Tuesday, March 20, 2018

"RUM FOR BREAKFAST" Fete in Jamaica...Who Needs Ackee & Saltfish?

If I could just settle in Kingston, Jamaica for a full month before the actual road march, I would. The weekly events at the Bacchanal Jamaica mas camp and affiliated venues keep tempting me, but unfortunately I must settle for watching online from Toronto, and living vicariously through my smartphone and media updates.

Bacchanal Jamaica director Nicholas Franklin stated that RFB was added to the band's event calendar this year to treat loyal supporters and first-time masqueraders alike to a fresh new concept and venue.

Thanks to the Bacchanal Jamaica team and also Jahnai Productions & Management Services for keeping us in the loop on the activities, festivities, and official recaps! Here's a few photos from the RUM FOR BREAKFAST fete  and premium all-inclusive festivities that took place on Saturday, March 17, 2018 at the Hope Zoo from 5a.m. to 12p.m., courtesy of our friends at Bacchanal Jamaica!

KINGSTON, JAMAICA (March 2018) - Patrick the Hype Man, DJ Private Ryan and DJ Cruise kept the Bacchanal Jamaica Rum for Breakfast party vibes high going into the afternoon last Saturday.

The party truly got off the ground just after 8a.m. when the critical mass started to roll into the venue. By now DJ Cruise had warmed up the crowd turning them over to Patrick and DJ Private Ryan who whipped them into a musical frenzy.

"This is the perfect lead up to the climax of the season and has primed our revelers to come out and finish off the season with energy and excitement,” said Michael McMorris Bacchanal Jamaica director.

RUM FOR BREAKFAST event photos via Bacchanal Jamaica: 

Have you seen this year's costumes for the road, from Bacchanal? Check out their website and prepare to fall in love!

Toronto @CarnivalSpotlight: VENOM CARNIVAL


We love Carnival, we love Toronto, and we love to celebrate the beautiful elements of this Caribbean tradition! This year we’ll be featuring the details of ALL masquerade band’s presentation/costume details, to encourage carnival enthusiasts from within the GTA and internationally to take part in our city’s beautiful tribute to Caribbean culture: the Toronto Caribbean Carnival!

BAND: Venom Carnival
2018 THEME: Inked
BAND LAUNCH DATE: Saturday, March 17, 2018

BAND LEADER(S): Aneil Persad, Hayden Joseph


EMAIL: info@venomcarnival.com
TWITTER: www.twitter.com/venom_carnival

For photos, pricing, and additional details, please connect with the bands and section leaders directly:

COLOURS: Black, peach, teal

SECTION LEADER CONTACT (IG): @RebellienneDesigns
COLOURS: Teal, pink, yellow

SECTION LEADER CONTACT (IG): @dreevayinc @shane_ramnarine
COLOURS: Pink, yellow

SECTION LEADER CONTACT (IG): @badbreedcarnival @idirectorx
COLOURS: Black, gold

COLOURS: Aqua, yellow

COLOURS: Pink, orange

COLOURS: Pink, blue

COLOURS: Blue, white

COLOURS: Maroon, grey

COSTUME SECTION 10: Hieroglyphics
COLOURS: Neon yellow, pink, blue, purple

COLOURS: Tan, purple, teal, pink

We are here to support Toronto Carnival and promote Caribbean culture in Canada! We may not catch all details...but we're striving to be thorough! Please contact us at services@kyapublishing.com if we've missed anything or anyone!


CARNIVAL SPOTLIGHT // Toronto’s former reggae dancehall princess Delia Chinn is drawn back into a seductive party lifestyle when she meets Jessica and Victor, members of the Groovy Massive soca dance group. Although Delia’s self-esteem is on the rise, it’s at the expense of her relationship with Ryan and their five-year marriage...a marriage that may not survive her first carnival season. // KYA PUBLISHING (2014)




Monday, March 19, 2018

Toronto Caribbean Carnival 2018 Band Launch Schedule


KYA PUBLISHING LOVES CARNIVAL! The rhythm of carnival season is always exhilarating, from Trinidad to Jamaica to the U.S., and of course in our beloved Toronto, Canada! The band launch rollouts, the mas camp openings, Kiddie Carnival, and the anticipation of the road march day...we're looking forward to documenting the vibrance of this culture and the important role it plays for so many individuals in our city.

Here's an unofficial schedule of the official 2018 launches of the top Carnival bands in Toronto:

Saturday, March 17

EPIC CARNIVAL @Epic_Carnival
Saturday, March 24

Saturday, March 31

Saturday, April 7

Saturday, April 14

D’REGULARS @DNewRegulars
Sunday, April 15

Saturday, April 21

Saturday, April 28

FANTAZIA CARNIVAL @Fantazia_Carnival
Saturday, April 28

COSTUME CREATORS (647) 569-0919 / (416) 990-6737
Saturday, May 5


For the Love of Toronto Carnival & the Preservation of Caribbean Culture in Canada!

Presented on behalf of @CarnivalSpotlight, the Toronto Carnival-focused novel from Kya Publishing.

