K. Michelle On New Album 'Kimberly: The People I Used to Know,' R. Kelly Allegations and Surrogacy With Fiance
K. Michelle is never one to mince words. With the arrival of “Birthday,” the club-ready first offering from her upcoming fourth album Kimberly: The People I Used to Know, the Memphis, Tenn. native enters yet another chapter of her career, this time more honest than before. The LP, which features contributions from Chris Brown (“Either Way”), Jeremih, Yo Gotti and Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins, mines directly from her personal life and those around her, something that isn’t necessarily new for the R&B singer but continues to give her motivation to make more honest music. “I always say people use us for some things: men might use us for our hot pockets, women might use us just to be cool with us or whatever,” says the singer, born Kimberly Pate. “But whatever the person that’s using you, you should use them to learn something.”
For K. Michelle, nothing is off limits, including past relationships -- she sang about her alleged ill-fated tryst with Idris Elba on 2014’s “Maybe I Should Call” and “controlling” relationship with R. Kelly on “Build a Man.” That honesty carries over to Kimberly, one of two albums she has left on her contract with Atlantic Records. After that? A country album, as well as a possible return to television after she announced her departure after the third season of K. Michelle: My Life aired on VH1 through Feb. 2017.
Speaking with Billboard.com, the no-holds-barred songstress dishes on her upcoming album, talks about her past relationship with R. Kelly and her current engagement to and surrogacy with Dr. Kastan Sims.
No, I wanted to have some fun. But that is a record that is so light and when you catch a vibe on something, it just feels good. So it’s a record that is very, very vibey. The direction of the album is actually, I actually am talking about a lot of people -- not bashing them, but speaking on some people who have been influential in my life, whether it was for the good or the bad. Either way, it was a lesson learned. So this is just the fun song going out, but I can honestly say this is my best vocal album and you will get those in ballads like “Bring On Love” and “No Not You.” That speaks to who I am and the person and the woman that I’ve become. So I just say it’s a little piece on this rollercoaster journey that the album takes you in.
You’re very explicit about who you’re singing about. Why do you feel comfortable being that explicit with the people you used to know, or the people you do know?
Because I feel like people need to understand where you started to understand where you’re going. For me, I’ve always drawn inspiration from the people around me. I don’t know how to write about anything else other than what my life is about. And I think I’m a very fair writer because I also write about my fucked up issues. I just write life at all moments. I have a record called “Kim K” that speaks kinda about what’s going on now, like I wish I could be a Kardashian so I could be black. So that’s how I feel [laughing]. So I speak about everything, not just certain people and certain things, anything around me I write about.
On “Build a Man,” you talk about your relationship with R. Kelly and in the song, you call him “controlling.” With the recent news about him about him having a cult and controlling people, what do you make of this news in particular? Are you surprised by these allegations?
I’m not surprised by them, I’m actually going to be speaking more about it because I do feel like it’s my obligation as a woman to tell the truth and to do right by other females that are in the business and all these young women who don’t have a voice. So it’s been something that’s been toying and been really stressing me and I’ve been going back and forth with how to speak about it and how to do right for those girls and read some comments about one of the accusers. I went to a blog and I saw women tearing this little girl up. And it immediately brought tears to my eyes because I remember what that was like trying to tell about my abuse. I’ve dealt with other abuse and I tried to tell but when I was telling people were calling me a liar, they were bashing me, they were telling me I was hateful. To read those comments about these women, these young women, these little girls and how people were so naïve to reality or just didn’t give a fuck about the reality and to call these little girls liars and to really take them down, is something I don’t really know right now if I’m willing to stand aside and watch it happen. But I can honestly tell you right now that I have yet to find the proper platform and the proper way to protect and voice my support for these women. I’m not here to bash but right is right and wrong is wrong. That’s all I can really say right now.
Well you talk about finding solidarity with the claims these girls are making. And you find a commonality in the sense that people don’t believe you. So do you believe that there’s truth to these allegations?
