Lauryn Marie Burks: Published First Book at Only 5 Years Old

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media 

How often do you find yourself making the following statement?

“There are not enough hours in the day.”

For me, that quote is very much so a part of my daily life.

Well, the same goes for Lauryn Marie Burks, a young author who published her first children’s book at just 5 years old.

While adults often feel the weight of the world on their shoulders, it’s important to remember that children feel the pressure of the world too, even though their stresses are uniquely different.

For some young people, they’re juggling things like school, sports, friendships, peer pressures, and more.

As for Lauryn, even at 5, at the time, she dealt with the pressure of “staying on task” and adapting to her parents’ sometimes “hurried” lives.

It was challenges such as those that prompted Lauryn to write her first book — “My 100 Hands.”

The title of the book was inspired by something in particular that Lauryn said to her father one day when she was rushing to put on her clothes, shoes and coat.

“Daddy, I wish I had 100 hands,” Lauryn said, at the time.

That statement sparked a later response from her dad.

“What would you do if you had 100 hands?” he asked Lauryn.

It was that question that caused Lauryn to ponder.

“This sounds like a children’s book,” Lauryn thought to herself.

Well, being the “bright, articulate, imaginative child” that she is, Lauryn began writing “My 100 Hands.”

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Lauryn created characters in the book — “hands” that had the ability to assist her with tasks like homework and could also cheer her up when she was feeling down.

The book was such a success that both children and adults happily supported it, and I was one of those people.

In fact, months ago, while in my hometown of Baltimore, I visited my church, Bridgeway Community Church. As I set among the thousands of members in our congregation, there Lauryn was.

She had popped up on the big screen in a pre-recorded interview with a member of the church.

I was both impressed and inspired by how Lauryn carried herself during the interview and with how well she articulated the creative approach she took in writing her first book and now other published works — “My 100 Hands Go To School” and “Pretty Hand Goes To Paris.”

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Following the church service, Lauryn was in the lobby signing several copies of her books for people like myself, who wanted to support her.

I could have easily walked out of the church that day without finding out more about Lauryn’s story, but the true journalist in me wouldn’t allow me to make such a mistake.

I’m glad I made the decision to support Lauryn because now Intern Media has added such a unique and inspirational new journey to its wall — a journey that’s far from over, as Lauryn continues to impress readers of every age.

Lauryn is setting the stage for more young writers and creative thinkers, who are also on the rise.

Take a closer look at our interview in its entirety and let your imaginations run wild just like Lauryn’s does as a young author.

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The Interview

Q. What made you want to write a book?

A. Well, my dad was getting dressed one morning and he was rushing me to do stuff like put on my clothes, my shoes and my coat. I went up to him and I said: “Daddy, I wish I had 100 hands.”

He didn’t listen to me at the time, but then all of a sudden he came back to me and he said: “What would you do if you had 100 hands?”

I responded, saying, “Well, daddy, I could get dressed easier if I had 100 hands. I could make lemonade. I could clean my room.”

From there, I came up with a big list of ideas and then all of a sudden it sounded like a children’s book to me.

Imaginatively, I wished I had 100 hands, so my 100 hands kind of popped up at my door step. They were now mine and were ready to help me do stuff. So, that’s where the title came from.

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Q. If you could choose three hands to keep with you everyday, which ones would it be and why?

A. My first hand would be Smarty Hand because he helps me with my homework, and if I didn’t understand something at school, I’d have him there to help me.

My second hand would be Pretty Hand because she’s really nice. We both like art, books and all kinds of other things.

My third one would be Happy Hand because any time that I’m down or I don’t feel well and I just need someone to cheer me up, I always know who to call; Happy Hand. He makes life fun and interesting, and even though he gets into trouble, he’s still one of my favorites.

Q. How did it feel to have so many people buying your book at Bridgeway?

A. It felt great to see all of the people coming and buying my book, giving some good reviews on it and it just felt nice to see my name in the spotlight. I’m just happy that I accomplished all of these things. It made me feel positive.

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Q. You’ve done group readings with other children. What is the best part about reading to other children? 

A. The best part is seeing all of the happy faces when they come in and when they leave. It’s great reading to other people and seeing that they appreciate my work.

I get to see the school and the children and what they’re learning. It just makes me so happy when I go to schools and see their projects of their “hands” and I love it because it’s really cool. It’s really cool to see the different art projects and the artwork on the walls about the hands from my book. It just makes me happy.

Q. How have your parents helped you as a young author? 

A. My dad helped me edit my story. He’s helped me print and edit since I was 5, when I started. I mainly wrote the story, and it was fun writing.

My mom and my dad have pushed me and made me feel like I can do anything that I put my mind to. So, I’m just happy about that. They help me do a lot of things.

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Lauryn,

Thank you for sharing your story with Intern Media and its audience. More importantly, thank you for being an inspiration to the youth and to adults with your creativity as an author. I wish you much more success in the years to come, and I’m confident that you’ll continue to have an impact on the people you come across just like you had an impact on me. God bless you and your family. Welcome to the Intern Media family!

Karl Nelson II, Founding Editor of Intern Media

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Pro Basketball Player Donté Greene: When First-Class Character Meets Undeniable Athletic Talent

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media 

He was one of the most prolific basketball players to come out of Baltimore. Among the many Division I options that were on the table for him, he chose to take his talents to Syracuse University where he averaged over 17 points and over 7 rebounds a game, setting a record for 3-pointers made (90).

Drafted by the NBA as a 2008 first-round pick, he kicked off his NBA career with a 40-point debut in the NBA’s Summer League in Las Vegas, before going on to spend the first four years of his professional career with the Sacramento Kings.

These are just some of the accolades for Donté Greene. Perhaps though, the most imposing thing about this young brother is exactly what the title to this story says; “first-class character” and “undeniable talent.”

It’s that combination that separates Greene from the pack.

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I’ve come across so many people who have had off-putting experiences with athletes, whether it was because of their character or something else. That’s why it’s important for us to highlight those athletes who exemplify great character, a heart for others, and who represent positivity.

That’s who Donté Greene is.

Greene has done an amazing job at taking the “highs with the lows,” as he would call it.

Perhaps though, the most imposing thing about this young brother is exactly what the title to this story says; “first-class character” and “undeniable talent.”

What are those highs and lows for Greene?

Well, his career hasn’t necessarily been a walk in the park. The Baltimore breaded professional ball player has dealt with his share of adversity, and believe it or not, it started on the night of the 2008 NBA Draft — a night where he was expected to be selected early in the first round. Instead, he was snagged as one of the last few picks in the first round.

Greene used that as motivation though, as he put on the most impressive showing in his Summer League debut, proving to his fellow athletes and to coaches that he belonged in an NBA uniform.

From there, his NBA journey began, but it wasn’t too long after that when Greene would face adversity again. This time though, it was a move from the NBA to the NBA Development League (D-League). This move came after he set on the bench for most of his rookie season.

While some players would have assessed the situation, viewing it as a major set back, Greene did just the opposite. He viewed it as an opportunity to help his organization and get better in the process so that when he did get an opportunity to move back up, he’d be ready.