Order Paperback Book Here

Order eBook Here

Listen to "Carnival Spotlight" Soca Soundtrack by Toronto's @DJMajesty101

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Shenseea & Nailah Blackman: Caribbean Women in Music, the Next Generation

They are the future of Caribbean music. They represent the electronic fusion of international sounds, with the pure and passionate heart of the islands. Generation next. Full of talent, and yet just beginning their careers. The longevity of our music is in good hands.

Hearing Jamaican recording artiste Shenseea and Trinidadian songstress Nailah Blackman performing together on their collaborative tune "Badishh" reminds us about everything that is wonderful in Caribbean music: the rhythms, first and foremost. Those drums! The bounce. The unique blend of voices. The infectious melodies. The familiar dialect. Those of us who love Caribbean music appreciate it because of its vibe, but rate it mainly because of how it makes us feel: ALIVE!

The collaboration of these two young women is a great testament to how the year 2017 concluded, and how 2018 is proving to be thus far. While women across the world were marching, and uniting, and collectively standing in their strength and "reclaiming their spaces" publicly, you could almost feel the shift. Politically. Socially. And now, even musically.

Females in reggae and soca music are not an anomaly, by any means. In fact, women have always played an integral part in the music's flare, development, and soul. Tracing the roots of Jamaican reggae, or Trinidadian soca back generations, we discover names that are as familiar to us now as they were to our predecessors.

Buy "Badishh" on iTunes
Melodies that were catchy in the 60s are still catchy now. Riddims that made our parents dance, are the same riddims--revisited--that make us dance now. Society has evolved and the sounds have evolved with technology, but one thing is consistent: the groove. The sensuality. The electricity that the female voice brings to the sounds from the Caribbean.

Reggae and soca have their distinct differences (and always have) but there are times when the lines are so blurred...and the classification is so irrelevant. When you hear Shenseea and Nailah Blackman performing their hit "Baddish" of the past few months, no one is concerned about what specific category the tunes fall into. As long as it's banging...it almost doesn't matter. Real music lovers don't need a category to appreciate a true, true jam.

That's what made this particular collabo of talents so special: it could have easily been a soca hit during the carnival road march in T&T...and it could groove equally as vibrantly at a street dance in JA. With the addition of the young energy and originality that these two ladies are bringing to the game, they can perform in either genre and still get ratings.


Born Chinsea Lee in Mandeville, Manchester, the 22-year-old can proudly look at her young career and know that she already has a massive hit collaboration with Vybz Kartel on her list of accomplishments. Already. After just entering the Jamaican reggae music scene in 2016. Easily winning the accolades of "Break Out Celebrity" and "Young Hot and Hype Artiste" at the Youth View Awards by the end of the year.

Even before she hit the stage and started travelling the globe, she was a familiar face among the island's promotional industry. A representative of Hennessey, Red Stripe, Magnum, and Smirnoff, Shenseea could only be heard singing in the church up until recently.

Juggling responsibilities of motherhood (she has a son named Raj) and academia, she was enrolled in College and pursuing a career in Entertainment Management just the other day. It hasn't been that long. She went from humbly taking care of her education and her child, to topping music charts and building a tour itinerary that would send her across continents.

It's no secret that Shenseea had a fast descent into stardom, and it's also evident that this is truly just the beginning of what is promising to be a lucrative career. Earlier this year, the Jamaica Star noted that this lady could be classified as a "dancehall singjay-meets-rapper" and she could surely add that her intent is to not only take over the world of reggae, but also top the international charts. Pop music is her first love, and a part of the vision for her future in music.

A former tomboy, Shenseea attended high school in Kingston, but unfortunately wasn't able to settle into a comfortable home routine during her youth. Her mother's employment--and the convenience of being able to stay with family members while her single mother worked--had Shenseea moving around frequently. Dedicated to providing a nurturing environment and lifestyle for her son, she worked hard to be a great example and to step into her greatness.

With the guidance of her manager Romeich Major. Shenseea is headed towards continued momentum. Adding Pepsi, Flow, and Campari to her repertoire of corporate partnerships, her reggae EP this year is sure to solidify her position in the Caribbean music industry. There's a magnetism to her that is unique, and an energy that will continue to push her towards being an amazing performer and young trailblazer.


She didn't have a choice. Being raised the granddaughter of Lord Shorty, the daughter of Abbi Blackman, niece of Isaac Blackman and Nehilet Blackman...it was only natural that Nailah Blackman would emerge as a musical force. A consummate artist, her singing only complemented by her song writing, poetry, fashion design, instrumentation, and dance. An optimist: she knows that her talents are a culmination of her experiences and lineage.

She spells the genre of her family's legacy as S-O-K-A-H, just as her grandmother did. As her grandfather originally intended. The namesake of her mother's clothing brand, and the spirit of her heritage, Nailah clings to the original spelling of the sound that has driven her career to first-time heights.

Gaining inspiration from various genres of music, from soca, to jazz, to East Indian, to pop music, the 20-year-old is determined to keep the original spirit of the music remain within her--as a musical education to others.

Her tracks "Sokah" and "Baila Mami" were just introduced to us last year, in 2017. Already her voice is one that is too unique to not love, and one that is original enough for us to crave it as we go forward in music. We want to hear her forthcoming collaborations. We want to see her perform. We have barely experienced the limits of the artist that is Nailah Blackman, and it is already evident that the journey is going to be one that is full of vibes, amazing vocals, and true energy.

