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Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

Hello #SOPA, Goodbye #SOPA

In Events!, Features, Life! on January 19, 2012 at 1:21 am


In a culture driven by piracy, tweets, and Facebook posts, there are very few conversations about direction, change, or innovation. In their absence, people spend countless hours socializing online. We are living in the digital age. It began as an idea to make information more accessible – it has transformed into a billion dollar dynasty, which allows sole proprietors to gain success and notoriety.

What began as simple dialogue and warning threats towards entertainment piracy, mainly movies and music, has now become the topic of the webisphere. And this isn’t Hollywood talking this is congress. A bill recently proposed titled SOPA/PIPA gives the government entitlement to shutdown any infringing US domain names, also having the capability to sue blogs, forums, and growing social networks. The proposed bill also gives the government the obligation to cut off funds to any threatening infringing websites by blocking and exterminating any US advertisements on the website. This mean popular web services like Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook were threatened. If the bill were passed they would have to censor their users or get shut down since they were liable for every users post.

Wednesday January 18th, 2012 websites went on self-imposed blackouts, creating the biggest digital protest in history. They were protesting a legislation that could violate the First Amendment of the Constitution, freedom of speech. Juggernaut search engines like Google put black bans across their name in protest of SOPA.

The US government was pursuing a head-on challenge against every music-loving, movie watching American who downloaded media. A very bold, and noble stand indeed, but for what? Money? Or control and power? Sounds like new world order type domination.

Stripping all moral and patriotic arguments, congress set the agenda that this is all about monetary advancement. The entertainment world has never seen such a decline in sales. The once unyielding business, where people were able to capitalize off their talents, is now at a stand still. They are in need of something big to happen – and what does America do when their most valuable, prolific business is in dismay – they scatter at any idea capable to fix the issue as fast as possible; hence, SOPA/PIPA.

No, I haven’t paid for a cd in the last ten years, unless it was for an artist who needed the 10 cents from my purchased cd as badly as I did. No, I don’t go to the movies on Thursday midnight showings anymore, unless it’s for a date.  The way we go about viewing and paying for material has changed. While the world continues to advance, the media industry sales strategies remain stagnant. The marketing plans are sitting in a 30-year old Jacuzzi, smoking old Cubans. Where’s the finesse?

It seems as though the government overthrows these arguments, dismissing the fact that as the digital generation continues to make strides.  Younger people have become more aware of how to monetize off their products than of the generations that preceded them. Only focusing on the monetary loss of free music and movies, the government fails to recognize the intellectual and historical gain.

The government fears the Internet because they cannot control it. The people took a stance against the legislation and with a little force got some of SOPA/PIPA biggest political sponsors to resign their support. The US government blinked first in a high-tech game of digital chicken.


Here are some tweets from people who took a stance:

Contributor: John Hurtado (@Mr_Hurtado)

Who’s That Chick?

In Fashion, Features, Music on January 18, 2012 at 4:25 pm

It’s no secret I have a special place in my heart for indie music, rooting for the underdog to get some recognition. Months ago I came across an artist by the name of Lana Del Rey -she had a deep sultry voice, vintage style, and a NJ trailer park upbringing…yea she fit the profile of my newest obsession. Once known as Lizzie Grant, she reinvented her style and became the doe-eyed singer plastered on the headlines of countless blogs and graced the cover of Billboard Magazine. Her most notable songs include Video Games and Born To Die off her self-titled EP.

Her debut album Born to Die, which will be released on iTunes and in stores January 31st, comes with some much needed controversy. Her SNL performance was  said to be the worst performance in their history.  Ms. Del Rey was rather flat during her set, making it painful to watch. Does this mean she can’t make a comeback? Hmmmm…if Whitney Houston could  make a come back from a drug addiction (which was short lived), I’m sure she could. Well, maybe she isn’t the best person to compare her to, but all in all there’s still hope!

Do you have a love for her vintage sounds or feel her music depresses you? Drop a comment and let us know.