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Greene put on a show during his brief stint in the D-League, and days later, he was back in a Sacramento Kings uniform. After that, he would experience the business aspect of basketball, as he was released from the team in 2013, ultimately bouncing around the league a bit before ending up overseas.

According to Greene, landing overseas was probably the hardest thing he’s had to deal with, but not only for the obvious reasons of being on the outside looking in as far as the NBA goes. The thing that hurt him the most about the transition was being away from his family, specifically his kids who mean the world to him.

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Well, another transition could be approaching for Greene if he continues to have success overseas. That’s a turning point that the Orangeman says he’s ready for, considering he hasn’t laced up his kicks for an NBA game since 2013.

Greene says he doesn’t take his position in life for granted though and that he’s had a lot of time to mature as a player and as a person, even though his children know him to be a “big kid,” always leaving a favorable lasting impression on those he comes in contact with.

Greene is the perfect role model for other young and older athletes out there today, as he exemplifies a love for the game of basketball and a level of character that keeps him involved in the community and grateful everyday for the opportunity he’s been given to provide for his children.

Checkout our exclusive interview below and CHOOSE TO BE INSPIRED.

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Q. Something that most people might not know about you. You were born in Germany, which I believe had a lot to do with your mother working for the National Security Agency (NSA), at the time. Tell me a little bit about that.

A. My mom worked for the NSA 13 years before she had me. Germany was great! I lived there until I was four years old and then came back for another year between the ages of 12 and 13. Living overseas helped me become more cultured. Living among different nationalities and lifestyles…I thought it was cool. Looking back on it, I’m glad it worked out the way that it did.

Q. You were selected in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft. The one-and-done notion is something that’s received a lot of attention for years now, especially after years of seeing guys go to the league straight out of high school. What influenced your decision to leave Syracuse for the NBA after your freshman year? 

A. I went into Syracuse knowing it was a possibility for me to get drafted after one year. I just wanted to go to school, work as hard as I could and get better. After my freshman year, I knew I had a child on the way and a family to take care of. So, the decision was a no-brainer for me. My dream was within my reach, so I had to take it.

Q. You’re widely known by your fan-base for the five seasons you spent as a Sacramento King. A lot happened during that time, including a short stint in the D-League in 2009. Can you explain what those five years meant for your basketball career and what you learned about yourself during that time?

A. It was great for me. I love Sacramento as a city and the fans really took me in. Great family town that loves their basketball. The D-league helped me get my game back on track after sitting for half my rookie year. It was actually a lot of fun playing with guys who had been pros for a minute trying to get a look in the NBA. But for my career, it helped me see the business side of being a pro, learning the ends and outs of everything.

Q. You represented the USA twice (2006 and 2007) in the FIBA games. What was it like playing in the FIBA games?

A. It was a blessing. To be able to walk out there with that USA on your chest and represent your country was a great feeling. Also, the traveling part. We were in Serbia for about two weeks, having a blast sight seeing and experiencing a different culture. Playing against younger players, who I would see later in the NBA, was crazy! Definitely a trip to remember.

Q. You actually attended school in Japan when you were younger. Do you recall what that experience was like?

A. Japan was beautiful! When my mom told us we were moving there, I didn’t know what to think. Would I like the food? Are people going to speak English? Once I got there, I realized they knew more about the American culture than I did. My three years there was great though. I still have many friends from my early school days who I’m in contact with.

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Q. You won a gold medal in the 2006 FIBA games. How special was it to win a gold medal while you were still in high school? 

A. Very special!  Not everybody can say, “I won a gold medal for my country doing something I love.” It was a tremendous honor and something I will never forget.

Q. Donté, you went on a tear in your freshman year at Syracuse, averaging over 17 points per game and over 7 rebounds per game. You started in all 35 games and you also set a record for 3-pointers made (90). No wonder you were a first-round pick following that performance. How did it feel to add your name to the elite list of players to come through that program, specifically Carmelo Anthony who also grew up in Baltimore and played at your alma mater, Towson Catholic?

A. It was a dream come true. When I started to take basketball seriously at the age of 13, all I wanted was to get a scholarship at a big-time school and make it to the NBA. Now, to follow behind Melo was the icing on the cake. Even though I didn’t kill like he did, I got my name in the record books and I can always call myself an Orangemen.

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Q. You scored 40 points in your NBA Summer League debut. Explain your mindset going into that game, a game that set the tone for the start of your NBA career?

A. I had probably the biggest chip on my shoulder out of all NBA rookies. I was predicted to go mid-first round and slipped to the end of the first round. I wanted to go out and prove all those NBA teams wrong that looked over me. I wanted to show that I was here for a reason and that I belonged in the NBA. And that’s what I did, haha.

Q. You might have been sent to the D-League for a few games, but after some great performances you were brought right back up. Explain how you were able to succeed in the midst of that adversity.

A. When I got down there, I didn’t look at it as a punishment. I looked at it as a reward for me sitting on the bench knowing I could be out there helping my team. I went down to the D-League to have fun and get better. What made it easier was I was with a great group of guys who just wanted to play ball and win. We did just that.

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LAS VEGAS, NV – JULY 19: Donté Greene #13 of the Memphis Grizzlies looks on versus the Denver Nuggets during NBA Summer League on July 19, 2013 at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jack Arent/NBAE via Getty Images)

Q. In the last three years, you’ve bounced around a bit from the NBA to overseas play. What has that experience been like for you? How have you handled the ups and downs and remained positive through it all?

A. For me, I think it’s helped. I’m definitely more mature. I had some growing up to do and I believe I’m on the right path to step foot back in the NBA and be successful. You have to understand that life is full of ups and downs. You have to take the highs just as good as your lows. Only worry about what you can control and leave the rest to the big guy upstairs. Believe in yourself and anything is possible, as long as you put that work in.

Q. Where are you in your professional career today? Do you have plans to try to get back in the NBA, or are you focused on dominating the league you’re in now?

A. I want to get back in the NBA. I think it’s time for me to come back home and hoop…but just trying to prove myself all over again. Being in Dubai for two years kind of hurt me. I have to go out, put the work in and show what I can do.

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Q. You’ve always been a humble person and a guy with a lot of character, which is why I’m not surprised you’ve experienced success in your life. Speaking of which, you have children who are very near and dear to you.Talk about how having your kids has changed your perspective on what success means and on life in general?

A. My kids are my EVERYTHING!!! I do this for them. I always wanted to be the young cool dad, and to be fair I’m the biggest kid you might meet. When I’m on the court and I might need a little pick me up, I think about them to get some energy. When I’m overseas and missing them like crazy, I’ll tell myself it’s for them to have a better life. It’s not just about you when you have kids, and I’m blessed to have my little ones.

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Donté,

My man, thanks for taking this interview and for being so open about your journey thus far. It’s crazy to think that just years ago, we were in open gyms on the same court and walking the Towson Catholic hallways. I always respected your character and your talent of course. Made it easy to root for you to win in life bro and that’s exactly what you’re doing today. Continue to set an example for those around you as a great father, a guy active in the community, and as a pro athlete putting in the work on the court. Welcome to the Intern Media family. Your story has just been added to the Intern Media wall and we’re family bro, so you already know the support will continue. Be blessed fam. 

