If New York Is ‘The Place Where Stars Are Born,’ Then Consider Pop Artist Renita Cotton Reborn

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

BROOKLYN — It’s one thing for an artist to have work ethic, but when you couple that with an “It” factor, that artist is destined for greatness.

Pop singer and songwriter, Renita Cotton, has both the work ethic and the God-given talent to take her career to great heights, and she’s already off to an impressive start.

Her singing career might have only started a little over a year ago, but there’s something about her stage presence, confidence and pizzazz that leads me to believe she might have told a ‘little white lie’ when I asked her how long she’s been pursuing a singing and songwriting career professionally, in which she responded so modestly, “So, I’d say, professionally, probably about a year and a half I started doing some background work for people.”

I interviewed the young entertainer this past spring, and after spending some time with her on that beautiful day in Brooklyn, I now understand why she’s climbing up the ladder so quickly.

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Renita has that trait most people would kill to have.  Her mix between discipline and the assurance that she has in her ability is immediately evident when you interact with her.

Renita was the perfect featured talent for an interview that was set in one of the busiest and most attractive sites in Brooklyn, NY; Brooklyn Bridge Park.

She came prepared with her exuberance and her stylist, showing me just how seriously she takes the idea of being a walking brand.

She’s a young New Yorker who has figured it out, so to speak, making “the city that never sleeps” work in her favor.  As many of you already know, New York is the place for stars to form and chase their dreams and aspirations from the ground up.  If it wasn’t, then I most certainly wouldn’t be here myself.

Renita’s ability to not only write her own music, but to also do a masterful job of performing it in front of audiences of all sizes, is proof that she’s built for this. And if she ever slips up and let’s that left arm hang too much while on that stage, I’m sure her mother will correct her, maybe saying something like “You know you have that one arm that’s a little dead there.” A comment that Renita would likely respond to by saying, “Well, haha. Thanks mom,” with a slight bit of innocent sarcasm.

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Renita understands the concept of “journey,” but that hasn’t stopped her from carrying herself as if she’s already reached her destination.

It might be hard for some of us to admit it at times, but I think it’s safe to say that in whatever we do, we have to have at least a small chip on our shoulder. That way we’re able to keep our eyes on the prize, understanding that mediocrity is never an option.

Renita’s coming off of a few very successful performances — performances that brought more music lovers along for her journey as an artist with two sides to the story; singing and songwriting.

In hip-hop, there’s a much bigger focus placed on writing your own lyrics, despite the 2015 “beef” between rap stars Drake and Meek Mill, a beef that started over Meek’s disbelief that Drake authors his own lyrics. However, it’s not really considered a big deal if singers elect not to write their own music.

Even the great Beyoncé has ghost writers.  That being said, it’s very rare and absorbing when we come across a Pop artist who is able to both write and perform their own music while also exemplifying a strong stage presence.

That description has Renita written all over it, and her journey has now been added to the Intern Media wall — a wall that includes many other journeys, even some that are still being written.

Checkout my interview with Renita and support her journey as an independent artist in the beloved Big Apple.

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Renita,

It was great hearing your story and being able to share it with my audience.  You have a lot of talent and you’re just at the beginning of your career, but more importantly you have great character.  That’s why there’s no doubt in my mind that you’ll do great musically and that you’ll inspire tons of people along the way.  Stay true to yourself and continue to walk around with that exuberance and confidence that you so greatly possess.  I know we joked about the day when reporters will be knocking on your door begging for an interview, but just remember that every joke has a little bit of truth to it! Welcome to the Intern Media family Renita!

Karl Nelson II, Founder of Intern Media

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Charlamagne Tha God takes on Tomi Lahren following her Beyoncé remarks

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

In the clip above, you’ll see American television and video host, Tomi Lahren, commenting on Beyoncé’s (Singer-songwriter) performance at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime Show.  Outraged by the “stand” that she believed the 20-time Grammy Award-winner took during one of the most-watched sporting events of the year, Lahren took to the issue during the “Final Thoughts” segment of her show.

“There are much better leaders out there to advance your message than the Black Panthers,” Lahren told TMZ.  “[Beyoncé] wasn’t saluting someone like Martin Luther King, [Jr.].  She was saluting a group that is known for violence and intimidation.”

