Ty & Audley Harrison


I’ve always made it a point to avoid football matches and highly-strung men with testosterone and alcohol fuelled mouths at male dominated sporting events so this fortnight was certainly an eye opener.
My old mate boxer Audley Harrison made his come back fight appearance at Alexandra Palace and of course I was there to support him.
Even though he’d left VIP tickets and a VIP car park pass for me at the box office I was so embarrassed about the courtesy car that my garage had lent me whilst they fixed my ride, that I parked at the bottom of the hill and made my mate walk up with me. He wasn’t best pleased but understood my fear of shame at being seen by all and sundry stepping out of a gold, orange, brown matchbox shape mini Daewoo wearing all my glad rags!
Once we finally made it into the venue I was surprised at the fun fair like ambience which saw bars, food stalls including a pattie stall (do they have those at all fights or just ones with black fighters?), and many many young ladies wearing barely any clothes running around with vulgar expletives exiting their mouths. Girls, be sexy on the inside. You will last longer that way. Strippers and models have an expiry date.
‘’Wow’’ I thought ‘’this is gonna be a night to remember’’. And it was. Sitting in Block A in front of some rude boys who gave us hilarious comedy all night with their wise cracks and cusses, to the chants of the crowd that were both funny and vicious , ‘’we’ll never see you again…..AGAIN!’’ and so on. If I’m totally honest I have the utmost respect for Audleys focus cos some of the things that were being yelled out to him were hurtful-I guess that’s a boxing thing. There were a furiously aggressive few rounds where Audleys opponent Michael Sprott seemed to be getting some shots in, and Audley fought with one arm cos he dislocated his shoulder in the 2nd round. It was clear by round three that he wasn’t using his right arm and continued to fight one handed! In the 12th and final round when we thought it was a wrap, Audley drew on some superhero strength and knocked Sprott out with a big lick from nowhere! As someone said ‘’to all the Harrison haters ‘’SHAME ON YOU ALL it was a different story when he was winning us a gold medal at the Olympics. It shows that a lot of you fools only follow a winning fighter .I suppose you all support Man United, Chelsea or Arsenal. You’re all a load of glory hunters, Audley will prove you wrong’’. Oh how we roared, laughed and cussed back his detractors. Believe in West London! We fight to win!

Another champ- albeit a lyrical one is uk hip-hop forefather and my old friend rapper Ty.
With all the UK black music acts that are in the charts now that hailed from the grime scene its easy to forget that there’s still a very vibrant UK hip-hop scene attracting thousands of young fans nationally and internationally and this scene will also blow up given time and care. You only have to look at this years re-emergence of UK hip hop seeing album releases from Roots Manuva, Klashnekoff; Rodney P; Charlie Sloth; Jhest, Skits and its appreciative audiences that recently attended the Jay Z, Talib Kwali and Jay Electronica concerts to know there’s still a piece of our culture that’s realer than real.

Ty’s new album ‘’Special Kind of Fool’’ was released last Monday April 19th and has been bumping in my ride ever since. He represents what real hip-hop has been for over 2 decades with his international sell out gigs alongside hip hops greatest. I was really impressed listening to the new material, as it really is Ty’s story. The tale of an artist who after ten years, three critically acclaimed albums (Awkward 2001, Upwards 2003, Closer 2006), collaborations with the likes of Tony Allen, De La Soul, Damon Albarn and Estelle, a Mercury nomination amongst other accolades, and a worldwide army of fans, has always followed his heart. From the days when we all used to break-dance, body pop and rap down in Covent Garden with Jonzi D, DJ Pogo and Billy Bizness and rock a backpack ,Ty was there doing his thing on the mic from day one.

We sat down over an eggs Benedict breakfast recently to reminisce about the days when the American musicians ran our music scene and agreed that the change had come because many of us had put in the work. Acts like Wiley and Dizzee quite clearly know Ty and his music and the feeling of mutual respect co exists comfortably.
Acknowledging the recent successes of the UK urban scene Ty said ‘’the Sudden turn around of the UK music scene this past 2 years
is very impressive, its cool that doors are opening. However there’s no balance. All the kids think that the formula is the same- Can you not see the effect that this music’s having on kids now.
So now i can look back at So Solid and appreciate the success they had without compromising themselves.
I can see there’s no balance presently so I’m makin a record for myself first. Its not easy but
I rap on dance records to keep my finances secure’’.

It took Ty 2 and a half years on his own in his home studio to make his latest material. Unlike previous content which his musical partner Drew produced mostly-this time around it was all Ty- leading to a producer string to his already thick bow.
I wondered whether he felt any pressure having to try and keep up with the kids so to speak. Ty gave me that ‘don’t be ridiculous ‘ look that he has and explained ‘’ Jas I’m not concerning myself with fitting into what young people are into’’. To be fair, ty’s been here for the long stretch, Will the current crop of chart hitters still be here in 2 decades? Ty’s longevity clearly speaks for itself.
He hasn’t compromised and still they flock. Channel U have been known to rinse Ty’s video 24-7!
Ty has overcome adversity with a near death experience in 2006 when he had been training hard but not eating healthily before being diagnosed with diabetes. So he took a break and naturally came back with a different perspective on music making. He explained its like’’ Like when you have a child. You realise what’s important?. What’s your purpose?. Let’s get to the point quickly’’.

The thing most Ty’s fans love about him is that his whole career has been based around not being the stereotype MC from the street. He likes to show that people can come from poor areas and still be articulate. Ty is the alternative to being brash, he has an alternative swagger. He doesn’t say ‘’innit fam’’ or ‘’blood’’ within his songs. Some people would say it will be easier for Ty now that Kanye has opened that door- UK heads would argue Ty opened the door first.
The new album has big production, panoramic qualities musically and every now and again you may recognise a classic old skool line dotted through album
. Ty smiles ‘’A lot of people under estimate young people but they do research music and will get it’’. There are a few collaborations on the album with Ty’s friends such as Anthony Mills, Vula Malinga , Shaun Esscoffery, Erik Rico and even the Queen of lovers rock herself-Carol Thompson!.

The new single will be a double-a side called “Heart is breaking” featuring Sway
and “Me” . With ‘’Heart is breaking’’ Ty explains he wanted to create a broad cross reference of people struggling. ‘’i took snap shots of different modern day UK scenarios. I live in a multi cultural community and wanted to reference that.
I’m a ground breaker.
Its up to me to be broadminded and introduce new things’’.

He explains that his friendship with Sway goes way back to when sway was in a crew. Originally Bashy was supposed to feature but it didn’t work out but now I cant imagine it without Sway’’.

Ty and laughed and shook our heads at just how much the UK street music scene has developed. We recalled when rappers used to get booed onstage for having UK accents. Ty suggests ‘’There was an identity issue cos we weren’t proud of being Brits.
The youth have now decided we like our sound. The work that was put in the 80 and 90’s has helped.
A lot of kids blame oldies for not opening doors.
I’m cool with fact that we opened doors for Dizzee etc. What I’m not cool with is their attitude when they state “I’m not part of rap scene’’. if you’re not singing and you’re spitting over beats you ARE hip-hop so to dissociate yourself from hip-hop is disrespectful.
They don’t mind being called hip-hop when it suits them!’’.

Ty did bring up something I thought was interesting. Whilst young, new American lyricists frequently shout out their elders and fore fathers the UK acts don’t? But Ty has no hang ups. The only regret I spot is when he confesses ‘’
In my career I’ve sacrificed love. I’m a travelling man. I’m hard to lockdown-love has suffered’’.

I recalled that back in 1991 UK hip hoppers used to constantly talk about ‘’not selling out’’. Ty sighs ‘’No selling out then was about being young and wanting to be credible. The kids now have no problem with being pop.
The genre of lyrics was much stronger then so acts reflected that.
Hip hop is as weak as its ever been right now. Rebel MC,Goldie , Cookie Crew had a commercial element but were still real.
So Solid were an extension.
When people disassociate themselves with hip-hop now it annoys me. If Jay Z is your role model you are hip hop. Without hip-hop none of them would be dressing the way they dress and talking the way they talk. They need to understand that the music industry is allowing them to exist. They also need to know that Its cool to be a little bit humble. On your way down you meet people you met on your way up’’.
Ty continued ‘’there’s a common concept in grime that you do pop to make it. Wiley, Kano, Tinchy ,Lethal B etc were all in crews before majors plucked them to become solo and make solo acts. When you’re plucked away from your core its easier to manipulate you.
Try and do something to further your culture. Everyone’s too out for themselves. When the culture disappears they’ll be stuck!’’..

One thing that Ty and I agreed upon was that the new generation is very entrepreneurial whether its with online TV spots, video directing, forming companies and much much more. Surely we have to acknowledge the Bad Boy, Roc A Fella and Phat Farm empires for inspiring young homeboys globally.

Ty is funny, unique and different. When he’s not dropping hip hop knowledge he’s keeping people doubled up in laughter with his silly antics. And he’s utterly fearless and  unafraid of being stupid onstage. His live shows are legendary .He has fun, his audience have more. ‘’I don’t come with airs and graces. I crowd surf.
The maddest festivals I did were Montréal jazz festival in 2005 with Dilla and Roots Manuva. It was crazy. My  special moment there with Dilla was when he took me aside and congratulated me. He gave me his number and kept in contact.
The
Carling Festival in Reading was a memorable year where 50 got bottled by audience. I was in small tent with 2000 fans. I started by asking my crowd if they were gonna bottle me lol, then I climbed a turret mid performance and climbed so high I got stuck and security had to climb up and rescue me!’’.

Yes he’s a real feisty, mad, opinionated character.
If you’re not lucky enough to catch Ty at his May 31st gig at London’s Jazz Café where he’ll be with a full band you can keep up with him on twitter where his crazy side can often be seen saying things like ‘’I do declare from this day forward as far as the funhouse is concerned I will only be referred to as lord cumbassa the third and 3 quarters, busting dance routines and wearing George Clinton outfits!’’.

Mariah Carey


Whenever March and April come around I brace myself for Mariah to call up last minute and suggest sweetly ‘’hey what you doing next week? Wanna come and join me for a last minute 27th March anniversary /Wedding nuptial renewals/ vacation/party/celebration?’’. And yet whilst I know that I have pressing things to attend to here at home-how can you refuse an offer like that from a living legend like Mariah?
It used to knock me off kilter when I was a boring Capricorn that likes to plan her diary at least a month in advance but I’ve learnt over the years to ‘’be malleable’’.
This year the call came around 10 days ahead-which for her majesty Mrs Cannon is pretty decent notice!.
After throwing in 10 bathing suits, a couple of dresses and a tracky into my now extremely battered suitcase, I Jumped on an American Airlines flight wearing my Gucci boots and very English classic lady look. At check-in the stewardess mentioned that she followed my column and as I checked in at the gate I was informed that my seat had been changed. Assuming that my lovely aisle seat had been given to another and I’d been chucked mid-row my neck started twisting outta shape as I questioned ‘’why have you moved me?’’. I was ready to kick off before feeling real stupid as the clerk smiled ‘’we’ve upgraded you’’. ‘‘Oh’’ I giggled embarrassed and had a very pleasant experience sleeping flat all the way en route to my girls pad in New York.
Once I arrived at Mr and Mrs Cannons lair I was informed there was a note for me in the kitchen. Reading it I was informed that because Mr C awakes at 4am for his daily breakfast radio slot, the Carey-Cannons were already in bed (it was midnight), but that they’d left me ‘’some food in the fridge’’. Trying not to jump for joy as my mouth dribbled at the sight of UBER bourgeois eatery Mr Chows legendary squab in iceberg lettuce, I continued reading….’’oh, and there’s a surprise for you in the media room’’.
Curiosity out did my exhaustion as I padded down to the media den where our mutual friend had been waiting with MC all day to surprise me with her newborn baby!.
I gushed and got my broody on for a couple of hours .We are all inspired by our friends beautiful baby.
Not wanting to waste food that costs as much as my weekly wage-(ok I may be exaggerating- but only slightly), I then had Mr Chows for breakfast too before us 3 girls (MC, myself and Rachel) piled into the black convoy of vehicles that carried us to the private airfield to one of Mrs C’s favourite places in the world-Puerto Rico!.