Here’s my fave pick from her songs:


“Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity”

In Events!, Features, Life! on January 15, 2012 at 1:49 am

On the topic of poverty, where do we stand as a country? The American Dream is now faltered by debt, record unemployment and financial ignorance. Remaking America, a panel of prominent minds, challenges the status quo of the US and the efforts of Barack Obama to combat poverty. The panel included, host and political commentator Tavis Smiley; Cornel West, Princeton University professor and author; Suze Orman, America’s leading authority on personal finance; Michael Moore, Academy Award®-winning filmmaker; Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America; Majora Carter, Urban Revitalization Strategist; Vicki B. Escarra, President and CEO of Feeding America, and Roger A. Clay, Jr., President insight Center for Community Economic Development.

A follow up to their successful 18-city poverty tour, the panelist hosted a nationally televised conversation at George Washington University on January 12, 2012, “Remaking America: From Poverty to Prosperity.”

About 1,500 people attended the discussion, sitting on folding chairs in the auditorium at GWU. The plan was not so much to analyze and find solutions to a broken nation and fix poverty, but speak on the subject on a national platform and inform. Smiley noted, “ In 3 presidential debates, not once has the topic of poverty in America been brought up.” And as the nation spends about a trillion dollars on warfare, and billions on unneeded revenue, said Cornel West, people continue to be laid off. “America doesn’t realize it yet, but the face of poverty has changed,” said Suze Orman, who ironically debuted her new debit card earlier that day, which came with much scrutiny. “Today, there is a highway into poverty, and not even a sidewalk out”

Smiley constantly was on the move with his questions, agreeing, and sometimes even looking puzzled at some responses. He switched left and right evenly spreading the questions out to whomever it corresponded to the best, yet always fondling back to West’s shoulders, for when he spoke, people listened.

Majora Carter, demanded more practicality when trying to fix America, she felt conversations like this aren’t being had in the ghetto, most specifically, where she was from, the Bronx. Smiley jumped at the word practicality, defending the discussion saying practicality has been spoken upon by each panelist with their own practical, real solutions… but we were here to remake America, not only the ghettos.

However, as Roger A. Clay, Jr. was quick to note the population of poverty for any other ethnicity has risen over the last couple of years. African American statistics have only been worst in the last 40 years, once before. But Michael Moore, donning an aged Rutgers University cap and a oversized Ralph Lauren sweater,  who is a white male, seemed more black than most of the panel at times. With a million dollar grossing documentary on 9/11 and countless debates with Bill O’Reilly on FOX News – you could argue Moore was a product of the urban community. He spoke empathetically, recalling tears the day he stepped into the booth to vote for Obama; using his national notoriety to speak through every African American, minority overused, and unappreciated working class man in the stands.  He was refreshingly informative, sometimes blunt, sometimes comedic, but always winning the crowd. There was an even a moment, where he asked Smiley what camera Obama might be looking at him through on TV. He then proceeded to plead not to wait any longer for change. “Obama, it is a blessing what these republicans are doing. Despite them may not liking you, they haven’t put anyone up against you that can beat you!” The crowd roared with applause. “Please utilize these next 4 years in office, as an opportunity to be Americas 21st century Roosevelt.”

The panel and discussion seemed shaky-legged after Moore’s soliloquy; but Suzan Orman never failed to recapture the focus, especially with the topic of school loans. The crowd silenced, no side conversations were had, and no one even dared to get up to use the bathroom -church was in session.

“Do you know the only debt that is impossible to eradicate in 99.999 situations, when filed for bankruptcy, is student loans,” the crowd of students and were grabbed by the neck. “Most educations are too high, a Stafford loan won’t cut it alone, forcing students to take out personal bank loans which have 15 to 18 percent interest, and even when the banks know your broke they salivate at that fact because a 40,00 loan soon becomes an 80,000 loan, and even if your broke they expect you to pay it.” The crowd seemed dismayed, however, not until Orman went on to say, “we no longer need expensive educations to blossom in the world, it only creates debt.” This was saying a lot from Orman, the financial guru.