Karl Nelson II, Founding Editor of Intern Media 

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Collision 2016: Endorsed by media from over 100 countries

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Just in case you’re wondering what it’s like to attend a conference like Collision as a member of the media, here you go.

First things first.  For those media professionals like myself who truly love what we do and don’t view this as a job, it all starts when we receive word of the invite.  The feeling that runs through our bodies and the way that our eyes light up, it reminds us that we’re in the right profession.

It doesn’t end there though.  There’s a crazy level of preparation that comes with a responsibility like this; an endless amount of complex reading, grueling writing and research sessions, interview preparation, video preparation, and a test of your overall creativity.

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It’s almost like being a professional athlete.  You don’t just show up to the “game,” put your uniform on and walk onto the court or field for the opening whistle, tip or kickoff.

As a media professional, you must arrive to the scene hours in advance just like some of the worlds greatest athletes.

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You have to be mentally and professionally prepared to not only do your job, but to also look for opportunities to develop a career-changing story or a career-changing moment for yourself, for your represented platform and most importantly for your audience.

It’s this level of preparation that sometimes has me feeling like that NBA superstar arriving to the arena in my Johnston and Murphy shoes, tailored fit suit, Ralph Lauren backpack, and my studio Dre Beats headphones, of course.

Maybe the brief description that I’ve just provided you with will have you thinking about that reporter, journalist, or camera man the next time you’re watching a sporting event or attending one of America’s fastest growing conferences in the future like Collision.

In the event that this write up crosses your mind, just think about the thousands of media outlets out there today who are dedicated to bringing you and millions of others the very best media coverage day in and day out.

Intern Media is dedicated to doing the same in its own uncommon way, focusing on the established individual and the individual in today’s society who’s lacking a voice.

Thanks again to Collision, a technology conference colliding the tech world with prominent sponsors and some of the most profound media outlets around the world today.

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Celebrity Natural Hairstylist: Felicia Leatherwood

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Do you remember the days when walking down the street and seeing a gorgeous woman confidently rocking the “natural” look was a rarity?

Well, those days are long gone.  Today, women all over the world have re-embraced this idea of living a “natural hair lifestyle.”  What once appeared to be a trend is now a lifestyle for many women out there.

It’s become more than a tool for fashion and more of a “movement” that is empowering women of all ages, enabling them to express themselves by embracing their natural hair.

In covering this topic, I wanted to create content that catered to my female audience, providing them with some new insight into the world of natural hair.

What better way to do that than to consult with an expert in this particular field. That expert is none other than successful Celebrity Natural Hairstylist, Felicia Leatherwood.

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Leatherwood is based in Los Angeles, but has traveled the world spreading her message and offering her tips to a growing audience.  Some of the beautiful places that she’s been able to travel to include Africa and different parts of Europe.

Felicia stays busy, making her stamp, not only as a Natural Hairstylist, but as a designer as well, designing natural hair products for both adults and children.

In fact, she’s widely known for her Detangler Brush, which makes “hair life easier on the naturalista” as it’s “designed to help women and children of any texture of curl to detangle their hair with ease with minimal to no hair shedding.”

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Felicia’s Detangler Brush

In Felicia’s own words, this Detangler Brush is good for moving “threw the hair without pulling or breaking hair.” 

Felicia jumpstarted her career 26 years ago, before there was such a great emphasis placed on social media.  The power of social media is endless as it cuts out the middle man, so to speak, giving you a direct line of communication to almost anyone around the world.

That’s actually how Felicia and I connected, via social media, and I’m glad we did.

What’s impressive about Felicia’s success is the fact that she was able to develop a substantial following the old fashion way; by being a walking brand.  That’s exactly what she does on a daily basis, giving you that exterior as a strong and confident natural beauty and professional.

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Felicia is the real deal as she’s made quite a bit of noise in her industry, building a resume that includes styling well-known individuals like Viola Davis, Will Smith and Terrence Howard; to name a few.

Leatherwood has built a rapport with some of the best in the business, but like what I do with my platform, she still focuses heavily on the “everyday” individual.  She educates and motivates women, inspiring them to “get in touch with themselves and their natural hair.”

Felicia prides herself on creating an atmosphere with her workshops that makes it as if you’re “getting advice from a friend and not a teacher.”  That makes great sense considering audiences of today cater more towards someone who they can relate to.

In Felicia’s industry, she’s that relatable individual.

Felicia currently has a following of over 140,000 people, which is led by a strong online presence.  She showed a great level of love for the “process” when she agreed to take my interview and I appreciate her for that.

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Felicia is responsible for opening my eyes to a whole new world of content; the natural hair movement.

In our interview, we covered some major topics from how Felicia balances this packed career of hers to how she’s been able to develop a rapport with big time celebrities to her presence overseas.

I’ve covered a lot of stories since 2014 and I can guarantee you that this one will leave you inspired, nonetheless.

Checkout our interview below and become one of thousands to follow and support Felicia Leatherwood. You will not regret that decision.

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Q.  Felicia, you’re currently mastering quite a few areas right now as a Natural Hairstylist, a designer of natural hair products, an inspirational and beauty speaker, and as a producer of content related to hair and wellness. How are you able to balance these platforms?  What kind of challenges do you run into as a woman who wears many hats?  

A.  I love what I do and I enjoy the services that I can provide to people by way of education, styling tools or even inspiration.  So, it’s my pleasure to be of service in this way.  I think the most challenging thing about wearing many hats is that you don’t get enough sleep haha.

Q.  Obviously, technology has evolved tremendously since 26 years ago (when you first started) and nowadays people can create awareness for what they do on social media, free of charge.  That being said, what avenues did you have to use in order to build a following in the earlier years of your career?  How have you adapted to this new age of advertisement and marketing?  

A.  I was always my own walking billboard (when I had longer hair, of course), so it wasn’t hard to get clientele. Women would always admire my hairstyles when I went anywhere.  Nowadays, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have given me a much broader reach to showcase my work.  I’m grateful for that.

Q.  For someone who hasn’t experienced your workshops, take me through the process and what these workshops entail.  

A.  The workshops are a great way for women to get in touch with themselves and their natural hair by means of education, inspiration and motivation.  The feedback that I receive from anyone who has been in my workshop, is that, it feels like you are getting advice from a friend and not a teacher.  I love hearing that because I want the women to feel empowered and I don’t want them to feel intimidated by the transition back to natural hair.

Q.  You’ve featured your styles on some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry; Viola Davis, Will Smith, Jill Scott, and Anthony Anderson, to name a few. Talk about how you were able to build your platform to a level where these influential individuals were willing to co-sign your work?

A.  Well, there are not a lot of hairstylist catering specifically to natural hair, so I created a niche for myself by staying focused on just catering to clients that wanted to be and stay natural.  Also, word spreads quickly when you are one of the few doing natural hair in Black Hollywood.