En route to PR we played the same silly games that 12 year old girls all over the planet play whilst nibbling on crudités and sipping coconut water . I promised not to tweet that we were going to PR so I tweeted ‘’the islands’’ instead. I shouldn’t have bothered cos on arrival at the San Juan airfield the paparazzi was lurking in ambush for Mrs C and the tabloids had her plastered all over the next morning, and I just shrugged my shoulders and quipped ‘’right then, I’ll get tweeting haha’’.
En route to our lovely location at 2am MC insisted on stopping at an American superstore version of Boots chemist, to pick up ‘’noodles for the water’’ and ‘’candy for her husband’’ ( translation-what we Brits call floaties and sweets ’’. I know I should be used to it by now but every time MC insists on walking into regular stores and shopping it makes me chortle hard inside .If only they could see her now. The stores staff tried to hold it down but eventually cracked as a line of picture requests politely gathered and MC quickly accepted them all. (as the drive continued I had to wonder; why are there SO MANY burger kings in PR?))
That evening we had a small slumber party in our pyjamas and caught up as the Carey-Cannons 3 puppies ( JJ, Cha Cha and their son Dolomite) ran amok around us. We lovingly call them the 3 –puppy- circus due to their constant bouncing and whizzing around us. At one point in his excitement, Dolomite bounced up as we were playing and managed to pull my top clean off! It was like a slow motion cartoon where I protectively clutched my lady parts in modesty!.
I assumed it was just a one off accident until moments later when he sprinted out of MC’s room with her just- laid –out- panties in his mouth as MC and he proceeded to have a hysterical tug of war. That puppy is officially a freak.
For the next few days we hung out on the veranda admiring the ocean, amazing sculpted fauna and golf courses, Olympic sized pools, hot tubs and play pools, marina and breath taking rain forests in the distance, ate well and slept. Female pup Cha Cha clearly knows she’s one of the ladies and would hang out with us all day curling up wherever we were. Most afternoons we migrated to the boat and jumped in and out of the ocean as we had our surf lessons and swam out to the famous island where MC shot her legendary classic ‘’Honey’’ video.
I don’t know how it happens but Mr and Mrs C’s pets always love the water whether its an ocean, pool or hot tub. MC was the perfect student and persevered in the water until she was surfing away with the 3 pups surfing on her board simultaneously with her. It had to be seen to be believed!. I gave it a few shots then stuck to the basic activity of floating lazily doing nothing and then jumping back on the boat and machete whacking the hell out of the fresh coconuts and scooping out the delicious flesh, scaring Mrs C silly that I’d do myself an injury. In the evening we debated about American food being better than England’s food, and argued long and hard about which we preferred and was the most authentic. Mrs C also cussed us all out for being on our digital devices all day long what with some on twitter, facebook and the guys checking sports constantly , ‘’whilst we were all in such a beautiful place’’.
On April Fools Day everyone tried to trick everyone. I told them ‘’in England it only counts before noon’’. Thereafter ‘’in England’’ (in a haughty lady of the manor voice) became a joking point to cuss me with every few minutes. A couple of tricks did go down but I’ve been sworn to secrecy. One afternoon we hung by the pool where poolside Liam Gallagher and all of Prodigy were knocking back the beers and having fun as the odd American that recognised them became overly excited..

Mr C-AKA Mr Nick Cannon, as usual had a long working week with his daily radio show early every morning then his filming for “Americas Got Talent” , which meant he cold only join us on the Good Friday in Puerto Rico.
On the Saturday we jumped on the Carey-Cannons jet which whisked us off to  Orlando where we spent another couple of days having fun. Of course Easter Sunday we remembered the Lord and chilled out, (‘’Jesus is the reason for the season’’-Nicks fave line!) .
On Easter Monday we contemplated joining the public Easter egg hunt where 4000 people would be hunting eggs but then Nick got his grown man on and put it into perspective for us and reminded us that the publics focus would quickly go from hunting eggs to hunting Mrs C. We knew he was bang on point so instead we began our day (at 5pm) painting Easter eggs. No. Really. Myself, Mr and Mrs C and our good friend Rachel got all competitive dyeing eggs, painting on motifs, and being crazy competitive. We had Easter baskets with loads of fresh eggs, paint, sparkles, ribbon, confetti, you name it, our eggs weren’t ever gonna be anything but first class!
I painted a cool baby pink egg and frosted it with silver sparkles. I had no shame in stealing Mr and Mrs C’s artistic egg ideas too and stuck funny faces on them. If you think all this sounds too surreal well picture this. Myself, Rachel and MC did all this wearing baby pink bunny ears throughout. Yep- we’re forever 12. Nick even bought Mrs C a toy princess tiara, earrings and necklace from the toy store that were appropriately pink yet lavender.
On my final day before I had to jet back home Mr and Mrs C took me to Universal Orlando theme park where they say ‘’you ride the movies’’. It was no empty boast-the rollercoaster’s were amazing!. We went on the RIP RIDE ROCKIT  -scary as hell, fast, high and the drops were stomach curdling. I didn’t open my eyes once!. Next it was THE INCREDIBLE HULK COASTER and THE DUELLING DRAGONS where I decided to bite the bullet and stay open eyed throughout-it was magical. We were riding them at sunset so the colours and lights around the city were stunning. Of course when you attend with Mr and Mrs C you don’t line up-you’re escorted very quickly and expertly by a security team that whisked us backstage from ride to ride. Every now and again people would spot the superstar couple and cheer and applaud . Just another day in the life of the Carey Cannons but to me-these are once in a lifetime adventures I’ll treasure for ever!. Happy anniversary MRS C!

LABRINTH

Wow! What a whirlwind month I’ve had! I spent the last week in New York, Puerto Rico  and Orlando with my girl Mariah for her anniversary/bornday (more on that next time), but before I jetted out London town was a buzz with activity.
I attended the amazing street dance show BLAZE at the Peacock Theatre where dancers from all over the globe collaborated on a beautiful piece of dance with a really diverse set of music, dance styles and concepts. The show was impressive, funny, dynamic and props must be paid to the lighting and graphics designers –it was like watching a modern day new age dance theatre spectacle. It includes street dance, contemporary, classical and a bit of buffoonery-all very entertaining for the whole family.You must catch it if you can.

Next it was off to Europe’s biggest shopping mall in West London-Westfield for the grand launch opening of their new live music venue café concerto in the uber posh VILLAGE area of the huge retail monstrosity.
We were greeted by silver trays and waiters laden down with champagne flutes and an abundance of sea food was doing the rounds too. Many of the music industry players attended and we were entertained by the dulcet tones of Terri Walker and Mica Paris who never cease to amaze me live.

Next I trotted down to the very exclusive IVY CLUB where I met theatre impresario Stephen Byrd and the new BET bigwig and his adorable wife for drinks where we talked about the differences between the USA and UK and our various worlds.
My final trip of the week was up to Wood Green North London where a very special young man who is about to blow up invited me to his studio for a chat. A lot of young people think to be successful they have to go down the footballer, video vixen or music star route whilst there are as many young power players today making moves behind the scnes and often making more money than the celeb players and keeping their private life safe too.

A few months ago, I was impressed by a newcomer called Master Shortie with his unique sound and style. Shortie told me a young producer (at the time only 18 years old) had produced his whole album. His name was Labrinth. Then a few weeks ago I heard Eastenders star Preeya Kalidas new album with a couple of tracks I loved by a new producer. His name was Labrinth. Next I attended the making of the video shoot for singer Sabrina Washingtons new song ‘’OMG’’ –heard and loved her new album-apparently one of the producers was really impressive and young. His name was Labrinth. All good things come in 3’s but this kid seems unstoppable so when the 4th moment at Tinie Tempahs showcase happened and the producer of Tinies number 1 smash hit ‘’Pass Out’’ jumped onstage to celebrate and Tinie told us it was a young man and friend-whos name was Labrinth-I was gob smacked and knew I had to meet this new hotshot, midas touch beat maker myself.

Labrinth-or ‘’Labs’’ as his people call him, is a friendly, quirky, hat loving, cool kid. He oozes confidence and is way more articulate than many of his peers.
He grew up
in Hackney as part of a big church family which included 9 kids. Music seems to be intertwined in their gene pool as his brother is a drummer and has worked with Daniel and Natasha Beddingfield.
Labs Grandad is a preacher and music man Mr Ruben Edwards. Otherwise known as musician R.l Edwards.
Labs recalled his earliest musical experiences where he explained that he and his brothers and sisters had family jamming sessions with them all playing bongos, drums and piano.. Showing an early entrepreneurial spirit they charged their uncles, aunts and family members 20 pence to come and watch their ‘’shows’’.

As well as take part in music lessons at school from the age of 13 Labs was obsessed with all things musical .
Like many youth he used to sing and rap after being  affected by hip hop, but when he wanted beats to rap to he couldn’t find anyone making just what he was looking for-so-he made them himself.
I had to drag it out of him but his rapper name as ‘’Dapper D’’. Even as he recalled it he cringed badly- (so remember that when he’s so huge he wont sign autographs-we can remind him of his roots!).
Born

Timothy McKenzie, he became Labrinth after looking through the dictionary and liking the idea of the maze-‘’life is but a maze’’.
His first big break was meeting Master Shortie at their mutual friend singer Henrietta Bond’s house warming party.
Labs wasn’t too sure of what to make of Shortie at first due to Shorties loud and in your face dress style and attitude.
Apparently Shortie heard some of Labs music at the party and then went and checked out his MYSpace page and before you could say ‘’speedy Gonzalez’’ both were working on music together.
Labs says he was keen to work with Shortie as they both wanted to make mature music even though they were both young people

Labs confessed that like olden Andy Warhol days, his studio is a meeting space for other young talented music makers like Shortie, Bluey Robinson and others and often they’re in there all night working and can be found asleep on the sofas often after all night sessions.

So Labs started with Shortie, then Bluey, then Preeya and Sabrina and now he’s making his first Kanye West / Timberland move by putting out his own material as an artist.
Like a great producer with an ear for voices and styles, he’s unafraid to tell an artist to switch when needed too. A good example when he first heard Blueys voice he revealed he wasn’t too convinced about his vocals and asked him to tighten up his falsetto.

At the end of 2008 labs met music production outfit Stargate AKA Danny D and Tim Blacksmith
whilst he was talking to kids in a Hackney school
Tim who is legendary in the music game and has written hits for Beyonce and more offered him a publishing deal to EMI

but Labs wanted to stick with his own manager Marc Williams (a former musician himself that used to be in “homeboy hpippie n a funky dread”
) . Labs met Met manager marc through his mum who was doing a music course

that Marc was teaching,
Labs reveals he didn’t want to sign to Stargate because of the money percentage cut
that they were offering him.
He confesses to being a mumsy boy and often says he wants a respectable journey
in this music game

Of course now he’s hit the UK number spot by producing Tinie Tempahs ‘Passout’ which he says that the original beat was written for Bluey but it wasn’t really his style but as soon as Tinie heard it he took 30 minutes to write the verses and hook and history was made.

Labs revealed when he first heard ‘Passout’ on Radio 1 he wasn’t too fazed as his tracks with Shortie had already been played on Radio 1. Labs boasts ‘I know what kind of music London loves.
We’re not about plasticness. We like it rough”
. Reminiscing about ‘’Passout’ Labs smiles ‘’my favourite part of making ‘Passout’ was adding the reggae part, I went crazy showing Tinie , I got the ideas from old school 70’s Sci Fi movies.
It’s a sound Labs says he will use as a signature sound.

Labs first solo single as an artist will be released this summer and its called
“Let the sun shine”
. Like many young hopefuls he says it was produced in his bedroom when the sun was coming up one morning. Proving my point about having a knowledgeable manager/side kick / homie in his team labs admits it was manager Marc that schooled him on old skool drum n bass and other sounds that labs was unfamiliar with.
Labs Album is coming next year but I’m wondering when he might have time to get it done as knocking on his door right now are Gorillaz, nadine from girls aloud, Pixie lott and more.
Labs confesses he would love to wk with Massive Attack, Loose Ends and Moby
.
Labs says his objective he emphasises is to ‘’bring UK urban into commercial music.

He’s formed his own production company- and says he’s going to keep making strides ‘’putting the grit into pop” and we should look out for his sound “gritpop”.
With 21-year-old kids making power moves like this there will definitely be a whole new generation of industry leaders in the next few years. Play on players!.

Giggs

Showing how much I’ve grown up, this week’s column features my one time nemesis the somewhat notorious South London MC-Giggs.
Most folks know of our history but just in case you don’t let me break it down for you.
A couple of years ago when I was at MTV BASE I kept hearing a lot about a new MC who had a questionable criminal background and reputation but was apparently the next big thing.
I asked around the industry and had mixed feedback. ‘’Stay away from him he’s trouble’’, or ‘’give him the same chance Game, DMX and Jay got’’ etc etc.
My mate Harvey-(So Solid) offered to bring him in for a chat .i accepted.
One summer afternoon last year Giggs popped into my office with his then manager and we had a chat. I explained that I had heard great things about him and whilst we would like to support him editorially on MTV BASE shows he would have to meet us halfway and deliver clean videos with clean, non violent visuals and lyrics like any other artist. I had had some heat in the past from viewers and OFCOM for supporting allegedly known criminals and had to explain the companies position so was attempting to cover our backs. I explained to Giggs that if we were to run an interview with him, due to his very public criminal profile-he would have to briefly acknowledge that it was in his past so young viewers and his fans could see he was trying to change his life and be positive. We talked more and parted on friendly terms.
2 weeks later my staff researcher forwarded me a track by Giggs that had just hit the airwaves called ‘’Last straw’’ bad mouthing myself and then head of Radio1Xtra Ray Paul-for apparently black balling him.
Of course I was confused. I shrugged my shoulders and decided he was a nutter and if he couldn’t help himself I couldn’t help him either and for me it was a case of on to the next one.
I wont lie though-I was gutted that I hadn’t worked with this new, fresh artist who might not be the best lyricist ever, but had such a hypnotic, addictive vocal tone and an interesting story to tell with a buzz about him that you couldn’t even pay a marketing company to generate.
A few months down the line Giggs team contacted me via Facebook informing me that he wanted to talk. Of course once- bitten –twice- shy- old- me said thanks but no thanks.
Then I attended a live showcase by artist Bashy where when stood innocently at the bar Giggs appeared and tapped my shoulder holding out his hand for a handshake. Typically stubborn me ignored it. However Giggs came correct and asked for 5 minutes of my time. We talked for about an hour. Me cussing. Him apologizing for being a hot head and getting it twisted. Slowly but surely we came to a mutual understanding. Over the following months I watched him change in front of my eyes.
We began a twitter friendship and next thing you know the guy has fixed up, signed to XL and is making moves.

So recently when he invited me to hear his new album, to show no hard feelings and the fact that I truly believe his journey can work- we met up at his favourite restaurant for lattes, burgers, chips, pancakes covered in maple syrup and milkshakes-yep the guy has a sweeter than sweet tooth. Don’t get it twisted though-I let everyone I know exactly where I would be in case I wasn’t ever spotted again.