Soon, the three-hour discussion came to an end. As the cameras cut off and the panel members finally found time to relax, I questioned myself -How could I help? What could I do, as a 20-year old college student with debt of my own? I’m still on the journey of finding myself. Three years ago, I lived in a ghetto surrounded by constant temptations and unambitious personalities, on a direct route to spiritual malnutrition and moral constipation. I was in high school, filling out applications for college. Now, three years later, I’m in Washington D.C. surrounded by a panel of budding journalist/bloggers, attending a discussion of some of the most intellectual people in America. Imagine another three years from now…starting off with a discussion of poverty.

Catch the rebroadcast of the discussion on PBS Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday (January 16th -18th).

Contributor: John Hurtado (@Mr_Hurtado)

Michael Francis.

In Features, Music on November 4, 2011 at 10:49 am

A New Jersian with a knack for story telling - Michael Francis is my new secret weapon.

When Bruno Mars had 800 friends on twitter, before the radio knew his name on his Beautiful Girl feature with B.O.B…prior to Miguel’s record label deciding to push his music forward, after the help of his single featuring J. Cole – I was a fan. They were my underground preferences; artist who I meticulously followed while the world leaned toward bigger mainstream trends and already established artist. It was like a game for me, a game of prediction, canalization of the present, and giving esteem to the past while breaking down what trends and sounds manipulated the music world into what it is today.

After a long absence of any worthy up-and comers, I found Michael Francis.

Sometimes success is the byproduct of leveling risk with tools already honed, and of course the appeal on songs such as,  “Woman”,  derived directly from sexual fetishes and melodic story telling of its creator.  The few, yet substantial songs of Francis make any doubter of music’s present state excited. I love sitting back and watching the growth of artist, from the moment they first introduced their craft to the world, to when their songs are in heavy rotation on airways. I’ve seen this talent before, with the likes of a flourishing Trey Songz, and a younger Rick Ross, whom hadn’t found his voice yet – Francis may just be on my list of successful predictions, but I see potential.

With the release of his LP, Cold Heart Chronicles in November, Francis uses story telling, over a melodic beats. Partnering in business and musically with another Jersey native, The Illz, Francis is on his path to obtaining hierarchal success,  all while staying true to his creative niche.

Check out Francis’ debut video, Dementia. Directed by Kristopher Rey-Talley:

John Hurtado (@Mr_Hurtado)

Eliza Doolittle…The Veterinarian?

In Features, Music on October 31, 2011 at 8:50 am

The name ‘Doolittle’ may make you feel like any particular person with this name can speak to animals, and cure them of their anxieties of being eaten, skinned, or hunted. Unfortunately, this Doolittle is a little less eccentric, though her attire speaks differently.

Eliza Doolittle, is a English singer/songwriter who hails from London. Known for her hit “Skinny Genes” and  covers of songs like, Cee Lo Green’s “Fuck You“, she surprises us with her spunky twist on songs. Her debut self-titled album hit stores last year and went Platinum in the UK – I suggest you get acquainted.

Iman! (@Ayana_Iman)

Hudson County’s Own, The Illz

In Features, Music on October 27, 2011 at 6:43 pm

A Dominican native with hints of Arabic background, The Ilzz, is not your average rapper.  He doesn’t carry the traits in his bag of attributes that promise success. He does not have any features on his LP. Doesn’t unleash an array of braggadocious  lyrics that stick to your rib, like a man named Mr. West once said. Nor is he from New Orleans or New York City.  Hudson County’s own, The Illz, is a conscious rapper with insecure rhymes over beats that serve as the theme music to our memories – taking us back to that day when we laid eyes on our first crush that eventually broke our heart. He doesn’t have much to offer, except a lot of damn good music.

For the Little B or Mac Miller fans – I’ll point towards the exit for The Illz may not be your cup of tea. However, for the Lupe admiring Mos Def-like lyrically relevant, appreciating rap fans out there (and I’ll even go out there and say hipsters), sit down my friend, this is a banquet where you won’t only be staying for the tea.

With nothing much more than a website, and a legion of fans whom appreciate emotional substance, its easy to overlook the deep voice which penetrates your conscious, squirming its way into your unleft thoughts articulating your most overlooked emotions. If The Illz has not mastered the art of giving light to shadowed emotions and thoughts, then he is on his way to front kicking the shit out anyone who has, Jayden Smith style.

