Why 2015 Is The Year Of Tupac Shakur

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Tupac Shakur is hip-hop’s greatest gift to the world. In 2015, one year shy of the 20th anniversary of his death, the icon’s legacy will reach a cultural climax.

Kicking things off, today marks the 23rd anniversary of Juice, a film where ‘Pac’s breakout role as “Bishop” had both Hollywood and the streets clamoring for more of his magnetic presence. Released in 1992 when urban movies were blossoming, Juice was gritty, steeped in hip-hop and a perfect platform for an aspiring teenage actor like ‘Pac to showcase his natural acting chops.

Two weeks from now, the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles opens All Eyez On Me: The Writings Of Tupac Shakur, an intimate exhibit sanctioned by Afeni Shakur. “Tupac Shakur was one of the most original and important of all hip-hop artists. His writings are both powerful and provocative,” Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli said in a statement. “It is an honor to be the first music museum to acknowledge Tupac’s legacy and to bring context to what was an incredible career.” From February 2 to April 22, the exhibit will feature ‘Pac’s handwritten notes, lyrics and poems, interviews and performance footage plus outfits he wore (like the Versace suit he rocked to the 1996 Grammy Awards).

“It means a lot to me that Bob Santelli and the Grammy Museum have chosen to honor my son with their upcoming exhibit of his works,” Afeni says. “Tupac’s writings are an honest reflection of his passions for, and about life.  His timeless messages have instilled hope for those who have little, and for others, they serve as a catalyst for change. His words continue to motivate and inspire new generations.”

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While numerous films and documentaries have been dedicated to the memory of ‘Pac—with Afeni’s Tupac: Resurrection from 2003 the absolute standout—this year we’ll see the first biopic based on his life. Nervous fans, including myself, are keeping a hawk eye on the developments surrounding TUPAC (working title) to be directed by his real-life collaborator, John Singleton. I interviewed the film’s co-producer LT Hutton last year about the project, who calls ‘Pac “America’s son” and vows to do his legacy justice. “There is no way I would let this film go out without doing the greatest service that I possibly could for the respect of the culture and this man,” Hutton says.

After numerous false starts, the biopic (Afeni is now on board with extensive creative control after going to court a number of years back with the film’s initial producers) is finally set to begin production in June. A release date is yet to be confirmed.

If you look at the social media accounts of today’s most popular female stars (Rihanna, Lauren London and countless others) no other male sex symbol from the hip-hop generation is shown as much love as ‘Pac. He’ll forever embody that unicorn-like creature women look for, a handsome rebel with intelligence, street smarts and a social conscious. His equally as passionate male fans (J. Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Freddie Gibbs and more) look up to a leader who was openly defiant and sensitive. Rap acts before and after haven’t captured the global audience the way he did and his influence and social reach are untouchable to this day, hence the importance of this upcoming biopic. As Hutton says, “This is not the LT Hutton story. This is not the Morgan Creek story. This is not the John Singleton story. It is the Tupac Shakur story. His voice has to be heard, and only his voice. Tupac wrote this movie.”

Why “Sydney Vs Everybody” Strikes A Big Nerve

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Back in November, I scripted a small note packing a big punch to my personal Facebook account. Snoop Dogg had just posted an image to Instagram about an upcoming Los Angeles version of “Detroit Vs Everybody” (the Eminem-lead track inspired by Tommey Walker‘s movement) and while that particular cut was make-believe, my belief in my city to produce one wasn’t.

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I put the call out and immediately received a response from my longtime friends The Movement Sydney a.k.a. The Green Room, ready and willing to produce a cipher plus visuals and merchandise. They assembled a crew of rappers for the inaugural “Sydney Vs Everybody” with the song and video dropping six weeks later on New Year’s Day.

Did a majority of the most popular rappers out of Sydney make the first release? No. Are the guys who handed verses in on deadline super proud of contributing and now promoting the hell out of their collaborative debut? Yes. Are there plans for newer versions showcasing an even wider array of the city’s rap talent (including big names) coming up? Stay tuned.

I’m dedicated to providing a platform for Australia’s multicultural hip-hop artists who don’t receive the same music industry and public recognition their Anglo counterparts do. This is largely based on the fact I felt the same exclusion myself back home. Australian rappers from diverse backgrounds have colorful, controversial stories that deserve to be played by and for the mainstream. And as a collective (including our like-minded Anglo-Australian brothers and sisters) we’re not stopping till that sea change occurs.

