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Category Archives: Art

YASIN ABDUR: Artistic Guru

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Yasin Abdur was born Allen Roosevelt Travis III, in NYC, into a family of artists. His mother was a Model and his Great Uncle, George “Rufus” Adams was a Jazz musician. A precocious child displaying artistic ability very young, it came as no surprise when at age 3, he began singing and at the age of 13 was professionally signed and repped. Parlaying his love for music and dance into a career, he choreographed and danced on an MTV dance show.  As a Songwriter, he wrote for Brandy, Raptress Eve of Ruff Ryders, 3LW, Harlem World, Trey Lorenz, and Vid Drawz.  Growing up, fashion was always on his mind.  He credits his love and official rise into the world of fashion to his friend and Mentor Debra Ginyard, whom he lived and worked closely with. During the 4 years he was with her, he accompanied her on all fashion shoots, watching this Creative Genius style the likes of Lauryn Hill, Monica, TLC and Robin Givens. Yasin had the privilege of working with this Style Icon daily in addition to sitting and listening intently at her feet as she spoke about fashion and style. He also worked alongside Andrew Caesar, who was responsible for creating the one of a kind style of Missy Elliott, Carl Thomas and Busta Rhymes.

Stepping out into his own lime light, about 8 years ago, Yasin began modeling and styling, as well as becoming the CEO and Artistic Director of his own company, Dapper Afrika. Under his Dapper Afrika moniker, Yasin has provided stylistic artistry to Jade Cole, Eugene Washington, Sarah “Pershia” Bliss, in addition to music video shoots and network television shows. His “Revolution of music, fashion and art” infused styling has appeared on the pages of Paper Magazine, the NY Times, the Satorialist as well as countless others.

Whether in front of the camera or behind the scenes, Yasin Abdur is an Impresario of the Arts, always leaving his mark on the industry. As a Singer, Songwriter, Model, Dancer, Choreographer and Artistic Director, he brings a creative talent and passion to his work that draws raves and admiration. While most stylists strive for a particular “look” for their clients at an shoot, Yasin Abdur aka The Dapper Afrika, strives to create an “personification of style” and is an (AIC) Artist in Consult of “souls” in music, image and fashion, who wants to touch the world through his gifts.

 

Q&A with Yasin Abdur:

BS: You spent a great majority of your life in the music industry. What is it about the fashion industry that enticed you to become a part of it?

Yasin Abdur:It just happened over time.  I never saw a difference between fashion and music.  Both were my outlets for my emotions.  Fashion came about most likely due to always being eclectic and people always saying to me that I could wear anything- as if I was a living mannequin.  I started out as a print/runway model so I guess that was my training.

BS: What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?  How did you overcome it?

Yasin Abdur: The biggest challenge was not going back to school, never wanting to work a 9-5 and to stay true to my dreams, which also meant people would always look at you as if you are just all over the place with no focus. So I had to overcome perception/judgment from family, friends and from many who only look at you from the surface.  I experienced a very intense spiritual cleanse in my life a few years ago that made realize that I was chosen for Greater and one day my story would touch others. Whether it be thru my music or thru my visions as a wardrobe stylist I refuse to let go and give up.

BS: How confident were you in branching out and starting your own company?  How would you describe the experience?

Yasin Abdur: I was uncertain at first because I used to be managed by someone with tons of money or I was under an agent for most of my career. One day someone on the street told me that I was made to be a director or a CEO- and over the past 3 years it just came about.  It can be nerve wrecking at times but luckily I have my team who allows me to lead the way. When you are dealing with the world of fame on any level and staying true to you it’s a battle, but i love my brand and what it stands for.

BS: You wear many hats in your career. Which role do you enjoy the most and why?

Yasin Abdur: I enjoy singing on stage with my band the most.  I can feel people’s pain and share with them my love my hurt with my voice in such an angelic way of communication.  It’s healing for me.

BS: What is the significance of your company’s name, “Dapper Afrika”?