Q.  You’ve hosted workshops and panels overseas.  Of all the places you’ve been to, where did you enjoy traveling to the most.  Did it inspire you in a new way?  

A.  I have enjoyed all of my travels, so it’s hard to compare.  I’m always learning new things when I leave the states about the attitude women have about their natural hair and so all of my travels are amazing and inspirational.  I love going to Africa and different parts of Europe and educating in different regions.  It’s ALL GOOD!

Bonus Q.  For all of my female viewers out there and natural hair lovers, explain why they should invest in your Detangler Brush?  

A.  The Detangler Brush was created to make hair life easier on the naturalista.  It is designed to help women and children of any texture of curl to detangle their hair with ease, with minimal to no hair shedding, in the process of detangling hair.

The brush is also super incredible and easy for children to use on themselves, so they don’t have to run from their moms during wash day!  Haha.  What makes the brush so amazing is it’s ability to move threw the hair without pulling or breaking hair because the rows of the brush move with the hair.  So, you can detangle your hair stress-free!

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Felicia,

You are wonderful.  Thank you for joining the Intern Media movement and I look forward to being able to do an even more extensive story on you when I take my platform on the road to LA. Continue to inspire your audience as well as outsiders like myself who respect and admire individuals (like yourself) that create their own lane, and who touch many lives along the way.

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

K Rokk: Professional Drummer out of Queens, NY

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

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Video work by my videographer Austin Dancy (Brooklyn, NY)

I recently took my platform Intern Media on the road, just a borough over from Brooklyn, NY to Queens, NY, to sit down with longtime musician (Drummer), K Rokk. It was humbling to sit down with a guy who has dedicated himself to his artistry for over two decades, demonstrating an even stronger love for music today compared to 21 years ago when he first started.

Our interview took me back to a year ago when I was coaching alongside one of my mentors at the Park School of Baltimore. On the first day of tryouts, my mentor expressed to our players that there was “a huge difference between doing something for the fun of it and actually loving what you do.”

My mentor brought this up to the kids because at the time we had some guys playing because they simply found fun in playing the sport. While that’s fine, that mentality can cause a problem for the guys on the team who are playing competitively out of a true love for the game.

Well, what my mentor said must have really sunk in because that had to be one of my most memorable seasons as a coach given not only our success that year, but the passion that the guys played with day in and day out.

What he said that day resonated with me and it’s a statement that has stuck with me to this day. K Rokk is a perfect example of someone who is in the music industry for the true love of it.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s all about having fun with his craft, but for something to be considered your craft, one must work at it too, right? That’s something that K Rokk understands, which is why he’s performing several times week in and week out, always looking to add a staple to his resume.

K Rokk has been doing this for years, and if anything, his work ethic has only grown since the day that he first picked up those drum sticks, introducing the world to his unique sound.

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K Rokk is able to literally wake up and do what he loves daily, and his journey has paid dividends for him as he’s been able to perform across the country, surrounding himself with what he would refer to as “seasoned” musicians, and he’s now working on a couple new projects that will reinvent him as an artist in an industry that is constantly evolving. 

K Rokk is blessed to be still having fun performing on the drums, expressing his serious love for the stage and drawing a crowd based off of his talent.

Speaking from the perspective as someone who was able to watch him perform, I’m telling you that his talent is what triggered my approaching him shortly after the show. And thank God that I did because I might not have learned of how great of a guy he is outside of his talent. Here’s a guy that has made his artistry his life and you can see how much ‘life’ the art of music gives him when he’s out there on that stage.

K Rokk stressed the importance of networking and connecting with others in your respective industry when we set down for the interview. Well, it’s those relationships that he’s developed over the years which keeps him constantly at venues performing week after week. It’s also those relationships that have enabled him to travel outside of New York to showcase his talents as a musician, impacting the lives of many.

And how ironic that it was my relationship with my good friend and artist L. Green which made this story possible.

K Rokk’s emphasis on this is what reminds us that we cannot make it out here on our own. You need people. You need that one person to say, “Look. I support what you’re doing. Keep inspiring.”

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Me, K Rokk and my videographer Austin Dancy

You need that person who’s going to invest their time and even sometimes their money into your passion. I know that I haven’t made it to where I am all by myself. I’ve had a core group of supporters and quite frankly, it’s their encouraging words and God’s love that keeps me going as a journalist in New York City, one of the hardest cities to make it in.

K Rokk has had the opportunity to perform with some of those he considers gurus in the music industry — individuals he’s learned a ton from. Little does he know though that it’s his two decades of dedication to his craft and his upcoming work that has a guy like myself looking at him as a guru in the realm of music.

These stories are meant to inspire those who come into contact with them, but what should also be highlighted is the fact that it’s me who’s inspired by those that I cover stories on. They make what I do that much sweeter and worthwhile.

Take a look at the interview below (in video form) and hear directly from K Rokk as he talks about how he got to where he is today as a musician, where his love for music comes from, what projects are on the horizon for him, and more.

Also, here’s a chance for you to grow with me as I take my gifts as a writer and translate them into my aim to develop as a reporter while putting my vision on camera, making journalism just what I’ve promised it can be; a production.

K Rokk,

Thanks for growing with me my man and becoming apart of the Intern Media family, stamping your spot in this movement. Continue to inspire and educate, not only the up-and-coming musicians out there, but the media outlets that you cross paths with. More media professionals need to learn about these artists beyond the surface, not simply latching onto their talent, but more so showing appreciation for their journey’s. That was part of my aim for this interview and I pray that my approach as a Digital Journalist made you feel like family bro.

Karl Nelson II, Founder of Intern Media

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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.

Rapper Kenton Dunson looks to defy all odds as a true ‘Outlier’ in Hip Hop

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

When I came out with “Kenton Dunson: A True ‘Outlier’ in the Evolution that is Hip Hop,” the rapper out of Maryland was working on maybe the biggest project of his music career thus far; Outlier, which will drop this month. I was able to catch up with the “outlier” himself at his album release party in May where he showcased several songs from the new album at the 8×10 in downtown Baltimore.

Outlier couldn’t have been a more perfect title for Dunson’s newest album as it is a good representation of him not only as an artist, but as a person too. The term “outlier” refers to “a person or thing differing from all other members of a particular group or set.” Dunson’s music exemplifies this definition. His music has one of the most unique sounds I’ve heard in recent years. That’s what jump-started our dialogue.

The beautiful thing about talent is it sparks dialogue, but when you get to see who the person is behind their art, that’s what establishes real content.

Dunson’s music, his oneness with his audience and his passion for mastering his craft is why I’m finding myself writing this story — a story that has combined the talent of a young journalist on the rise and a young artist looking to create a lane of his own. This is the story you might not typically get when typing an artists’ name into a search engine. I guess in a way, this collaboration is also an outlier in its own right.

Dunson says that he’s striving to create a similarity between he and a few of the big names in the hip hop industry today; guys like Kanye West, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. Don’t get the wrong idea though, Dunson does not want to be these guys nor does he want to make the same kind of music as them. Dunson simply admires the fact that they were each able to make “mainstream” what they desired for it to be.

