Branch

Unsolved: The Murders Of Tupac And The Notorious B.I.G. premieres Tuesday, February 27 at 10pm EST.

Photo Credits: Marcus Ingram for USA Network

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Quincy Jones talks biopic, Michael Jackson Musical and more with GQ

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Music legend—Quincy Jones—revealed in a recent interview with GQ that he is working on several projects for his forthcoming 85 birthday including a Netflix documentary, a ten-part TV biopic that he hopes will star Donald Glover (I can see that), and a star-studded TV special that will be hosted by Oprah Winfrey.  The 84-year-old entertainment icon is keeping busy these days with no plans of retiring…ever!

“They be thinking I’m 84 and retired and all that shit. They wrong, man. Oh baby! I am never retiring!”

Jones also goes on to say that he working with Jermaine Jackson on a Broadway musical about the late King of Pop—Michael Jackson.

“Jermaine was here last week with his 21-year-old son, and I want to do a Broadway show with him on Michael. Julie Taymor to direct—that’s my baby, biggest in history, Lion King. And use Jermaine’s son, who sings and dances just like Michael.”

In addition to the new projects, Jones talks very candidly about his relationship with other Hollywood greats such as Frank Sinatra, Prince, Marlon Brando, Tupac Shakur and his buddy Ray Charles.

It is a must read!

Photo Credit: GQ.com

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RC talks to cast, producer and more from ‘All Eyez on Me’ [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

THE WAIT IS OVER! 

The highly anticipated Tupac Shakur biopic, “All Eyez on Me” opens nationwide in theaters today and fans will finally get to see what all the hype is about!

The two hour and twenty minute film stars newcomer Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the iconic rapper and chronicles his life from his early days as a dancer and “hype man” of Digital Underground to his meteoric rise as a rap star and actor to becoming an artist of Suge Knight’s Death Row Records. This film is a “must see” for real Tupac fans and takes a definitive look at his amazing 25 years on this planet. It also includes appearances by the lovely Kat Graham as Tupac’s close friend and confident Jada Pinkett Smith and Jamal Woolard reprises his role as Tupac’s friend turned foe Biggie Smalls. The film was produced by L.T. Hutton and directed by Benny Boom.

RC had the pleasure of chatting with Hutton and his cast last week during a private press conference  in Atlanta promoting the film. I also got a chance to interview the film’s casting directors Winsome Sinclair and Donald Jarmond for my Saturday radio show, UPFRONT Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry.

Check out a few excerpts from those interviews + more pics below:

KAT GRAHAM

On Jada Pinkett Smith’s support of the film:

“She’s given her blessing and she’s watched some clips. She’s incredibly supportive which means the world to me because I’m a big Jada fan and I’ve always been. A lot of people are surprised that she and Pac [Tupac] were friends growing up. Having her support for such a sacred relationship on screen in such a big way is a blessing. She’s a remarkable woman and we wanted to do her justice.”

On preparing to play Jada Pinkett Smith:

“I did a lot of research. Once I realized that I was going to play her I wanted to watch every single interview, every single movie or whatever I could get my hands on.  I wanted photos of her as a child as a teenager or with Pac. Any videos or anywhere that she spoke about him or anything that would help me distinguish certain characteristics that I wanted to portray. It was important that it was more about embodying who she was versus making it an imitation. That’s not what I wanted to do and I don’t think that you guys would have connected with that either.”

DEMETRIUS SHIPP JR.

On staying in character throughout the entire filming process:

“The funny thing is that if you asked me that back then I would have said, ‘no.’ I was still myself but when I got home and I looked back over some behind-the-scenes video, I was in character the whole time. (LOL) From the time I touched down in Atlanta on November 30 to the time I left, I was in character.”

L.T. HUTTON

Despite the beef that is going on between L.T. Hutton and the film’s former producer, John Singleton, he did want fans to know that this film project is about Tupac’s life and not their own agendas. He also expressed to us how critical that films of this ilk are to the success of other future Black projects.