Needless to say, Shenseea and Nailah Blackman are hotter than hot right now. And as they build their catalogs, continue to study their craft, and ascend in the Caribbean music scene and international music industry, we confidently know what legacy they are rooted in. We know where their inspiration has come from. They are two of the freshest female Caribbean artists right now--and there are dozens and dozens more that they have channeled in spirit...some of the baddest females out there:

Alicia Cinnamon
Alison Hinds
Althea & Donna
Angie Ange
Anna Fisher
Audrey Hall
Brick and Lace
Calypso Rose
Carlene Davis
Carol Gonzales
Carol T
Cherine Anderson
Cherry Natural
Claudette Peters
Dawn Penn
Denise Belfon
Destra Garcia
Diana King
Erica Newell
Fay-Ann Lyons Alvarez
Foxy Brown
Hortense Ellis
Irie Love
Janet Kay
JC Lodge
Joanna Marie
Jovi Rockwell
Judy Mowatt
Kim Davis
Kreesha Turner
Kris Kelli
Lady G
Lady Saw (Minister Marion Hall)
Lady Venus
Leba Hibbert
Lil Bitts
Lorna Bennett
Louisa Mark
Macka Diamond
Marcia Aitken
Marcia Griffiths
Michelle Sylvester
Michie and Lou Chi
Millie Small
Miss Thing
Ms Paige
Mystic Davis
Nadia Batson
Nadine Sutherland
Nailah Blackman
Naomi Cowan
Natalie Storm
Pam Hall
Patrice Roberts
Phyllis Dillon
Queen Ifrica
Queen Omega
Queen Paula
Raine Seville
Rita Marley
Rochelle B
Samantha J
Sandra Joy Alcott
Sharon Marley
Sheila Hylton
Sister Carol
Sophia George
Susan Cadogan
Sylvia Tella
Tami Chynn
Tanya Mullings
Tanya Stephens
Tonya P
Winsome B

We love them! We respect them! We honour their contribution to music, and we eagerly await the next wave of sounds, trends, and classics. We have asked Toronto's DJ Majesty to put together a special (but brief) all female reggae and soca mix, in celebration of Ms. Shenseea and Ms. Nailah Blackman in particular...and all those who graciously--and fiercely--came before them.

Listen here: https://soundcloud.com/kyapublishing/kya-publishings-caribbean-women-in-music-2018-female-socareggae-mix-by-dj-majesty

Connect with DJ Majesty here: https://www.instagram.com/djmajesty101/

Inspired by the strength of Caribbean females, here's a fictional love story that was created to the backdrop of those very voices listed above:


Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Chris Rock Netflix Special "TAMBORINE" Review

It was exactly 30 years ago when Chris Rock first made me laugh. He walked into a fast food restaurant in the 1988 film "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" trying to buy ribs, and it was hilarious. Equally entertaining was his 1991 character "Pookie" in New Jack City. And how about his role in 1992's "Boomerang" or his many stand up specials? Iconic.

"Bring the Pain" (1996) and "Bigger and Blacker" (1999) brought tears to my eyes. Chris Rock was the man. He made me holler! He was so clever, and witty. His voice was unique. His jokes were hysterical. And he continued to make fabulous HBO specials up until "Kill the Messenger" in 2008...and then he stopped.

He was kinda off the radar for a bit. Still around, but not super "hot" while other guys like Chappelle and Kevin Hart were working their way up the comedic ranks. He was always great, but not always the most relevant cat in the comedy club.

Admittedly, some of his movies were less than stellar after the fire that was the 90s. There was great messaging and philosophies in the concepts of "Down to Earth" (2001) and in "Head of State" (2003). And I actually really, really enjoyed the 2014 film "Top 5," even though I didn't hear much hype before or after its release.

His TV show "Everybody Hates Chris" (2005-2009) was brilliant. Really good TV. He hosted the Academy Awards a couple of times, and won a couple of prestigious awards, Emmys and Grammys. In the words of Mo'Nique, he is a "well decorated" comedian...but in the words of me: he's a legend. Even after that down time, I never lost faith in him.

Needless to say, right? Obviously, Chris Rock is one of the greatest comedians of our time. Now when I speak of "our" time...I consider Eddie Murphy just to be on the edges of our generation. I was young enough to laugh at his stand-up specials when they first came out, but not old enough to originally catch the context or nuances. What I love about Chris Rock's latest special is that I'm old enough to be in on the joke. Maybe even too old. And that's the beauty of his humour right now...it's right on time, and right in step.

I can appreciate that Chris Rock has grown as a man, and matured as a comedian. He's established a distinct voice as a cultural leader, and even a political figure to a certain extent. His opinions are interesting, his perspectives are sought after. And in his/our "old age"...his humour is now well-defined.

TAMBORINE is the name of the Netflix special that blessed him with millions and millions, and blessed me with some laughter. In fact, since its February 14th release, I've already watched the special twice. This one in particular has resonated with me.

He covered the regular current affairs like pop culture, the odd political climate banter, went into details of fatherhood as a Black man, and the unfortunate unraveling of his marriage in 2016. It was traditional...and it was personal. And I loved every minute of it. I thought it was a tightly written and well executed "stand up routine".