In addition to Lahren’s remarks about Beyoncé, she also mentions the singer’s husband, Jay-Z (Rapper), during her rant.  Lahren brought up his past as a drug dealer — a past that she actually attached a time frame to (14 years to be exact).

If you didn’t catch the performance or some of the dialogue following it, allow me to bring you up to speed.  Beyoncé performed alongside fellow entertainers, Coldplay (Rock band) and Bruno Mars (Singer-songwriter).

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During the Pepsi Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show at Levi’s Stadium on February 7, 2016 in Santa Clara, California.

While it was a very entertaining performance, it wasn’t the quality of the performance that captured viewers the most.  Instead, it was the stand that many people believed Beyoncé and her dancers took during the performance that raised many brows.

The outfits worn by Beyoncé’s backup dancers appeared to pay tribute to a group widely known as the Black Panther Party or the BPP (a group seen throughout the Civil Rights Movement).

The Black Panthers were founded by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale.  They founded the BPP in the midst of the injustices that were taking place against black Americans and other oppressed groups, at the time.

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Bobby Seale (left) and Huey Newton (right)

The Black Panthers had a belief that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s peaceful methods had failed the black community.  They also felt that a lot of the things that they wanted to see implemented would be ignored.  So, they decided to take matters into their own hands.

However, their focus was not senseless violence as Lahren eluded to.  Their focus was to protect the members of their community, even if that meant policing the police back in those grueling times in our American history.  Obviously, for those who know the history, you’d understand why the BPP sometimes had to result to violence.

Tomi Lahren’s comments weren’t the only controversial remarks made after Beyoncé’s performance.  However, a lot of the backlash from others did echo the points that she made.

Lahren’s remarks earned her the “Donkey of the Day” on one of the most listened to hip-hop radio shows in the nation; Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club.

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DJ Envy (left), Angela Yee (middle) and Charlamagne Tha God (right)

One of the co-hosts of the show, Charlamagne Tha God, runs a segment called “Donkey of the Day.”  In that segment, he usually puts someone on the hot seat.

You could probably guess where I’m going with this next.  Charlamagne made sure that he put Lahren on the hot seat immediately following what she said about the music industries power couple, Jay-Z and Beyoncé.  He argued that Lahren misinterpreted Beyoncé’s performance, which I agree with.

He made it clear that Beyoncé wasn’t taking a stand against all of police across America.  Instead, the “Girls Run The World” singer was simply using her platform as an entertainer to take a stand against “police brutality.”

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Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think it’s fair to say that police brutality is a relevant subject today, considering the horrific events that have plagued our society in the last couple of years, involving black men.

Many would even take it a step further to say that police brutality has been a problem in our society for years now.  For a lot of us, the Trayvon Martin incident and the media coverage that surrounded it is what got us talking about this subject on networks across the nation all over again.

That being said, I found absolutely nothing wrong with Beyoncé’s decision to use her tremendously large platform and influence to express her feelings on the recent tragic and unfortunate events that we’ve had to encounter as a nation.  And just like Charlamagne, I too thought Lahren’s comments mirrored the fact that she’s simply misinformed, if not also insensitive to the facts.

However, one thing I have to respect Lahren for is the fact that she faced the music, so to speak, and had Charlamagne as a guest on her show to debate this topic even further.

This is where things got even more interesting and there has been a lot more dialogue surrounding this matter since Charlamagne’s appearance on her show.

In the video below, you can take a look for yourself and see what all went down.

I was happy to see Charlamagne come right out of the gate strong, providing Lahren with the story behind the Black Panther Party — a story that I hope she saw for herself as a documentary on the group aired on PBS last week.

Lahren had the audacity to draw a comparison between the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) and the BPP.

Let’s just be clear on something.  The BPP was not the KKK in any way, shape or form.  The KKK is known as one of the oldest hate groups in America (developed in the 1860’s).

Black Americans were their target from the beginning, but they also have a history of attacking Jews, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and Catholics.

One of the aims of this group was to prevent blacks in the South and any whites that supported the black community from “enjoying simple civil rights.”