“It’s very few movies that we have that have a Black producer on it all the time. To have a Black director and then to have an almost all Black cast of an iconic figure, this movie is to be celebrated….not to get caught up and entangled in drama. It’s not about me. It’s not about him. It’s not about Benny Boom. It’s not about my company. It’s about Tupac and if you guys saw the movie, you’ll see that’s Tupac,” said Hutton during the press conference.  “That’s what they want us to do is have a scenerio where Hollywood can say, ‘if Tupac didn’t work then nothing will work.’ So now everybody that’s an aspiring filmmaker or aspiring actress, now the pond gets even smaller than it already is. It’s 2017 and we’re still talking about the first Black this or that. We get excited over the little bones they throw us. ”

WINSOME SINCLAIR AND DONALD JARMOND

On Demetrius Shipp Jr. being chosen for the role:

“L.T. saw him before anyone did and the truth about Demetrius’ journey is that Demetrius’ father was the engineer in Tupac’s recording sessions.  So it’s kinda like full circle, almost like he was born for this role,” said Sinclair during our UPFRONT interview. “L.T. also tells the story of when they finally made a decision to go with Demetrius and took him to meet Afene. She was getting up in age and thought Pac had walked in the room. So that was like the final sanction…yeah that was him!”

“All Eyez on Me” in theaters this weekend.

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Watch Danai Gurira & Demetrius Shipp in First Look Clip from ‘All Eyez On Me’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

In celebration of Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 14, CodeBlack has released a first look clip of Danai Gurira and Demetrius Shipp as Afeni and Tupac Shakur in the upcoming biopic “All Eyez On Me.” The two are sharing a tender moment as mother and son in a scene that coincides with the lyrics to his classic Mother’s Day tune, “Dear Mama.”  Check it out below:

As previously reported, “All Eyez on Me” tells the true and untold story of the prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist—Tupac Shakur—from his early days in New York City to his evolution into being one of the world’s most recognized and influential voices of his generation.  Against all odds, Shakur’s raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary mind-set propelled him into becoming a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow long after his passing at the age of 25.  The film also stars Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett, Lauren Cohan as Leila Steinberg, and Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls. “All Eyez On Me” is directed by Benny Boom.

“All Eyez On Me” opens in theaters June 16
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Official Trailer + Poster for Tupac biopic, ‘All Eyez on Me’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The official trailer and poster for the highly anticipated Tupac Shakur biopic, “All Eyez on Me,” dropped today and we are so here for it.  The film stars Demetrius Shipp, Jr. as Shakur and was directed by the iconic—Benny Boom.

“All Eyez on Me” tells the true and untold story of the prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist from his early days in New York City to his evolution into being one of the world’s most recognized and influential voices of his generation.  Against all odds, Shakur’s raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary mind-set propelled him into becoming a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow long after his passing at the age of 25.

The film also stars Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett, Lauren Cohan as Leila Steinberg, Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls and Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur.

Check out the trailer + poster below:

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WSTU & RayCornelius.com host ‘Classroom & Conversations’ feat. Swagu Style House [PHOTOS]

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

I had the distinct pleasure of teaming up with Clark Atlanta University’s student led radio station WSTU for an intimate mixer on Tuesday evening featuring hip hop’s newest obsession, Swagu Style House.  “Classrooms and Conversations” took place in the “Black Box” room of the Mass Communication Building and featured a lively Q&A session with the trio as well as an opportunity to hear some of their unreleased music.

Swagu Style House is musical fusion of hip-hop, pop, funk, rock and alternative music and is comprised of three members—Stranger, Deep and Medulla—who not only spit rhymes but can also play instruments as well.  The “rap band” comes from the creative genius of Atlanta’s own CeeLo Green and pledges to make music that they describe as “immortal, positive and universal.”

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Medulla, Stranger and Deep – Swagu Style House

During the Q&A portion of the evening WSTU’s Georgia Doll and I talked to guys about their beginnings, their creative process and new found success. Medulla is the son of CeeLo Green and is clearly influenced by his father’s iconic music group Goodie Mob. But the guys also  admit they’ve been inspired by some legendary performers as well including Little RichardRay Charles and Nina Simone.

“Nina Simone has a quote that says, ‘there’s no excuse for the young people not knowing who the heroes and heroines are or were.’ So, we totally respect that as artists and what her music stood for,” said Deep during the Q&A session.