I was eager to hear his story though.
Born Nathan Thomas in Peckham, he was a good school attendee and went to a nice catholic school where he loved maths and his maths teacher Miss Newbury.
It was in PE class he had issues with a teacher whom he thought he was down with, but during friendly banter Giggs playfully punched him in the chest and ended up being kicked out. This led to Giggs being relocated to a less well-to-do school where he was ironically known as the boffin that studied!. It was here that he was tempted by the devil and not too long afterwards ended up using his mind for numbers on making paper by selling weed at school.

Having grown up with just his brother and mother and not wanting to put any extra pressure on his single mum for clothes and extras ‘’ there were 3 of us. No food in the house, so I couldn’t ask her for clothes and trainers’’ Giggs turned to robbing people and shops.
He explained that he began traveling into the West End and would see ‘’the main Peckham boys on the bus and they had bare money, garms and more and I thought if I do what they do, there will be no pressure on my mum’’. This led to him getting arrested in town 3 times when he was just 14. His only worry was his mum’s feelings. He then went to College ‘’just to keep mum happy- and studied sound engineering and electronics-I looked for a job everywhere, even cleaning jobs, but no one would hire me –I did manage one week working in the Peckham McDonalds but got sacked for refusing to mop the floor so I went back to selling weed’’.
Giggs also acquired the moniker ‘’Hollowman’’ in jail as he was ‘’never seen or found’’.
It was whilst locked up that Giggs turned to music in 2003 and began writing lyrics.

Giggs crew, friends, homies- (whatever you feel comfortable calling them), go under the name SN1. Meaning ‘’Spare no one’’. Now he’s made the move from the street corner to the music corner Giggs has encouraged his team to work within his music business as opposed to the street pharmaceutical business.
On his release he released mixtapes financed with dirty money-‘’the same way everyone does’’.
When he released “Talkin the hardest” in 2007 it was ‘’an unstoppable street smash and Giggs was ‘’really surprised cos the girls loved it, it was smashing up raves and loads of girls on myspace became interested in me whereas before it was just guys’’.
Next followed university shows, a stint on Tim Westwood’s show, Aiya Napa, and Giggs got his first taste of stardom as girls everywhere would be wearing t shirts with his name on them, requesting photos and all singing alongside him word for word. Overwhelmed by all the attention after being ‘’invisible’’ for so long, Giggs confessed he ‘’didn’t take advantage of any groupie action and always went straight to sleep’’.
We laughed about his diss song about me which he recalls he ‘’Felt really bad about and shouldn’t have done it’’. I laughed cos I admitted that he could’ve called me all sorts of vicious things instead he said the one thing that women are always paranoid about and called me a ‘silly little fat cow” making me diet for at least 3 days.

In the past year Giggs has attempted to perform live on a few occasions but due to his sketchy history the police have always contacted the venues and advised them that the show shouldn’t go on which must be ridiculously frustrating for him although it does get him a lot of press. He admits it is but also grins ‘’”I just wanna thank the police for all this great promo, the Feds want me dead. Trident talk down to me but I might ask the cops if they wanna do my promo full time’’.

Giggs continues to break down why he thinks the police don’t want him to succeed ‘’ If I do this and succeed, others will follow, cos with my change from crime to rhyme I’ve already taken 20 people out of the crime game. If that happens in every hood there’s no crime and no reason for Trident to exist. If they’re concerned about my live shows why don’t they put more cops at my shows? Like they do for acts like Mavado?’’. He has a point. Clearly crime doesn’t pay and there are repercussions for every action but shouldn’t we help people change for the better? He addresses this on his new laid back west coast vibe track “The way it is” on which he also mentions the P3 bus. The hook chants ‘’I’m just telling them the way it is” with sentences punctuated with Giggs trademark now recognizable “Yes!”. He spits ‘’If u grew up around me you’d be rolling with a strap too/ The feds hate me- they hate that I’m slipping away’’.

Giggs is just about to shoot his video for his new single ‘’Look what the cat dragged in” which has a middle eastern backbeat with the memorable line ‘’I’m a breast man but I rate asses’’ and is putting the finishing touches to his next album “Let em ave it” which is out around the end of May.  He took me into the studio as his engineer was mixing it and I can tell you it speaks on where he is now, his son, partying and how he switched the drug game into music. The only collaboration I spotted was with the singer Nathan on “All I know”, a track with a Southern beat flow bounce and a very catchy hook, a track that could resonate with The States. (Also-I love the fact that like a singer Giggs adds his own ad libs at the end of his sentences).
Its important not to tag any young UK urban acts with ‘’keeping it real’’ hang ups that their predecessors had. Acts like Chipmunk, Dizzee and Tinchy have collaborated with artists from other genres and Giggs revealed he would jump at a collaboration with ‘’Lilly Allen, cos she’s sick. Her first album was sick. I used to listen to it 24 hours a day’’.

I also liked “The way it is”. Its a message for music industry people, a proper story explaining why Giggs  talks about controversial subjects and also ‘’ “Life”
A deep track observing all of life, its injustices in society and trappings of urban life., I can really Imagine this being performed at awards shows. Giggs explained to me that ‘’like a character from the TV show ‘’Heros’’ who draws a picture of the future- ‘’that’s how it is when I write’’.

Giggs is very funny on twitter talking about being a dad to his young son about whom he’s done a lovely track on the new album. His son speaks on the intro and we hear a very emotional sensitive side to Giggs as he reminisces ‘’ the Day you entered my life was the greatest thing’’, ‘’When he got hungry he used to bite my lip’’, ’I missed your 2nd birthday and it tore me up’’.  Then his son speaks the hook ‘”What you talkin bout daddy- Is this like the song you talked about nanny”. A really lovely piece of work. Giggs agrees his son is his be all and end all, ‘’ that’s the main reason for everything. I’m not going back to jail. I’m not giving up. He’s my main drive’’. He insists he doesn’t want to ever go back to jail ‘’Jail is over-glamorized’’

Showing he has a great sense of humour, Giggs has often tweeted me about a set of young comics called ‘SHADRACK, AND THE MANDEM’’, whom he thinks should have their own TV show even though they clearly ridicule the type of character that Giggs once was.

As I sat there in Giggs studio surrounded by the aroma ‘’of ….ahem…the west coast and Snoop Dogg’’, we laughed as he explained that initially his engineer put so much treble into the album mix that it sounded like a pop act which is why Giggs sits right by him 24-7 instructing him on the sound he wants to hear.
I thanked him kindly and bid my farewell as I legged it out the door trying to think of reasons I could use to explain to my colleagues back at the office as to why I wafted of weed!.

Lesley The Boxer

Much revelry has been had this weekend for Mariah’s birthday/anniversary –as you’d imagine the Carey/Cannon household celebrated in typical 12 year old fun and frolics.
Other shenanigans this fortnight included attending the TV recording of Kojos Comedy Fun House at Café De Paris for MTV BASE. A very fun night where once again young comedians from all over the UK had their opportunity to make their mark.
Then we sauntered down to the opening of Westfield’s uber stylish village area’s new live music and brassiere venue Caffé concerto where Mica Paris, Rose Royce and Terri Walker all performed. A grand piano ,pianist and saxophonist graced the central space whilst my crew and I attempted sweet talking the manager for complimentary member cards and did a good job eating up all the Italian delicacies on offer.
Next up it was another dinner at The Ivy with a West End theatrical mogul after which I balanced out the ‘live good-live well’ karma by popping into the West End Blood Donation Centre to give blood- its got to be done regularly to say thanks and give back for all that I’m blessed with.
My business day has been focusing on TV music specials as well as all the in-house planning for 2012. The enormity of how huge that year will be in London has struck me by hearing the plans from early in the year all the way through to the end of the Olympics-its going to be a surreal once in a lifetime opportunity to experience something iconic for many of us.

Thereafter it was off to the premier for the movie SHANK in which our very own music mystro Bashy and actor Adam Deacon amongst others starred. As we arrived on the red carpet the girls outside the Brixton ritzy were hyper-ventilating and screaming for grime artist Scorcher so hard you’d think he was Usher!. Inside the foyer I bumped into Kojo, Bashy, Donaeo, business entrepreneur Charles Gordon, Flava magazine and many others who were commenting that the screams outside were so loud you’d think that Tupac had returned. Directed by well known music video director Mo Ali,(Pow 2003), the movie SHANK is set in a futuristic London where society is all but wiped out and communities are over run by gangs. The movie looked and felt very new, unique and ground breaking in its very video game based visuals but if I’m honest I wasn’t convinced by the style-at points it was difficult to watch but perhaps that’s because I’m not a huge video game fan . Having said that it’s a story that will resonate with young people everywhere and the anti knife crime message is the main focus . Bashy was very good as the non violent boxer and confessed that his pal-Lesley The Boxer-said his stance was wack!’’. He added that he worked hard and wanted to learn as much as he could give a good performance and take the skills he learnt here to his next film. He revealed the worst thing was waiting around when its not your scene. ’’long ting’’
One impressive thing was the programme which contained profiles and interviews of all the cast as well as sections like a ‘grime urban dictionary called ‘’Shankology’’ that broke down definitions like ‘’bare’’ (to have a lot of something), ‘’crepes’’ (trainers), ‘’wasteman’’ (a lazy or stupid loser doing nothing with his life) and many many more that couldn’t be mentioned in this family newspaper. It was actually a very well written, entertaining, piece of work. Topping off the UK takeover vibe was the fact that the films sound track producer George Ebenezer (GGI) involved a range of UK musicians from Bashy, Loick Essien, Tinchy Stryder, Boy Better Know, Roll Deep, Mz Bratt, Giggs, Donaeo, Ghetts, Tempz, Newham Generals, Speech Debelle, Dotstar, Ddam deacon and more making it a very strong look for the Brit scene, that’s set to be a foundation landmark that gets built upon.
When young teams get together and graft hard the success that’s coming is inevitable. Not only has the GGI team been working on music and movies but part of their team that’s impressed me no end is female boxer otherwise known as Lesley The Boxer.

Seen this month on BBC3’s LAST WOMAN STANDING Lesley is a West London stunner that is about to blow up in the mainstream.
Growing up in Kilburn, Abbey Rd on the Estate side, the daughter of an Irish mum and Ghanaian dad with 2 brothers this young lady is a gorgeous tough cookie that’s set for big things. Always having been a bit fearless growing up with 2 brothers and a mother that grafted hard and travelled well with her family ,ambition is in Lesley’s DNA. She got into brawls with kids at school but was never a bully. She told me she used to get into arguments with men who were disrespectful. She moved to Willesden at age 10 and wanted to be a theatre actress so attended the Brit school where the people annoyed her with their pretentiousness. She recalls ‘’having a ball and smoking a lot of weed’’, and going on from there to studying music marketing at university where she achieved a first!-smart and cute-don’t you just love that!.
She worked on the MOBOs for a minute, then with Roll Deeps management before setting off with 4 girl friends to travel the world. After conquering India, Malaysia, Cambodia and more with their back to basics adventure which included buying clothes along the way she returned to the UK with a new frame of mind.
With her strong smoking habit, at 20 years old tried to get fit so started boxing at Allstars Gym in NW10 with straight 2 hour sessions. Once she got past the initial pain barrier the gym trainer that she fondly calls Mr A- (Mr Akay- MBE-
A local hero) asked her to join the amateur fight class. She went through the motions of getting a medical card to say she was fit to box and so it was just 4 years ago that she began boxing. Her first fight was an experience that she’ll never forget where she fought a girl that already had 6 fights under her belt. Other fighters used intimidation tactics like doing pre fight tuck jumps. Lesley pays them no mind and simply focuses on not getting wound up and using controlled aggression. Lesley recalled how exhausted she was mid fight but her mind told her to put her hands up and protect herself and even though she lost she persevered and went on to win the ABA (amateur boxing association) championships.
Once you start a journey the hard work quickly leads to more achievement and next she was selected to box for England and became the 1st UK woman to win gold at European championships in 2008 on first entry.
At the time she was still-(believe it or not-) working for a music management company in Shepherds Bush but was extremely focused on her rapidly flourishing sports career.
2 months later she saw advert for ‘’Last Woman Standing’’ via BBC Sports and got picked for the show!.
This from a girl who had never been hugely into sports and had only played netball as a kid!. Lesley explains that ‘I always wanted to be a performer of some sort on stage with the theatre and so to me this was just a transferable skill which I needed to wear a head guard and mouth piece for.
Readers-Lesley is so gorgeous I couldn’t hep wonder if she’s ever concerned about ruining her good looks.
She laughed and explained ‘’that knowledge helps me to keep my hands up and protect my face at all times-its extra impetus’’!
Currently Lesley is waiting to attend team GB”s selection camp and has gone through to the final stages
which is happening right now.
With Lesley’s camera friendly face, articulate manner and go-getter attitude I can see her juggling a successful sports and showbiz career. She confides that she would ‘’love to do something onstage like the vagina monolgues’’. Wouldfnt she and fellow boxer david haye doing a tv show together be automatic ratings!
Coming from a group of friends and family that are very musically gifted I asked what Lesley’s favourite music to train to is?
She revealed that she has her i-pod on shuffle and by strange coincidence Kano always pops into her training play list. Other favourites to kick ass to include Fella kuti ,Bashy, Block Party, House music, anything with a Hiphop-esp Nas Vibe or mood music.
As a sports viewer I love seeing which track pro boxers use as their theme tunes to enter the ring to . Lesley laughs and admits she’s given it a little thought and amongst her favourite choices are Buju Banton- Champion, Jesus Walks- Kanye, and Alicia keys & Nas-Warrior Song.
Lesley’s training regime is 6 days a week. 4 days of boxing. 2 days of running outdoors. She describes it as her therapy. Diet wise she eats everything but attempts to stay away from chocolate hobnobs as she tends to get through the whole packet in one sitting.Like most sports people she avoids white bread and rice.
Being a girl in a mans world must be interesting. Lesley nods ‘’yeah I get mixed responses from people. Mostly surprise and disbelief, I’m a girly girl so other male and female boxers don’t often take me seriously’’.

