Interview With RJ Young, Author of “Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns”!

rj young 3RJ Young was not fond of guns, but that changed when he was determined to build a bond with his then white wife’s father, a gun enthusiast. Young became fixated with guns, and eventually became an NRA-certified pistol instructor. The unique and riveting journey to understanding and experiencing gun culture in America as a black man is tackled in Young’s debut, Let It Bang: A Young Black Man’s Reluctant Odyssey into Guns (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). “There are people who say ‘hey, I’ve never thought about it this way. I still believe what I believe, but I appreciate you giving me your perspective,’” the YouTuber said to So Booking Cool when asked about the response to his memoir.

let it bang“There are other folks who have seen the cover of the book and decided that they know what it’s about. And then there are folks who are pushed to consider it, and it makes them very uncomfortable, and it makes them examine the way in which they walk through the world…mostly what I’m asking folks to do is examine the way the walk through the world and what influence they have that they may not have even considered until recently.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Young, including his upcoming radio show, Fight Me with RJ Young, which was spawned from his hit YouTube channel, in which he gives his commentary on the Oklahoma Sooners to tens of thousands on a daily basis. Young also discusses the time Natural Light Beer awarded him with $40,000 for one of his videos; his thoughts on higher learning; whether he would write another book; his advice for YouTubers and more. Fore more information, visit his channel.

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Review: Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story by Candace Toft

off-the-ropes-coverOFF THE ROPES: THE RON LYLE STORY, Candace Toft. Hamilcar Publications, $27.95 (214p) ISBN-13: 978-1949590012
Publication date: Oct. 31, 2018

What you learn from a book is what really dictates its value. What the book reveals. What the book confronts. What the book asserts. Off the Ropes: The Ron Lyle Story, is the definitive biography about one of boxing’s “the most known and unknown” (homage to Three Six Mafia) heavyweight, Ron Lyle. At a time when the heavyweight division was inarguably at its height—the 1970s—Ron Lyle was unquestionably the most feared and avoided heavyweight. He has had more fights cancelled due to excuses by his opponents than any top-tier fighter in history.

Muhammad Ali only agreed to fight Ron Lyle after he (Lyle) lost to an unheralded heavyweight named Jimmy Young. Joe Frazier and Ken Norton wanted no part of Lyle. George Foreman agreed to fight him only AFTER losing his title to Muhammad Ali in the “Rumble in the Jungle,” which was fought in Kinshasa, Zaire. Jerry Quarry was only willing to fight Lyle a second time when offered a king’s ransom. Of course, as he got older, there were more suitors, (i.e., Jerry Cooney et al), however, Lyle was still a threat to any heavyweight because of his extreme punching power. Earnie Shavers, who is considered by most boxing experts to be the hardest punching fighter in history, declared that no one hit him harder than Lyle.

But, Lyle’s story is so much more than his boxing exploits. He was one of 19 children. His father was a cleric and his mother was devoutly religious. Even though Lyle’s upbringing was strict, his GPS was set to mischief, and then morphed into petty crime. Lyle was convicted of murder, learned to box in prison, served 7 ½ years, became a professional boxer, met a woman—married her—had a child, and pursued becoming heavyweight champion with a level of zeal that would be considered extreme—even for Steve Jobs or Elon Musk.

Like many boxers, Lyle had more “downs” than “ups” and managed to find trouble. However, his devotion to children was second only to his devotion to boxing. We learn that Lyle was charitable, deeply private, overwhelmingly mistrustful, and overburdened with demons. The writer, the late Candace Toft, uses plain language to tell a very complex story. Her writing style allows the reader to gain traction rather than be distracted by language that overreaches. Hall-of-Fame boxing journalist, Al Bernstein, wrote a compelling foreword. Off the Ropes is as good as any boxer-bio/memoir ever written and would be an even better feature film.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Review: GuRu by RuPaul

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GURU, RuPaul. Dey Street Books, $25.99 (208p) ISBN: 9780062862990
Publication date: October 23, 2018

If there is anything RuPaul is more passionate about than being unapologetically fierce, it is probably helping others tap into their fierceness—unapologetically, of course. Now, let’s take it further. It’s great to be fierce and fabulous, but how do you treat others? How do you treat yourself? In his new book, GuRu, RuPaul doesn’t just empower readers to live their best life, he understands that this can effectively be accomplished when people are prompted to take an honest look at themselves and reflect on where their thoughts come from and how much of them are influenced by society. When is the last time you watched, let’s say, a YouTube video and formed your own opinion before looking at the comment section?