Violent attacks, such as lynchings, tar-and-featherings and rapes became a hallmark for the KKK.

Now, does that sound like the Black Panther movement to you?

I’m not saying that I condone violence over promoting peace.  I’m simply saying that I don’t believe Lahren approached this topic with the understanding that life in the 1960’s (when the BPP was heavily present) was completely different than it is today.

Black Americans, other minority groups and white Americans that supported the Civil Rights Movement, were denied their basic rights and not only that, but they were targeted through vicious violent attacks.

They weren’t targeted in retaliation, but simply because of the color of their skin and their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.  And must we remind ourselves that the Civil Rights Movement was geared towards ending racial segregation and discrimination against African Americans.

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I believe that the facts above speak volumes to Lahren’s lack of knowledge of what the BPP movement was and why it’s a point of acknowledgement in the black community today.

There’s one more thing that I’d like to touch on though, in regard to the debate between Lahren and Charlamagne.  Charlamagne also made sure that he called Lahren out for bringing Jay-Z’s past into the conversation.

Now, I agree with her premise that the black community needs to be concerned with addressing and fixing all issues impacting the community negatively.  There’s no question that things like drugs, alcohol abuse and senseless violence plague the black community.  Statistics will show that.

Those things definitely need to continue to be addressed and I want to see improvements in my community.  However, when Lahren brought Jay-Z into the picture, I couldn’t help but think about when I was younger and my dad would reprimand me about something that I did wrong.

As a kid, I didn’t always know any better, and I would try to deflect the attention off of my wrongdoings by bringing up issues that I believed my dad had within himself.

I’ll never forget how he would always say to me, “We’re talking about you and this particular matter right now and that’s all that matters son.”

The difference between Lahren and I is that she’s a grown woman and I was a mere child when trying to take the focus off of the issue at hand.

Instead of Lahren focusing on the topic at hand (police brutality), she saw it fit to remind the public of Jay-Z’s past.

And based on the fact that she followed that up with no real facts to support her claim, all that did was make matters worse, in my opinion.

Bringing up Jay-Z’s history as a drug dealer was almost like making a contrast between police brutality and the dealing of drugs.

As a young black male, I view that as very disrespectful and all it does is take the focus off of one of the biggest issues in America today — an issue that affects all Americans.

I applaud Charlamagne for rising to the challenge and backing up his bold statements in regard to Lahren’s remarks.  And quite frankly, to bring things full circle, I respect Lahren standing by her statements and I’m not advocating for the idea that she’s somehow a racist.

I simply believe that her comments were a bigger representation that there are still a lot of individuals that are misinformed and insensitive to the history and the present day racism that, unfortunately, still exists in parts of the world.

As a Journalist, one thing I’m adamant about is using my platform and my passion to speak out on certain issues that I feel affect not only my community, but the world at large.

I believe that I was able to do that here and I respect anyone who might have an opinion on this matter that differs from mine.KarlHeadShot

Intern Media ’15: A Look Back

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

It’s hard to believe now that I “look back,” but the beginning of 2015 was the start of something special, not only for Intern Media, but for those that were touched by the creativity and heartfelt messages displayed by my work.

This time last year, I didn’t know I’d be this far along in terms of walking in my purpose and in the vision that I feel God has placed on my life (with Intern Media being a big part of that).

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You see, I believe in doing what makes you happy and finding a way to make sure that what you’re doing is impacting someone for the better. In all honesty, I’ve had my selfish moments in building my platform.

I mean, who in this world doesn’t enjoy recognition, fame, wealth, and personal gain?

I think we’d be lying to ourselves if we said that we didn’t desire these things. However, I can’t thank God enough for moving me out of my own way and helping me realize that my life and this platform that I’ve created is more about the lives it touches than about my own personal gain as a result of its labor.

That realization has led me to a city (New York) filled with high, mid and low tier media outlets. That significant change in my mindset has brought me to a city where there are truly individuals from all walks of life.

And how ironic, given the fact that my platform is focused on sharing the stories of people from all walks of life.

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So, today, as I step into 2016 with my head held high and a smirk on my face knowing what I’m about to do this year, I thank all of you for your support and for growing with me in 2015.