I can’t speak on it. I do believe that in every piece of the story there’s something that is true and I’ve learned so much from my mentor and it’s just the right time and place to say things, to do it properly so that the people you’re trying to help are actually helped instead of taunted so I’ll be speaking more about it but I’ll be doing it in the right way.
What else can you share about Kimberly: The People I Used to Know?
This is the longest I’ve gone without putting out music and it kinda has people freaking out, kinda over-examining things and things like that. The album shows me and all my bipolar-ness so it really shows that and I hit on every single emotion of being a woman and being a growing woman. So it has, even for a man, a lot of things you can relate to you, a lot of life issues this time not just heartbreak but life in general. I’m shooting like five, six videos, this week? So I’m very excited about it because I’m taking my time.
There was a Murder She Wrote mixtape that you alluded to earlier on. Is that still something that’s going to happen?
Well, I actually would like to turn in two full albums to my record label so in the process I would’ve given those records out but I have two more albums with Atlantic and I would like to turn in all of this music, I have probably more than 30-something records.
Recently you posted on Instagram about How to Turn an Album 2 a Mixtape: Vol. 1. So does that have something to do with it?
Oh yeah, I was doing that. I was saying on that, it was like I wanted to put out some stuff…I think labels overthink, it’s a great thing for my label that they overthink some things and they want you to keep on doing different things. My thing is I’m a music artist. I put out music all the time so when you’re taking your time and trying to make things perfect, my fans are suffering for music. So that was just me being, “If you don’t hurry up, I’m gonna make this music into a mixtape.” [Laughs]
Is the plan to put out this music over the next two years or are you envisioning kind of a shorter timeline?
No, I want to do them quickly. I actually want to do both of these albums, this one at this side of the year and another one at the other side of the year—at the beginning though. And that way, I really want the freedom, I love Atlantic so even if it’s with them or whatever, I need the freedom to really get into the music that I love. And I’ve said this to you and to other people, it’s country music. And I can’t keep on allowing people to tell me no because I’m black, it’s just not right. So at some point someone has to fight for it. I would much rather turn in two R&B albums and be done and figure out how to fight this battle because musically I don’t play country, I am country. I grew up in Tennessee, that’s alI I listen to. I had a scholarship for yodeling so I am country music, this isn’t, “I popped up one morning and decided I was gonna be a country artist” or something. No, this is in my blood. This is in my body. It’s time to stop being scared of someone because of the color of their skin or any other prejudice that is put upon them.
Country has a large deficit of black artists. There’s Darius Rucker and Charley Pride, who have helped lay a blueprint for black musicians to make country music. Do you see yourself following that blueprint?
I do. And the thing is you can listen to that music no matter what age, ya know what I’m saying? You could sing this music until you’re 50, 60, and they’re very dedicated and loyal but they do not play. Getting in is the hard part. They love their music, and they respect it and they buy it. And I love their songwriting and I see that, and there’s been, what, three black people to ever have No. 1s in country music? And they all were men? It’s not a black woman who has got to Darius’ level or Charley Pride, anybody. There’s not a black woman who’s been able to do that so for me why wouldn’t I want to fight that? I fight everything else. I’m the type of person I feel like is known for controversy but being honest about the truth and what’s going on. I have to be honest to myself and that is saying what I’m great at: my tone, how I sing, everything is country.
To get a little personal, you’re currently engaged, right?
I am. We just started the process two, three weeks ago [for surrogacy]. I wants twins and I had this big lupus scare. Like they called me and said I had lupus and then I so then I was freaking out, had to run to the doctor, go to a specialist, it came back negative. So then I went to a fertility doctor, we’ve been going through all of that and just because I want twins, they’re saying because I’m so little I won’t be able to carry twins to full term. So this big process, I’m gonna have to pick a surrogate and everything and that’s very nerve-wracking and I have an album coming out, I’m gonna have to try and prepare. New babies are coming and it’s really something we’ve been wanting. I just want to make the right decision when it comes to picking a surrogate and that process has completely started.