Lesley’s will be attending the world championships in Barbados later this year and I’m certain her sheer grit, determination and self belief will carry her to high echelons .She has the kind of face brands would jump to have on their books. Expect to see her advertising vitamins, deodorants, sports brands and more. Lesley’s last words were ‘’I’m so grateful that I got through school.
Anything we can do to build confidence or build power with young people we must do.
If you want to see championships you have to develop them whilst they’re young’’.
This lady is one to watch- follow her journey to join the elite at Twitter- lesleytheboxer
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Tinie Tempah

Really how many cities globally are as exciting as London! I love this city! Weekly there are free activities from the worlds of art, fashion, sport, music and more and you only need wonder past Leicester square most weekdays to glimpse and get a Hollywood superstar to speak to your mum on your mobile!.
Whilst Jennifer Aniston and Gerard Butler were swanning up and down their W1 red carpet I was down in Brixton at The Ritzy for the premiere of the movie Shank featuring Bashy-more on that next time. Next it was the first showing of the Blaze theatre show, before that it was comedian Kojos Comedy Fun House TV recording for MTV Base, and of course the most important-Mothers Day.
I don’t think my mums like most mums. Instead of hinting for gifts and revelling in her day she scolds me if I so much spend more than 50 pence on her as she says it’s a waste of money!. If I get her flowers I get a good cussing for frivolously wasting money.

Someone who epitomises the words money and frivolity is my old compadre P Diddy-or Puffy as we who have known him from the early days still refer to him. Puff took a quick whirlwind trip to Europe to promote his latest album ‘’Last train to Paris’’ (out June 22nd). He hit Paris before London and no doubt the opulence and pandemonium was stepped up to level OTT before London for once, experienced the tamer version. Only fair after all he didn’t name his album ‘last 207 bus to London’’.
Anyhoo, Puffs London party night was a Crazy night- he hit 3 clubs in one evening (Amika, Runway and Jet Black ) where he was rumoured to have been paid by at least 2 of them between 20,000-50,000 to turn up. At Amika, Puff walked around with personal fragrance sprayers who sprayed his Sean John fragrance around the venue approximately every 20mins …to ‘keep the scent in the air’.He also had his very own coat hanger girl!! Lol. Nothing should surprise us about Puff. When I went on numerous tours with him throughout the years he would insist on all black rooms with white candles and white flowers with buffets and champagne as well as a leopard print ironing board. Yes. Really.
On this occasion too Puff didn’t disappoint in the diva stakes as he had his personal assistant with him who was at hand everywhere he went to simply, hold his large white brand new lamb’s skin cream coat and scarf when he got to the venue and to helped him put it on again as he left.
We all know Puffs a businessman and one of his team told me he went to Amika because ‘’it’s the only club that actually stocks his supreme vodka Ciroc (he refuses to drink any other brand)’’. At one point the waitress brought another brand of vodka to him and his large managers leapt at her to remove it.
Then it was onto the Runway club where the DJ spent the first half an hour playing new tracks from the album, then at 6am, Diddy was still going strong and partying at Jet Black. He had UK magician Dynamo by his side performing magic tricks but he must’ve been feeling his age by now as he drunk only water at this venue. Straight afterwards he legged it back to his hotel to pack and catch a flight back to the US. Again his team explained ‘’he doesn’t like to sleep for fear of missing something’’. What a nightmare- I pity his team who therefore don’t get much sleep either!

The Americans weren’t the only ones running this town that week. The UK and USA charts are leading with young British urban talent that a decade ago were lucky if they got played on British radio and TV channels let alone headline their own tours. It’s a new day. Our youth are inspired once again. However, it is important to remember that not every young person can be, or has the talent to be a music star so its always best to spread the diverse talent that’s at our fingertips. The seeds that are being planted by young ambitious folk now means that in a decades time we could have a black prime minister in this country. All our networks are slowly growing and we’re rising higher and higher.
This past fortnight I’ve seen young up and coming actors push their way through (Jason Lewis BBC/ Aml Ameen-Hollywood!), film makers inspired by Noel Clarke, young TV makers (SBTV.ONLINE), fashion stylists (Richard Shoyemi), video directors ( Jak Frsh), business men (Alexander Amosu), sports and Olympics hopefuls (Lesley the Boxer BBC3) and many more. It’s a beautiful thing to witness the climate go from no hope to all hope. Its all too easy to sit back and accept the current success as the status quo but don’t forget winds change and trends are like the proverbial see-saw-up and down. Today’s flavour of the month is tomorrows chip paper.
Recently a young man known to you and I as Tinie Tempah hit number 1 in the UK charts with his debut song. With many years hard graft under his belt he’s slowly worked his way up and a few days before it was official that he was a number 1 star he held a showcase in Central London where his friend, (note-not label mate-‘’friend’’) Mclean opened up for him. This is what true success is built on. Unity and support of each other. Mclean came onstage at 8pm to a fully packed crowd at the underground venue and sang his heart out. With very strong vocals reminiscent of 80s star seal, Mclean invited his friend Faith FSX to beatbox alongside him on his hit single ‘’My Name’’. Mcleans voice was strong and the audience were with him singing along word for word and the live band was amazing. And this was just the opening act! This is how far we’ve come. Opening acts were never even allowed their own band and at this standard in the past. This was a strong night that just got stronger. Next onstage was American rapper Chiddy Bang who definitely got a flatter response than the UK acts on the night but with his Lupe meets Jay Z style he soon had us nodding heads, but mostly thinking ‘come off we wanna see Tinie!’’. How hilarious! Only a few years ago the UK crowd wanted the supporting Brit act to hurry up and go so they could see the American star turn. Now it’s the exact opposite. I say we love everyone but how can we not be proud of finally loving ourselves!

Finally host for the night-ChoiceFMs DJ Abrantee introduced the main attraction, and Tinie bounds onstage and the ram venue goes nuts. Everywhere I looked all I could see were fans and tastemakers, Radio1Xtra DJs, ChoiceFM DJs, TV folk from 4Music, Hiphop.com, MTV, camera crews from AKA, tabloid reporters from the Sun, young bloggers, other artists, managers, label crews, it was a heavy networking room.
Tinies mum and dad were in the house. And he went through a full set of hits including his early classic ‘’Wifey’’. Of course during hit ‘’Passout’’ he
brought on underground about-to-blow producer Labyrinth to perform it with him.
The Sunday that it was official that Tinie was number 1, he threw a party at club 24 with his manager/cousin Dumi Oburota where original Sugababe Keisha , Tim Westwood, Tinchy, Skepta, Ashton villa football players and friends were spraying champagne all over Tinies head whilst DJs Manny Norte , Ace & Vis , Twin B and Matchstick were spinning.
Tinie deserves high praise for his hard work. As does Dumi. Not everyone can be the main star player and Dumi is a sure-fire star maker.
By signing Tinie’s music to Parlaphone with his own label ‘’Disturbing London’’ this guy has done it against the odds.
Dumi told me that his aunt-Tinies mum ,had told him a few years back that her son was dabbling I music and could Dumi offer him some support and guidance.
Dumi came on board and they recorded material and spent a lot of money and made mistakes, but Dumi studied his craft. He learnt about the music industry by reading books. He told me the ‘’main thing is understanding your product, being bilingual and networking’’. Rather than having a chip on his shoulder he added ‘’Being young and black is a benefit so I can prove the stereotypes wrong’’.
Dumi started Tinies press roll by attending the big music industry conference Midem with his distributor. On their return he realised he couldn’t afford to make Tinie block buster style videos any longer (like Tears/hood economics), so they decided Tinie should start up his blog ‘milkn2sugars’ which was getting over 70,000 regular monthly hits. Dumi then met the Live Nation team- got Tinie the Wireless Festival bookings for the next 3 years before Radio1Xtra jumped onboard to support the ride. Dumi laughed at recalling most peoples positive attitudes revealing ”Even Jez Welham from KISSFM was nice”
We all await Tinies album ‘’Disc-covery’’ soon and his second single ”Frisky” around May time when he will also be supporting Mr Hudson on tour.
Dumi attributed their success to hard work and the climate stating ‘’A powerful army that moves together-wins’’. I will be looking out for Dumi and Tinies new acts from ‘’Disturbing London’’. Rumour has it they have a trio called ‘’All about she’’- apparently like the Pet Shop Boys but with a girl.
Come on UK- Keep on keeping on!.

Sabrina Washington

As you get older, live more days, experience more birthdays, jobs, Christmas’ and episodes of Eastenders you come to realise and accept that life has many ugly sides you’d wish you’d never witnessed and that the happily ever after story often gets messed up.. Life now is so different for youth than it was in my day. Me and my west London homies could rave at Granaries in South London, Shinolas in East London or The Rocket in Tottenham without being harassed .Now I hear kids cant step outside of their own postcodes!? I can’t even fathom that.
In old skool days there weren’t many opportunities to badmouth people unless it was to their face and you needed some balls to do that. Nowadays a literal nobody can cyber bully another human and make their lives hell. What is the hater getting out of this? Nothing. Except spreading the hate. Is it any wonder that we are now more depressed, miserable and anxious than we’ve ever been?. Some of the stories I hear and witness are pathetic.
I’ve worked in TV and music for nearly 2 decades now and believe me, as well as the glamorous perceived life there is A LOT of ugliness and morally unjust action and decisions that happen daily that would leave a very bad taste in folks mouths if exposed.
I choose to observe, accept and carry on positively. Sometimes we make acquaintances via our work that leave us with a feeling of faith and that there are some good people in amongst the shallow BS and one such act for me have always been the group formally known as Mis-Teeq.
I had known Alesha Dixon long before the groups fame as we dated a pair of best friends years ago but when I got to know her other 2 band mates I wasn’t disappointed. Always friendly, professional, polite, beautifully turned out and real-these girls were a pleasure to watch make it to the top.
So I was disappointed when their record label Polydor went bust back in the day consequently leading them to split up.
They all lay low for a while before all refocusing, rebranding and re-emerging. Aleshas story you know, Su-Elise set up a stage school and lead singer Sabrina Washington chilled out for a while before making new music as a solo artist. We saw her try her hand very well at a lovers rock, old skool reggae sound – she was amazing live and then all was quiet again for a minute.
Well, not for long cos ‘’Sabrina’s new music’’ has been a hot topic bubbling on the underground for months now and finally last month she invited me to come and watch her making her first solo video for her new single ‘’OMG’’.
I arrived on set at the huge Wembley studio to be greeted by the usual catering crew and dancers running around in the corridors with a real sense of excited anticipation.
I was ushered into Sabrina’s dressing room to see her looking stunning in her first outfit and having the hair and makeup ladies just finishing up so we could catch up.
Sabrina has that aura of a royal princess about her. She always has from the first day I met her. Quieter than the rest, modestly confident in her own talent and genuinely warm and friendly to everyone around her from fellow celeb to teaboy..
Her single ‘’OMG’’ is produced by Labyrinth and it’s a girlie anthem about a relationship gone wrong, the guy thinks he has had the last laugh but the girl has the upper hand. Written with Ali Tenant (infamous song writer who used to work alongside Wayne Hector-both songwriters to the stars inc Westlife and Beyonce) , Sabrina revealed that Ali is a great friend and a fantastic writer, and in the studio they like to laugh and have a great working chemistry.
Also hanging out looking extremely relaxed for a director was Emil Nava-brother of the legendary video director Jake Nava. Sabrina revealed she wanted Emil Nava to direct as his older brother Jake used to direct lots of Mis Teeqs videos , at the time Emil used to assist him , they both love beauty shots and most importantly she trusted him.
On set I was astonished to see just how lithe, supple and mesmerising Sabrina’s figure is- I had total green eye! As if that wasn’t enough, her stylist Richard Shoyemi (who’s known her since her Mis Teeq days) had poured that figure into outfits from Dolce and Gabbana , Chanel and Vivienne Westwood as well as up and coming designers : Kate Hamilton and Beatrice Newman .
Then Sabrina picked up a pair of shoes that looked like they belonged in a futuristic art museum designed by Richard himself. Then I spotted an even flyer pair with a massive spike by Paule Ka Paris. They all looked like a scene from Vogue meets Harpers and later Sabrina confessed that whilst they looked wild on film ‘’the glass shoes were a nightmare to walk in’’.
Sabrina loves working with Richard cos ‘’he’s mad as hell- with a great sense of style and is unafraid, we’re on the same page and saw the same vision’’.
You could see that Sabrina and Richard are an art match made in heaven as Sabrina was clearly Richards muse. He confessed to me ‘’The reason I love styling Sabrina is because she is very much like my muse I have thoughts of out of this world style concepts and Sabrina just goes with it and wears each look as if it was custom built for her so Its always amazing to work with her as she brings my thoughts to life’’ .
Sabrina told me that Grace Jones was an inspiration for the video and Richard added ‘’Sabrina loves showing her amazing long runway legs and her fantastic
abs and she has a very sexy class too’’
Richard was running the wardrobe arena like a pro and had at least 15 outfits ready for the shoot but I think only 5-6 got shown in the  end. Sabrina clearly like the blue leotard with metal boning in the sleeves that was made for her by up and coming designer Kate Hamilton and if I had her figure I might’ve slyly ‘’borrowed it’’ .
On set I had to laugh as I witnessed Sabrina holding girls like dogs on leashes- oh yes I thought-looks like Emil is playing out some of his fantasies here!.
Later Sabrina confessed that in Mis Teeq she had compromised so much so she was unsure of her musical direction, so she experimented loads and now her new sound she describes as dirty pop-which could also be her album title.
Sabrinas putting her new music out independently- although there have been rumours of her signing to Cash Money as boss Baby is still in talks with her management. Sabz disclosed that she had had a possible situation with EMI but it was taking too long, and wanting to make the most of her timing once she came out of ‘’I’m a celebrity get me out of here’’ she is taking her chances.
She still keeps in touch with her Mis Teeq sistren ‘’I saw Alesha when I came out of jungle- and I saw Su at your Motown birthday party’’ but her current favourite UK music act on rewind is Tinie Tempah with his hit no.1 hit ‘’Pass out’’, and she likes Mclean.
Sabz also loves the current camaraderie between black British music acts that is clearly uniting and making successful acts even stronger. She says her closest friend in the industry is comedian Kojo-whom she met via their mutual Radio 1 DJ friend Reggie Yates.
Sabz also loved all the social networks that help her meet other artists. Her favourite artists to follow on twitter are Chipmunk and new Jive signing Talay Riley- apparently ‘’he twitteres and pictures everything’’.
Obviously the video has proved its popularity as once it was released it had only been out 2 days before receiving 65,000 hits, and currently its over 125,000. Sabrina was shocked saying ‘’the response has been fantastic!’’
OMG is released on March 22nd. With the uk ‘urban stars’ recently running things in our charts-Tinie Tempah- and the American charts-Taio Cruz, its probable that Sabrina is next in line!