Live from Brooklyn, where Chris Rock was raised (although born in South Carolina), the 53-year old comedian was honest about his position right now. As a seasoned entertainer. As a father to Black children. As a husband, as a single man, and as a wealthy man. The honesty, and introspection is what made this special...well, special to me.

I remember Chris Rock as being loud, and wild, and you never knew what he was gonna say. Unpredictable and such. Images of "CB4" and some of his antics of the past weren't really a concern. He is still outspoken and hilarious...but not with the same reckless abandon that he once had. I trusted his words to be significant...and even when they were slightly off-colour...I knew that there was a bigger message that would be reinforced as a result.

I respect his opinion. I loved to hear his perspectives. I laughed even the second time around when I caught new angles to what he was saying. It was so reflective of the culture, and the growth of the culture...a culture that he was a part of, and a culture that he helped to create.

In conclusion, I just love to see the culture grow. I love to see the same faces that we watched 30 years still on screen doing what they do best. I enjoy watching the growth of their careers, and how they handle adversity. It's interesting to see the ways in which they master their art, and how time and perspective and culture shape the way they deliver their gifts. All of this made watching TAMBORINE extremely enjoyable for me. But it was Chris Rock that made it almost magical, because I felt like he's BACK and not even trying to fade away from the stage. He's going to ride this career out to the fullest, staying on top of his game, and I'll be here every step of the way to watch and laugh out loud. With appreciation.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

SOAR by T.D. Jakes: Book Review

T.D. Jakes has been a huge source of motivation in my life. Like, huge. What started out as a casual reading or casual viewing of his messages, has now turned into a necessity in my life. He is the spiritual voice that speaks directly to me and interprets The Word in a way that I appreciate, understand, and process with thanksgiving.

I've read a many of his books in the past, and have never been disappointed. I watch his weekly service from The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas and love the way he preaches and his communication style over all.

When his latest book "SOAR!" was released in October of 2017, I made sure to get myself a copy. It is a welcome addition to my e-library (this was officially the 6th book purchase I've made through a Kobo e-reader I've had for about 6 years...I'm still trying to get down with the technology), and something I'll most definitely refer to again in the future.

The premise: being an entrepreneur, but doing it in a way that is in alignment with your spiritual vision. "Build Your Vision from the Ground Up" is the tag line, and it is a helpful tool to any Christian...or anyone starting, maintaining, or running a business.

What I love about Bishop Jakes is that although the book is framed in a spiritual context, the lessons are practical and easy-to-apply to the business process for ANYONE who happens to read this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is starting a business, or thinking about starting a business. I'd suggest that anyone currently running a business also take a look at these words for inspiration and very, very helpful and practical tips.

I trust this advice, because I've witnessed T.D. Jakes transform from a southern man of the church, to an international multi-media mogul. And I haven't seen him compromise himself or his beliefs...not one bit. He understands how to communicate his messages, he has evolved with technology, and adjusted his strategies to complement the current social climate.

I've seen him in tears on a pulpit, bringing congregation members to dance in the aisles of their church in joy and revelation. I've seen him posing in skinny jeans out on the streets of New York. He is as versatile as the business climate, and yet his message is as consistent and truthful as it is full of impact.

Some of my favourite points he raised:

* Catch a vision of your destination!

* While imitating those who have gone before you is crucial to your success, knowing how and when to innovate and blaze your own trail is just as vital!

* If you want to shift from expending energy trying to get off the ground to actually flying as an entrepreneur, then you must identify your motivations!

It's a great read. An informative read. An inspirational read. An easy read. I appreciate the words he has written, spoken, and facilitated, and look forward to his next literary project and/or film...television show, etc. He is the consummate businessman, and a great role model in this context, and many others.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Books Aren't For Everybody...But I Believe in Them

It's Black History Month. The time of year where Black creatives, academics, and historians, families, and students, and legacy, and public figures are acknowledged with great regard. They are honoured. They are celebrated. They are invited to spaces that are somewhat difficult to penetrate, oftentimes, during the rest of the year. But this is THEIR time. Everyone's time. Our time. We get to be even more unapologetically Black than we usually are! So we cherish it...regardless.

With all this greatness, it drives me to look internally and wonder about my chosen contribution to Black history/present/future and cyberspace. My books. My writing. My stories. My legacy. My Urban Toronto Tales.

I'm reminded of the Black literary GREATNESS in Canada, particularly each February. I have their books on my shelves. I listen to them speak, and read their words. They are the reflection of our ancestors that we are proud to be affiliated with: intelligent. Reflective. Passionate. Articulate.

I honour them.

I respect them.

I often envy them. Their words are poetic. Descriptive. Lyrical. Literary. Complicated.

It is in their literary greatness, that I am reminded that what I am writing (fiction-wise) is not that. Not at all. To an aristocratic reader, my words will seem infantile and/or uncultured. My plots: unchallenging. My language: common.

