It’s been a few years since August Alsina’s health scare when he passed out into the crowd in 2014 in New York during a concert that left him in a coma for three days. It was later revealed he had liver disease in a 2017 interview with actress Jada Pinkett Smith, whose family (more or less) took him in and helped him during hard times.
Now, on Jada’s online show “Red Table Talk,” August spoke more about his health struggles, this time about his addiction to Percoset pain pills. Along with Jada, August opened up to Jada’s mother Adrienne Banfield Norris and her sister-in-law Ashley Marie about his addiction. August says his drugs-of-choice were alcohol and marijuana during the early stages of his career, but his dependence on percosets began after his 2014 coma.
During the “Red Table Talk” sit-down, it’s revealed August was taking six percocets a day, but he didn’t think he was addicted because he wasn’t acting like the drug addicts he knew growing up, i.e., pawning the house and car for drugs. August credits Jada for inspiring him to beat his pill-popping habit.
Watch the emotional chat below:
On June 10, manager Mike “Heron” Herard got a mysterious phone call from the Grammy-winning production duo Cool & Dre. Two artists Heron manages, multi-instrumentalist Leon Michels and composer Beat Butcha, had landed placements on a top-secret project that the producers described only as “life-changing.”
They just needed stems of the recordings that Heron had sent them months before, including a four-bar instrumental loop Michels had created in his spare time, and a few tweaks: a new bassline and strings on top.
Days later, Heron got another call: The project was JAY-Z and Beyoncé’s surprise LP as The Carters, Everything Is Love, and the album’s opening track, “Summer,” would feature Michels’ loop. (A bonus track, “Salud!,” featured Butcha’s work.) It was the first time Michels’ music had been sampled since he began working with Heron’s musician management company, BeatHustle, in 2017. Within its first week, “Summer” totaled 9.1 million on-demand streams and 3,000 downloads, according to Nielsen Music, debuting at No. 84 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“It’s Beyoncé and JAY-Z — that’s the top of the mountain,” Michels tells Billboard about the placement, jokingly adding, “It’s all downhill from here, basically.”
The success of Heron’s new music outfit is a window into how the business’ top stars are churning out music faster than ever, increasingly soliciting pieces of ideas from a wide range of creators in order to make as many beats as they can in real time. With that kind of pressure, the old model of producer as crate digger, crafting melodies out of old soul records or on synths or keyboards, is history. The increase in volume has made it more difficult for sampled musicians to claim credit — and payment — for their work, creating an opportunity for businesses like BeatHustle.
“We’re in a climate where people are just trying to get records out really quickly,” says Heron. “I’ve been with guys where they dedicate tons of hours to records just to walk away, and no one credits them. Often there’s nothing malicious in it — it’s just guys trying to hustle.”
In the late 1990s, Heron was part of a community of record-collecting fanatics who would spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars digging through record stores for obscure samples, re-recording them onto LPs and selling the breakbeats to producers like No I.D. and Dr. Dre. Diddy, says Heron, would give one of Heron’s record-collecting friends $10,000 to $15,000 just to go shop for records, many of which wound up on Bad Boy albums like The LOX’s Money, Power, Respect.
“I would go get everything, digging hard, and put all the choice cuts on one album and sell them,” says Heron. “I was making a living doing that — must have been 20 volumes, which was 100 percent illegal.” He laughs. “[BeatHustle] is sort of like what I was doing before, but just, like, 100 percent legal.”
Heron began working with Shady Records in 2013, where he remains vp A&R. But he also started managing musicians on the side, beginning with Robert “G Koop” Mandell and AntMan Wonder three years ago, helping them place original music with hip-hop producers. It was then that he realized there was a problem in the production line.
