Tag Archives Billboard

Trans Soul Singer Shea Diamond Speaks On Finding Her Voice While In A Male Prison

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Growing up as a trans woman in Flint Michigan, soul singer Shea Diamond, did not have easy. Identifying as a girl from an early age, Shea was constantly being corrected for her doing what came natural to her. I got whoopings for walking like a girl, for using the restroom sitting down like a girl,” says Diamond today. “Even singing when I was little, I remember being corrected: ‘Put some bass in your voice.’ It was like robbing me of the only joy I had in this world.” Desperate to get away from her hometown,  Shea ran away as a teen and at the age of 20, she  was arrested and spent ten years in jail. It was behind bars that Shea found her voice and she sat down with Billboard for their first ever Pride issue to discuss how she went from being a product of every system to creating her song “I am Her,” which has become the anthem for the women’s, trans, and gay movements.

When you are in your early twenties you are still trying to figure out life. That combined with the pressure of keeping up with her classmates is what ultimately landed Shea behind bars for robbing a convenience store at gunpoint. Although Shea was working, the money she was making wasn’t enough to pay for sex reassignment surgery so she decided to take matters into her own hands.

“I was seeing my peers that had guap, a big ol’ roll of money, and here I am waiting on this check. I’m thinking, if I can do this one time, I’ll be able to maybe have an affirming gender and change my life. The first time I did something, I got caught.”

Even though Shea is a trans woman, she was still sentenced to serve her time in a male facility. There, Shea along with other transgender inmates had to deal with sexual harassment from male inmates, as well as the guards,

“In prison, trans people [were] alienated to the point that they’re fantasized about just as much as cis women are. The male inmates would lust over these female officers that they had to walk past every day, and they would try their best to have us [trans women], too. Even the guards would do that. So officers raped us as well. But we’re never considered credible. We had to go through a lot of different channels to bring some of that stuff to light. I became a member of the warden’s forum, which meant I was able to talk to the warden about inmates’ concerns; things that they felt were injustices, things that would make their unit more livable.”

While going through a difficult divorce, Shea was encouraged by another trans women to get out of the house. The first stop on the cheer up train was The Audre Lorde Project in New York where she sang. After that, Shea began being invited out to sing at different protest, which led her to discovery at a “Trans Life Matter” event by song writer Justin Tranter.

For the full interview click here,

Pharrell Gets Chatty About New Beyonce Album, Almost Done?

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In a recent interview with Billboard, Pharrell let loose some details ona myriad of topics and projects he’s working on. First on the list was his “Follow it. Find it.” campaign, hosted by eBay which he curates with other greats like Solange Knowles and several other contributors. It’s essentially a list of great things the curators love and think are dope that can all be found on eBay. Check it out and you might find it to be a little reminiscent of Fancy or Pinterest with their purchase ability.

Afterwards he spoke about his ARTST TLK show where he interviews industry greats and asks them questions about their careers, and calls for them to opine on various popular topics. We actually reported his episode with film legend Spike Lee not too long ago.

What you’ve all been waiting for however, is about as close to an official word on Beyonce’s newest album as we’re probably going to get. When speaking on the amount of time Bey’s been taking he had this to say:

B’s album is crazy. Let me tell you what it is. She’s very particular. She’s a Virgo. And she’s not going to put it out until it’s ready and feels like it’s right to her. She’s got a very specific taste.

This is what we know and love about Beyonce, so there’s no surprise there. But what got our spirit jumping was this next bit:

 [Other people are hearing her album] and are like “Whoa!” And she’s like, “Yeah, I’m almost done.” And she’s the queen.

We’re sure the anticipation is killing us and we’re sure it’s hard for you guys too. Unless she pulls a Magna Carta, we don’t really expect the album for this year, however, 2014 looks promising. You guys have any guesses on what season???




*Pharrell shot courtesy of friend of LiveCivil Ms. Tasha Bleu. Stay tuned for a recap on what all Tasha’s been up to !*

Top of the Charts: Who’s Out and Who’s Up! MMG, Drake, Janelle, Justin and MORE!

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2013 has really been a great year for music so far, with the return of Justin Timberlake, new music from Jay-Z and Kanye, offerings from newcomers Big Sean and J. Cole, this summer was a hot one. We’ve also gotten new Juicy J and 2 Chainz, not to mention MMG, Pusha T, Justin TimberlakeDrake (his commercial release, shame if you got the leak) and many other artists who are waiting for their turn at bat.

At the top of September we watched Tamar Braxton and Ariana Grande battle it out for the top spot with Ariana’s Mariah Carey-esque vocals just beating out Tamar who actually outsold John Legend who she’s OPENING for on tour. Strange turn of events there but solid numbers AND albums by all of those listed. This week (tomorrow) we get to see how 2 Chainz and Janelle Monae’s albums do in their respective genre’s and overall; but we also get some new-new from Rozay and the Maybach Music Group and after “Levels” and “Poor Decisions” I can tell you we’re ALL ready!

And then to keep you on your toes Drake’s OFFICIAL release is next week followed closely by Justin Timberlake on the 27th. Be sure to check out our sister site KarenCivil.com within the next day or so for their Billboard Breakdown to get the final recap with numbers and chart positions and even more discussion about upcoming works. And as always….Live Civil!