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Stranger, Medulla and Deep – Swagu Style House

In addition to the questions, CAU students got an exclusive opportunity to hear songs from the Swagu’s forthcoming album which includes the “trap meets pop” song “Elevator,” “Dear Mama,” which is a nod to Tupac Shakur‘s iconic 90’s song and “Catch Me When I’m Famous,” which is sure to be a club banger and fan favorite.

“Look at me now and how I came up out this situation. If you ain’t know me from the start, ain’t no sense of waiting. I told you this from the jump, you just too impatient. So watch me work, I’m a kill ’em where it hurts when they. Catch me when I’m famous. Ride by, throw the deuces up. Catch me when I’m famous. I’m a kill where it hurts…”

See more photos below and stay tuned! I plan on talking more exclusively to the group in a future edition of my radio show, “UPFRONT” Inside Atlanta’s Entertainment Industry.  In the meantime, check out their newest video for their first single, “Pick It Up” featuring CeeLo Green:

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Swagu Style House 

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Swagu Style House with WSTUs Georgia Doll

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Swagu Style House having fun with Red Bull Marketing Rep

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Swagu Style House with the WSTU Board

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Ray Cornelius with Swagu Style House 

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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WATCH 2nd Trailer for Tupac Shakur Biopic ‘All Eyez On Me’ (NSFW)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Tupac Shakur‘s death, a new trailer has been released for his highly anticipated biopic, “All Eyez On Me.”

As previously reported, the film centers on the life of the charismatic yet controversial rapper, poet, actor and political activist, who shot to fame with “2Pacalypse Now.” His politically charged lyrics, inspired by his parents’ activism as Black Panthers in the 60s & early 70s, condemned governmental intrusion in black communities. Tupac’s increased participation in the East Coast-West Coast Rap rivalry became well documented and avidly followed by his fans. He was gunned down a street corner in Las Vegas on September 7, 1996 and died 6 days later. His murder was never solved.

“All Eyez on Me” stars Demetrius Shipp, Jr. as Tupac along with Danai Gurira as his mother Afeni Shakur. Kat Graham stars as Jada Pinkett, Dominic L. Santana portrays Suge Knight, Jamal Woolard as Biggie Smalls, Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones, Lauren Cohan as Lelia Steinberg, Grace Gibson as Faith Evans and  Harold House Moore as Dr Dre. The film is directed by Benny Boom and is executive produced by Afeni, who passed away in May at the age of 69. The film expected to open in 2017.

Check it out below and tell us what you think!

https://youtu.be/3ZlXHAbX3TY

Photo Credit: Blog.screenweek.it

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WATCH 1st Trailer for Tupac Shakur Biopic ‘All Eyez on Me’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out the new trailer for the long awaited Tupac Shakur biopic, “All Eyez on Me.” The film features Demetrius Shipp Jr. as the iconic rapper along with Danai Gurira as Afeni Shakur, Kat Graham as Jada Pinkett-Smith, Dominic L. Santana as Suge Knight, Annie Ilonzeh as Kidada Jones, Jamal Woodard as Biggie Smalls, Grace Gibson as Faith Evans and Harold House Moore as Dr. Dre. There will also be appearances by Keith Robinson, Cory Hardrict and Hill Harper.

According to the film’s IMDB page, “All Eyez on Me” centers on the life of the charismatic yet controversial artist—Tupac Shakur. The rapper, poet, actor and political activist, shot to fame with “2Pacalypse Now,” lauded for its seminal underground vibe and still an inspiration for major artists today. Tupac’s politically charged lyrics, inspired by his parents’ activism as Black Panthers in the 60s & early 70s, condemned governmental intrusion in black communities. Tupac’s increased participation in the East Coast-West Coast Rap rivalry became well documented and avidly followed by his fans. On September 7, 1996 he was gunned down on a street corner in Las Vegas, where he died 6 days later. His murder was never solved.

“All Eyez on Me” is directed by Benny Boom and is executive produced by Afeni, who passed away in May at the age of 69.  The film opens on November 11, 2016.