Blending hard-nosed, emotionally laced lyrics with an untainted reality, the buzz is high in these Jersey streets and the loved showed on amateur TUMBLR blogs.


“In between us”, is greatest villain Disney ever encountered -it defies everything idealizations define, and everything The Illz represents. Give it a listen.



Follow ‘em on Twitter @theillz

John Hurtado (@Mr_Hurtado )

Queen Couture; accessories & more.

In Beauty, Fashion, Features on August 30, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Nobody likes New Jersey? Well, that’s how movies like to paint the Garden State. Home to some of the most talked about celebrities, socialites, and millionaires; NJ is one stop away from major cities such as New York and Philadelphia. Trenton, the capitol of NJ – most recognizable for the “Trenton Makes The World Takes” bridge viewed as you cross to and from Pennsylvania Rt.1 – is becoming home to some hotspots setting up shop.

Queen Couture, a new pink installation on the downtown strip, known as the “The One Stop Diva Shop”, is bringing fierceness to the capitol. Owner Kenyata Queen, a Trenton native, mission was to give the women of the city and surrounding areas something not offered in boutiques…fun! She began selling products out her trunk before opening a storefront mid-December of last year – buying items she loved and knew customers would appreciate. Starting off with jewelry and bags, she added a hot selection of wigs, for the women who like to be versatile and keep you on your toes. Queen Couture caters to divas and working women who have a flare for fashion. “I wanted a place where women could come in and get everything they want from wigs to shoes, and you can even get your makeup done all in one place”, says Kenyata. Everything is affordable, which won’t break the bank for you gals’ on a budget.

Make sure to stop in to Queen Couture for all you accessory needs. With shoes starting at $20.00, bags starting at $15, and a huge selection of earrings. Located on 230 East State Street Trenton, NJ.

This store is changing the face of Trenton one woman at a time.

Iman! (@Ayana_Iman)

VIA Feature| Kennedy Rothchild

In Features, Music on July 11, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Cool cat Kennedy Rothchild, is the leader of an Atlanta-based band, with an edge like cutoffs from a jean jacket. A guitarist himself, he’s accompanied by an additional guitarist, bassist, and drummer, and together, they’re making progressive working music. His song “Mind On My Money” has a Weezer-type flow that makes it easy to just sit back and listen while enjoying a brew with your buds. With a name comprised of two of the most controversial families in the world – what’s not to like? He knows his history…and has a keen sense of humor!

Music is constantly evolving; a musician’s “genre” is neither defined by one’s appearance or one song. The lines are constantly being blurred. Rothchild coined the term Punkhop, which fuses hip-hop with punk rock, creating a unique blend of sound appealing to a variety of senses. “Punk is the attitude and hip-hop at one point in time was rebellious; I felt they represented the same thing. It’s not that I’m doing punk music or hip-hop music – I’m doing a blending of both from an attitude standpoint”.  He then went on to say that being an urban kid…and working with r&b and hip-hop, the attitude had already been there.

His debut video for “Mind On My Money” was a collective idea between himself and friends that started out as a normal lazy day. “I really didn’t like the song at first, it was just something I could listen to in my car. The girls in the video were actual ‘homies’. I was getting my hair braided and told them to come over to the P.B.M (his own personal “Play Boy Mansion”) and they shot. We were going to the skate park that day anyway and I thought it would be cool to put the drummer in the bowl…I had no idea it would turn out that way”. What makes this video such a success is the realness behind it. It was created in the likes of fun and spontaneity, making it relatable; “if I can’t relate to it then I can’t listen to it”. Aside from his own music, Rothchild has helped write and produce music for other artists, such as singer Lloyd, with songs like “Girls Around the World” and “You” under the alias “Big Reese”.

On the topic of his childhood, he explained he wasn’t a “badass” per se, but more so trying to ‘find’ himself.  “I always rode skateboards and hung with different crews, ‘cuz I was searching…”. Sounds like something every adolescent boy would say. “I knew music was my calling after I dropped out. I understood the whole school thing, but I was bored. There’s something about music that opens your mind”.