Not to shine a light on negativity but video comments like the ones below (taken from YouTube channel HUSTLEHARD TELEVISION) are indicative of the work ahead of us:

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While both remarks are problematic, let’s tackle the second one first. While you clearly have no issue using American-derived slang like “da” in your username “calemdadestroya,” your small mind obviously can’t grasp the notion “Aussies” include artists like Nate Wade whose father is from North Carolina and mum is Australian via England. All artists on “Sydney Vs Everybody” are AUSTRALIAN and consider themselves just that, despite having to grow up in a country where bigots like you consider them otherwise.

As for pondering the “American accents” featured, save the subliminal questioning “junglejosh13” and say what you really feel. It can’t possibly be hip-hop from Australia if anyone spitting has an international sound rather than a Paul Hogan twang, right? Wrong, motherfucker. It’s 2015! Real hip-hop fans are smart enough to decide what factors are important to them when throwing their support behind a local rapper, whether it’s lyrical content, cadence, speech pattern, vocal tone, image and the list goes on. Am I personally a fan of Australian born and bred rappers who sound exactly like Jadakiss or YG or Andre 3000? I’m not. However, I find the “ocker” accent and “lad” persona just as grating. While I prefer MCs who fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, I’m open to everyone brave enough to pick up that mic. Only through constant experimentation will we reach the promised land of global recognition. And while everyone is entitled to their opinion, incessant nitpicking will get us nowhere.

If you’re pessimistic about a movement based on unity and pride in one’s city where everyone is welcome, you need serious self-reflection. Don’t waste your breath targeting the artists involved: they’re too busy getting the job done. Come at me if you like, but all you’ll do is inspire me to push harder. We’re tired of being apologetic. We’re even more tired of being silent. We love that we’re striking this chord, sparking regional pride and stirring the pot like never before. Finally, we live and breathe hip-hop way more than you do — trust and believe. To our supporters, join us here: SydneyVsEverybody.com.au. Peace.

A Letter To Iggy Azalea

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Dear Iggy,

I want to talk to you. I lost all my numbers and had no way to call you, so I’ve tried emailing and DM’ing you on Twitter with no response. I’ve asked your record label numerous times to organize an interview with us to no avail (you might want to look into that). I’ve stayed uncharacteristically quiet on the subject of “you” as non-stop dispatches fire across my social media recently. I’ve read every conversation and comment closely, waiting for the right time to share my thoughts. I’ve got no other way to reach you, so here I am.

When you were brought to my attention as an artist, I was hopeful. I was shocked at how hopeful I was, actually. I’m a proud person of Middle Eastern descent, one of many minorities back home in Australia who took to hip-hop as shelter, growing up in a country that shamefully denies its race problems. I thought I’d look at you suspiciously, especially when I realized you were rapping in a voice different to the one you were born with. Something in my heart told me to not only give you a fair shot but also throw my support behind you, so I hosted your first on-camera interview. When you walked into the DrJays.com offices, you had that gorgeous “star in the making” vibe. I’ll never forget when you registered I was the woman who created the magazine you used to read back in the day (Australia’s most successful hip-hop/R&B magazine, Urban Hitz) and how excited you were to be conducting our interview from the plush New York City offices of the same website you ordered Baby Phat and Apple Bottoms gear from on the other side of the world—a teenager in a country town called Mullumbimby who was outcast because she was white, a fan of hip-hop culture and an aspiring MC.

You’ve come a long way in a short time. We bond when we see each other. You dropped everything to make me a namesake track, “Boss Lady,” for my Woman On Top mixtape. I remember your confusion and heartbreak when you and [A$AP] Rocky ended things. I remember your joy and elation (shout out to Peezy) at the first sold-out show you did at S.O.B.’s, a show I hosted with fans lined up for blocks before you had a hit single. I remember your disappointment when blogs like NahRight.com and RapRadar.com wouldn’t post your music or acknowledge you. When Rah Digga spoke on you and you diplomatically responded, “I honestly don’t really mind if I’m described as rap or pop” I could hear you silently screaming, “I am a fucking rapper!”

When a veteran like Snoop Dogg “teases” you on Instagram, you publicly take offense. Snoop’s instinctive reaction, of course, is to go harder. He’s been disrespecting women since I was gleefully singing along to “Ain’t No Fun” as a teenager. You know that; we all know that. You have a genuine supporter in T.I., one I hope you recognize and appreciate.