Yasin Abdur: Dapper Afrika is The Revolution of Fashion Music & Art.  Most images/music of what we see in this day and time are forced upon many as what is commercial.  I will eventually launch a Dapper Afrika coffee table book of many iconic entertainers/artists/models, which will feature syling/photography/art under my direction with spiritual quotes from each person which I feel will open up people’s mind to what being a star really means. Dapper Afrika is also a very established styling/wardrobe/image branding company. We dress supermodels on their off days, shoot album covers for artists who are working on their come backs or are seeking a new look.  The GOAL is to put art & spirituality back into these major fashion magazines which is going greatly,  letting people know that style should always be original and from within. 

 

BS: What makes you different from other stylists / musicians / models? 

Yasin Abdur: I have a list of amazing people that have influenced my life my struggles my journey that I gladly express in each of these gifts. I dont pay attention to the outside world less needed so I believe that my delivery is on another level.  The world only gets an icon every 12 years and I feel and know it’s my time as such.  I dont do well with titles so maybe that saves me from being like others. 

 

BS: What is the most important lesson you have learned from your mentor, Debra Ginyard?

Yasin Abdur: She taught me that if you honestly believe in the dream it will come true.  I was about 19 years with no home and she took me in.  That meant a lot to me and ‘til this day I still wake saying “how and why me?”  3 years of my life living in the presence of some amazing iconic artists was out of this world to me.  Nothing is by coincidence and I am thankful for her because she’s true to being a black woman, independent humble and powerful. Everyone has Angels and she was one of mine. 

 

BS: What advice do you have for people, specifically African Americans, trying to make it in the industry?

Yasin Abdur: Stay away from your ego. Never think you’re greater than another just be great at being you.

Study your art; study your purpose, by surrounding yourself with others whom you aspire to be like.  Stop believing in this so called “industry”- for if you give into it, it will eat you up.  Dont be afraid of the hardships, for there will be many when you want to truly make it.  Lastly, don’t lose your soul for no dollar!

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Kristen V. Carter – Screenwriter, Television Producer & Educator

Kristen V. Carter is a screenwriter, television producer, and educator from Newark, New Jersey. She has produced for a variety of cable’s top programs including MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew, OWN’s My Mom is Obsessed, and Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. In addition, Kristen has served as a speech writer for Viacom executives, including BET’s CEO Debra Lee.

Kristen has a deep-rooted passion for entrepreneurship and content creation. In 2007, she founded JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC, a multimedia company specializing in writing, production, and consultation services. Through the company, she wrote, directed, and launched the six-episode web series Sellout, a story of an Ivy League graduate’s transition back to the inner-city after his mother’s death. The series, a first for JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC, garnered over 4,000 views during its 6-episode run. Since that time, Kristen has written three feature length screenplays and continues to develop scripted and non-scripted projects for tv, web, and film.

Kristen has won many awards for her professional and social achievements, including the Goldman Sachs Institute for Entrepreneurial Thinking National First Place Prize, the National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship Award for Most Civic Minded Business, and the New York Women in Communications Scholarship. Most recently, Kristen took part in the 2011 Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship.

Whether it’s through screen or stage, her ultimate goal is to inspire the world through edutainment!

Websitewww.kristenvcarter.com

Q & A with Kristen V. Carter:

BS: What inspired you to create JazziDreamerEntertainment LLC?  How would you describe its success thus far? 

Kristen V. Carter: JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC is a media consultation and production company that I created in 2007, due to the number of independent clients I was gaining outside of my full time position. At the time I created the company, I was a show writer for a cable entertainment news show (BET’s The Black Carpet) and was being approached to write scripted tv pilots, treatments, episodic breakdowns, and press kits on the side. I wanted to start building a brand so the move to create a company was natural for me.

JazziDreamer Entertainment LLC has evolved in just the 5.5 years that it’s been established. Initially, I did a lot of media consulting and managed two recording artists – R&B singer Lance Drummonds and Lyricist/Photographer Blue – but as my writing grew, I realized I needed to solely focus on getting my productions off the ground.