All this sounds like perfect fodder for a reality TV show but from what you’ve said, you’re done with that. Is that the case?
It’s kinda the case for now. I’ve had offers. We just started taking some meetings, there are some networks that are interested in me but it’s not the same as reality. This reality basically, Atlantic gave me my own record label and they told me to sign three acts a year to them. And help bring R&B back, and you know R&B, really put the focus on it. So this is the type of TV show, not those fake little “I want a record deal” shows, no none of that, I don’t have time for that.
2 Chainz performs At The Pretty Girls Like Trap Music Tour 2017 at Terminal 5 on Sept. 6, 2017 in New York City.
On Wednesday night, 2 Chainz finished off his NYC run of the Pretty Girls Like Trap Music Tour with back-to-back sold out shows in front of thousands of fans decked out in tour merchandise wanting a taste of the trap life. Inside the teeming Terminal 5 venue featured a diverse fan base, including an older crowd familiar with the Atlanta native since his Playaz Circle days and a younger scene who more recently got accustomed to the 39-year-old’s trap movement.
Around 9 p.m. Young Dolph graced the stage as marijuana -- or as Dolph would say a ‘gelato’ -- aroma began to fill up the hazy three-level arena. After performing an array of hits from his catalog such as “100 Shots,” “Play Wit Yo Bitch,” “Get Paid” and “Cut It,” the Memphis native brought a treat for all the NYC crowd. Bronx native, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie joined Dolph on stage rocking icy jewelry and Balenciaga sneakers.
The Highbridge Label artist brought the crowd’s energy to another level performing his current anthem featuring Kodak Black “Drowning." The duo then teamed up for their latest teamup, “D.A.R.E.” Before exiting the stage, A Boogie was sure to tell fans his debut album, The Bigger Artist, will be released Sept. 29th, “My debut album releases at the end of the month. It’s going to be crazy.”
Shortly after 10:15, anticipation was at an all-time high for the night, as fans couldn’t wait any longer to see the Drench God, who made his way to the stage via his now signature pink wheelchair as he recovers from a broken leg. Fans could even get a pic in a replica wheel-chair to feel like Tity Boi before the concert started. The fashion icon’s attire didn’t disappoint either, draped in unreleased Supreme x Louis Vuitton from head to toe, including his signature designer headband and gloves.
The crowd erupted when 2 Chainz made his way on stage accompanied by the Trap Choir, a couple dancers and his scandalously dressed nurse, who wheeled him around the stage the entire 70-minute set with his broken leg up in the resting position. The injury didn’t stop the 39-year-old from bringing the energy all night, calling the incident one of “the most humbling experiences” of his life. The Def Jam artist began with “Riverdale Road” to set the tone for the performance. He then jumped around his diverse catalog of hits, taking it all the way to the Lil Wayneassisted “Duffle Bag Boy,” even jumping back to his 2012 debut album, Based on a T.R.U. Story, with “Crack,” “Birthday Song,” “No Lie” and “I’m Different.”
After weaving in some of his biggest features, including Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem,” Drake’s “All Me,” and A$AP Rocky’s “Fuckin’ Problem,” he delved into tracks from his most recent project to date. Before doing so, 2 Chainz decided to take a moment to reflect on Pretty Girls Like Trap Music with his fans, “I feel like it's my best work to date. A lot of hard albums came out this year, but mine is one of the hardest. I can rap with anyone.”
As his set moved into the final stages, the “ColleGrove” artist finished off with the top tracks from that new album. The Trap Choir performed the chorus and guest verses of tracks which had artists who were not in attendance. Songs like “4 A.M,” “Good Drank,” “It’s A Vibe” and “Big Amount” had the crowd belting out lyrics and moving in unison, nearly shaking the venue.
2 Chainz left his fans with some words of encouragement before being wheeled off stage, “If you don’t believe in yourself, then nobody is going to believe in your fuckin ass,” as the vocals to “Rolls Royce Bitch” crept in to encapsulate the moment perfectly.