Debbie Allen

There’s nothing I hate more than a clashing of many fabulous events. One evening last week Naomi Campbell threw her Haiti charity show and party, MC and actor Bashy was holding a screening of his out this month movie shank, and MOBO founder and friend Kanya King invited me to join her as her guest to go and see the 100th theatre show performance of west end theatre production ‘’Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’’.

Kanya and I have known each other for years. Back when she was a TV researcher and I was a presenter on the Channel 4 iconic show THE WORD. Clearly our ambition was apparent from day 1 when we probably could only afford to grab coffee at Starbucks but ended up at the most expensive outdoor café on Portobello Road just so we could sit in the summer sunshine in our cute dresses next to model and flyest girl of her day-Veronica Webb who was at the next table with Spike Lee!.

Over the years Kanya and I have moved through the industry and caught up with each other over girlie dinners after late night meetings and edits.
We’ve collaborated on ideas, supported each other, fallen out for a minute more than once but our maturity and professionalism always has us talk it through and keep it moving *onto the next one.

We were well overdue our 2010 catch up so a few days ago Kanya called and asked if I’d like to accompany her for ‘’Cat on a hot tin roof’’ I was there.
But not before Bashy reassured me that I could miss his screening and come to the red carpet premiere this month instead, whilst (if I’m being real, and you know me, always got to preach the truth) – I couldn’t afford the £75 ticket for Naomi’s show and party- there’s a recession! , And I have a decade long love hate relationship with the fashion world so it was a clear-cut decision.

Also I had been meaning to try and see the theatre show from last year when my teenage heroine (Fame’s amazing dance teacher Miss Grant, otherwise known as Debbie Allen), had been in town with Mariah and told me to go watch it as she had directed the show. Well once I’d been forcibly removed from Debbie’s presence as I couldn’t stop clinging to her shrieking ‘’I love you, I wanted to be you, adopt me!’’ Debbie gave me her e mail details under duress and I promised her I would be going to see the show first chance I got.

The theatre was heaving with a very diverse audience when we arrived and we were immediately introduced to the shows producer Stephen C Byrd- a very sophisticated, elegantly dressed man who was a totally beautifully mannered charmer. Stephens currently the only African American producer on Broadway and kudos to him as ‘’Cat on a hot tin roof’’ was the biggest grossing play on Broadway in 2008!. So when we were ushered to our seats and I noticed we were sitting right next to the shows producers I was paranoid about the usual theatre worries. What if I fall asleep, what if I look bored, what if my phone rings even though I’ve turned it off, what if the mans head in front of me is so large I cant see. You get the idea.

Anyhoo, none of that worry was necessary as the play was intense and immediately intriguing. American actress Sanaa Lathan –daughter of movie man Stan was wonderful as the long-suffering wife of a once football commentator turned alcoholic. She had really long monologues but she dealt with them with easily and was unexpectedly funny too. All the male audience members were clearly drooling over her as she was not just gorgeous but was also just wearing a slinky slip all through the show. Our very own British actor Adrian Lester played the lead man and whilst his character barely spoke he did have an intensity that was mesmerising. Although it did jolt every now and then as his Mississippi plantation Deep South accent kept getting taken over by English which was a slight distraction. I thought I might have been imagining it until upstairs in the post show VIP drinks when others commented on it too confirming I wasn’t imagining it.

The other 2 actors I loved were of course the legend James Earl Jones who played Big Daddy. This mans voice has to be bottled for history. His was the voice of Star Wars Darth Vader! The Lion Kings Mufasa! Alex Haley in Roots! He’s won Tony’s, Emmy’s, Golden Globes, and a Grammy but my favourite thing is him reading the Bible! Yes, I found it very difficult to read the Bible as a kid until years ago when I first met Mariah she introduced me to the bible audio book read completely by James Earl Jones. His calming, strong, trusting, safe voice makes this the best gift!. He didn’t disappoint in the flesh either playing the old cancer stricken rich former slave. I was really looking forwards to seeing actress Phylicia Rashad-the legendary Mrs Claire Huxtable from the Cosby Show too. She was great as Big Mamma the sweet, classic black mother role many of us can relate to knowing.

The play was long-3 acts; it was very intense, mostly serious with odd lighthearted humorous spots of relief. The storyline was based around sibling rivalry; inheritance greed, parental antagonism and I learnt the meaning of the word ‘’mendacity’’.

The play was very very good. Post show in the bar there was a nice mix of journalists, paparazzi, actors, celebs and so on. Kanya and I talked about the play with radio host Vanessa Feltz, her guy Ben and her daughter. A few bitchy folk were slagging off poor Richard Blackwood who played a butler in the show and barely had 2 words to say. They couldn’t believe he had taken this as the next step in his career. I thought it was a good look as now he can add West End Theatre to his CV but they were not having it. A lovely big white iced cake was wheeled out and cut. You know I didn’t leave until I had at least 2 slices.
Straight afterwards the producers invited us to join them at the IVY club restaurant where at midnight we all had a lovely dinner with the whole restaurant to ourselves. The table of ten of us was a really nice group of power players that were really doing big things. Discussions revolved around private island ownerships, their private jets and so forth. I felt proud of them. A true sense of how much hard work must’ve gone into their lives. More power to them!
At 2am it was time for carriages as I watched them all jump into their private chauffeured cars, threw Kanya into a cab and hobbled into the underground car park to get my own car to drive myself home shaking my head at the surreal life I sometimes find myself surrounded by.
If you want to see ‘’Cat on a hot tin roof’ I’d thoroughly recommend it. In fact, a charity I whole heartedly support- the ACLT (AFRICAN CARIBBEAN LEUKAEMIA TRUST) is having a one off ACLT night show on March 15th. That will be great night full of faces we all know and love! What better excuse for a great night and a worthy cause. I salute you the cast of CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF-BRAVO!

Twitter

I recently got accused on twitter of not sharing helpful industry info with some of my followers. I jump on twitter usually in traffic jams in the car so decided to catch-up on the virtual world. I noticed a lot that troubled me so I had a rant. Post rant, many followers suggested my rant was great, insightful and should be printed for prosperity. So here it is. In twitter lingo and as it appeared for authenticity.

1. Long drive catchin up w/ twitter activities-noticing folks throwing sly subliminal shots at each other- real folk talk 2the face not da text

2.   Also noting a lot of folks living a twitter fabricated life that’s not their real life…and scarily their followers believe it- dangerous

3.   Young peeps b aware that alot of people u look up 2 live very different lives from their internet personas- don’t believe all u read on here

4.   Even interns call themselves CEO’s /presidents of their own companies online. Hilarity. Don’t talk. Let your work and rep spk for itself

5.   There’s a really shady, ugly side 2 this showbiz industry of ours.Keep yo integrity &be classy always. Don’t let haters who want 2bu distract

6.   lucky I value integrity cos sum of the stuff I’ve seen/heard/witnessed in da music game rEVIL.UGLY.Not a game u wanna get in2 if ur scurrred

7.   seen em all burst on2 the scene as the next big artist/journo/presenter/label head/manager/dj/whtever,a couple yrs down its #wherearetheynow

8.   This industry is TINY. u put 1 foot outta place morally we all know about it.U think u were slick on the low-but we all know. We laughing..

9.   Djs who take payola,gals who wanna sleep their way up,artists who hustle illegal runnins,friends who only sort friends,racism-we see it all

10.This twitter game is not to take over your working day-your real life&ambitions r in the real world,not an online persona. B real to yoself

11.If ur positive,honest,know your craft,be better than the rest,you’ll do just fine.The ultimate devil is yo ego– I’ve seen it DESTROY peeps

12.Young folk- industry music parties r not like they used to be. When jay/puff were new/young, parties were real for dancing, talking and fun…

13….Now they are mostly wack. Full of naked chics tryna “have baby by me-be a millionaire” and fake ballers tryna look fly. Always boring.

14.I guarantee you that the house parties u go to are more real and fun than the industry ones u wanna be at.

15.I am so sick of “industry players” makin promises 2 young, gullible, ambitious people only to leave them w/broken dreams.have yo brain on lock

16.Ladies. In this game. Your business mind spks for itself. But next its your sexual reputation. Once that’s gone,its a wrap.

17.There are 30+ aged music industry peeps tryna spk in 18+ kids lingo. You’re not down. Folks are laughin. And cringing. Stop it.

18.Stop being bitter if you feel you’re not where u should be in your career. No one spoon fed anyone. Everyone wks hard for theirs and owes no1

That was the rant. Sometimes I have them. Forgive me. Its as if the music industry has warped young peoples definition of success and life. I know I am part of the problem. I have written a column for over 15 years and focused on music acts. That was because I was in a very insular music company. Now I’ve grown a bit. I’ve opened my eyes can see that there are so many young talented people out there but as the media focus only on music we assume that’s all we can do. There are young people making massive strides that aren’t in music am going to find them and talk about more of them moving forwards.

For similar reasons last fortnights BRIT AWARDS felt good and bad. The excitement was high from the night before the show when Adidas threw a pre Brits blow out VVIP bash at Bungalow 8 introducing their 2nd round of star wars and originals spring/summer 2010 collection inc eyewear and watches.. there were actual darth vadar and R2D2 types mingling with us. One even encouraged N Dubz Fazer and I to get friendly with him!.
In the Adidas gifting suite, (which is basically an American concept generated from uber VIP awards shows where brands gift celebrities and VIPs with free stuff,) it was full!. There were paparazzi from the daily tabloids, Sabrina Washington, Brigitte Kelly, Ralf Little, Mini Viva, Kesha ,N Dubz, Bashy, designer Wale Adeyemi, hip-hop photographer extraordinaire Paul H, makeup artist to the stars Kristina Theodoris, comedian Eddie Kadi, Twin B, Master Shortie ,Ryan Leslie,  stylist Richard Shoyemi , stylist/presenter Vernon Francoise, Lesley the boxer , Cookie from the legendary British female rap group Cookie Crew (what you’ll know about that?), Tim Westwood and more. There was dancing, music, shrieking.I got in at 3am and knew the next day I would be a hot mess cos I disrespected sleep so irresponsibly.

The actual BRIT awards I liked. With talent like JLS, Dizzee and Jay Z all recognized it felt as a lot of us in the industry over the past 2 decades who have fought to help put young black and urban talent on the British map could exhale. Finally it felt like there truly was an equal playing field where our favourite acts were championed alongside the rest. A lot of us did smile and exhale. Some were still bitter but hey-you cant please everyone.

The bottom line in the genre of R&B and hip-hop felt respected and accepted in a field] that before we felt continuously rejected, belittled and unworthy. That’s got to be a good thing. It was one of my fave Brits ever cos young British black talent was finally recognised and seen as equal on the music playing field.
Backstage at Earls Court felt good.
Dancers were taking photos with each other and collecting the Dizzee / Florence bank notes that were used in their performance with both their faces imprinted on them.
(my godson was very happy with his!) , Peter Andre was getting a last minute fake spray tan, Lady Gaga had a last minute nail job done which was very brave, Robbie Williams looked a lil nervous but was as friendly as ever getting his wet shave backstage just before he hit the stage.
Btw-isn’t it interesting to note that jay z has his finger on the pulse with every current trend and robbie’s seen as old. Yet jay is a year older than Robbie!

The show was entertaining, JLS were good, Astons hair looks much better with less gheri curl juice these days (though I am bored of the Usher-esque ‘’green ‘’yeah’’ lasers in everyone performances-there’s at least one at every show these days!).

Predictable was Liam flinging his award into the crowd –that had everyone laughing at his foolishness-it was lucky someone didn’t get knocked out and sued for concussion or worse- has anyone seen the award on e bay yet?.
Of course Jay and Alicia were class A- we wouldn’t expect or be delivered anything lower.
When Liam flung the microphone into the crowd pit a very frightened soundman was freaking out with the gallery screaming for a brief panicked moment.
All the performances were very good and then came Cheryl.