GuRu has a plethora of dazzling images that showcase the icon’s versatility in supreme drag queen aesthetics and is an asset to your coffee table. However, it is more than a pretty book with colorful quotes; it is a book that is there whenever you need a reminder that you’re not alone (RuPaul does get personal in the pages), or you need a pick-me-up, and/or a boost of motivation to keep moving forward in life with your head, standards, and heels (if you wear them) high.

Previous book by RuPaul: Workin’ It!: RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style (It Books, 2010).

Rating: So Cool

Rating Scale:
Cool: Decent
So Cool: Good
Booking Cool: Excellent
So Booking Cool: Masterpiece

Interview With Romola Hodas, Author of “The Princess of 42nd Street”!

RomolaHodasHeadshotRomola Hodas is a reminder that we should stop putting time and age limits on our aspirations. At 61-years-old, the author is working on a new business and career in public speaking, a journey she describes as “a lot,” but fun. One of her tricks is telling herself she is 21 and will live past her nineties. As you will note from our interview with Hodas, she champions having a positive outlook on life, especially as someone who’s lived a hard one, as revealed in her new memoir, The Princess of 42nd Street: Surviving My Childhood as the Daughter of Times Square’s King of Porn. Hodas’ father Marty, who passed away four years ago, had an integral part in the formation of 42nd Street, Times Square, which pioneered the American sex industry. This time period of the early 70’s is depicted on the HBO series The Deuce.

The Princess of 42nd Street - Surviving My Childh-largeHodas says the experience of watching the debut season of The Deuce was “surreal.” She’s gone on to become friends with Saul Stein, who portrays her father on the show. Writing about her life and what it was like to be the daughter of a man like Marty Hodas (and her mother) was anything but cathartic for her. She had to relive the abuse from her childhood. “I was just living in hell and it was really hard, and I certainly was drinking a little bit more than I had wanted to, knowing I’d get a handle on it, but it was really hard. I don’t really mind people knowing my story; I really wanted to show people that lots of what we go through, we have a choice,” she told So Booking Cool.

There is an appreciation many seem to have for candidness in general. Hodas is also proud that her book captures her voice, in which she credits writer, producer, and publishing consultant, Elizabeth Ridley. As for what’s next? The New Yorker is working on getting a television deal for The Princess of 42nd Street. Listen to the interview to learn more about Hodas, her upbringing, her publishing experience, her thoughts on The Deuce, child abuse, manifestation, her company Creating Harmony MM, problem drinkers vs. alcoholics, her advice for anyone who desires to start a business, and more! For more information, visit her official website.

Interview With Country Singer, Songwriter & Musician Re Mattei!

rei mattei feels like it's gonna rainCountry singer, songwriter, and musician Re Mattei’s name carries a sentimental meaning. “Re,” derived from her first name Marie, is a tribute to her late grandmother, who called the singer that before she dropped the name. “When people call me Re, it reminds me of my grandmother, so it gives me a warm place in my heart,” she shared with So Booking Cool. The New Jersey native is currently promoting her new single “Feels Like It’s Gonna Rain,” co-written by Carrie Underwood, Don Poythress, and Barry Dean.

The song, which continues to grace the Music Row Country Breakout Chart, tells the story of when one knows a relationship is on the outs but does not want to face the truth. We also discussed her single, “Bump, Bump, Bump,” which Mattei wrote about a personal experience. The song is an upbeat anthem about how music can help one overcome the pain of a breakup.

Mattei became a lover of music early in life. She was intrigued by what she heard on the radio, which led to her writing songs at nine years old and then taking on guitar lessons three years later. It didn’t take long for her to realize she wanted to study music. However, after a meeting with her then guidance counselor, she started to change her mind about her dream.

Re-Mattei-1“He [guidance counselor] made the comment, ‘well, there’s already one Beatles; you got really good grades, you need to be a lawyer or a doctor,’ ” the performer recalled. “I remember I came home that day, and my dad called and asked me how was school, and I said ‘oh fine, I’m probably going to be a doctor or a lawyer.’ ”

Fortunately, Mattei’s father reminded her of her musical aspirations and advised her to follow her heart. And she did. She enrolled at Berklee College of Music, graduated, and landed a music publishing deal to join the Top 40 all-female band, the Uptown Girls, where she traveled around the world as a lead guitarist for three years. Now, she is gearing up for her debut album, Believing and Seeing.

Listen to the interview to learn more about Mattei, her music, some of her favorite artists, what she thinks makes a good artist, Christmas, Dolly Parton, details about her next single, songwriting, her other profession, and more! Fore more information, check out Mattei on social media.