“In 2018, there’s not a whole bunch of young guys that can actually play instruments,” says Heron. “So I found that those that could were sort of getting taken advantage of. And guys were reaching out to me, like, ‘Hey, man, I got a placement with this guy, I didn’t get paid, I didn’t get any publishing, I wasn’t credited.’ ”
An overlooked credit can equate to millions in lost revenue for a musician. G Koop, for example, provided the melodic backbone to Migos’ “Bad and Boujee,” which Metro Boomin flipped into a No. 1 single that has racked up 1.1 billion on-demand streams and 1 million downloads sold, according to Nielsen Music. Heron says that in the past, G Koop might have gotten a few hundred dollars for his contributions, and no publishing credit. But with BeatHustle, working with people like Metro and his manager Rico Brooks — the two of whom he considers to have “led the charge on fair treatment of these musicians” — G Koop is credited as a co-producer. Heron declines to comment on specific songs but says he’s often able to secure 50-50 splits with producers.
Heron now manages a stable of six composers who, collectively, have contributed to records by Rick Ross, Future, DJ Khaled, Rihanna and others. He has his musicians create original beat packs, which he sends to a tight-knit group of producers he knows and trusts; Cool & Dre, Metro and Murda Beatz, the lattermost producing Drake’s recent No. 1 single, “Nice for What,” are among them. For someone like Michels, who has led several funk bands over the years and worked on records by such artists as Sharon Jones and Lee Fields, the process can be much simpler and more collaborative than just getting sampled.
“I’m not making bridges and choruses and verses, it’s usually just a groove,” he says, noting he’s made around 100 tracks that BeatHustle has sent out. “I’ll do them in a night, just get some weed. They’re not that involved.”
But for producers and artists, particularly in a fast-paced world and in the shadow of high-profile copyright lawsuits like that of Marvin Gaye‘s family against Pharrell and Robin Thicke, the value that BeatHustle provides can make a huge difference.
“The musicians and producers, they’re like a community,” says Heron. “That’s what I like to think of BeatHustle as: just music guys.” This article originally appeared in the June 30 issue of Billboard.
The path to discovering your true passion is rarely an easy road. Case in point: up-and-coming actor, dancer and musical artist Alvester. Before the African-American born performer realized his keen interest for the performing arts, Alvester says he is still a little boy at heart, to his detriment he says at times. But he is definitely self-assured. “It’s not a false self-assurance, not wrapped in arrogance, and cockiness”, it’s actually wrapped in humility and a calmness. He says he knows things are going to happen and it’s God centered. “I believe in myself and I have no self-doubt.”
SDM: Who is Alvester
AM: Alvester Martin is still a little boy at heart, almost to his own detriment at times. At this point in his career and his life, he says he is definitely self-assured.
SDM: How do you feel about doing interviews
AM: I have done a lot of interviews, with so much stuff coming out, he feels like he has a cult following and people don’t really want know who Alvester is. They see past things he has done, like pictures, his Instagram feed, social media posts, and they assume so many things. He says, with great expression, I am totally the opposite of what is depicted in social media.
SDM: How did you get started in the entertainment business
AM: When we first spoke to on the phone about the shoot and we talked about what I wanted, the photographer was surprised me by saying I wanted something basic, and not the “pretty boy” thing.
SDM:Even though he is a pretty boy.
AM: I have been groomed since the age of 5, and have been trained in acting, singing, dancing etc. I feel it’s a gift and a curse. Now that social media is the norm, your judged on who people think you are, and rest on the fact that you are good looking and literally, want to be paid for looking good. However I want people to know that I have much more to offer, than my good looks. When I audition and books gigs, people are so surprised, that I have talent. He says he literally has people contacting him through his social media, and once they have connected they are astonished that he is well spoken. Alvester says he is sometimes bewildered, annoyed and frustrated. Because today’s values place so much emphasis on the looks of person as opposed to their metal. They write you off, before they even find out who you are.