Kanye made the mixture of hip hop and fashion mainstream. As Dunson would say, Drake made being a black rapper from the suburbs mainstream. Kendrick made storytelling and an intellectual-style of rap mainstream again.

This is the impact and the wave that Dunson looks to create as his own man in this industry. The jury is still out on what exactly Dunson’s “mainstream” will look like, but I would have to take a wild guess and say that it would involve him being an outlier, standing out from what’s considered the norm and to be honest with you, he’s got the talent and the discipline to do it.

I’ve referred to Kenton as a “dope” artist in the past. I know that in our society today that’s become the cool thing to say and many people have their own definition for what “dope” actually is. For me though, “dope” is all about being different, having substance and being for the people. That’s why Kenton is dope. His music is different because it stands out from the rest. His art — which is also his music — contains substance and he’s for the people.

How do I know this?

There are not many artists who embrace the “underground” way of doing things and I’m not talking about in terms of music. I’m not the conventional type of journalist. I’m going to search for the unknown, the message that lies between the lines. Dunson has embraced my style of journalism, but I’m not surprised.

Why?

It’s because he strives to do the same in his music. His location, the company he surrounds himself with and his bourbon are all elements in his developmental process when it comes to making good music. Dunson’s the kind of artist that also searches for the unknown between the lines of his lyrics when thinking about what he wants to convey to the people.

Now you see why he couldn’t have picked a better title for his newest project and when you go to pick up this new sound — which you will because you long for music with substance — you’ll too see why Outlier is more than a title or a term; it should be the way we live out our careers and our lives.

After all, Dunson always reminds us that “we are all outliers,” right?

Checkout the interview I did with Dunson just moments before he took the stage in front of a packed crowd at the 8×10 in Downtown Baltimore the night of his album release party.

Q. How long have you been a full-time artist now?

A. Since 2010. February 2010, I quit my job at T. Rowe Price as an Investment Advisor. So, ever since then man.”

Q. Since you’ve done that, what would you say has been the biggest challenge as a full-time artist?

A. Well, of course you deal with the financial and like losing your apartment, losing your car. You know, it’s all a domino effect. Losing a lot of material things, but gaining a lot of artistic freedom I guess.

Q. How has that changed your perspective on life?

A. I guess it simplifies life like what’s important to you. If you can really make it through it and tough it out, you’re meant to do it. It just makes life a little more simple and helps you focus on what’s important and why did you do it.

Q. What do you have planned for the fans tonight with your set?

A. Being that it’s the Outlier first listen and pre-release party, I’m playing six new joints. Never played them before. They’ve been living in the studio. So, six of the tracks that are going to make Outlier, I’m doing live tonight in its purest form. So, I hope I remember all the words haha.

Q. Now, you have Progressions, you have Creative Destruction I and II, you got the Investment and now you have Outlier. Where does Outlier rank among those? 

A. They’re all separate entities. They’re different periods of my life. Even though they all dropped within the last four or five years, they definitely live on their own. So, I can’t really rank them. I respect each of them as kind of a stepping stone.

I really appreciate each project for what it is, but I’ll say Outlier is really a combination of everything that I’ve learned over the whole time and what I’ve wanted to say. I feel like I’m finally at a place where I know what I represent and I know what I want people to take away from me at the end of the day. So, it’s definitely a combination of those past four projects.

Q. Now, you’ve actually been quoted saying that in terms of Outlier, this album is your best work and most important work up to date. What do you mean when you say that?

A. When you’re a full-time artist, no one knows what goes on behind closed doors when it’s studio time and when you’re recording that album in the closet. This right here is the moment where I got to do some soul searching. I got to figure out what do you want to say? Okay, it’s wide open. You’ve got a million hits on a song. You got this. You got that. What do you want to say right now?

I made this album like everything depends on it. I probably made 40 or 50 songs. 10 make the project. So, I’ve never taken this much care to a process. Some people say that’s being a perfectionist. Nah, I just really want to deliver something that can live on.

Q. What’s next for you man?

A. Man, it’s Outlier season. We’re in Baltimore tonight. This is going to be the first listen for people. June is the month man and I’m dropping a single called “Tremendous.” I don’t really consider it a single, meaning it’s like made for radio or anything like that.

It’s going to be the intro to Outlier and I’m going to drop it next week. So, it’s Outlier season. We’re just really trying to make sure that anything we drop right now reaches the most people possible and that message just spreads. It’s Outlier season and after that we’re hoping to get on the road for sure.

Q. You talked about the soul searching you’ve done in this time putting together this project. What’s something new you learned about yourself in this process man?

A. I learned that I’m not scared to delete a dope line even if it’s the sickest bar. I’m not afraid to delete them if it doesn’t meet the purpose of the song. There’s a lot of people that can freestyle real dope, but I really learned that I am becoming a songwriter and I’m not afraid to bring up stuff that has affected me in my life.

I’m really putting it all out there right now. So, I learned that I’m gradually opening up. I heard Kanye say the other day that as an artist your job is to get away with as much as you can get away with and I finally felt like with this Outlier period, I let it go.

I’ve learned a lot about myself. It’s like a cathodic process. It’s really helped me get over a lot of stuff I didn’t understand growing up and when you hear it on the track, it’s like ‘damn I really released that.’ I can move on, so I learned that art is my true calling, it’s my truest expression and I think a lot of people are going to relate to it for that simple fact.

To stay tuned for more blog features, follow my blog karlsinternmedia. Make sure you also subscribe to my YouTube channel while you’re checking out the feature. Most importantly, stay tuned to Kenton Dunson’s movement by visiting dunsonmusic.com and pickup his new album Outlier. Follow him on Instagram @kentondunson. 

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Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas: The man behind the art

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

As an artist, Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas redefines the phrase “triple threat,” impelling the culture from three separate angles; DJ, designer, and author.

As a DJ, Mars has dedicated himself to his craft over the years, having the opportunity to travel internationally performing in one country after the next.

Mars bridges the gap between the musician and the audio engineer. He’s mixed it up on the turntables on the Steve Harvey Morning Show, the Essence Music Festival, on the stage with his good friend and well-known artist Keri Hilson; to name a few.

Mars has completely changed the game as a designer with New Balance, showing his peers that when you dedicate yourself to your craft, the sky is the limit in terms of the doors that can and will open for you. And while he might not have kids walking around with his signature sneakers on like the great Kanye West, one can’t purchase a dope pair of New Balances without respecting the urban culture represented by it. We can thank music moguls like DJ Mars for that.

Mars recently expressed his admiration for the history of the ‘mixtape’ by working with a small team of other invested individuals to publish his first book, The Art Behind The Tape.

In this text, Mars places a focus on the artwork behind mixtape culture and he brings the perspective of top level DJ’s, who paved the way for him, to the forefront of the conversation.

Now, taking a step away from his success as an artist, Mars has been able to remain humble throughout a journey that can leave many people’s head in the clouds.