Interview With Conscious Artist and Lyricist Kyle Knight!

kyle knightConscious lyricist, rapper, producer, and businessman, Kyle Knight, is aware that art with heavy material pushes people away sometimes, however, he believes creating art that tackles serious issues is for the betterment of the masses. Knight has discussed topics involving social issues, misogyny, domestic abuse, and political corruption. “I feel that it makes us stronger as a people,” he explained to So Booking Cool. “Not only that, but it grows our consciousness level as people too. And I feel that when you have a good artist, such as myself, and you have good lyrics and good production, and you’re able to make [the social issue] as relevant as possible, then you know you’re in the winning seat.”

Knight’s musical roots played a part in his becoming active in music at the age of seven. In his family’s home recording studio, Knight’s father started him off with production, which sparked a passion for songwriting as well. When it comes to musical influences, James Mtume, Tupac, Nas, and Common are among the names he cites as artists who he believes successfully address social issues. He also admires Bruno Mars for being an artist who refuses to let himself be defined by a specific genre.

When it comes to his advice for those looking to work in the music business, Knight believes in individuality and finding ways to advance old trends. “The sky’s really your limit,” he added. “What I tell the listeners out there is to not be afraid of sacrifice, not to be scared of rejection. Understand that it is a process and you’re not gonna come out an overnight success; you are not gonna come out on Drake’s level overnight. It really takes a ladder to climb and it really takes a road to walk down. It is a marathon, not a sprint.”

Listen to the interview to learn more about Knight, The Truth Chronicles, the positive reception to his single “Hey Sister,” his love for books, music publishing, his thoughts on conscious artists getting accused of “selling out,” and more! For more information, check out Knight’s official website.

Interview With Artist and M.O.U.N. Records CEO Chas Bronxson!

chas bronxsonWith recent biopics such as The New Edition Story and The Bobby Brown Story and documentaries like Unsung, many have come to understand the unfairness that can come with being a music artist, and M.O.U.N. Records founder and CEO, Chas Bronxson is no exception. In fact, it was the infamous shady contracts that he was offered as a teen that would eventually motivate him to take the independent route. “…I couldn’t get a decent record deal with a major record label, and even independent record label because they always offered a contract that just didn’t seem right,” he told So Booking Cool.

What also fueled him to take matters into his own hands was his protégé, Haley Williams, who he was eager to introduce to the world.  The hard work and determination would pay off. Williams’ heartfelt single “I Miss My Daddy” placed number 14 on the Digital Radio Track’s top 150 this past summer.

In addition to producing talent, M.O.U.N. Records, which is an acronym for Makings Of Unforgettable New Records, is launching a nonprofit organization for youth to learn about and use music and poetry as creative outlets. Bronxson also aims for the program to discuss serious topics such as the importance of fatherhood. “We want to make things really good for the kids coming up, so they’ll have something to look to, an outlet to uplift and express whatever it is that they are dealing with in life, to make things better and get the idea to do their own thing.”

Listen to the full interview, to learn more about Bronxson including the inspiration behind the stage name; his creative approach to his craft; his thoughts on internships; his thoughts on the technological benefits for artists and book lovers; when artists should and should not address rumors; the books and authors who have inspired him; his own forthcoming books; his perspective on singing competition shows, the powerful message of his song “When They’re Gone (An Ode to Michael Jackson)” and its controversial video, and a lot more! For more information, visit https://www.mounrecords.com.

Interview With Mathew Knowles About “The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music” and more!

mathew knowlesFront-Cover-Emancipation1800Mr. Mathew Knowles, entrepreneur, record label executive, music mogul, professor, speaker, and bestselling author, recently visited So Booking Cool in support of his new book The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music. While we had the pleasure of gaining some insight about the book months earlier when Mr. Knowles first chatted with us in promotion of his memoir Racism From the Eyes of a Child, our conversation with him this time around reached greater levels.

Our discussion extended beyond how slaves shaped music and vice versa and the compelling research Mr. Knowles and his students found when co-writing The Emancipation of Slaves Through Music; we discussed images in music, particularly pertaining to female artists, in which Mr. Knowles notes that this does not occur in gospel music; who ultimately decides the concepts for artist’s music videos; why Mr. Knowles believes music will become increasingly and entirely visual;  the diversity of the Music World brand; his plans to tell his life story on the screen, as well as his approach to Destiny’s Child: The Untold Story, in which the mogul asserts that no one really knows what went into the music group; his interesting take on “culture vultures”; his public relations book; and a lot more!