Acknowledging that I have now been a serious writer for the majority of my life, with no possible way of stopping...I realize that this may eternally be my style of writing. Common. Conversational. Riddled with slang and colloquialisms. Unbalanced and straightforward. But I also realize that this is how I enjoy capturing my generation. Whether it was my generation, as experienced in 1992...or my generation now, in 2018, I enjoy the every day conversations. I love the common locations, and banal activities. The stereotypical life patterns. The raw dialogue.

I have classified my writing as urban fiction. In my heart I know that these stories are my love letter to the city of Toronto, and to the developing urban culture that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. In a unique position to be first-generation to this country. Influenced by the cultural traditions of another land, yet responsible for excelling and maintaining a lifestyle fit for Canadian reality. Teaching and nurturing the next generation of minds, and being able to witness this progression from all three perspectives. It's wonderful.

Just as it is. Life: just as it happens. People: just as we remember them. I sometimes can't decide if my writing is actually quite horrible...or if it's low key acceptable. I'm human. I question it often. But I do know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to tell the stories of what I see, hear, and feel around me, and I get a joy and satisfaction from putting the words together that only another writer would understand.

These books are most definitely not for everybody. I can unequivocally guarantee that many well-read literary folks would 100% not endorse, approve of, or even turn to the second page of my books.

I can also hope that there are at least a few people in the city that have fun reading these pages, because the stories are unapologetically US...my interpretation of us. In February. In March. In 2018. In 1995. I wanted to be able to remember us exactly as we were. I believe so strongly in the power of representation, and recognition...acceptance...that I can only hope that the mere familiarity of the characters and scenarios, and smiles of reader recognition and nostalgia are enough to make the printing of them worthwhile.

There's nine of them--the Urban Toronto Tales--and I've poured my heart and soul into them over the past 25 years. I started the first Tale when I was 15, and I haven't stopped writing them since...

VIDEO LIGHT - A story about a west-end dancehall princess turned Scarborough "housewife."

REQUEST TO REWIND - A fluffy, reclusive young photographer from Markham meets the city's top DJ and top club promoter and is unexpectedly thrown into a love triangle with these brothers.

FIRST YEAR - A teenage couple from Malvern leave home to attend a "fictional" university in Windsor, where their commitments and characters are put to through their first adult challenges.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS - A college actress struggles with monogamy, and is put into a complicated choice between her career, her love life, and potentially settling down.

EIGHTEEN - An adolescent tale about biracial triplets who leave their hometown of Windsor, Ontario, to start junior high in Toronto, anxious to grow up (needless to say).

THE WAY WE USED TO BE - A collection of eleven short stories about the drama and relationships experienced by most teens during their high school journey, however, these teens are still carrying pagers: it's the 90s.

THE HOOK UP - Four short stories about twenty-somethings looking for love in Toronto, in the late 1990s and 2000s. They have cell phones now.

CARNIVAL SPOTLIGHT - In a follow up to "Video Light," the characters are introduced to the exciting world of Toronto, Carnival...and the unexpected bacchanal threatens their union.

I WISH I NEVER MET HIM - Female cousins (in their late 30s) travel together to Cancun for a vacation, to reevaluate their current relationships and past heartbreaks through a series of conversations and journaling.

Those books are my heart and soul. It is my hope that the also represent the heart and soul of Toronto...from an "urban" cultural perspective.

They're all on sale. All the time...with a boost during Black History Month. It never fails.

And as technology has progressed, so have I. As my skills have improved, so has the content, and editing. They are a reflection of our wonderful city, our wonderful culture...both the urban culture and the Caribbean culture. They are a snapshot of a moment in time.

These books capture collective memories. And I believe in them. Still.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

"Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" is a Brilliant Exercise in Everyday Hilarity

I'm pretty "new" to Netflix, and don't really have any shows that I'm committed to online. As a result, I watch random specials, and documentaries...occasionally binge on old sitcoms (just finished a ten-season Friends recap last month, for example)...but I didn't realize that Jerry Seinfeld's "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee" has existed since 2012? What a wonderful, refreshing, and a brilliant exercise in everyday hilarity! Thanks (yet again) Netflix!

I've been watching a lot of Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, and Dave Chappelle these days, so naturally Netflix suggested I view a few other things they thought I'd like, and yet would never discover on my own. And they were right. This show is really funny, and I think I have a NEW, new appreciation for comedians right now. Especially looking back over decades of life, and realizing just how present they were during various eras, and how they are responsible for so many smiles, so much laughter, and just good memories overall.

Jim Carrey, in the first episode of the latest season made a great comment about his life. He said that just knowing that when he shows up places, or when people see his face, their immediate reaction is joy and/or laughter. He feels good knowing that in his life, he has managed to make an impact that just makes people happy when they see him. End of story.

That's the point of entertainment, needless to say. To bring us away from reality, or introduce us to new realities...to escape, without escaping. And through the most basic form of entertainment...soliciting laughter through jokes. I think pop culture goes through eras where comedy is either really on...or really off. Given the wacky state of political affairs, and other fuckups...comedy is like a necessity right now.

The show, although moving along just fine for the past 5 years...couldn't have come at a better time for me, personally. I imagine that it's move to Netflix is a welcome addition for other entertainment lovers as well. I mean, clearly, an unscripted segment with two professional jokesters is bound to make you laugh at some point?! But what I'm also loving, in addition to the laughs, is the insight that these folks are providing along the way. I'm sure this was 100% the point, when Jerry Seinfeld conceptualized this show. The other side of comedian's minds...how they interact with one another.