You all are a big part of the reason why Intern Media is now more than just a portfolio, having become my purpose in life, a future career path and a way for me to change the game as a young journalist who picked up everything and boldly moved to one of the greatest cities in America, the Big Apple.

For Intern Media, 2015 was full of great memories, some that evoked inspiration and some that reminded us of why loving one another is so very important as we don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

Family and friends, I confess to you that I’m now in the midst of the most exciting and most frightening point in my 25-year-old life as I embark on a new journey of independence, professionalism and purpose.

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I ask you for your prayers, thoughts and continuous support of me and my craft as I take on a new year full of endless opportunity and a heart of expectancy.

In the pages to follow, take a brief walk with me as I reveal my memories of the individuals and the processes of some of the inspirational stories I covered in 2015.

The list includes the likes of:

  • The ladies of Fatally Fem
  • The precious life of Diana Marbley
  • Hip-hop trio Ground Up
  • Paul Easton and Aaron Walsh of Drills and Skills Basketball
  • Andrew Somuah of The Players Tribune
  • Harlem Globetrotter Jonte “Too Tall” Hall
  • Essence College Ambassador Logan Nelson
  • Rapper L. Green
  • Cancer fighter Warren Brown
  • Rapper and Producer Kenton Dunson
  • International DJ Marshall Thomas.

What yaw know about building something from the ‘Ground Up?’

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

During Intern Media Week, you all were exposed to some groundbreaking individuals with quite the level of creativity. That said, it’s only right that my next story highlights a hip-hop group that knows all about both being groundbreaking and creating groundbreaking material.

This particular group of young and talented artists represents what it means to start from ‘the ground up.’

That group is none other than the Ground Up, a hip-hop group that originated in Philadelphia, consisting of two MC’s and a DJ.

I saw them perform up close and personal at their album release party last year and it was beyond an evening well spent. Up until that point, I had only heard a small catalog of their music.

Malakai, one of the MC's part of Ground Up, performing in front of fans at one of their shows.
Malakai, one of the MC’s part of Ground Up, performing in front of fans at one of their shows.

Maybe like most people seem to do, I got caught up in the mainstream world of music, not giving much time to the passionate music on the rise, a sound that’s usually at its most precious stage because it’s only influenced by raw passion for the art.

Well, that night I witnessed years of hard work and dedication blossom right there on that stage at the 8×10 in Downtown Baltimore. Here was a group that likely faced all kinds of adversity early on.

Adversities like having to build a following one performance at a time, attaining the proper resources to put their material out to the public, having to also constantly reinvent themselves to create a lane of their own.

Ground Up has overcome all of these adversities, given where they are today. This is a group that at one point was nothing more than a brilliant best-kept secret, that is before they stepped out there in front of people and showcased their talents as artists in this game.

Ground Up recently tore up the stage at the annual Made In America Festival in Philadelphia, a festival that legendary hip-hop mogul Jay Z developed in recent years.

If you’re not careful, you might be so taken back by the heights that Ground Up has reached to the point where you might become more fixated on where they are today, neglecting what it took them to get here.

Azar, Malakai, Bij Lincs...the originators of Ground Up.
Azar, Malakai, Bij Lincs…the originators of Ground Up.

That’s something that many of us do quite often, but it’s important to take heed to the fact that the title “Ground Up” is more than just the name of a hip-hop group growing at a fast rate, but also a phrase that’s true on its surface.

Ground Up can really look back and say that they did it. They built their group from the ground up and now they’re entering a whole new chapter to their journey as they’ve just dropped a new album Seventeen Eleven and have already hit the road, performing across the country on their tour.

Their success thus far is proof that if you nurture an idea the correct way, the sky isn’t even the limit.

This group doesn’t even realize how they inspired me as a young journalist on the rise when they took the time to talk to me about my craft and about how both music and journalism collide. There were likely those that didn’t buy into their dream until they made it a reality and I am determined to do the same. Much love to Ground Up and what they represent in the world of hip-hop.

Me with a couple members of Ground Up (Azar and Malaria) after their album release party last year in Baltimore at the 8x10.
Me with a couple members of Ground Up (MC’s Azar and Malakai) after their album release party last year in Baltimore at the 8×10.