Listen to the full interview below and check out the time stamps for select portions. For more information, visit Mr. Knowles’ official website.

Interview With Curtis Bunn, Essence’s Bestselling Author and Founder of the National Book Club Conference!

19999Curtis Bunn founded the National Book Club Conference (NBCC) so readers could have the opportunity to interact with their favorite authors and/or writers. The idea was conceived after he attended country-wide book club meetings for his debut novel, Baggage Check, which became the first Essence magazine bestseller by a black author, with a black editor and agent, a black cover designer, a black distributor, and a black publisher. The NBCC’s 16th annual Literary Bliss weekend, which celebrates African American literature, will begin August 3rd in Atlanta at the InterContinental hotel.

Alice Walker (The Color Purple, among many), Terry McMillan (Waiting to Exhale, among many), Jenifer Lewis (blackish star and author of her memoir, Mother of Black Hollywood), Tayari Jones (An American Marriage, the Oprah’s book club pick), Bryan Stevenson (Just Mercy), and Carl Weber (The Man in 3B) are among the 30 authors of this year’s lineup. While Bunn is glad to have the support of renowned attendees, he is especially excited about the new talent.

“I need the majors, and I love having them because they’re amazing. We need them to attract the readers, but when they come, I always challenge the readers to stretch themselves. Go see someone you’ve never heard of. And almost in every case they’ve done that, they say they’re glad they went there…for me, that’s the mission of the conference, to expose readers to authors they may not have otherwise known about or read.”

Press play to hear how Bunn started the NBCC, his approach to his craft, including how the setting/location in a story is a “character” itself, the developing film adaptations of two of his nine novels, The Old Man in the Club and The Truth is in The Wine, the up-and-coming authors to be featured at Literary Bliss this weekend that he’s excited about, and more! For more information visit Bunn’s official website as well as the official NBCC website.

Review: The Art & Science of Respect: A Memoir by James Prince

JPRINCETHE ART & SCIENCE OF RESPECT: A MEMOIR BY JAMES PRINCE, James Prince. N-The-Water Publishing, $29.99 (296p) ISBN-13: 978-0999837009
Publication date: July 6, 2018

Memoirs can be vain, exhausting, narcissistic treatises that tell you next to nothing about the subject (person); however, that is not the case for the James Prince Memoir, The Art & Science of Respect. If you read between the lines, Prince probably gives up too much information—almost to the point of incriminating himself. Written in a conversational style, it’s as if you’re having a conversation with the former street hustler turned music mogul, boxing manager, and entrepreneur.

And he doesn’t hesitate to name drop. So, you’ll hear him provide intimate anecdotes involving Drake, Floyd “Money” Mayweather, Baby & Lil Wayne (Cash Money), The Geto Boys, Sir Mixalot, Suge Knight, Master P, Biggie, Mike Tyson, Roy Jones, Andre Ward, Don King, Lou DiBella, Kenneth “Supreme” McGriff, Irv Gotti, et al.

Prince doesn’t make it a point to bash or embarrass, but he has had some “uncomfortable” moments with some of the aforementioned. Sometimes, the “disagreements” were handled amicably—and sometimes not.

Prince has more than his fair share of personal baggage as a child of Houston’s notorious Fifth Ward, and he dishes dirt on himself. By no means does he portray himself as some saint. Prince was in the streets, and he earned every bit of his reputation. His riches came with a price: death or the penitentiary. He knew it, and he got out of one game and into another. Prince used his street hustle smarts to make it big in the music industry, and then spun off into other industries.

Here is an example of his transition: “All of my life, I thought the only way to make money off grass was by selling weed—until I started selling hay.” The former illegal “grass” seller became a legal “grass seller”—and I don’t mean medical marijuana. He purchased several acres of land and made money selling hay. Exhibit A of his brilliance.

At the root of Prince’s success is—believe it or not—his spirituality. He has always incorporated it in his thinking, even during his “street” life days. Prince also has an insatiable appetite for success, a maniacal work ethic, and a keen ability to see people for who they truly are (a.k.a., a B.S. Detector). Arguably, his best attribute is his generosity, whether he is providing the “homies” with opportunities to make legal money, buying homes for family members and friends, or building a community center.

The Art & Science of Respect is a quick read that is touching, educational, and inspirational.

Rating: Booking Cool

Rating Scale

Cool: Decent

So Cool: Good

Booking Cool: Excellent

So Booking Cool: Masterpiece