The premise itself is funny, because we're expecting them to both be "on"...and in some cases they are, and it manifests many brilliant, honest moments of joy. In some cases it's forced, but still insightful. In the best episodes, Jerry himself can't stop the tears of laughter from falling, and there is absolutely wonderfulness in just watching THAT go down.

Made me think about a few things, overall...and the first was Robin Williams. The most animated of all comedians, with so much of the most unbearable pain. Watching the comedians interact with one another, you can see the personality type more clearly, the eccentricities and intelligence. The commonality I'm noticing with these discussions (and even with stand-up, as of late) is how intrinsically connected these artists are to the world. To human nature. So connected mentally, yet so often disconnected emotionally. They proclaim to be introverts, and socially awkward. They say that they are outcasts, when our entire lives we know them to be the life of any digital party. The paradoxes are fascinating.

It's like musicians: many of them are gone too soon, and we never get to see them mature, or grow wise, or old because of this unbearable uncomfortableness. And then some of them, we get to see the full arch of their lives. The beginning, the peak of their careers, the disappearance, public issues, and resurrection...we get to see the end result of their craft. We see many flourish, and stay grounded. They beat the fame game, and live prosperous lives! Some of them, we're living right beside them...coming of age, falling in love...we are similar in life stages, yet watch them life under their permanent spotlight, performing for us.

One of the things I am enjoying the most about this series--as I easily blaze through new episodes and old--is how many of the comedians we get to reconnect with, later on in life. Even if that later on is just a few months, or a few years...it's nice to be made acquaintance with Stephen Colbert, and Dave Letterman, and I even actually enjoyed Jim Carrey...probably moreso than I did during the height of his career. Go figure.

Some of the comedians were unexpectedly demure, almost. Introspective. It was great to not see them "on"...and just listen to their thoughts and perspectives on life, and their careers. For someone trained in the art of seeing the funny in life, it's amazing to hear what happens...after the funny. When they're not obligated to pretend, but can now freely speak their truths without the confines of their television shows/film careers.

This is what is going to catapult people like Dave Chappelle and Dave Letterman to another public level, I believe (the honesty, and lack of restriction/regulation), and I think what streaming channels and new entertainment-viewing mediums will bring to pop culture in the next few years. A rawness, and genuine truth that we all desperately need to progress, collectively. With faces and voices we've already grown to trust, admire, and love for how they have already injected laughter into our lives.

P.S. The cars, pretty dope too!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Dave Chappelle is Brilliant in his Latest Netflix Specials "Equanimity" & "The Bird Revelations"

Thank you, Netflix! Having TWO new Dave Chappelle stand up comedy specials to watch and bring in the new year was an excellent, excellent idea! "Equanimity" and "The Bird Revelations" were everything I wanted them to be...and more. Dave Chappelle is wonderfully brilliant in both, and I appreciate him on new levels as a result.

His voice, his perspectives, his sense of humour, his honesty, and of course his amazing comedic timing and creativity make him my favourite comedian of all times. I love and appreciate a lot of them. Bill Cosby (yes, still) and Eddie Murphy for what they represented in my childhood. Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, and the Wayans brothers for what they were to our generation growing up, and of course Kevin Hart and Dave for their relevance right now. Their commentary, right now.

I so appreciated the rawness of these latest specials. Like many, I was obsessed with Chappelle's Show in the early 2000's and have watched those DVDs repeatedly over the past decade. The jokes are still funny. The characters still make me laugh, and the sketches will go down in comedy history for their cleverness...and foolishness.

While the television show was beyond classic, what I love now is to see Chappelle post-Comedy Central. Post-speculation. Post-disappearance. He's always been around, and doing regular appearances at comedy clubs and intimate venues across the continent. A true comedian, of course he couldn't just stop cold turkey like that. But as we now understand, he just went low key for a bit. He came off the radar for a bit.

I respect the fact that he hasn't given into the standards of fame that most of us are used to accessing: social media. Politically correct perspectives. Personal life exploitation. The list of reasons why I admire this man are quite opposite from the reasons why I might appreciate some others. For example, I appreciate how Kevin Hart has been forthcoming and transparent about his life, because the lessons and stories are awesome and inspiring. But Chappelle's journey has been different. Quieter. Yet still, quite powerful.

The first two Netflix specials earlier this year were a relief: he was BACK! He was public, he was mainstream, he was on SNL, and ready to take on the world. Those specials were a blessing to Chappelle lovers everywhere. But these two...they're other level.

It has all the expectations of a traditional Chappelle stand up routine, but what I feel is the wisdom. The introspection, and the social responsibility are much, much clearer now. He's still silly, and he's still got a unique style of jokes...but then without notice, he can dig deep, switch the mood, and get right to the heart of many issues. No laughter necessary.

Transgender. Race. Trump. Poverty. Sexual misconduct. There wasn't a touchy topic that he didn't cover, that I wasn't super excited to hear his perspectives. As a serial news-and-entertainment watcher, and someone who is tuned into pop culture and political journalism 24/7, it was literally a blessing to hear this man's thoughts on the past year.