One might ask, ‘How has he been able to pull that off?’ For him, it’s quite simple; by remaining loyal to his family and friends, by living like an everyday person, by finding inspiration in the people and things around him, and by taking pride in fatherhood.

If you were to ask Mars yourself, he’ll tell you that it’s those things that truly make him successful because if the fame was to ever leave, it’s those things that will define him, when it’s all said and done.

Prepare yourselves to get a full introduction and more into the life and career of Marshall “DJ Mars” Thomas. You’ll walk away from this article feeling like you were a fly on the wall for the behind-the-scenes life of ‘Marshall’ while gaining more insight into ‘Mars.’

Q. How have you been able to remain so humble throughout your journey?

A. I think that’s just apart of my character. It’s not a front, haha. You can see through someone’s humility if they were lying. That’s just who I am. In the music industry, that can work for you and work against you at the same time. For me, that’s just who I am naturally.

Q. Is this something that you would say has worked for you or has it worked against you in the music industry?

A. It has worked for me because part of why I get work is due to the fact that people genuinely like me. I’m a likable person. So, it works for me in that sense. I’m easy to get along with. I’m easy to hire. There’s no BS. If I’m supposed to be at the gig at 9:00, I’m there by 8:30. It’s no stress. It’s like what you were able to witness yourself. I don’t roll with an entourage. I may roll with my crew, but I don’t have an entourage. I don’t come in with 20 people. So, like I said, it works for me in that sense. The people I work for really like my personality and I’m easy to get along with. They know what they’re getting when they hire me.

Now, here’s how my humility sometimes works against me. In the industry, arrogance and attitude is like a shiny jacket. People say they don’t like the shiny suits, but part of what they buy into is arrogance and attitude. People might say that they hate it, but they actually like it because it’s something that they can’t be.

As much as people say they hate Kanye, they love him. I don’t give off that vibe though. That’s just not who I am even though I know that it works in my field and people, to some extent, may like me more if I was on some ‘Yo I’m the s***’ — if I wore my resume on my chest. I don’t do that. If I did that maybe it would get me other gigs; who knows. There’s other DJ’s who’s whole brand is arrogance. That’s their brand and it works for them, but that’s not who I am, so I don’t think that would work for me.

Q. Now, we touched on this a little earlier. You don’t travel with an entourage per say, but you do keep close friends around you. The first night we linked up in New York, I was able to hangout with your homies at the Starter Party. They were telling me some things about you and the upbringing you guys had. They told me about what it was like coming up in those times in your community. How important would you say it is to keep those kind of people around you throughout your journey?

A. It’s super important because at the end of the day, when all this shiny s*** is gone, you still want to be able to go back to your people. I have people I can always go back to regardless of anything. I can DJ in a stadium of 100,000 people or in a room of five people and my boys are still going to support me and treat me the same.

And on another note, my level of success as a DJ inspires the friends that I surround myself with. It’s like their level of success in their lives inspires me. One of my homeboys that you met is a cop and his thing is he wants to be apart of the police force because he doesn’t want it to be like all of them against us. He doesn’t want it to feel that way. He’s mentoring kids and giving kids karate lessons.

My other homeboy that was there helps him out with the mentoring. They’re working together to help the kids out here. So, they’re successful in another realm. They are making sure our kids have immediate ground level mentors to follow. So, I’m looking at that like ‘Damn, that is great.’ They are directly effecting kids on a street level. That’s ultra important. I look at their lives and they look at my life and we’re both able to see what we all bring to the global community. It’s dope. So, you never want to lose those people because those are the people that will have my back no matter if I was DJ Mars on stage or DJ Mars in the hood somewhere. They got my back.

Q. On that Thursday night before NBA All-Star Weekend, I watched you do two sets. You set the tone for the rest of the night during your first set and closed the night out in your second set. How does it feel to know that when you’re on stage behind the turntables, you’re the soundtrack in that particular environment for however long your set lasts?

A. To me, one of the attributes of a good DJ is programming. Programming is like being a good orator — someone who can put on great speeches. It’s like Malcolm X. He put word after word after word for great impact. It’s the same thing with records. You have to understand the value of every record that you play. Every record is meant to take you to another place, so depending on where you’re trying to go with the night…like I know chronologically certain parts of the night I gotta go in a certain direction. So, I have to drive those records. I have to pick those records and play them in either a passive way or in an aggressive way to get a type of reaction.

The first party that night, I came on at midnight. It’s party time. I knew I had to play records quick and fast…get in and get out for maximum impact. For the end of the night, it’s the end of the night. For me to try to replicate what I did at the beginning of the night wouldn’t make sense. It’s the end of the night, the night is winding down and it’s time for people to go; literally. The club is ready to shutdown, so you play records that wind people down because you have to take people’s mind to a different place.

It’s problematic when the club ends and everybody is still crunk to death at 4 a.m. You know? That’s how stuff happens. So, you have to just calm people down. You have to remind them that they have responsibilities in the morning. Sometimes you want people to leave out thinking, ‘You know what? It is kind of late and I need to get up for work in the morning.’ So, you play records that fit the mood for the direction you want people to go in and that’s basically what I do as a DJ. I design a set and it’s always on the fly. I design a set that directs the mood that I want people to go in. My midnight set is different than my late night set because I have different objectives.

Q. I witnessed that at Stage 48 as well. It was fun watching you. Your set was a little over two hours. You seemed to enjoy being one of the first guys in there. I watched your patience as people walked in, hesitated to the dance floor and then eventually made their way to the dance floor and had a great time. People were loving the records you were playing. It was cool watching all of that unfold.

A. Yeah, man. You just gotta play your position. Not every night, am I the headliner and I’m cool with that because some nights that’s just the position that you have to play. That Saturday night, my job was to warm up the crowd. It was to get you in the mood knowing that the party was going to elevate as the night continued. It wasn’t my job to get people all the way there. It wasn’t my job to play all the bangers. My job was to get you out of your jacket, get you to the bar, get you one or two drinks and then get the guys talking to the girls, so that they could get the courage to drag them to the dance floor. So, when the next DJ comes in, all he’s got to do is hit the home run. I just have to get the party to first base. I pretty much set the next DJ up.

You saw how the night went. Every DJ was hitting it out the park, but imagine if I was whack and nobody was on the dance floor, then it would have made everybody’s job harder.

Q. Let’s talk about the importance of building relationships. It seems like you’ve built a lot of relationships over the years with people in the industry and those outside of the industry. The Friday I met up with you at Sony was a cool time because those were people in the music industry in some form or fashion and you pretty much met with them off the strength of relationship. How important would you say it is to build relationships in business and in life in general?

A. I wouldn’t be where I am if relationships hadn’t occurred. I get the gigs I get because I have access to people. I can call and say ‘Hey, what do you guys have going on out there this weekend?’ There’s information I can get because I have relationships with people. Nobody does this alone. I don’t care who you are. There’s nobody out here winning by themselves. They just don’t do it. For me, it’s paramount that we maintain those relationships. That’s all we have. If I can’t walk through a door that’s closed, then what am I? You know what I mean? It’s the relationships that keep things going and keep the doors opening that allows me to continue to work.