I hate to kick the chic whilst she’s down but home domestic or not if you’re gonna be part of a band, be a judge on a singing show and pretend to be an artist you cant represent on a stage of that calibre by miming badly- it was a bad set. I’m sure loads of other acts have issues of their own but when they’re performing they all give it their all. This was poor!

The bad for me was the aftermath- the realisation that music industry parties were very different today than they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, the turnout and excitements great but the focus is always on slack girls, snapping celebs and seeing what people can spot in this blog obsessed world instead of having fun. So inevitably there isn’t any real fun. Just a lot of fake smiling. Back in the day real heads were always scattered amongst the fake to keep the balance.
The official Brits party at the venue was full of corporate suits who took pleasure messing about with the huge dressing up box full of costumes and wigs

The funniest thing was Jay Z remains the ultimate NO.1 hustler I my eyes. Not only does he turn up briefly to the Warner Music party at Chinawhites in respect to his Warner team, but the drinks beverage Armand de Brignac (who pay him substantially) managed to throw a party practically next door so Jay could make an appearance at both. That’s gangsta slickness.. At Jays party at Mirah it was pandemonium with Idris Elba , Keisha Buchanan and Sugababes in the house, Daniel Meriwether and Tulisa took the mic and sang-very Clive Davis Grammy party stylee ha ha!
Every act that you can imagine went to one or the other of the parties from Ne Yo, Mel B, The Saturdays , Alesha Dixon DJ Ironik, Mclean, Tinie Tempah, Trevor Nelson, JLS, and more. Dizzee threw his own party, Universal Music threw theirs at the Mandarin Oriental which Gaga was the main focus of and was a big party in terms of fabulosity and freeness.
Artists tweeted from the parties all night about their proximity to Jay and how lean they were -which is a telling enough sign about how much fun is usually going down. I luckily had a fine distraction that insisted on taking me for a shawarma roll and fresh juice at an all night eaterie so escaped early!.

Jazzie B

London’s a great city for diversity, a multitude of activities and people. This past week was a particularly typical crazy week in London town.
Firstly I was persuaded by a new friend to join him at a Book slam at Shoreditch Town Hall where poets and MC’s did their thing .it felt a scene from ‘’Love Jones’’ the UK version.
Then there was a very untypical Dotiwala social night where the legend that is Jazzie B invited me to see him, and his mate Goldie sound clash at Camden Round House where Trojan sound system and Roots Manuva were doing their thing too. A big night!
Next it was the Adidas pre Brit award party at bunglow 8 before the big night of the annual Brit Awards where we loved the Warner Music after party and the Armand de Brignac Jay Z party-(more on that next time),then I Saw Bashys new film ‘Shanked’-again!
Then I was asked to pop up to the Red Bull Music Academy in London Bridge to meet SoulIISouls front man-Mr Jazzie B.

Jazzie B has an aura that surrounds him.
You hear his big booming distinctive bass heavy voice before you see him.
Even if u couldn’t see his face his silhouette is so distinctive its a brand logo in itself. Years ahead of Jay Z, Jazzie is always head to toe “all black everything’. Big leather coat and pill box peaked cap are on, even indoors.
In fact-i don’t think I’ve ever seen him without these 2 Jazzie staples. They are to him what Linford’s lunchbox was to him and Tinchys SITH tee is to him.. He’d asked to meet me for lunch – I moved every mountain I needed to in order to make it- (you work around luminaries like Jazzie B).

Its always fun speaking to him. We can dispute about issues all day long. We often butt horns with our differences of opinion but we love a great debate.
Jazzie was excited about being involved with the Red Bull Academy as I was at seeing it with my own eyes. An awesome project where the drinks giant gives back to the community by setting up a building full of music studios, lecture theatres, radio studios, cafes and lounges where groups of young people from across the globe are flown in free to participate in terms of training-all financed by Red Bull. The applicants apply to attend and come from all walks of life and various genres of music. An amazing learning ground. Many iconic music names like Mark Ronson and Jazzie come in to work alongside the students and give back to the community. It was an impressive set up to observe.
After watching Jazzie do his thing with the students we had a chat over lunch where he told me he was very excited by his upcoming annual trip to Antigua for the ‘’BackIIlife’’ festival that begins on April 28th for a week.
Jazzie explained that ‘’the festival is
about coming from the colonies. We take UK peeps back to the colonies. Under the stars. 365 beaches. Best 7 nights for music lovers’’.

Jazzie was also high and happy about relaunching the SoulIISoul clothing brand at Olympia at the Pure show on Valentines Day. It’s a new take on the original collection. Lots of studded T shirts.( If you didn’t know, Jazzie used to be involved in fashion before he was a music star). For the new collection he’s spent a lot of time looking at fabrics including bamboo and cotton that last. The emphasis is on longevity. Jazzie said he was doing a clothing line again as ‘’
Nowadays music & clothes are taken more seriously -back in the 80”s the fashion industry didn’t support
me the first time around. Having kids now I’ve noticed a more savvy fashion substance’’.

I wondered what the music industry in London was like back in Jazzies hey day. He revealed ‘’ because we were pro black S2S never got any press. No front covers. We were too intimidating so it was interesting to me to see an ad on BBC3 last week where they were describing “British pop” alongside Chipmunk’’.

S2S were big and respected both here and in The States- I wonder if they realise how unique that is in the history of UK music. Interesting. The Beatles. Loose Ends. Soul to soul. Spice Girls. Craig David.Estelle. Jay Sean. Ha ha!
Jazzie thinks there needs to be more support within the industry ‘’We still behave like crabs in a barrel. There’s no community any more. In my era Young Disciples and Imagination -we were united. Stop labelling music genres. The station Radio1xtra – why isn’t it on FM as well?. I bought my kids digital radio to hear the Rampages of the music scene. My kids watch AKA. Are we living in democratic society? Does good music get played or is it payola? Isn’t having a radio plugger like payola/ its like legalised apartheid!’’.
(See readers-you don’t leave a conversation with Jazzie without being given food for thought.)
Jazzies thoughts on the UK black Music scene today were interesting?
He thinks there’s been ‘’More ignorance than there’s ever been. Too much segregation. No good black management teams. No substance. Look and learn from the D&B scene.
There’s no level of integrity in the grime scene. If you’re pledging allegiances to cross over to collaborate with dance music and indie then we have a problem that’s immeasurable!. What are young acts reading? Have they forgotten about wealth? Have we bought cars without mortgages?. When my records were charting alongside rock and indie it was on their own merit!’’.

Of course I wondered how he felt about the current wave of grime-UK hip-hop acts…he explained ‘’These acts are growing wildly. They’re like the plant without the flowers. I wanna be optimistic but the flaunting these guys do scare me. God bless the Dizzees and Chipmunks but other acts-how are you a household name with no depth?’’.
Jazzie did reveal to me that his ‘’favourite UK act is Wiley because he has depth and is a source of inspiration’’.

I explained that I loved Wiley musically too but he had caused me no end of disappointment by constantly doing his ‘missing in action’ act when I wanted him to film for me. Jazzie laughed ‘’that’s cos Wiley is real!’’.
Jazzie revealed that his main champions back in the day were Eddie Grant as well as Tim Westwood ‘’I love that he doesn’t take himself seriously and takes the piss out of himself. BTW Tim its not Marley marls beats!’’…..and Trevor nelson ‘’he has a reasonable IQ. He’s a reasonable DJ and loves what he does’’.

Jazzie finished by revealing that he loves the fact that we have the MOBO Awards nowadays and that he likes the constant controversy surrounding  MOBO as ‘’it means they’ve made it’’. Without MOBOs we might not have seen grime raise its head as far as it has. The Brits and Mercury’s may not have bothered acknowledging us. Although like the title ‘’Music of black origin’’ states, when S2S came out we were black. Not urban. I rest my case’’.
See you in Antigua Jazzie!

My Birthday

See all the pictures here

I am beyond belief. Obnoxious, outrageous and a lil crazy. All the best creative folks are. Being slightly nuts is a prerequisite for dynamic, forward thinking genius!. This year I actually outdid my past efforts and made my birthday last well over a month. Now no-one knows whether I’m a Capricorn or Aquarius. I had an intimate PJ party chez Dotiwala in January and last weekend I had a big bash in central London. Before it even got started I had to change the venue twice cos the club policies wanted to micro manage my guest list and even requested me to take off some of my guests/personal friends from it (including Sway, Lethal B, Westwood, Rampage and more!).

These people weren’t hardened criminals but merely well known artists, DJs etc. Not liking that policy at all I switched clubs to accommodate my people. Just for a laugh, cos we know that police and the 696 bill means artists like Giggs and So Solid will be an issue, I put them all under pseudonyms. Showing that I have a sense of humour after Giggs’ diss track about me last year called ‘’Last straw’’, he and his guest were on the guest list as ‘’H.Ardest’’ and ‘’L.Straw’’. LOL!.
In the end I held the party at WILLAS in Mayfair. It was perfect. They never once asked about my guests, they accommodated my food needs; they allowed me to have my own DJ’s- my mates and brothers in arms -the triple threat that are DJ Manny Norte (the name you can trust), DJ Jarren C and Lonyo. Not only are they currently genuinely this cities best party rockers, but it doesn’t hurt that they are all fine as hell and easy on the eye too- the ladies in the house were swooning.

I guess its no coincidence that they run celeb parties when it comes to music. Well, Beyonce, Rihanna, Kelly et al, I knew and had them first-so there! he he!
Outside the club on the red carpet guests were greeted by a huge media banner board,…of photos ….of me that my media pals thought would be funny-you know me-I loved it.
Even better? Another resourceful best friend had a stamp made of my initials to brand every one of my guests entering and leaving –how fabulous, my inner need to leave my brand on all around me (like the proverbial dog stating its claim) fulfilled.
Knowing that clubs often get worried by a hip-hop looking crowd I decided to make the theme ‘Motown’.

A reason for guys to don their swanky suits with a quirky twist and the ladies to go all out with feminine, sexy ensembles. Also-immediately there’s a sense of fun and no attitudes or moody peeps. Everyone certainly went all out. By 9pm we had Rick James (Troy), Marvin Gaye (Richie P), The Temptations (Maclean, DJ Abrantee, Thadboogie, song writers to the stars Wayne Hector and Ali Tenant), next came Mary Wilson (former Mis-Teeq lead singer Sabrina Washington), The Supremes (ex Mis-Teeq member Su-Elise and Radio1Xtras DJ Sarah Jane).
Clearly a lot of guys let their beards grow a la Marvin and others wore afros for 2 hours before it got so hot there were just a pile of afros and Rick James weaves flung on a sofa-ha-at least now guys know how ladies with weaves feel-it ain’t easy having long tresses fellas!

My crew-5 girls/5 guys-arrived at 6pm in our tracksuits to get it all together from microphones and silver trays to banners and napkins. We spent an hour getting the silver and gold helium balloons together accompanied by flutes of champagne so we were merry by 8pm. To be honest without my crew I’m nothing-they sorted out everything including the giant white chocolate and exotic fruit Patisserie Valerie cake that never even got cut as the dancing didn’t stop.
The night began with Motown themed soul food from THE SPOT in Willesden.

They had tray after tray of mouth watering hot fried chicken, chicken waffle syrup mini sandwiches and corn bread served by cute waitresses.
Kiss100fm”s DJ Swerve , Master Shortie and hip-hop photographer Paul H all looked very Blues Brothers meets Motown, whilst national lottery presenter and former Eternal singer Kelle Bryan wore patterned angel wings. Legendary female rap group Cookie Crew member Cookie won the prize for dancing non-stop from 8pm-4am and looked as immaculate from beginning to end with my young Harlesden massive queuing to grab pictures with her at the end of the night. Good thing all were costumed up and they didn’t recognise Blak Twang, Mis Teeq ladies, Master Shortie ,Wretch32 and Smurfie Syco or there may have been a full on photo shoot!

However as expected at a party full of many music industry peeps there were a couple of randoms who kept trying to wrestle the mic out of my big brother Richies hands to ‘’spit for the crowd’’. One succeeded for about 10 seconds before being kicked to the kerb early in the night. Thank goodness then when as the party hotted up and Manny Norte began remixing in Motown classics with old hip hop classics that certain artists in the house were moved enough to take the mic and show how its really done.
Asian R&B trio Serese (who performed at the MTV Asia awards), jumped up first to sing the Mary Jane girls hit ‘’All night long’’ and received a rousing applause.

Not to be outdone next up was new about to blow singer Maclean (son and nephew of John and Bitty), who sang a very heartfelt sweet version of Marvin Gayes ‘Too busy thinking about my baby (Jasmine!)’
After that it was like a free for all on the mic with the gorgeous Addictive ladies jumping up to take us to chuuuch with their version of Stevie Wonders ‘Superstition’ before Kel Le Roc and Terri Walker tore the spot down with renditions of Motown/ lovers rock/reggae, you name it- it went down.
That of course (blame it on the alcohol) made the non singers brave and a completely unrehearsed or prepared DJ Manny Norte, Abrantee and Rampage founder Richie P serenaded me with their crazy version of a Jodeci classic-which people began videoing so great was their resemblance to the R&B supergroup!.