Photo Credit: NewsCult.com

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CASTING NEWS!

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

“True Blood” star Rutina Wesley has been cast in OWN’s upcoming drama “Queen Sugar.” She will portray Nova Bordelon, a New Orleans journalist and activist whose life is changed when her sister Charley returns home from L.A. to help her run the family’s sugar cane farm. The series is based on the book of the same name by Natalie Baszile and will be written and directed by Selma’s Ava DuVernay.  [SHADOW & ACT]

Versatile actors Jamie Hector and Kat Graham are joining the cast of the upcoming Tupac Shakur biopic “All Eyez On Me.” Hector will portray Mutulu Shakur, the stepfather of the slain rapper while Graham will portray actress and close friend Jada Pinkett-Smith. The film chronicles Shakur’s rise to superstardom and features Demetrius Shipp Jr. as Tupac, Danai Gurira as his activist mother Afeni Shakur, Jamal Woolard as rapper Biggie Smalls, and Dominic L. Satana as Suge Knight. “All Eyez On Me” is directed by Benny Boom and is currently being shot in Atlanta, GA. [DEADLINE]

Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx will star as Little John in “Robin Hood:Origins.” The role is being described as “a war-weary veteran of The Crusades who starts out as distrusting of Robin Hood before warming up to him in what is being called a gritty take on the legendary story.” Foxx joins Taron Egerton as Robin Hood and Eve Hewson as Maid Marian. “Robin Hood: Origins” is being produced by Leonardo DiCaprio’s company Appian Way Productions. [BLACK ENTERPRISE]
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#FINALLY…Long Awaited Tupac Biopic to begin filming this summer

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Indie Wire is reporting that Tupac Shakur’s biopic, that is to be directed by John Singleton, will begin shooting this June. According to an interview the film’s producer, Randall Emmett did with the Collider, a lot of progress has been made toward the project and things are finally moving forward.

“Script is great and we’re ready to make the movie…We’re just prepping the logistics.”

Emmett also confirmed that the film will include music from Tupac’s catalog thanks to the involvement of his mother, Afeni Shakur.  She also serves as one of the project’s executive producers.

Emmett also stated that the film will try to stay true to the rapper’s life, highlighting those events that helped shape his professional career and personal life.

“We want to be real and raw about the things and the gangster life that he was involved in, growing up in the way that he grew up […] But we also want to honor the talent that he had because he really was, in my opinion for sure, one of the greatest talents that ever lived in music and hip-hop.”

So far no one has been cast in the film.

Stay tuned…

Photo Credit: CelebrityWallPaper.ws

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X marks the spot! Chris Brown reveals cover art for new album

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

After months of delay and one crazy situation after another, it finally appears that R&B singer Chris Brown is ready to release his long-awaited album, X.

The Grammy-winning performer debuted the cover art on social media recently and announced that the project would drop on September 16.  In the photo, Breezy appears shirtless while rocking his signature platinum blond Caesar and looking up to the heavens.  Brown’s Tupac Shakur-esque B&W image is boldly covered with a gigantic red “X.”

Check out the full image below and tell us your thoughts:

Chris-Brown-X-Album-Cover.jpg23

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Photo Credit: Thisisrnb.com

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‘Holler if Ya Hear Me’ to end Broadway run on July 20

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

It’s hard out here for a pimp Black Broadway musical…

Tony-winning director, Kenny Leon’s hip hop-inspired musical, Holler If Ya Hear Me  is closing its doors on July 20 due to slow box office sales.

According to VARIETY, Holler  didn’t attract a big enough audiences to sustain the $8 million dollar production costs.  Based on the music and not the life of the late Tupac Shakur, the show was already seen as an ambitious undertaking—even for the New York stage. Considering that most of  Broadway’s demos are “older and white,” producers were banking on the younger hip-hop crowd to come and support the show but that simply was not the case.  It is also being said that not promoting Holler  in national markets that have been might be more receptive to the title like Atlanta or D.C.was another possible factor in the show’s demise.

holler 09“We are so proud to be a part of this ground breaking production. The cast, musicians, production and creative teams gave more than just their professional excellence but contributed their passion as well,” said show producer Eric L. Gold in a statement.  “My hope is that a production of this calibre, powerful in its story telling, filled with great performances and exciting contemporary dance and music will eventually receive the recognition it deserves. It saddens me that due to the financial burdens of Broadway, I was unable to sustain this production longer in order to give it time to bloom on Broadway. Tupac’s urgent socially important insights and the audiences’ nightly rousing standing ovations deserve to be experienced by the world.”