Rap’s obviously a tough space for women. White female rappers have come before you, but none have reached your success. Mainstream media now holds you up while hip-hop media disassociates itself from you, just as it was starting to give you the shine you [once?] craved.

In Australia you’re a hot topic, especially when it comes to your ever-changing accent. People love you and people hate you. Some support your audacity while others bemoan your perceived trickery. None of these people really know you, including myself. I don’t think most people actually know you at all. What I do know is you prefer it that way.

The days when you were known as “Regal,” an awkward white girl who was a regular at Sydney hip-hop clubs wildly aspiring to be a rapper, are long gone. They’re nothing in comparison to the firestorm you’re experiencing now. We’re about to see how you ultimately handle the highs and lows of being at the top of the music world and boy, are you experiencing them at their extreme (I won’t even touch on this Hefe Wine mess).

If rap is what you want to do, do it. Most doubt you’re in it for the long run so prove ’em wrong. Much more important than holding onto your accent, hold on to that Aussie trait instilled in us from birth: if you’re getting caught up in hype and hysteria, pull your head in and get back to work. You once told me, “The American dream just means anything is possible for anyone, no matter how crazy your dream seems.” Don’t ever let anyone make your dream feel crazy, Iggy.

~Simone

Eve Gets Mellow On New Track “The Beat Is So Crazy”

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Pharrell has been spreading his “Happy” vibe around, with former “pitbull in a skirt” Eve caught in the rapture.

The Philly rapstress (who recently married long-time love Maximillion Cooper) sings her way through newly released track “The Beat Is So Crazy.” The groove is provided by Pharrell while Madonna shares vocal duties. The song was apparently scheduled to be featured on Madonna’s Hard Candy album, but was given to Eve when it didn’t make the cut. We’re not sure how to feel about one of our favorite female MCs sounding so mellow, but judge for yourselves below:

Redemption Song? Lil Mama Kills “0 To 100” Freestyle

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Lil Mama recently dropped her “0 to 100” freestyle (a.k.a. “The Lyrical Purge) and it is fire.

Female rappers are experiencing a renaissance moment and it’s exciting to see the cream (slowly) rise to the top. Lil Mama has always been nice on the mic; let’s hope she stays on this path.

BONUS: Check out my interview with a young Lil Mama back in 2007 (with a cameo from Angie Martinez).

Loaded Lux Talks UW Battle League “High Stakes” Event On Hip Hop Nation

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Vin Rock (Naughty By Nature) and UW Battle League founder “Deuja” sit down with their headliner, Loaded Lux, for an exclusive look into the brand’s upcoming “High Stakes” main event on Hip Hop Nation with Simone “Boss Lady” Amelia and DJ Steel.

Visit ustream.tv/uwbattleleague to purchase Pay Per View tickets to UW Battle League’s January 26 “High Stakes” event held at Club Envy, NJ. For more information, visit http://UWBattleLeague.com.

Boss Lady Presents “Go Down Under” Volume One (Mixed By DJ Leon Smith)

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When I landed in Sydney just before Christmas last year, I was in the car with my mum and sister driving home from the airport and as we stopped at a set of lights on the Pacific Highway, I turned and saw billboards advertising The Best Of Australian Hip-Hop compilation. As I read over the names, I wasn’t surprised to see the same artists listed that have been promoted to the forefront of the genre for many, many years.

Having been home for just over three months and heading back to New York next week, I made it my mission to deliver a mixtape that featured not only the established artists in the Australia and New Zealand region I most admire, but a plethora of new talent whose voices aren’t being heard loud enough. I enlisted my dear friend DJ Leon Smith to work his magic with our careful track selections and I’m extremely proud to present the first volume of our newly created “Go Down Under” series (named after the category on BossLady.tv, of course).

Exclusive: Snow Tha Product “She Ain’t Me” (Woman On Top Mixtape Preview)

Following on from Rapsody‘s “Most Poetical” track, here’s another exciting preview from my upcoming Woman On Top mixtape.

This one’s from Snow Tha Product called “She Ain’t Me.” The Texas-based MC is preparing for the release of her own mixtape, Good Nights & Bad Mornings, due this Wednesday, December 12.

Woman On Top features original tracks from some of my favorite artists and shows the musical diversity the ladies of hip-hop are bringing right now, mixed by DJ Adore. It drops Christmas Eve (December 24) right here on BossLady.tv.