SDM: How did you get involved with Black Magic
AM: I feel, society, the casting directors, and the gatekeepers in the industry have said to him when he walks into a room, “Oh I didn’t think you were going to be that good.” It used to bother me! Alvester says and subsequently, he went through a 4-year depression. “I hated doing Black Magic, I felt they mislead me in the pitch and the script”. I thought it was going be great exposure for me and an excellent opportunity to showcase my skills. They knew him as a background dancer for Beyoncé as his body of work to this point. “I felt the transition had already been hard enough to transcend the title of just a dancer, as well as the financial toll, my artistry took a hit, and my Psyche.” I began to turn down jobs, although I needed to eat. “I feel currently there is already a lack of respect in Hollywood, for dancers generally, however I pressed on.” Ultimately, the show was re-pitched and presented again, it took a few times before I said yes! Once the final pitch was presented, I felt that this was going to be a great opportunity to move away from being a background dancer to a recording artist, which was always in the forefront of his journey, In his mind there was always his mindset that he didn’t move to LA to be a background dancer, although he is grateful for what he has done its just he wanted more!
“I went into a deep depression once again and felt I had hit rock bottom and committed career suicide. I had worked years and his parents had sacrificed their monies, and time to get me my training and go forward.”
During the filming, it became quite apparent that it was not what he signed up for. The show was about being a stripper, which wasn’t his world. People connected with the show who were on the show were making him feel bad for having worked so many years in the industry and having a standard of expertise. As a result of this experience I went into a deep depression once again and felt he had hit rock bottom and committed career suicide. He had worked years and years and his parents have sacrificed their monies, and time to for my training so I could go forward.
SDM: What is your mindset today and what are your future goals
AM: In final, I’m in a whole different place, I have new music, it’s moodier, and it has an edge its more me. It’s what I like, how I feel, and what I think. My music is my diary in life, I accept my acting career now, I hate slashes, I can sing alone and rest on that, I can act alone, and I can dance alone. It is a blessing to be able to stand on my two feet. My actor career is taking off and its great, I have self-discovery and at this point I feel I am walking into the unknown but in a positive way, and its OK to not always feel OK and be OK, but whatever I feel I put that shit in my work and art.
“My acting career is taking off and its great, I have self-discovery and at this point I feel I am is walking into the unknown but in a positive way, and its OK to not always feel OK and be OK, but whatever you feel and whatever I feel put that shit in your work and art.”
The Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has spoken over the years about her struggles to learn to love her hair and skin color. She was taunted as a young girl for her “night-shaded skin,” she has said. She once felt “unbeautiful.”Finally, Ms. Nyong’o said she realized that beauty was not a thing that she could acquire or change. “It was something that I just had to be,” she said at a Black Women in Hollywood luncheon in 2014.
But now, at 34, Ms. Nyong’o has yet again found herself defending that beauty.On the cover of its November issue, the magazine Grazia UK featured an altered image of Ms. Nyong’o. Gone is her mass of curly black hair, held in a thick ponytail at the back of her neck in the original photograph.
On Instagram, in a post that was widely viewed and shared, Ms. Nyong’o rejected the magazine’s use of the image.
As I have made clear so often in the past with every fiber of my being, I embrace my natural heritage and despite having grown up thinking light skin and straight, silky hair were the standards of beauty, I now know that my dark skin and kinky, coily hair are beautiful too.
Being featured on the cover of a magazine fulfills me as it is an opportunity to show other dark, kinky-haired people, and particularly our children, that they are beautiful just the way they are.
I am disappointed that @graziauk invited me to be on their cover and then edited out and smoothed my hair to fit their notion of what beautiful hair looks like. Had I been consulted, I would have explained that I cannot support or condone the omission of what is my native heritage with the intention that they appreciate that there is still a very long way to go to combat the unconscious prejudice against black women’s complexion, hair style and texture.
Ms. Nyong’o affixed the hashtag #dtmh, the acronym for the song “Don’t Touch My Hair,” by Solange Knowles. The London Evening Standard magazine apologized to Ms. Knowles last month for removing a significant portion of her hair from an image that appeared on the cover of its October edition.
In September, the hip-hop artist Nicki Minaj called out magazines for altering her hair while not doing the same to women of other races. “For years, fashion mags would change my hair for their covers but allow women of a diff race to wear the exact style on the cover,” she said on Twitter.
On Friday, Grazia magazine issued a statement apologizing to Ms. Nyong’o but deflecting blame for the image alteration.