BS: You are quite an accomplished screenwriter, television producer, and educator. Do you enjoy one more than the others?

Kristen V. Carter: I believe all three fields go hand in hand. I am very passionate about storytelling and connecting with people so that I can be a vessel to tell their stories in order to inspire others. Screenwriting is about putting a story on paper; producing is about finding out a person’s story and bringing it to life; education is about teaching those around you while sharing your experience and perspective. I am drawn to education because I believe our children need to know that they can achieve their dreams and see people in their community who are doing what they’d like to do.

BS: Describe some of your most important career accomplishments.

Kristen V. Carter: No one accomplishment is more ‘important’ than the other because they are all stepping stones but a few stand out to me; being accepted to the Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship, being selected for a scholarship by New York Women in Communications, traveling the country as a story producer for an OWN/Discovery Health production, and directing my first short film this past month.

BS: At what age did you begin to have an interest in writing?  What initiated your passion for writing?

Kristen V. Carter: I’ve kept journals and written poems, songs, and short stories all my life so I can’t even recall when I noticed that I loved writing. I’m curious to know what my mother or grandparents would say in regards to when they first noticed.  I began taking my writing more seriously during my junior year of high school, when I signed up for an Expository Writing Course. I realized at that time that I absolutely loved writing and wanted to write a feature film one day.

BS: What are your short-term/long-term goals?

Kristen V. Carter: I am currently editing my first short film entitled First Date, a drama about a woman’s emotional encounter with a ‘familiar stranger.’ My current goal is to complete post-production on the film and begin submitting to film festivals. I also want to complete the next draft of my feature film, and create a production collective which is simply a group of friends dedicated to assisting each other with getting their independent projects completed.

My long-term goals include creating a traveling curriculum where I visit various schools in the country to present interactive workshops on entrepreneurship and activating your goals. I am also actively seeking investors for my production work, so that I can launch a feature film project.

BS: Describe a time when you were faced with a challenging situation and how you handled it.

Kristen V. Carter: In 2009, the recession hit the production world pretty hard and most of the friends and colleagues I knew were sitting at home. That was a huge time of reevaluation for me because that was the very first time I had been faced with real doubt, insecurity and anxiety about my craft. I wasn’t inspired to write at all, and I questioned if I was good enough for my dream several times…finally, it dawned on me that I wasn’t going to get anywhere pouting in my living room. Initially, I was applying to all Writer positions and soon realized that when things shift, you also have to shift. I began applying for non-Production roles everywhere and wound up doing contract work for an international conference. As soon as I stepped outside of the box of ‘Why am I not getting what I want?,’ I started receiving what I wanted. Soon after, I received my first Writer/Associate Producer opportunity, which gave me access to becoming the writer and producer I am today.

BS: What motivates you? How do you motivate others?

Kristen V. Carter: Remembering how much my mom worked and sacrificed in order for me to enroll in every activity I was interested in inspires me.  When I complain about how hard I’m working, I remember that she worked three jobs while finishing school. That shuts me up right there…

My family motivates me. My community motivates me. I’ve had nothing but support as I continue to climb and I am so grateful for that.

How do I motivate others? I don’t know if you can know how you ‘motivate others.’ My gut response is just – by being myself and sharing my truth.  I believe it’s important to tell the entire story, not just the success but the stumbles to success. And even as I write this, there is still so much further to go so I am thankful to have my community on this journey with me.

BS: What are the best and worst aspects of your job?

Kristen V. Carter: The best aspect of my job is that it never feels like a job. I enjoy directing cast and crew, and laughing on set. It’s just fun. The worst aspect of my job is just the long hours. It’s something you get used to though so it comes with the territory.

BS: How would you describe your style of writing and directing?  How do you continue to develop your skills?

Kristen V. Carter: I’m still developing my style of writing and directing, as I consider myself a baby in this game. I love to comment on society with humor. If you can get an audience laughing while sticking some truth in their mouths, I think you’re on to something so I am constantly working on that.