He's brilliant, to put it simply. I love the way his mind works, from the immaturity to the extreme global consciousness. He's brilliant. And I believe he is brilliant, because he is seeing the world as it it...and isn't afraid to provide his analysis to those of us who haven't been exposed to the same shit he's seen.

Fame, power, money, and celebrity are "privileges" that few are given, and even fewer are willing to be so incredibly transparent about. It's beyond interesting to hear someone who can speak on the realities of the glitz and glamour that we consume through media/social media...and to hear new philosophies on "how" and "why" of the business.

While "Equanimity" was more of a traditional stand up special in aesthetic and pace, "The Bird Revelations" was more of an intimate conversation, with a smaller audience and a sober tone. Touchier topics. Less laughter, but more processing of information.

I'll be watching both specials again, and again. I love the way they made me feel, mentally. I love to watch the career of this man expand, and reach new levels of intellect and soul. He's powerful. And will continue to be powerful, if he keeps moving strategically this way.

Most importantly, I loved the reminder that there are dozens of people that we grew up watching as "entertainers"...athletes, comedians, and musicians...who came in with one talent, and have evolved into powerful representations of our culture, our thoughts, and our aspirations. We are watching them grow, and seeing their power and influence multiply as well. It's liberating.

Despite the social injustices covered extremely blatantly by Chappelle in this special, and the realities of race, sex, political, historical, and economic circumstances that continue to make life a challenging course to navigate for some...there was hope within his messages. Hope that with time comes understanding. And with understanding comes recognition, and action, and eventually change.

Shit felt really, really discouraging at times during 2017...from a media lens, and a political/global lens. Things felt off, like mankind was suffering through not only natural disasters but also social disasters on a daily basis. In extreme. The year felt like it was sinking into the depths of despair...but there is still an element of hope, as he expresses via the infinite audience of Netflix. Hope that things can only get better. That awareness and sadly, the unfortunate actions of many, will still somehow bring about change.

I appreciate voices like Mr. Chappelle on so many levels. He's saying things that need to be said, inappropriate or not, and he's opening our eyes. He's making his platform more than just an entertaining one...he's making it a necessary one. I'm grateful for his ability to influence. I'm happy to see his career circle back with a force that no one or no thing can stop going forward. I love what he represents to US...as a generation.

He's someone to be admired. And not for the fame and money, but for the effort he puts in to understanding the world, assessing his place in it, and communicating his lessons publicly. I commend his social responsibility, and look forward to seeing where he goes next.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Why I'm Willing to Forgive Kevin Hart...

I almost didn't read Kevin Hart's book "I Can't Make This Up" because of his recent infidelity scandal. I have been a die hard fan for a few years now, have even traveled out of country (OK, so it was just Buffalo, NY) to see his stand up show, and I'm definitely a follower of his social media profiles.

Eniko is a Jamaican girl (brap brap), so I was thrilled to learn more about her, about them as a couple, and live the hype Hollywood life through their photos, interviews, and Insta-stories. That's what they are there for, right? Our entertainment! I was 100% invested into the Kevin Hart story, and loved to see him hustling his book "I Can't Make This Up" earlier this year.

As a writer, and publisher, and urban cultural enthusiast, Kevin Hart hit all of my favourite things this year. He's a media mogul now, an author, he's a great actor, funny as hell, AND he has a Jamaican woman on his arm! What's not to love?

The cheating scandal. That's what.

It turned my stomach. I threw my hands in the air, and stomped my feet, like why, why whyyyyyy did he have to mess this up?! The great thing about following celebrities and entertainers so closely is that they bring so much access to their world. And if you're someone who follows the lifestyles of the rich and famous as a hobby (guilty!) then you know that the world is always full of clever antics, and great fashion, juicy stories, and good looking people.

And then they fall. Hard, usually.

They always fall. It's an inevitable part of the story, but a part you hope never happens to your favourites. There are the obvious ones that tumble and break our hearts, like Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston, for example. There are the scumbags that we could care less about like Charlie Sheen or Harvey Weinstein. And then there's the in-between where, we love them, we see them...and we're concerned. Like Mariah Carey for example. Love her to pieces...but slightly concerned. Same with Kanye.

So when the news dropped, and that horribly tacky press conference with the chick Kevin messed with came out, and the corny interviews, and the lawyer, I was like...really, bruh? Like, REALLY? Her? All of the affection, and professional respect, and personal interest, and humour-craving, and time invested in this man was thrown out the window.

Yes, I took it that personally. Because I feel like when we invest in the career of entertainers over time, we genuinely become committed to their journey. I love to see them grow into their craft. Or branch out into another form of entertainment and excel. I love to see artists do well, and inspire others. Kevin Hart definitely inspired me!

When my friend and I went to check his What Now? tour in Buffalo, we were in awe. He performed his stand up routine in a stadium, he had an awesome digital display and lighting effects. It was funny: great storytelling about his life, and family. It was a real production! I was impressed. I was inspired, and I was cemented as a Kevin Hart fan.

The cheating scandal delayed me reading his book, however. I purchased the book as soon as it came out, but had to work my way through a few other books before reaching his on the list. So when I got there, it was like a disappointment that he even existed at that point.