Producer Steve Aoki, known for his sternum-cracking electronic beats, paid tribute to Chester Bennington on Thursday night by releasing "Darker Than the Light That Never Bleeds." The brawny, festival-ready mash-up contains elements from two of Aoki's previous collaborations with Linkin Park, the singles "Darker Than Blood" and "The Light That Never Comes." Net proceeds from the sale of the "Chester Forever Steve Aoki Remix" will go to Music for Relief, the nonprofit organization that Linkin Park founded over a decade ago for their charitable efforts.
"It was a tragedy what just happened," Aoki tells Rolling Stone in the week after Bennington's death by suicide in July. "I still can't believe it. Even though it's been some time, you think, like, oh, no, no, no. I can't believe we're already talking about him in the past tense. I'm like, holy shit, he's fucking gone."
"I've been playing every single day since I heard," the producer continues. "When I play the songs that we did together live, that's the hardest part. You remember the times you worked together, all the different moments. There's so many different layers: It's not just like friendship, it's about the kind of person that he was, what his lyrics mean to the world, how powerful his voice is, and the history of what it's meant to me, even before I even met Chester."
Aoki was a longtime Linkin Park fan, but he never imagined that he would work with his idols. He voiced his admiration for the band publicly during a 2009 interview. "One of the questions people always ask is, 'Who do you want to work with?'" he tells RS. Aoki threw out Bennington's name. "He's my favorite fucking singer," the producer says. "From one of my favorite bands of all time."
"You say those things with the idea that it's not going to ever happen," he adds. "I never thought that we would ever be collaborating on music at all." At the time, EDM was just beginning to conquer the Top 40 and infiltrate country, hip-hop, R&B and rock. "EDM and rock music – you would never imagine the pairing," Aoki says.
When he did enter the studio with Linkin Park years later for the sessions that would result in their first song together, "A Light That Never Comes," Aoki found the collaboration an easy meeting of the minds. "The first time I got in the studio with them – it was no longer, like, me being the mega-fan and them being the rockstars," he recalls. "Once they laid down the groundwork, it was just mutual respect. And I got to learn about the Linkin Park process. It's so different from how I attack an album, or how I go into tackling a song. It was so inspirational and so informative and educational, and I love being a student in those kinds of moments."
Bennington was an especially distinctive presence in the studio. "It blew my mind, because you see this guy – he's a total rock star, absolute legend, the G.O.A.T. – and he's just a very humble," Aoki explains. "A real, genuine humble dude that bares his soul and isn't afraid to speak about all the darkness that was haunting him and allowing others to be like, 'hey, you're not alone.' He touched so many people."
"He has a funny sense of humor, too," Aoki continues. "He's definitely the kind of guy, he walks into the room, and everyone lights up and everyone focuses on him."
After "A Light That Never Comes," a cross-format hit on both Billboard's Rock Airplay and Hot Dance/Electronic Songs charts, the producer worked with the band on "Darker Than Blood." Bennington and Co. also helped guide Aoki as he increased his own charitable efforts. "They were always my big brothers in terms of philanthropy," Aoki notes. "How to build an organization that effectively uses resources in areas where it's needed." It makes sense, then, that sales of "Darker Than the Light That Never Bleeds" will go to Music for Relief in Bennington's name.
In addition to raising money for a good cause, "Darker Than the Light That Never Bleeds" also provides Aoki with a new way to pay homage to Bennington in his live sets. "When I play our songs together live, I'm so proud, but I'm so, so gut-wrenched," he says. "And at the same time, when I feel the crowd fully with me, together in that moment where they totally get it and they sing along to all the lyrics and their eyes are closed – I feel like that's my way of giving back."
According to founding guitarist Vernon Reid, Living Colour's new album was officially born onstage at the Apollo Theater one night back in early 2012. Reid and his bandmates – vocalist Corey Glover, bassist Doug Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun – had been invited to take part in a show celebrating the life and legacy of blues giant Robert Johnson, and they responded with a roof-raising performance of "Preachin' Blues," a brooding dark horse in Johnson's famously sparse catalog.