I develop my skills by watching and reading great screenwriters and directors. Learning by observing– (and screwing up and getting back up!) – is the best way to develop skill.

BS: Have you ever been in a Writer’s Group for learning and/or support? Have mentors played a part in your success?

Kristen V. Carter: In 2011, I was accepted into the Cosby Screenwriting Fellowship, a 16 week program for emerging writers in film and scripted television. My class dynamic was similar to a writer’s group where we would turn in material every week and critique each other’s work. Now that the program has passed, my group still meets every other Tuesday to submit all kinds of material – web content, short film, feature, and tv spec scripts. Writers’ groups are extremely important in order to receive honest feedback from fellow writers who are dedicated to the craft and take writing seriously. 

It takes a village to raise a child, and I am a firm believer in that. I have many mentors who have paved the way and given me invaluable advice through the years. Mentors are huge is this business because it’s imperative to have someone who can vouch for your work ethic and talent. 

 

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Should Zoe Saldana Star in Nina Simone Biopic? The Dark vs. Light Skin Debate Continues

Zoe Saldana-Nina Simone

 

A movie about the life of African American singer-songwriter Nina Simone is coming under fire in recent weeks. Producers for the forthcoming biopic Nina, announced this week that Zoe Saldana would play the title role. Zoe Saldana, 34, got the role after Mary J. Blige, who’s been attached to the film for years, announced that she was no longer involved in the project. The movie is based on Nina’s 1992 autobiography I Put a Spell on You.

Nina Simone is known as the “High Priestess of Soul”. She is a legend in the world of music and was actively involved in the Civil Rights Movement on the 1960s. She was born in 1933 in North Carolina. Her music spanned decades and has been sampled and re-made by many of today’s artists. She did not experience an enormous amount of commercial success but her life and music have her holding an iconic status among many. Simone died in France in 2003.

After news broke that Saldana was taking on the role, petitions began to circulate online. Petitioners are accusing producers of everything from trying to “whitewash” the film by casting an attractive lighter complexioned woman to play Simone, to outright racism. This is not a new argument. The media has always shown a preference for casting lighter actresses, even when playing human beings who we know were darker. Recently, the movie Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter cast a light complexioned actress to play the famous slave Harriet Tubman.

Many have made the point that there are several brilliant actresses who would fit the aesthetic of Nina Simone in a better way. Talented dark complexioned women have notoriously had a difficult time in Hollywood, despite the limited gains they have made over the years. By mostly casting light complexioned women in lead roles, the entertainment industry has had influence over the standards of beauty in the African American community. The Black community could use better representation of the spectrum and diversity within.

On the other side of the argument, many say, who are we to say that Zoe Saldana is not Black enough to play a Black lead role? Saldana is an Afro-Latina. She acknowledges her Latin blood but also her African ancestry is apparent. She is a Black woman. Her skin color and Latin heritage do not diminish that. She is a talented actress and there could be many reasons she was chosen for the role that may not have to do with race.

Both sides of the argument make legitimate points. This one thing is sure; this conversation will happen again until the media become more sensitive to the diversity in the Black community and represent that diversity on screen. Zoe is a beautiful actress and captivating onscreen. On the surface, she does seem miscast for the role, but let’s be fair to her as an artist and individual. Let’s let her talent speak for itself.

 

Written by:  Kika Ramsay

 

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Behind The Scenes With Gustavius Smith

Gustavius Smith

Gustavius Smith is an award-winning writer and director from Nassau, Bahamas. With interests in design, writing and acting he studied theater at Florida A&M University and later worked in Nassau as a staff reporter for The Tribune newspaper. His articles have been published by PolicyMic and NYIHA Media. In 2002, Smith’s passion for storytelling led him to New York City, where he currently resides.