Holler  is the second Black Broadway musical to shut down within the last month. If you recall, the jazz-inspired Duke Ellington show, After Midnight  closed its doors at the end of June after only eight months.  The lavish production, featured a litany of rotating artists including Fantasia, Dule Hill, Vanessa Williams, Toni Braxton, Babyface and Patti LaBelle. However, all of that star power was not enough to sustain the show. Producers were even considering taking After Midnight  on a national tour to keep it going but its not clear if that was ever worked out.

RC will keep you posted as this continues to develop.

Photo Credits: NYTimes.com and BroadwayWorld.com

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Saul Williams & Tonya Pinkins to star in Tupac Shakur Musical, ‘Holler If Ya Hear Me’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Casting is finally complete for Kenny Leon’s upcoming hip-hop drama, Holler If Ya Hear Me.  The non-biographical Broadway show is based on the musical and cultural influence of the late rapper,Tupac Shakur.

Headlining the production is award-winning spoken word artist, singer and actor Saul Williams.  The 42-year-old poet  is best known for his work in the award winning 1998 film, Slam.  He will be joined by Award winning-actress Tonya Pinkins, who won a Tony award for her work in Jelly’s Last Jam.  Other cast members include some of Broadway’s brightest stars like Christopher Jackson, Ben Thompson, John Earl Elks, Joshua Boone, Dyllon Burnside and Saycon Sengbloh.

As previously reported, Holler If Ya Hear Me  is a story about friendship, family, revenge, change, hope and the inner city lives struggling for peace against the daily challenges they face.  Through the poetry of one of the 20th century’s most influential and culturally prominent voices, we are given a window into realities of the streets that is still relevant today.

The show is written by Todd Kreidler and produced by the rapper’s mother Afeni Shakur.  The musical begins preview performances May 29 at Broadway’s Palace Theatre with opening night scheduled for June 19.

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Photo Credit: vegs.ro

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Dr. Maya Angelou recites ‘Phenomenal Woman’ & other words of wisdom at Women’s Conference (AUDIO)

Dr. Maya Angelou speaking to hundreds at Women2Women Conference/Photo Credit: Susan Ross

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Poet, author, actress and mentor, Dr. Maya Angelou was the keynote speaker at today’s YEG Phenomenal Woman Awards Luncheon in Atlanta, GA.

The two-hour event was held at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis and was part of the Inaugural Women 2 Women Conference presented by Sonjia W. Young and the Young Eventions Group. The one day symposium featured a variety of workshops and seminars aimed at empowering and transforming the lives of women at home, in their community and in the workplace.

Dr. Angelou spoke to more than 500 attendees about their responsibility as mothers and role models to future generations. She compared them to ‘rainbows in the clouds,’ calling each woman a glimmer of hope in a dark situation.

The 85-year-old icon, which has personally mentored Oprah Winfrey, also encouraged the audience to ‘give as soon as they get’ and ‘teach as soon as they learn.’ Dr. Angelou talked about her dislike of the N-word and profanity amongst Black youth and her first encounter with the late Tupac Shakur. Since the luncheon’s name was coined after one of her famous poems, Phenomenal Woman, it was only fair that Dr. Angelou recited the now legendary piece of literature to the crowd’s delight.

Dr. Angelou closed out her time by taking questions from the audience where she addressed everything from how to overcome fear to the importance of grandmothers. She also explained why she wrote a poem for Nelson Mandela’s funeral and the defining moment she learned that her words possessed power.

Check out some of the live audio below and enjoy the words and wisdom of Dr. Maya Angelou:

[soundcloud url=”https://soundcloud.com/ray-cornelius/dr-maya-angelou-speaks-mp3″ comments=”true” auto_play=”false” color=”ff7700″ width=”100%” height=”81″]