Will Smith Reached Out To President Obama On T.I.’s Behalf

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While we were away momentarily, Billboard post their cover story with T.I., which proved to be quite the entertaining read. Tip’s putting the final preparations for his forthcoming project Trouble Man. The LP stands at a pivotal point in Clifford career, a point he even readily admits during his Q&A session. Aside from the actual music and what it’s been like attempting to get his career back on track following correctional facility derailments, T.I. revealed some rather unique information involving none other than Will Smith.

As it turns out, The Fresh Prince is a huge fan of The King; so much so he even attempted to get him freed from prison. From Billboard:

Through the years, you’ve mentioned different people being supportive of everything you’ve gone through, including Eminem. Who else has been there to help?
As you mentioned, of course, Em. He was extremely supportive and inspirational during that time. Busta Rhymes, Puffy, Lyor Cohen, Russell Simmons, Nelly, David Banner, Charlie Mack, Will Smith. Will actually went as far as getting in touch with [attorney general] Eric Holder and the Obama administration trying to see if we could get some kind of release. He was very politely told that was not possible. [laughs]

It was the last time I was going back, and I was going to court for my probation violation. He was in deep discussions about it. And he’s been a huge contributor to the administration, and I mean not just in finances, I’m talking about time and other kinds of efforts, so it ain’t like his words were falling on deaf ears. But I understood. I didn’t even expect no help. I didn’t expect nobody to be able to help me. I knew I made my bed and I knew I had to lay in it.


It goes to show just how far-reaching and influential has become that one of its own went as far as to contact the most recognizable political figure in America to see if he’d throw him a bone. Obviously, Will’s plea didn’t work, but the fact he reached out is awesome in its own right.


In regards to the music though, here’s to praying Tip brings it with T.M. Even he admits No Mercy was rushed and released under less-than-desirable circumstances. With more than a year to prepare this – and over 120 songs records – hopefully this is more vintage T.I. than what we last saw. Who knows, if the album is as good as the listening sessions have been conditioning me to think, maybe President Obama will scoop a copy.


To read the entire interview, click here to purchase the issue.

Discussing Billboard: Why Public Relations Aren’t Public Property

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When I speak about “public relations,” I’m not referring to extreme PDA in a park.  Public relations are celebrity relationships, referring to people who make a living as public figures.  But does this really make their everyday decisions public property?  I won’t bore you with another opinion on the Rihanna and Chris Brown situation.  Instead though, I’d like to discuss the importance of opinion.  But in that same breath, why it stands on a very thin line between appropriateness and not.

The letters Billboard.com recently wrote to the two exes [Rihanna, Chris Brown] obviously came from a place of concern.  And while some opinions feel the two are lacking guidance in their decisions, it’s also evident that they are grown and capable of ruling their selves.  Possibly they are truly determined to rekindle the friendship, if not the relationship too.  Who are we, though, to say whether they should or should not?

Though I have my own personal disregards, the one thing I realized is that my opinion doesn’t really matter.  And neither does yours.  The event that occurred between the two happened between the two, only.  And while fans and supporters, record labels and management teams, press and media were all driven into the dramatic situation, it didn’t happen to us.  Only the two.

Michael Jackson taught us how secluded and lonely a life could become when you live for your fans.  Fantasia overdosed because she couldn’t handle the scrutiny.  Paula Abdul admitted to having battled anorexia because of the strain of public image.  Whitney Houston spoke about the unrelenting pressure for perfection that damaged her relationship and self-esteem.  And even more revealing, the determination to prove critics wrong is what led her deeper into darkness, before she decided to change for self.

And the list goes on and on.  The cycle is apparent.  The letter Billboard wrote to Rihanna was in good spirits, but has many issues.  The most critical comes near the end:

“It’s a burden that is not fair to you, or anyone in pop culture, but it’s one you have to accept.” – Billboard.com

In actuality, it’s not one anyone should have to accept.  And as young as the two pop stars are, they’re allowed to make mistakes.  No matter how painful it may be for the rest of us to watch.  It’s one thing to state your opinion on their life decisions or music choices (such as their recently released remixes), but it’s another to demand a life that even you would never wish to live.  While it’s probably best to keep my opinion of Chris Brown to myself, the best we can do for Rihanna is to respect her as a human being, beyond an entertainer.  Her love life is not to entertain, it’s to fulfill her own personal desires for self.

The ending of the letter doesn’t get much better:

“…in this one instance, we need your message to be perfect.” – Billboard.com

As much as we’d love to see Rihanna as “perfect”, our definition of perfect may not be hers.  And asking for perfection from a human being is like asking for oranges from a grape vine; it’s unnatural.  Furthermore, asking someone –who you personally do not know– to take your advice based upon making others happy instead of their self, is selfish.

I, too, cringed at the thought of the two in a relationship again.  And mostly so because Brown’s arrogance has overpopulated his dynamic performances.  But I’m not a life coach, (though they could probably use this one,) I’m a writer, a music critic, and a fan.  And so are the majority of the rest of us.  So sometimes, as hard as it may be, we have to understand that all matters concerning our favorite people may not be any of our concern.  And the words you choose to help, may be the same words they were fighting to overcome in the first place.  Let’s just hope the true influences in their lives allow them to see the other side of the spectrum.

What are your thoughts?  Whose opinion do you agree with?

Live Civil

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