 His personal style reflects that of punkster who rocks out all night. He designs some of his own jackets, one of which he wore in his video, and loves to don a pair of Vans. Opposed to his exterior of wayfarers and studs he’s actually a low-key guy. No mosh pits or the allure of the nightlife for this creative force-it doesn’t appeal to him as it would that of an average 19 year old. “The fact that I’m boring is surprising…I’m not trying to put out an image of this new black rocker, I’m just chilling”.

Keep your eyes and ears open. An artist who’s not afraid to make change and create music he loves is one you must look out for.


Get Connected:

Iman!  (@Ayana_Iman )

TVIA Artist Spotlight: Celeb Stylist Atiba Newsome

In Fashion, Features on June 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Fashion is a timeless way of life that we as people live our lives in everyday. Some embrace it, some love it, and others rebel against it. While those who can really afford to play with it pay people like Atiba Newsome to dress them and dress them WELL. You may be familiar with the name from Oxygens House of Glam, as he was one of the stylists on the show, and let him tell it “the best stylist” on the show. But he’s been dressing celebrities’ way before Oxygen decided to spotlight him and his previous team of stylists.


In the 90’s after being suspended at his job at the post office Atiba peeped the game of a friend who used to borrow clothes from his closet to dress others, and he wanted in. After dabbling in the styling world for about two weeks he decided, “this is what I want to do”. It didn’t take him too long to become the star assistant to June Ambrose, and make a name for him self. At the time she was styling for artists like Puff Daddy, Missy Elliot, Faith Evans, and every other name that was praised in 90’s hip-hop. Atiba’s big break came when it was time to go on tour with Missy Elliot and others were reluctant to take the job, so of course our man jumped right in there. “I couldn’t understand why people didn’t like going on tour so I was like I’LL GO! And it was gruesome I had to dress Missy, the back up dancers, the back up singers, and it was always hectic but it was still a great experience though”


As time went on Atiba broke away from June Ambrose and started to style the very clients that she previously had. For a brief moment in his career Atiba quit the styling business to take a steady job as one of the team members for Sean John’s design team. Which is the job that led to the conclusion that he would never be a fashion designer, styling is his forte. “Designing is a lot of work there’s so much that goes into it you have to pick the right thread, right down to the zippers and that costs a lot of money, if you don’t have the money to start your own clothing line don’t do it”

After years of styling various artists I had to ask, who was Atiba’s absolute favorite person to dress? “Mary J. Blige she’s so real and so fun to work with, and one thing about Mary if she fucks with you she fucks with you if she don’t then you’ll know and thankfully we got a long great. And I loved working Tristan Wilds he’s young and lots of fun to work with. I love his swag.” Said Atiba. So is there anyone in particular that he would rather not work with? “Rappers. I mean a check is a check if I have to do it I’ll do it, but I try not to. There’s a difference between dressing someone and shopping for someone. Most of the time rappers will be like ‘yo can I get these red Pradas, and a black leather jacket’. You don’t need me for that you can send your assistant to buy red Prada’s I’m here to make you look good.” Of course the key to being a great stylist is channeling the clients style into something unique, so Atiba didn’t hesitate to set the record straight by letting us know “I don’t ever let my style clash with the clients its what they want, so the first question I ask when working with a client is ‘what are you going for? What do you want?”


As considerate and talented as he is it’s no wonder why Atiba really doesn’t need an agent to get his job done. But he did admit that having one did get him more perks when he first started working with Brandi Simpkins, the owner of the B.Lynn Group that was being spotlighted on Oxygen as ‘The House of Glam’. “Having an agent is good they work for you so they’ll get you the better hotel room, better accommodations they negotiate so you’ll walk away with $3000 dollars more than expected.” But what a lot of people don’t know was that it wasn’t all sunny at the B.Lynn Group when Oxygen wanted to start filming. Atiba was on his way out the door when the proposition was made, and of course he stayed. “What people don’t know is I hadn’t been working for 9 months when we started filming that show. And that doesn’t make any sense you’re supposed to be my agent but I’ve gone this long without work. But of course I stayed for the reason everyone else did, and that was to get exposure. But when the show was done she knew I quit I didn’t even have to tell her.”