Smith’s eye for socially driven stories enables him to create films that are empowering, provocative and entertaining. He has penned four feature-length screenplays, including Heading North (in development); Built for Load (Winner of the 2007 Ansbacher Filmmakers Residency Award at the Bahamas International Film Festival); Goodbye Cowboy and Foreigner.

Smith also wrote, produced, and directed 2 short films, Crude (2005) and Contact Zone (2010). Crude was officially selected to the Bahamas International Film Festival and the New York Short Film Festival. Contact Zone has won several awards and has screened at the 2nd Annual PortlandMaine Film Festival (October 2011); the 2nd Annual Urban Suburban Film Festival (June 2011), the 13th Annual San Francisco Black Film Festival (June 2011), the 44th Annual World-Fest Houston International Film Festival (April 2011); the 14th Annual Magnolia Independent Film Festival (February 2011); the 1st Annual Blue Sky Film Festival (February 2011); the 7th Annual Bahamas International Film Festival (December 2010); the 6th Annual Montréal International Black Film Festival (October 2010); and the 1st Annual Williamsburg International Film Festival (September 2010).

Recently, Smith directed a music video for singer/songwriter Esnavi for her hit song Unexpected Love. The video is currently on rotation on VH1 Soul, Centric TV (Top Countdown and Soul Sessions), and Music Choice Video On Demand. The single has been on the TOP 40 Urban Adult Contemporary Chart for several weeks, and is currently playing in over 30 major radio stations across the country.

Smith is a member of the Independent Film Project and Talk Cinema.

 

Q&A with Gustavius Smith

BS:  Where did your passion for writing, acting and directing initiate? How do you incorporate your Caribbean culture into your work?

Gustavius Smith: Writing, acting, and directing sort of found me. I was studying architecture when a Theater professor sold his dramatic writing class to me in college. He cast me in his play and the rest is history. In the theater I could use all my talents: design, writing, and addressing social issues. It was kind of a no-brainer. I had to have the consciousness about what mattered to me before that but I guess that was ingrained from an early age.

BS: What important issues or subjects do your films and/or articles address?

Gustavius Smith: As a Bahamian and a Caribbean man myself, my work and voice are based on Caribbean issues, but I do get involved in American politics from time to time. Specifically my writing deals with migration, immigration and crime in the Bahamas, Haiti and the US.

BS: How did you begin directing films? How would you describe your experience in that industry thus far?

Gustavius Smith: I learned how to direct plays in college, but I taught myself screenwriting and filmmaking. I bought the same books filmmakers in film schools were reading and immersed myself in the craft. I wrote my first screenplay and directed my first short in 2005 – that was my filmmaking thesis if you will. That first short was screened in two film festivals and the screenplay I won the Ansbacher Filmmaker Residency award – for a cool $10,000 bucks.

BS: How would you describe your career progression? What are some of your long or short-term career goals?

Gustavius Smith: I want to work more. I would have liked to have directed two feature length films by now. That’s not the case. Instead I have directed two shorts, one of them, Contact Zone, has won seven or eight awards. I have also written three feature length screenplays, which I have been told are remarkable, and I have directed a music video. I think I’m doing okay for someone who taught himself filmmaking. I want more but I am also fulfilled:  it’s weird that way.  I think because it’s art, at the end of the day you are just happy to be doing it because it fuels and soothes your soul.

BS: How would you describe your writing style?

Gustavius Smith: Social realism. I write about real people in plausible circumstances, and choose compelling topics. I was a reporter for two years after college and that experience influences my work.

BS:  What projects are you most proud of and why? What motivates you?

Gustavius Smith: I’m really proud of all of my work. If I had to pick one right now it’s the screenplay for Heading North. The story is about a young woman who leaves Haiti to reunite with her mom in Florida but the boat she is on is chartered for a different course.

Over the course of my career in film I have chosen quality over quantity. I’m an independent writer/director, which means that I write what I direct, and am really motivated to tell stories. And I want to tell them well, be true to the characters in pages and on the screen.

BS: Describe a difficult situation that you had to overcome. How do you define success?