Nonetheless, I read the book...and within minutes, and the initial pages, I was drawn into the story of Kevin and never looked back. It was an amazing read. I'm a sucker for biographies, and a notorious book-leaver (I'll read two pages, and forget about it forever if I'm not instantly intrigued...), and this book got me.

It was great!

Not as a fan, but as someone who studies life. And experiences. Someone who loves the story of a good journey, lessons learned, and artists defying the odds to "make it big." This story had all the elements of my favourite type of tale, and I couldn't put it down!

The more I read, the more I shared with friends, as I took Kevin's lessons and anecdotes, and related them to other scenarios. The more I read, the more I gained respect for Kevin, learning about his journey and hardships. The more I read, the more I appreciated his honesty as he told it exactly like it was, and had nothing to hide.

In fact, Kevin was so forthcoming with the skeletons in his closet, that it was actually endearing. I'm surprised he even admitted some of the things that he did...but he did. I had to respect that.

I found myself highlighting passages in the book. Quotes, and thoughts, and many helpful sentences that I knew would help ME through my own personal travels. I found myself being motivated, and getting ideas, and brainstorming, and thinking about great things, as a result of reading HIS story. I was moved. I was happy for him. I was sympathetic.

And even though the book ended just before the scandal began...by the time I finished reading the book, and celebrated the successes outlined in the story, it was hard to stay angry at this stranger Kevin Hart. Although he doesn't know me, and my opinion literally means nothing in the grand scheme of his career...I'd like to believe that I probably represent many fans and followers of this man.

I do believe that he has millions of fans that he brings joy to on a regular basis...and I do believe a good portion of them were disappointed when we found out that he had allegedly messed around on his pregnant wife, Eniko. The internet dialogue was heated, and thick with disgust and reactions similar to my initial one. WHY? WHY NOW?

It seemed like he had built up a great success story, and now was going to have it all lost over some tacky female. It didn't seem like a valid way for his story to end. It wasn't fair. Not to Eniko, and not to the fans that held them both on a great pedestal. I truly believed that it might be the end of his reign.

Described as "an inspirational life story and road map to achieving your dreams"...I think the book almost prepared me to deal with his scandal as well. It reminded me that although the path is set out, and your heart is in the right place...that things don't always go as planned. Even if you're the one that messes it up.

In the book he mentioned:"trusting your gut in situations where your logic contradicts you is terrifying--especially the first time you do it--but it's always the right move." My gut instinct, after reading this book was that Kevin is still a good guy. He means well. He messed up (big time) and embarrassed his family...but he still had many other redeeming qualities. One of which was the art of storytelling.

Through his story, from childhood, to the discipline of his late mother, the crazy antics of his drug-addicted father, as well as tales from his friendships, jobs, his marriage to Torrei, his children, and navigating the stand-up comedy scene...the theme of perseverance and hard work and faith ring strong. Themes that will help anyone, regardless of their personal journey. His lessons are easily transferable, and his life and blessings are a great testament to the fact that they worked. And will work.

He made an excellent point in trusting life. He said, "There is a flow to life, and all you have to do is make the decisions to follow that current--even if it seems to be carrying you away from everyone around you."

The book is filled with great statements, and great philosophies for understanding life, and following your own destiny.

And what more do we want from a fellow like Kevin, who worked hard, and made us laugh, and gave back to the world in his own unique ways? What more can we ask, than for words of wisdom, and a look into his personal life to see how he managed to gain success in an unconventional field of work?

He shared his story. That was enough.

It sucks if the scandal is true, and I never followed up enough to see what the outcome was. All I know is that somehow, the world is overflowing with ridiculously negative energy, and commentary, and actions, and revelations all around us. From politics to local news, there's always something going down...and when I looked at the bigger picture, I realized that Kevin's sex life is really not my concern. Or anyone's. That's up to him and Eniko to work out...and I imagine, they already have.

So if Kevin's negative press is stopping you from reading this book, like it almost stopped me...I encourage you to pick it up anyhow. It's worth it, and actually adds great context to his life...and life is general. Shit happens. I'm not justifying his actions, or anything of the sort...but I think at the end of his days he'll be able to look back at his life as a whole, and hopefully this would have been one minor indiscretion against a world of greater deeds for society.

The book is awesome. Filled with great stories, sad moments, and wonderful victories. It's one of the best autobiographies I've read to date...and I've read a lot of autobiographies in my day. I wish Kevin nothing but the best as he continues to walk through fame and public scrutiny...and if we've learned anything over these past few months of news and drama...it's that life is long. And what's done in the dark eventually comes to the light. I am currently waiting patiently for the White House drama to come to a satisfying end.

For his sake, at least this is out and done, and he can move on. And I hope this serves as a lesson to many, who continue to watch the news and see as MANY careers across disciplines are being ruined by negative actions of their past. It's not worth it. Hopefully Kevin now realizes the importance of living clean, and continuing to put GOOD energy out there. God knows, in the current state of the world, we need all the positivity and laughter that we can get. Which is why I will continue to be a fan of his. I have faith that he too, will learn the best course to follow to sustain his already thriving career.

Good luck, Kevin. I don't believe you came this far to stop now!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson, for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.