Till this day Atiba Newsome has no hard feelings with anyone that he has worked with, June Ambrose and Brandi Simpkins are still amongst the people that he’s cordial to in the business. And who can blame him when he’s now dressing the one and only, Prince! In the end of all the House of Glam hoop la he’s still unstoppable and doing what he feels he was destined to do. “I know this is what I’m meant to do because before this I couldn’t keep a steady job at all I have been doing this the longest, and I will be styling for the rest of my life.” Song writing was also on that list of jobs that Atiba had a while back. While sitting in the studio with Faith Evans one day who was feeling a little under the weather she knew he would be the perfect one to lean on for an inspirational hand, and that moment spiraled into a brief career of songwriting and ghost writing for a couple of artists. “it was cool and everything but styling pays way more I’ll stick to this” Atiba said jokingly.


So what’s next for our favorite celebrity stylist? “I always saw myself on the set of some really cool teenage show like Glee. Dressing all the kids and having them look really cool so I want to try something like that, hopefully in the future.”


In the mean time you can continue to see his best work on some of our favorite celebrities new and old from Prince, to Teyana Taylor. And of course Atiba couldn’t leave without lending some powerful advise to the aspiring stylists out there, “Get yourself a mentor and LEARN, the best thing you can do is learn don’t go in there blind you might get slighted and it just won’t work. You need someone with more experience than you to show you the ropes.”

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For more pics and to keep up with Atiba Newsome check out his official WEBSITE || FACEBOOK || & TWITTER

Von ! 

VIA Feature | KimberlyNichole, the Rockstar Ballerina

In Features, Music on June 28, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Fresh off the stage of this past Sunday’s, June 26  BET Awards – Seattle born singer KimberlyNichole is living a dream. Known for her immense style and sultry pipes; it would appear that this tutu wearing diva is a seasoned artist. She dazzles the audience with her ravishing performances, bedazzled by the twinkle in her eyes. Nichole’s debut album The Yellow Brick Journey, features TVIA fave “Disconnected” and 11 other  tracks.  As part of BET Music Matters, that showcases young vocal talents, she continues to warm the hearts of many…and of course leave you gasping for more.

Without the Tutu’s, funky style, or show stopping performances, who is Kimberly Nichole? 

I’m your average girl…that happens to be able to sing. LOL

Did you ever feel like a big fish in a small pond back home in Seattle?

I don’t think I felt like a big fish in a small pond per se. However, I always wanted to expand my horizons and leave as soon as I was of age.  I love and appreciate Seattle for what it meant to me as a young girl, growing up and such, but something in me wanted to experience a different space-environment.

Rock Ballerina; how did you get the title?

Valarie Simpson actually described me as a “rock ballerina”, wild and wonderful” in the Vogue article.  I loved that description and just ran with it.

You performed at this years B.E.T. Awards – How did it feel?

My goodness! I was sooo grateful and excited! I remember when the BET Awards first aired and Destiny’s Child performed in pink cowboy hats!!! Now, at this stage of my journey I’m performing on the show!??? Humbled, overwhelmed, nervous and scared.

For those who aren’t acquainted with your music how would you describe it?

My music is largely influenced by gospel and soul, which my parents played in our household, and also the grunge/alternative/rock music of Seattle.

I love your rendition of Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana; who are artist that inspired your work?

I love Michael, his gift was beyond this world – I enjoy performing that song.  Some other artist who’ve inspired me are Josephine Baker, Tina Turner, Cee-Lo Green, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana…It’s so many!  I just love good music and innovative artist.

What’s next for Ms. Nichole as far as music and other ventures?

I’m continuing to write and plan to release new music at the end of the summer. Continuing to perform and introduce my music to new audiences!

Follow @KimNicky

Click here to see her performance: BET Awards , 106 & Park

Iman! (Ayana_Iman)


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