Q. We were talking about this after the Beats By Dre Party, which was really dope by the way. We had just left there and as we were walking to the subway, you were talking about how you leave those types of events and those types of weekends very inspired. What is it about those types of weekends, events, and encounters that leave you inspired and able to take something new back to ATL with you?

A. I try to find success in everything. We’ll start with the DJ’s. I look at the other DJ’s and I’m like ‘Damn, this DJ is from where?’ I’ll give you a real life example. There’s a DJ that I spun with that Thursday before All-Star Weekend. He was from Cleveland. That means he impressed somebody so much that they flew him from Cleveland to New York to do this party. So, I’m like ‘Damn, I need to pay attention to his movement because his movement is working.’ Someone saw it fit for him to be spinning at the same party where I was, so let me study him because there’s a grain of success in his movement that has put him here. I’m saying to myself, ‘Let me pay attention to the grain of this guy.’

Now, let’s talk about the Beats By Dre situation. I’m looking at that brand and what they’re doing and how they’re positioning themselves in the market. That weekend, they had the super tough brownstone that was super sweet, the headphones displayed were super sweet, and the atmosphere was super sweet. So, I’m like ‘Okay. The brand is positioning themselves in a certain way. Let me just study what’s going on at this event.’

I take bits and pieces of everybody’s success that I encountered over the weekend and I say ‘Okay. Now, what can I pull from them that will make my situation better?’ Whether it’s a brand, a DJ or a party; whatever the case may be. I look at everything and look at what won and think about how I can include that specific thing into my movement. So, that’s what inspires me, viewing the success of all of these different things because all of them play a role and if you do it right, then you can learn something from everything that you involve yourself in.

For me, it’s not just about DJing. It’s about how I’m perceived out here. You look at the Beats By Dre Party, which was basically a showcase of what they have coming in the future. Maybe I can do something like that to highlight what I have going on. So, I look at everybody’s movement and think about what I can do to have my movement moving in a good direction.

Q. That’s funny to me because you were lounging and just having a great time, but you were also paying close attention to the details of that party. You were working.

A. Yeah and the ill thing is…I’m not sure if you knew this, but the two dudes that we were talking to, for the most part, went to school with me. So, I’m looking at these guys like ‘Man, these are dudes I went to college with and they are the head of this big movement and inspiration during NBA All-Star Weekend.’ I’m sitting there galvanized by their success. I just pay attention. You have to.

Q. What position do those guys hold with Beats By Dre? I was paying attention to the fact that one of your boys was giving us the tour of the brownstone showing us around and showing us some of the new products.

A. He was the one who deals with professional athletes. If you see Richard Sherman walk into the Seahawks’ stadium with a pair of Beats on, my boy gave those to him. So, when you look at ESPN and you see athletes walking into their arena, my homeboys job is to make sure that those highly visible athletes have headphones. Now, my other boy Omar Johnson oversees everything.

Q. Let’s transition man. Let’s talk about your son. You appear to be a great father. You were talking about him a lot, which is expected of a father who cares for his child, obviously. How has him coming into this world impacted your life and how important do you feel it is as a father to care for your child? Especially, in a world where we don’t see a father and son together a lot of the time.

A. I mean, for one it’s my job, haha. I can’t even say it any other way man. I brought him here, so I gotta take care of him. I don’t even have a longer answer to that other than it’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do.

Q. Sometimes I feel like men, especially black men, don’t get the credit they deserve when they’re actually being great fathers. Contrary to what’s put online and on television, there’s actually a lot of great fathers out here too.

A. Exactly. You know what’s funny man? I know more good fathers than ‘dead beat’ dads. I may know one or two bad fathers out of all the fathers I know. Obviously, there’s some bad fathers out there, but I happen to know a whole lot of good ones and I’m happy about that.

Q. When we were at the Starters Party, you mentioned the irony of being at that party and the fact that you consider you and your crew to be the original Starters. What do you mean by that?

A. In junior high, between ‘85 and ’89, is when Starter jackets were real hot in the streets between Public Enemy and N.W.A rocking them real heavy at the time. Starter jackets were the jacket of choice in the winter time. Me and my crew…that was our thing. We rocked more Starter jackets than anybody around us in our junior high school. That’s what we rocked. So, the irony was that two of my boys from those times I’m referring to were with me at that party. It kind of meant something to us because that’s what we rocked as kids. Yo, we used to get two or three different Starter jackets per winter. You couldn’t mess with our crew because we had all of them. All the flavors, we had them. That was us, haha.

Q. Yeah, you guys were talking about all the different Starter jackets — some of which people weren’t even rocking at the time. You guys had the exclusive stuff.

A. Yeah, man. Notre Dame, LSU…we had it all. That was our thing…to rock different jackets. Most people had the staples. They had the Raiders or the New York Giants or the Chicago Bulls. We made sure we got the teams that weren’t necessarily the most popular teams, but were tough at the same time. We were on Starter jackets heavy in those times.

Q. What’s interesting is my generation gets a lot of inspiration from the fashion back in your days. That speaks to how important your generation was to fashion and to hip-hop. That’s pretty cool man.

I’m going to switch gears now. I wanted to focus on DJ Mars the person first. That was crucial given the time I spent with you. Now, I want to ask you some questions about you as an artist.

Before I get to that though, I want to say something. I feel like there’s a lot of ‘Karl Nelsons’ out there, meaning there are a lot of people out here grinding like I am right now. My cousin put us in contact. I hopped on the bus that Thursday after work. It’s a no brainer because I knew that this would be a great opportunity to be around greatness and to be around something out of the ordinary. There’s a lot of young people out here doing the same thing because they’re trying to establish themselves and accomplish their goals.

Two things: if you feel like you have a responsibility to those people, what does that responsibility look like? The second question is what’s your million dollar piece of advice to a person, such as myself, when it comes to this?

A. Let me kind of reframe the question for you. Let’s say you said to me, ‘Why did you let me hang around you?’ It’s because I felt like I didn’t get to where I’m at by myself. What I got from you when you first reached out was like you were trying to take this opportunity to put yourself in a different position later on. So, I’m like ‘Even though this is a different field, he sounds like me 20 years ago. Like ‘Yo, let me do this party because I need to show my skills.’ It was the same energy.

I looked at it like someone helped me, so I want to return the favor. You weren’t on the BS. You were like ‘This is what I’m doing yo. Let me rock with you.’ It was no BS. It was straight up. I felt like I was you several years ago. Someone helped me, so why not return the favor? I didn’t get here just because I’m DJ Mars. I got here because someone believed I was DJ Mars.

Q. Exactly. It’s like Shelley. She saw something in me enough to put herself on the line and be that point of contact. That takes me to the second part of my question. You said that I reminded you of yourself 20 years. What’s something that you felt like you had to do to get from where you were 20 years ago to a place where you were established and found your next step?

A. One thing I did was perfected…well, not perfected. I’m still in the process of perfecting my craft, but I’m a student of the game. I’m always down to learn. There was stuff early on that I didn’t know, but I was like ‘I’m going to know it.’ I didn’t stop.