By 2am the club looked like Soul Train déjà vu-and the men kept telling me they were having to drink more than usual courage juice to approach the ladies as all the women looked ridiculously glam.
Fashion designer Patrick Kevin and his fly-as-always boys looked dapper and flew the flag for coolest male dance crew early on, though soon enough they were hotly contested once Hip hop theatre entrepreneur Jonzi D took over the dance floor making a break-dance and body popping circle which then presenter/DJ Abrantee and Presenter and radio host Kat had to show off their skills in. Actress Tameka Empson then took the circle over and had everyone rolling with her comedy impressions of a back flipping breaker. Within moments London and New York were jamming together as Former hot97 New York head Tracy Cloherty , Ice cream company mogul Pina Colicci, PR maven sisters Jennifer and Beverly Mills, my childhood Southall and Harlesden massive, Former MYSpace don Andrew Davis and PR man about town Saj Ismael, Eastenders star Preeya Kalidis-(Amira), Former Honeyz lead singer Celena Cherry and her glam squad, Warner music ladies Taponeswa Mavunga and Mel Rudder and many more were actually throwing shapes.

It was ,as we like to call it ‘’hilarity!’’.
I think the younger hip-hop grime crowd may have been stunned with the way us 80”s old school got down. Cookie said ‘’we’re old school and true school, new school ain’t ready for us’’. Never a truer word was spoken by the paralysed look on the young uns faces as they watched us electric slide, soul train and break out the stanky leg!. I smiled knowingly as I watched my 21 year old god son jamming to slowjams with his gal, the kids I grew up playing on Southall streets laughing with my former MTV News crew, music chart names singing with my family and all jamming to classics like ‘Electric Relaxation’-Tribe Called Quest,, ‘You dropped the bomb on me’ -Gapp Band, ‘Flava in your ear ‘ Craig Mack  and ‘Rumpshaker’ Wrecks n Effect.
At 3.30am , much later than I had predicted, the music was shut down and still 50 peeps hung out to chill, chat, discuss who looked the best, have a last minute dance off-it was too much. I looked across the room at all the people that I cherish in my life that have crossed my path and shaped me into who I am today from school and university pals, to Channel 4 and MTV pals, to my bosses, my interns my friends and more-they’ve all made me who I am .

I have been blessed with many moments and its all thanks to these people. The 3 morals of the story?. 1-The most beautiful view is the one you share with loved ones. Its not where you’re at-its who you’re with. 2-You can have a ‘’black music event’’ in central London without any problems, 3- I am older, wiser and when I need to change out of my 4 inch heels into my Ugg boots, even with my emerald green glam gown on-I feel no shame. Even when celeb stylist Richard Shoyemi looks on disapprovingly!

Ivana Trump

It’s been a busy week. Not least because last night was my eehh hmmm-21st-birthday party in central London-so this week I’ll mostly be recovering from that- I had to throw myself a bash as the young clubs and parties don’t really represent me like they used to back in the day. At the risk of sounding like my parents I miss the old days and old skool parties. Where people went to look fly, dance bad, and flirt. Unlike today’s getting absolutely slaughtered on alcohol and wearing nothing creative-just a hanky to cover your modesty. My party had a Motown theme so I could indulge in my diva quest to be the lead Supreme (even though I’m tone deaf and couldn’t sing myself out of a paper bag!) – more on that soon!

I’m getting too old to rave at hip hop/grime jams now anyway (most of my friends don’t still think grime is the stuff you use mr sheen to get rid of!) ,and so have made a conscious effort to continue grafting behind the scenes to make a change for young talented Brits and bring more must-see TV to our screens, but also to socialise like the adult that I’ve finally accepted I am.
After all, who wants to be like the sad lonesome oldie raving at the club by himself with kids he could’ve fathered?!- I could name a few but in my resolution not to name and shame I’ll hold it down. After all like Jigga said “30 is the new 20” and I’m hoping that means if you’re over 30 its even better!

In my attempt at slowing down my widely perceived wild life I am now a regular dinner party giver and receiver- This fortnight I have also made time to give blood, pop into Sisqos party (slight party-ban slip oops!), attend a TV function at BAFTA , went to a private screening of Bashys new movie Shank, had a private listening session to the first album of an actress whos about to put out her first music project, attend the south bank show awards-very high brow and had a lovely new year lunch at The Ivy with old mate drum&bass guru Goldie and his new wife Mika (they married in Thailand on Christmas day-how sweet!),

A more mature lady than myself is the legend that is Ivana Trump. As a teenager her and her husband Donald were figures of urban myth with their multi storied American towers and jets whizzing around the globe. So imagine my delight when seated next to her at dinner at Christmas last year at nobu in aspen around a table of power players. Boy did I feel like the odd one out. Ivana held my awe with tales of her monthly adventures around the world. “In January I take the helicopter to St Moritz, in June I take the boat to Capri, in September I…”. I was fascinated! What a world she lives in!

Post dinner we exchanged e-mails which impressed me as most over 50’s I know find the TV remote control too high tech to use. Ivana has a great sense of humour and whilst I initially expected to find her irritating and haughty in that manner that the privileged have, I soon learnt she’s actually a very collected, shrew, wise lady with a very global outlook. So I wasn’t surprised when she chose to join the final series of celebrity big brother in the UK. She’s very young at heart and so totally up for a laugh.

What I hadn’t figured though was how cool she would be in the house. Unlike many an older celeb who tries fruitlessly to battle young peoples personalities and make their mark she was just observant and joined in with the game like a wealthy cat that has the cream and doesn’t need to prove anything to anybody. Obviously she didn’t need the winners cash prize. Watching her you get a sense that she’s content and smiling inside at the yet unlearnt lessons of her fellow reality stars lives.

I was happy to join her for her post show celebrations where she got out those amazing legs of hers that put most teens to shame.
Im imagining many of us will be running around like headless chickens this week for the annual money grabbing exercise in the name of cupid that is known as valentines day.
Here are my tried and tested words to the loved up.
A Jacuzzi of bubbles, champagne and chocolate strawberries is always memorable, relatively inexpensive and fun-but don’t try and keep a hard copy of the memory- all technical devices should be banned from the vicinity unless you’re trying to be the next Paris Hilton/Kim kardashian.

Don’t go over board in trying to impress your partner with any hugely expensive surprises- they’re always desperate last minute attempts that go wrong. Your loved one would much rather you remember all their favourite things and indulge them sporadically year round than get it wrong on feb 14th.
If you’re buying underwear then for gods sakes check their size before entering the store- and don’t tell them you asked the store assistant to try it on to see what it looked like.
A permanent keepsake gift is always more thoughtful than the tried and tested flowers- I was once given a beautiful, ornate 6 foot candle stick made of wrought iron that is so beautiful its stayed with me throughout the years- much longer than its giver.
if you don’t know a restaurant beforehand don’t rely on someone’s hearsay that its good. An ex once took me to a place he found in the yellow pages cos it was described as a romantic Italian; it wasn’t very romantic when I turned up in a frock at a shack in Charing Cross road.

Doing something really simple but thoughtful is always a winner. The man who arranged a picnic in the park with all my favourite food followed by a speedboat ride along the Thames in Windsor to take me to the ballet school show at the school I trained was lovely.
Finally remember that if all else fails its only 24 hours-book yourself into a spa until its all over-that way you have spent your hard earned cash on someone who deserves it-you!

Ms Terri Walker

I left you last week with my New York New Years Eve shenanigans where Mariah showed why she’s still numero uno diva extraordinaire at Madison Square Gardens.
The following night MCC was performing a show at Atlantic City. Not wanting to exhaust her or distract her from her sleep and work duties I took up my girl Estelle’s offer to spend a couple of nights at her swish new Manhattan apartment.

Stell and I had decided to go see a Broadway show so tickets were booked and as we chilled during the day I asked her where Atlantic City was and what it was about. She explained in was a mini Vegas a couple of hours outside of Manhattan but the Lidl/Morrisons version. She suggested showing me if I wanted to go that night. ‘’But we cant’’ I questioned ‘’ we have Broadway show tickets for the Alvin Ailey dance company booked remember’’. To which she retorted ‘’jas, you only live once-we can go after the show and meet Mariah at her after paty if you like. And that’s her Estelle remixed our whole evening!.
I paged MCC and told her what we were considering. She hit me back saying ‘’ you’re so silly, if you had decided that this morning you could’ve flown with me in the jet for 20 mins now it’s a 2 hour drive-but come-it would be great to see you guys’’.

I was still contemplating it with the group when Estelle decided for us. ‘’right ,after the Broadway show we’re going-lets make a night of it!’’ and within 30 mins 6 of us were piled into a huge black escalade and en route to Atlantic city at 11pm!. The drive up was nuts, the stereo wasn’t working so we played ‘’marry,shag,dump’’. Would love to reveal some of the comments that had us rolling but you know what they say-what happens in the back of an escalade…..
We finally arrive at Atlantic city at 1am and Mariah’s tour manager meets us at the entrance to walk us in. good thing he did, cos Stell and I being typical Brits still not having learnt to carry ID around at all times in America hadn’t brought proof that we were over 18 and so the club weren’t going to let us in!.

That’s where having MCC hosting the party with her hubby nick cannon comes in handy.
We stepped in , all hugged and screamed in delight, threw back some ‘’apple juice’’, danced on the tables, all that in 45 mins-which is how much longer Nick was on the decks before the Carey Cannons made their farewells and exited , we strolled to the club next door where Jermaine (Dupri) was holding his bash, danced for 20 more mins and then jumped back into the ride to arrive back in Estelle’s crib by 6am. That’s what you call a last minute whirlwind adventure!. A 4 hour round trip with a superstar to see another superstar for an hour. It’s a mad life.

The next night I flew home to London for my official birth date where the original plan was to have a dinner party in a restaurant. but alas the brits were getting their knickers in a twist because of the ‘’horrific snow ‘’  drama so I thought it best not to force my friends and family to attempt to get to the restaurant so I suggested a pyjama party at my crib instead. That way peeps could relax and chill and spend the night if necessary.

It was the best idea.
Chinese and Indian food was ordered in, an amazing patisserie Valerie cake was organised by my mates, I put hair rollers in and by the end of the night there were bin liners full of empty cristal bottles outside the crib. It got so mad that at 5am the girls forced a big, well known, UK music man to let us paint his nails blue. Under duress and over powered by a strange alcoholic substance in a silver bottle with a foreign name, he surrendered.
At 6am when I insisted I ‘’couldn’t find any nail varnish remover’’ (wink wink) to take it off he stated ‘’fine-I’ll use that alcohol shot stuff’’.

And readers we watched as the lethal potion actually stripped his nails clean-and people drink that!
Another of my guests that night was Ms Terri Walker. Readers-Terri has one of my favourite voices of any British female artist. Terri lives literally around the corner from me so got herself into her PJ’s on route to another rave. As soon as she walked through the door and I thrust a flute of bubbly into her hand. Terri and I have known each other years. We met when we both dated band members from a well known boy band from back in the day. She recalls meeting me ‘’ I remember thinking ‘damn this girl is fabulous-you were wearing a fur jacket and just looked fierce’’. My memory of ‘Terri fun’ is once at her birthday karaoke I shrieked my way through lots of songs with enough attitude and my tone deaf vocals whilst all her guests cringed in embarrassment for me LOL!.

Now Terri’s back with her 4th album after spending a few years off when she was lending her vocals to renowned producer Salam Remi for his singles for Fergie, Jennifer Hudson, Nas and others.
Terri revealed that her new music is going to be pure hip-hop laced with infectious soulful, dreamy melodies and topics. She’s so excited she cant wait to let you all hear it. She confessed ‘’I’m just happy to have found me again, music will always stand the test of time if its from the heart and a true depiction of you. Before I was chasing the dream of being a singer, now I’m chasing the dream of leaving a mark and inspire people’’.

When she stepped away from the music biz Terri reverted back to her real name ‘’Chanelle’’ when she called me to reveal ‘’I’m coming back into the music scene-new music and Terri Walker is back!’’. (Readers it had taken me about 3 years to remember to call her Chanelle-my old brain cells cant take this!). Terri laughed at me saying ‘’I’m really excited about the UK at the moment, we have created our own scene, Donaeo is by far one of my favourites as he is consistent and had at least 3 club anthems .I also love Tinnie Tempahs tune ‘’Pass Out’’-its an undeniable hit’’. Touching on the big chart hitters from last year Terri added ‘’ I’m not opposed to the Chipmunk and Tinchy era, I think they are great young businessmen but their music doesn’t really hit a nerve for me unfortunately. I think they’re clever on how they structure their songs but after a while I feel like its very formula. I get it-but its just not for me, maybe I’m just old ha ha’’.

Terries new album  ‘’Champagne Flutes’’ which is produced by the legendary Salaam Remi will be out the first half of this year, a track from the project entitled “Hey Baby” was featured on the “Sex and the City Vol2” soundtrack. ‘‘Champagne flutes’’ will have contributions from “Skibeatz”(Jigga,Camp Lo,Lil Kim) “James Yarde” (Drawing board (moi) ) and whoever else can excite Terri!. She laughs ‘’I’m going for that Hip-hop sound with beautiful melodies and racy topics. I’m mad excited!’’
Its hard to stay focused on day to day business as usual with Haiti’s tragedy playing in the background of our daily lives, Terri agreed ‘’I think the UK should really show Haiti’s history over the years and show their struggle even before the quake. It couldn’t have happened to a more unfortunate country –we need to keep supporting them’’.

With Valentines Day mere days away Terri suggested donating Valentine gift cash to the cause and revealed ‘’I’m usually breaking up with someone or single on valentines day lol, this time however I am seeing someone and hopefully we’ll be soaking in a champagne filled bathtub’’!.
But before that readers -its my big birthday party this weekend and with its Motown meets Dreamgirls dress code Terri’s threatened to get on the mic channelling her inner Diana- more juice on the whole crazy night soon!