Gustavius Smith: When you are an independent filmmaker, working on themes that are not necessarily mainstream- then getting your ideas from page to screen is a herculean challenge. To get it into wide distribution in theaters is like moving a mountain.

BS: How would you describe your experience directing the Unexpected Love music video for singer/songwriter Esnavi?

Gustavius Smith: Directing that video was a very rewarding experience. It was Esnavi’s first music video and the first one I had directed. Esnavi made my job easy because she is first and foremost a professional, and a natural in front of the camera; she is really a true entertainer and the spotlight brings out the best in her. I think we did a fantastic job. The video aired on Vh1, BET and Centric and now it’s on ITUNES.

BS:  Has being raised and working in Nassau, Bahamas affected your work ethic or mindset?

Gustavius Smith: Big time! Island life is so compelling to me. The Bahamas has a rich history with so many fascinating stories ripe for the telling. Just look at the success of Pirates of the Caribbean. But I think that it is our day-to-day lives, the follies and struggles, that makes for the best cinema.

BS: How does it feel to be an award-winning writer and director?

Gustavius Smith: It feels great. I have had to make sacrifices to take this path, but I’ve got to do what my heart tells me. I have people who believe in me and encourage me to keep working and I’m very grateful for that. I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

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Gabby Douglas Wins The All-Around Title

Gabby Douglas

 

Gabby Douglas’ gold medal winning routine will forever be remembered as one of the greatest moments in Olympic history. It is hard to take your eyes off of the sixteen year old’s exciting routine as she executes with such skill. When she is competing, her energy is electric. When she is being interviewed, her glow, her beautiful smile, love of her family, her sport and her faith together make an extraordinary young lady. She’s one of the few African-American gymnasts ever to compete in the Olympic Games and the first black woman to take the all-around individual title.  She has been on the covers of Time and Sports Illustrated and she is still a teenager.  While many her age are enjoying a carefree summer before they return to high school, she is making history.  Her story is inspirational to say the least.

 

Along with the fanfare and the adulation, Gabby has to deal with the other side of being in the public eye.  She has had to endure discussions about her distant relationship with her dad, which is not an uncommon thing for young Black people to deal with except the rest of us who can relate get to deal with it privately. She has not been in contact with him, and has blamed him for the family’s financial problems.  She has also endured criticism over her hair.  Twitter exploded with people making negative comments about her gel-slicked ponytail.  The social media critics have certainly distracted attention from Douglas’ triumph, but they will never be able to take the accomplishment from her.  Despite her critics, she walks away the victor and her hard work will pay off in more ways than one. Experts have said that she is set to make between 5 and 10 million dollars in endorsements after her performance at the 2012 London games.

 Written by: Kika Ramsay

 

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Greg Banks… “not your average artist”

GREG BANKS

A native of New Orleans, Louisiana, Gregory Banks is not your average artist. In a time where mediocrity has become the norm in an ever-changing music industry, only a few singers shine as true artists. He has opened up for Multi-Platinum artist Lil Wayne, Trey Songz, Mike Jones, and Jazzy Jeff; won a B.E.T College Tour Competition; has been featured on many radio stations and local television shows; and was a finalist in Andre Harrell’s Superstar Soul Search Competition.  With these being only some of his variant achievements, Greg Banks continually puts his best foot fonNard to strive in this industry.

His lyrics having an abysmal connotation with a sound that is hard to define; his music has become a branch of the 90’s groove, and he is recognized as a prolific crooner of the now. Equipped with one of the most distinctive styles in the music business; Mr. Banks is bent on taking urban music fonNard. With his soothing tunes, genteel melodies, and charismatic charm one cannot help but to concede to the strong gravitational pull to his music.

In 2007, Greg Banks career launched with the partnership of Bay area’s artist G-Eazy and the creating of their hit single “Candy Girl”. Having over 425,000 plays on MySpace, the two created a music video which garnished over 80,000 views on YouTube and nominated for an mtvU Woody-Award.