Some people stop and they give up. I didn’t do that. I kept going. Even when people stop believing in me, I believe in myself. I can’t say it any other way. You have to believe in yourself even when people don’t, because they will not believe in you at some point. Not everybody, but some won’t and the ones who don’t believe are going to be loud and proud about not believing in you, so what I did was work on protecting my craft. I kept the belief that whoever the greatest is, I can be on that level with them. Greater than or not, I believe that I can at least be on the level of whoever the greatest is.

Q. I focused on you as a person because I believe that people out there and those who will read this interview need to know about DJ Mars the guy — your everyday kind of person. I feel like people love someone who they can relate to. Let’s talk about your artistry though.

There’s three parts to it. You’re the established DJ. You’re the author of your own book and on top of that you’re a designer. You’ve been working with New Balance and collaborating with them on some cool kicks for sometime now. First, let’s talk about you as an author. You’re the author of The Art Behind the Tape. When did you sit down and say, ‘I want to be the author of my own book?’

A. Well, I knew that there were a few stories in hip-hop that a lot of people weren’t paying attention to. I kind of knew that there weren’t too many books written on the history of mixtape culture. I was like well ‘I can write it. It’s a need for it in the market, so let me do that.’ As an insider in the culture, I knew I had a leg up on most people because I could call Kid Capri and say here’s what I’m doing; let’s schedule an interview. My database allotted me a ton of access.

I had already knew a lot of the research because I had lived the culture. When Capri made his early tapes, I was buying them. I was apart of the culture from an inside perspective, which helped me write the book and then, like I said, I just knew that it needed to be done, so I just did it.

Q. Can you tell me about your fellow authors and the role they played in making the book a success?

A. It was three of them; Maurice Garland, Tai Saint-Louis, and DJibril Ndiaye. That’s who helped tie up all the loose ends. We set down and were like ‘Okay. Here are the interviews that we have and need to get done. Let’s go do them.’ Once the interviews were done, some of them edited. Some of them did the press releases. So, it was a collective effort.

The book is an historical piece. It’s history because it’s one of the first ones told from an inside perspective. The accuracy is impeccable. If one comes after this, it was inspired by mine.

Q. How long have you been collaborating with well-known sneaker groups to design New Balances?

A. For the past 5 years now. I’ve designed two pairs of sneakers with them and have been working on a web-based campaign with them as well.

Q. Tell me about your last major sneaker collab?

A. We released a new shoe at the same time that my book was published. The sneaker was sold at the New Balance store in New York. We also sent a copy of the book to top level DJ’s who were featured in the book as a thank you to them for being apart of our project.

Q. I watched a video where you named your top five pairs of New Balances. I love the fact that your #1 pair was purchased in Baltimore, by the way, haha. You have a huge collection of New Balances. You weren’t rocking with the New Balances like that when we were in New York, which wasn’t a surprise given the ‘hawk’ was out, haha. If the weather would have been better, what three pairs of New Balances would have made the cut?

A. Haha. Yeah, man that was a different type of cold. Let’s see…I would have had to go with the 990’s, a pair of 550‘s, and a pair of 710’s.

Q. I’ve seen footage of your mixes on the Morning Show for one of the best comedians to ever do it — Steve Harvey. Tell me about that. What brought you to the Steve Harvey Morning Show?

A. Steve saw me on stage at the Essence Music Festival about five years ago. I was performing with Keri Hilson. I had a break and he actually approached me and was like ‘Man, I want to hire you for some of my events.’ When I DJed at one of his events, I rocked it. After the event, I told him that I wanted to DJ on his morning show and the rest has been history man.

Q. You’ve traveled the world as a DJ. This is shown in your video — “Around the World in 60 seconds.” What city that you’ve DJed in has had the biggest affect on your outlook on life and why?

A. Every city and every country offers something different, but I would have to say that Africa and Japan have had the biggest affect on me. Africa is so different than how most people in the states perceive it and the evolution of technology in Japan is just crazy to me.

Q. In basketball, a coach that I have a lot of respect for always tells our players that there’s a difference between loving to play and having a love for the game. Which one do you identify with as a DJ and why? Do you love doing it or have you found that you have a love for it?

A. I love doing it. It’s such a rush that you get controlling the crowd. I love it man. Music is powerful man and I’ve been able to play more of it than some people have listened to in their lifetime. I grew up on hip-hop. If it wasn’t for hip-hop music, I probably wouldn’t be a DJ.

Q. You mentioned earlier that you’re still working to master your art, but you’re obviously a successful DJ by this point. You’re an iconic audio engineer, you’ve been designing sneakers for years now and you’ve even explored other parts of yourself as an author. With that being said, if you were doing none of those three things I just named, given your other interests, what would your career path be?

A. I would be involved with the entertainment industry. I’d most likely be working with content creation in developing TV shows. In college, I studied Communications with a focus in Radio, TV and Films at Clark Atlanta University.

http://theartbehindthetape.com/
http://www.djmars404.com/

Rich Westerlund: Men’s Basketball Head Coach at Crossroads College in Minnesota. Looking back on my Unsung blog features from 2014.

by Karl Nelson II, Intern Media

Back in early November, I had the great opportunity to do a story on my friend and basketball coach at Crossroads College, Coach Rich Westerlund. This came as a blessing because I hadn’t known Rich for that long. I met Rich while working Five Star Baltimore’s basketball camp for two summers.

Not only is Rich a very talented young basketball coach and basketball minded individual, but he’s also a great guy and I respect the character that he has exemplified in my time knowing him, which made this story even more of an honor.

When I interviewed Rich, he shared with me the ups and downs of his coaching career. It just so happens that the ups carry a lot of weight in Rich’s case. He’s found himself in the history books on a couple different occasions. The first came in the beginning of his coaching career when he became the youngest high school basketball coach in the country. The second came when he took the job as head coach at Crossroads College. It was there that he found himself in the history books again as the youngest college basketball coach in the country.

Both of those great moments share a common denominator. They both started off with their share of stresses and adversities. However, the great thing about Rich’s story is that he and his team prevailed in the end in both cases.

How ironic is it that Rich and his team find themselves in another tough circumstance in his second season as head coach? I won’t “sugar coat” the fact that both Rich and his team aren’t having the success this season that they had in the second half of last season as they went on to win a championship after an 0-13 start.

They are experiencing some of the same rough times that they did in the beginning of last season, but that won’t stop them from fighting. If it’s one thing that Rich has instilled in his guys, it’s a mentality of fighting – fighting through the hard workouts, the tough losses, the post-game speeches and the naysayers.

This is why I have all of the confidence in the world in Coach Rich and the Crossroads Men’s Basketball squad that they will leave this season better than they entered it. After all, greatness is not defined by those who respond well during the “ups,” but it’s defined by those who respond well during the “downs.” I have confidence that Rich and the Crossroads College Basketball Program are the kind of individuals that take pride in their attitude and mentality in the midst of the “downs.”

I’m pushing for them to prevail and I encourage those who read this article to do the same. 2014 is no longer here, but a sketch of 2015 is only in the making.