"It wasn't an over-rehearsed thing," Reid recalls. "We just hit it, and right then and there I felt we connected very strongly to a part of that blues flow, in our own way. And just in that spontaneous moment, that's when I thought, 'Man, this feeling, or these stories, or this sense of things is a thread we can work with.' But we didn't set out to do a blues omnibus or a blues travelogue. I mean, we're urban people. But I think the blues is overlooked in its complexity. We see it so much that we don't even see it anymore, because the familiarity breeds a kind of conceptual contempt, you know? You stop hearing 'hellhound on my trail ...,' and what that means. So we really wanted to try to reconnect with the existential aspect of what the blues is talking about."
Shade, a fraught five years in the making and finally out today, is as much a deconstruction of the blues as it is a wide-ranging exploration of the form. The album also serves as a reminder that Living Colour have never been a band to shy away from layers of meaning, especially when the topic is sociopolitical. "Preachin' Blues" captures the chilling portent of the Johnson original, and updates it with a marauding, heavy-rock tread that seems to channel the uneasy malaise of the Trump era, even though the song was tracked when Obama was still in the White House. A similar sense of fear and anxiety permeates their version of the late Notorious B.I.G.'s "Who Shot Ya?" which the band released as a single last year, along with a provocative video that pays tribute to young black victims of police and vigilante shootings, while calling attention, with statistics, to the distinctly American phenomenon of rampant gun violence.
"I would do that song at soundchecks," says Glover, who sings Biggie's rhymes in a razor-sharp staccato, "but I would also talk about it every time somebody in the world got shot by somebody else, whether it was a cop or their best friend or their worst enemy, and how prescient the song was. The only thing that ruins a good time, in his estimation, and in my estimation, is when the guns come out. That was haunting to me – beyond the fact that he got shot and killed in L.A. His imagery about the idea of anyone pulling a gun on somebody else, looking at it from a distance, it's about bravado, but it's not. It's really the fear. It was personal. He knew it from both sides, and I just thought that was brilliant."
Does it make good business sense?
Law professionals have spoken out over Taylor Swift‘s reported attempt to copyright phrases from her new album ‘Reputation‘. Earlier this week, it was claimed that song title ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ and lyric ‘The old Taylor can’t come to the phone right now’ are among the phrases that she is seeking to control in order to use them on a wide range of merchandise that includes everything from guitar picks to t-shirts.
This comes after Swift previously attempted to trademark key phrases from 2014 album ‘1989’ – as well as the title itself. She tried to claim rights to phrases including ‘Blank Space’ and ‘Nice To Meet Ya, Where Ya Been?’ and successfully trademarked the lyric “this sick beat”. Now, a leading intellectual property lawyer has spoken in defence of Swift’s latest move – claiming that it makes very wise business sense.
“High-street fashion designers take advantage of pop artists’ creative output by using lyrics and titles as slogans on clothing,” Jeremy Morton told NME, Partner in the Intellectual Property Group at Harbottle & Lewis. “It makes sense for the artist to protect their interests but they have to have a genuine intention to license authorised merchandise themselves.
“Any phrase can become a valid trade mark for use on a variety of merchandise. To transform a song lyric or title into a trade mark takes an investment in ‘educating the public’ to recognise the phrase as signifying a source of goods. This can be done through extensive use on goods, protection through trade mark registration, proper labelling to indicate claimed trade mark rights, and effective enforcement against unlicensed products.”
Mr Morton added: “In some ways, this could be a better strategy than relying on the artist’s name or image as the trade mark for merchandise, because the latter raises a number of potential difficulties.
“Arguably a celebrity’s name or image does not truly serve as a trade mark for merchandise, as consumers buy products bearing the name or image because they like the artist, not because they think the artist licensed the goods.”
By Andrew Trendell Sep 7, 2017
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