In 2009, Greg Banks released his independent debut; The Time is Now, which erupted his buzz as the new R&B sensation. Currently unsigned, Greg Banks has over 3,600 fans on MySpace with over 80,000 song plays, and over 10,000 fans on Facebook. In addition, Greg Banks has also written 3 songs on songstress Kourtney Heart’s 9 track album “Eye Dee Kay”. Heart, a newcomer to the industry, was recently picked up by Jive Records. Jive expressed a strong liking for 2 of the 3 songs that Banks wrote for Heart, songs that both Banks as the mastermind behind the lyrics and Heart as the songbird; collaborated exceedingly well on- well enough to capture the attention of the prestigious Jive Records. More recently Greg Banks connecting with Bay area’s artist G-Eazy yet again for another great song that would push their careers yet even further ahead. The joined talents and great minds to do an epic remake of classic Dion & The Belmont’s “Runaround Sue”. In only two and a half months the video has 320,000 to plus views, and has been mentioned on countless blogs including Billboard.com.

However the superiority of Mr. Banks doesn’t stop with his musicality; Comparable to Fonzworth Bentley, Greg is truly deemed a trendsetter. Being the jack of all trades and the master of plenty; he has matriculated the arts of singing, songwriting, acting and modeling. Yet his dexterity doesn’t stop there. He infuses his sophisticated, urban style into the R&B fashion world. With his eccentric style and statuesque demeanor one can’t help but to notice Greg Banks. Vibrant colors, bold prints, and the clean well-kept manner define this GQ man. His distinctive style is inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, which was the height of elegance; his musicality being a wondrous whirlpool of the musical ingenuity and unequaled artistry of Michael Jackson, Frank Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Smokey Robinson and others. With his eccentric style, his unique taste for fashion, a voice that is unmatched and unparalleled, and an outgoing performance with his band “The Crooners”, it is no exaggeration that the world of music will never be the same.

NOTABLE CAREER PERFORMANCES

§  B.E.T Black College Tour Competition Winner

§  Essence Music Festival Finale Concert

§  Opening act for Lil Wayne’ s No Ceiling Tour in Lafayette, LA

§  Opened act for Mike Jones and Jazzy Jeff in Philadelphia, PA

§   Xavier University Spring Fest opening act for Trey Songz

§  Howard University and Georgetown University performance in Washington, DC

§  S.O.B’s in New York, NY

§  BB Kings New York, NY

§  The World Famous Apollo Theater New York, NY

 

Q&A with Greg Banks:

BS: What ignited your passion for music?  How has your upbringing in New Orleans played a role in your passion for music? 

Greg Banks: My passion for music was ignited by the “Second Lines” & street performers in New Orleans. Growing up in the area of New Orleans that I did, I was left with few positive outlets, & music won my heart.

BS: How would you describe your journey so far in the music industry?  How did you get started in your career?

Greg Banks: My journey has taken me many places. I’ve experienced joy, pain, laughter & tears, but my ambition has never waivered. The tragic “Hurrican Katrina” was the true start to my career.  In that very moment I promised myself I’d do what I love until my heart stops.  

BS: What do you feel sets you apart from other vocalists? Have you had any mentors that assisted you?

Greg Banks: I feel that truly expressing who I am with no representative, no veil over the eyes of my onlookers, gives me all that I need to stand out and be different person that I was born to be.  I studied classsical voice in college, so I’d say my professor was my mentor. 

BS: What artists or other individuals inspired you to pursue your music career?  What motivates you to keep focused? 

Greg Banks: First and foremost, my mother was my first inspiration. She encouraged my to be fearless and chase and catch what I believe in.  My musical influences are Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder and Sam Cooke, just to name a few.  All those whom have been moved by my art will be keeping me motivated to push forward.

BS: How would you describe your music?  Which musical genre(s) would you say best describes your sound? 

Greg Banks: Musically I’m a collage of my greatest influences. My music is a blend of R&B, Soul, Funk and Jazz.