Mariah Carey Starts Tour in NYC

In all my years of ping ponging back and forth across the Atlantic from new York and working with the biggest music artists in the world can you believe I had never seen a gig at the world famous venue Madison square gardens? I had been there for MTV VMA related stuff but never to see a gig.
Well to kick start 2010 that was all changed!.
New York was as excitable about Mariah kick starting her US Tour out in Manhattan as Jigga fans convinced he’s a part of the illuminati.

So on a cold, snowy, biting day where the NY wind was zooming through the cross streets with vicious unforgiving cyclone like speeds, we were picked up from chez Carey-Cannon at 4pm to make our way to MSG in the black giant SUV convoy.
We were there early for sound check as the streets around the venue were pandemonium with police locking off roads in preparation for the thousands that were gathering. MSG corridors were full of excited dancers, singers and celebs. As I walked through the backstage dressing room corridors and spotted framed superstar live photos from all walks of life on the walls I was awed at the venues history! .Its not called the worlds most famous arena for nothing!.
Backstage Mariah’s dressing room was large and airy but they’d made it seem lovely and cosy,all white silk drapery, it was candle fragranced and luckily nice and warm as Mrs C was having her outfits fitted and resting her voice before she hit the stage.

The legendary choreographer Debbie Allen –who had choreographed the show-was busily getting everyone together. The best sounding vocalists anyone could ever have – Maryann Tatum, Trey Lorenz and Sherry Tatum Frederick- were warming up their vocals and keeping us entertained backstage with raucous laughter and much family style fun and frolics. The dancers were stretching, techs were running around and all was very backstage MTV Diary feeling LOL.
As it was my first MSG experience I decided to take my excited ass out into the main arena corridors to check out the vibe which was beyond hysterical by fans that were by now merry and in the mood to party .I even passed a few folks I’m sure I recognised from my twitter page! Never met them but smiled as I passed in acknowledgement!.

I always stop to check out artist merchandise to see how creative they’ve gotten but my eye was drawn to a great keepsake-the official tour programme-$25. So I bought 2. Flicking through it my eye froze over a certain page where I looked back at myself! There amongst Mrs C’s fun photos were 2 pics of me, MC and Brat on one of our vacation escapades a few years ago! . MC always looks amazing, Brat looked cute, and I was a freakin mess!. I wasn’t mad though. I was honoured to be included in such a superstars programme full stop but had to laugh at the fact that on that day I had thrown on anything at the last minute that didn’t match, AND my hair was an ocean dried mess!. I was rocking gold Adidas runners, denim shorts with the words ‘’bad gal’’ on them, a gold lame American apparel swimsuit and a Rocawear red, black and white classic trackie top-what a mess! Maturity must have kicked in though cos I didn’t give a s***. All animated I called my mum to tell her , she told me to focus on my own stuff and snapped me straight back to reality.

Starting the show were Nick Cannons new male vocal group Rydz N Rtists who were really good-the arena loved them. Thousands of hysterical young ladies were screaming for them to take their shirts off and all sorts-they were like the new Jodeci/ B2K and with no autotune helping their vocals I think they’ll go far. They’re signed to the music arm of Nicks company NCredible.
Next up was heart throb Trey Songz who had a lot of ladies hysterical and screaming. After his set I actually had to accompany some young girls who shall remain nameless to his area to get autographs and photos. They thought I was the best auntie ever until we were told by his team that he’d just left to catch a plane. I sniggered under my breath as the lil ones all looked crest fallen. But not for long cos the main star they’d come to see was about to hit the stage!.

We returned to our backstage area, I checked to see that Mrs CC was ok and didn’t need anything but of course her assistant/friend Rachel had everything covered so we just chatted for a while. The arena was full of fans, friends, celebs and family. I hugged the ever charming, smiling  Stephen Hill (HEAD OF BET TV) tight as we caught up , Mariah’s co star in Precious- Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe-was there with friends and as the house lights went down I thought my ear drums might actually burst with the screaming and roaring from the crowd.

Mariah came on around 10.30pm and for 2 solid hours sang hit after hit from her past 2 decades of smash hits wearing a number of diva esque outfits-at one point even summoning onstage her hair, makeup and assistant to ‘’refluff’’ her cos she was a diva. Loved that part-shes fly and she knows it and doesn’t give a daym what folks think-pip! The fans were delirious with excitement when at midnight she counted them down and a solid 2 minutes of pyro fireworks, confetti and balloons covered the whole stadium. Of course they were pink and lavender!. Even though I know mc has hits for days its not until uyou see her killing the stage for nearly 3 hours that you realise just how many! When ‘’Fantasy’’ dropped I jammed hard! Post show we hung out in the dressing room toasting the show with drinks before hitting nightclub M2 where Nick was dj’ing. Joining us were actress Gabourey and new American internet celebrity Love B Scott who is the hottest new celebrity blogger Stateside (check him out) and as we brought in the New Year Mariah asked me ‘’I have another show in Atlantic City tomorrow– are you coming?’’…..but I had made other plans already to go see the Alvin Ailey Dance Troupe as well the  hit show ‘’Fela Kuti on Broadway’’. But my life’s never simple and the next night my whole diary was remixed again with a crazy Thelma and Louise esque adventure. To find out how catch me next week!,.

Empire state of mind

SO after my Christmas festivities with the Carey-Cannons, I travelled back to New York with them and spent my last few vacation dates there.

I took advantage of the free time and fitted in jivamukti yoga lessons; walked the streets, taking in the beautiful window displays; and caught up with my Manhattan-based pals like my old MTV News crew, the new owners of VIBE magazine, the former head of HOT97 radio, and of course, my homie Estelle, who now calls the Big Apple her home.

One night, just before New Year’s Eve, Estelle and I met up in Fifth Avenue, where we did a spot of shopping. We had lunch at Balthazar restaurant and popped into Bloomingdales to buy Estelle a pair of earmuffs. Having your ears unprotected in the New York cold isn’t advisable!

Estelle accompanied me to Gucci and patiently waited an hour whilst I contemplated the shoe section. When shoppers stood in shock when they spotting her, I felt proud of how far her talent, perseverance and tenacity had brought her. When some fans tried to take pictures with her in the store and the security advised that photos weren’t allowed, she actually stepped outside with the fans in the blistering cold to pose with them so they wouldn’t be disappointed. That’s a gracious star.

We had our usual hair and nail appointments crossed off the to-do list before Estelle mentioned that it was her label boss John Legend’s birthday dinner that night and that she would love me to accompany her. Well, you know me readers. Why have dinner with one west London bred superstar when you can make it two superstars from different sides of the Atlantic? So off we went.

John was celebrating his 31st birthday at a lovely restaurant in town, where we arrived to find a long table of 20 of his nearest and dearest, including his girlfriend. We had a lovely evening with great food including steak and fries, enjoyed great conversation and great company.

Straight after dinner, John escorted us downstairs to the restaurant’s club area, where the VIP tables were laden with beverages and the ceiling was covered with silver balloons.

One by one, the area quickly filled up with stylish folks, including artists Ludacris and Ryan Leslie. DJ M.O.S was very good at keeping the crowd bubbling from midnight onwards, with old school R’n’B classics, as well as hip-hop joints like Jay Z’s ode to New York, Empire State of Mind. To see New Yorkers jump up and down to a track that made them proud of their city made me smile, but also made me wish that a UK act would do the same for London town. A few UK acts have tried it but nobody has really made an anthem yet.

John had one of his backing singers sing for the partygoers (it would’ve been cooler if Estelle had sung in my humble opinion), and red velvet cake was brought out for us to keep our sugar levels up. John took the mic as we sang him happy birthday and then thanked us all for coming.

At 2am, we left the party and to our dismay, it was snowing heavily outside. All of us ladies had our legs out bare in dresses, but thankfully, as we yelped and panicked, Estelle shoved us into a car that took us back to John’s crib, where around 15 close friends were just chilling and chatting.

Meanwhile, John’s British bulldog Puddy was also receiving a fair amount of attention, which was unsurprising. Talk about a gorgeous, sweet-mannered canine! All the girls were cooing and gushing over him so much that producer Consequence ended up starting a monopoly game with all the neglected fellas!

After it hit 5am, we thanked our host John for a lovely evening and braved the snow again. We found a cab driver to take us home and then the munchies kicked in, so we tucked into mac n cheese and fried calamari and then dozed off over our hot chocolates.

The next night was New Year’s Eve, but The Voice’s entertainment editor gets very cross with me when I go over my word count, so I’m going to have to tell you all about NYE next week – I know, almost a moth late. But hey, diva news is always worth waiting for! And yes, be rest assured, it was yet another typical New York night in the life of a media industry chic!

Amen

Happy New Year readers! I’m writing this column sitting underneath the twinkling white lights of the hugest Christmas tree looking outside at the snow covered Aspen mountains where reindeer are literally bouncing around me. I hope your holiday period was fun and you had a chance to reposition, reenergise and can now re-emerge into 2010 with a new positive, can-do energy.
I don’t want to spoil the festive spirit so let me get the serious stuff out of the way first. Last month I complained about a London nightclub’s door policy towards young black men. well since that column we literally had hundreds of readers responding with similar experiences so I did a bit of research. And it doesn’t look good. i was angry and frustrated at what looked like the unfair treatment of a group of people but after doing some digging I hate to say it but I think I can understand the catch 22 situation.

I spoke to a friend that runs big celebrity clubs in London who told me to look at the bigger picture. Some things he told me were shocking. Like ‘’if I let too many black people in our white guests feel uncomfortable’’. On the other hand he explained that police often clamped down on ‘’urban music functions’’ because there was always trouble expected. He cited ‘’when white folks get drunk and fight they tend mostly to use fists and bottles, when its black people its knives and guns which leads to us automatically losing our club licenses and our business is our living so we will do whatever we can to protect that’’. Putting aside that the party I was speaking about was my private guest list which had people I could personally vouch for , my club owner mate retorted ‘’yes but you cant vouch for every group of young black men that come into a west end night club and we’re not prepared to take the risk with our business!’’. So I wonder whether it’s a vicious circle that will never change. Are we our own worst enemies? And if we don’t take a stand and start supporting and empowering our young people so they don’t feel the need to resort to violence will this ever change?
Why were clubs trouble free in my youth- Subterainia and Hanover Grand were full of young black people with no trouble. surely quality  door staff always know troublemakers and should be able to pick them out without descrimination . Are we responsible for our own bad press? Or is it the media that always makes a huge deal about young black men and crime? After all isn’t football violence worse but just accepted?. Last month politician rod little said that most crime was committed by young black men and ‘’all we get in return is rap music and curry goat’’!. Then 2 young men were arrested for attempted murder of a pregnant girl and the media ran a huge photo next to the story of Tinchy Stryder and the hip-hop musical 1day with the weakest cited connections!.

Is it any wonder people are scared into making rash decisions about young people of colour?. If we cant vouch for our own events being trouble free why should anyone else take a risk on us?. Also-Isn’t there more violence at football matches? Lord knows what the police would  be doing to us if our club violence was on par with that. But we also have to acknowledge the shortcomings within our own communities. They do exist.

A young black man I am happy to see making continuous steady moves upwards within his acting career is Aml Ameen. You may remember him from THE BILL or the movie Kidulthood. Well just before Christmas he invited me to see him perform at the Tricycle Theatre. So on a wintry December Saturday afternoon we went to see him playing the part of Justice in the play ‘’Detailing Justice’’ .The play was part of The Not Black and White Season– where Aml undertook the challenge of playing three very different characters, in three different plays. In the 1st he played Rio- a young man convicted of Rape, who meets his father in prison. In the 2nd he plays Lavelle- a 17year old righteous intellectual kid who disturbs the world of a politician. In the last he plays Justice Ncube, a Zimbabwean asylum seeker, who has his fled his country after an attempt on his life, because of his political affiliation. He’s detained in a London detention centre, for months, and Aml emotionally showed the decline of his mental health. Aml had to use an accent from Zimbabwe, and he pulled it off. He told me afterwards it was ‘’without a doubt the most testing job of my career so far’’.

The story in ’’Detaining justice’’ was told from the points of view from all the various characters and I have to admit even my judgemental opinions were changed by the end of the performance. I often skip past immigration stories in newspapers and can find myself sympathising with David Cameron when he suggests curbing numbers on immigrants. But after watching this my viewpoints were really changed which I guess is the point of a good story and brilliant performances. Aml’s performance was so strong with him evoking tears in the audience and keeping us gripped until the end. I felt ashamed of my previous judgemental ideas about immigrants. I was so proud and grateful to Aml for opening my mind.
Not about to take a break anytime soon Aml is just as busy this year. He’s starring in director George Lucas’ last epic movie RED TAIL. The story of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American pilots to fly in a combat squadron during World War II.

Aml has landed the role of Bag O Bones, he’s just a cocky pilot a part of the squadron, and one of his scenes is with Cuba Gooding Jnr. Aml excitedly revealed ‘’ it was a real honour as an actor to watch his process as he prepares for a scene.  Even though my part is small, I’m hoping this a sign an indication of where my career is moving towards. Hollywood films, International recognition and opportunity’’.
As if its not enough that aml has broken Hollywood he’s also begun directing his own movies. the 1st is The Pick Up– Aml explained ‘’it’s a A short film I’ve written and this will be my directorial debut through my film production company AmeenDream entertainment. It’s set in a house club about a bunch of lads, that make up elaborate stories to try and get dates with these University girls. We had an open casting and its set to be a slick stylish sexy short film’’.  Hmmm that sounds a bit suspect doesn’t it readers. Ha ha.i may take up writing and directing movies starring fit, young virile men. Maybe that’ll be my new years resolution!.