BS: Did you have any fears that you had to overcome?  What is a valuable life lesson that you have learned thus far? 

Greg Banks: My subconscious fears were the hardest. Falling victim to the societal stereotypes of growing up in the ghetto haunted me for some time. I then realized you created your reality first in your thoughts. I then began to think differently which gave different results. The most valuable lesson has been “One bad decision can make one hundred good decisions null and void”.

BS: Do you feel that being a writer enhances your artistry?  Please elaborate. 

Greg Banks: I do feel being a writer allows my expressions to only be as limited as my knowledge attained. I can write anything that comes to mind because my mind has no boundaries. If one isn’t a writer they can only attempt to describe what they feel, and the writers experiences will make it a hit or miss.

BS: How do you continue to develop yourself and your brand? 

Greg Banks: I pray for clarity in all of my steps. I seek counsel from wiser individuals whom I trust to help me brand the best Greg Banks. I’ve learned to make my personal taste more accessible.

BS: What do you look forward to the most in terms of your career? 

Greg Banks: I look forward to uplifting and inspiring the most.  Living a comfortable life off of the gift I was given is also very important to me as well, but if I can motivate someone to follow what they believe in, this circle is complete.

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BLACK Cuisine: Macadamia Nut Crusted Salmon Stuffed w/ Shitake Mushrooms, Herbed Goat Cheese, Arugula and Lemon


INGREDIENTS:
6 ounce Salmon (fresh, skinned) – 2 thick pieces of salmon are ideal
1 tablespoon Pecorino cheese, shredded
1/4 cup Chopped Macadamia Nuts
1/2 cup Shitake Mushrooms (sliced)
2 cups Fresh Arugula
1 clove Garlic, minced
1 teaspoon Granulated garlic powder
1 lemon (sliced into rings)
1 teaspoon Smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Fresh dill, chopped
1 teaspoon Fresh cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon Chipotle hot sauce
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon White Wine
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 teaspoon Fresh lemon juice

Arugula Pesto:
1 cup Fresh Arugula
2 Tbs – Pecorino Cheese
1 Tbs – Pine Nuts
1/3 Cup Olive oil
1 Clove Garlic, minced
1 tsp. Lemon Juice
1 teaspoon Fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon Cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

PREPARATION:
Take a 5-6 oz piece of fresh salmon (if frozen, please allow time to unthaw in the refrigerator) and use a paring knife to cut a 2 -3 inch deep slit into the salmon creating a pocket for the filling.
In a small mixing bowl combine your lemon juice, dill, garlic, hot sauce, mustard, pepper, and white wine. Place fish pieces in a dish and generously pour marinade over the fish. Cover with a lid or plastic wrap and let sit for 30 minutes in refrigeration. Remember for more pronounced flavors, the salmon can sit overnight as well.
To make the pesto, Prepare an ice water bath in a large bowl, and bring a large pot of water to a boil. Put the arugula in a large sieve and plunge it into the boiling water. Immediately immerse all the arugula and stir so that it blanches evenly. Blanch for about 15 seconds. Remove, shake off the excess water, then plunge the arugula into the ice water bath and stir again so it cools as fast as possible. Drain well.
Squeeze the water out of the arugula with your hands until very dry. Roughly chop the arugula and put in a blender. Add the garlic, salt and pepper to taste, olive oil, pine nuts, lemon, parsley to the blender. Blend for at least 30 seconds. In this way the green of the arugula will thoroughly color the oil. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Stuff the seasoned salmon with the mushrooms, arugula, lemon and goat cheese. Top with the chopped macadamia nuts and broil in the oven on 450 degrees for approximately 15 minutes until golden and the salmon is firm yet moist. Depending on the intensity of your broiler, keep an eye out; you don’t want to burn the dish.
Serve with your pesto and lemon wedges garnish.

YIELD
2 Servings

As seen on ABC 7 Chicago with “Next Food Network Star Season 8” contestant, Chef Judson Todd Allen. 

 

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