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 Rock ‘N’ Roll Pianist, Singer & Actor Jacob Tolliver!

jacob tolliver“Santa Baby” was originally Jacob Tolliver’s least favorite Christmas song—in fact he dreaded it—but when the emerging rock ‘n’ roll artist, pianist, and actor had the idea of collaborating with Full House and Fuller House star Jodie Sweetin for a holiday song, he saw no better choice than the classic record. Tolliver’s 50’s, 60’s, 70’s rock ‘n’ roll piano skills meshes with Sweetin’s pop sound for the rendition, which will release worldwide this Friday, November 16.

“It’s kind of a pretty relevant theme in pop music within the last five, ten years of blending retro sounds with modern beats and modern sounds, like Bruno Mars, Michael Buble, Post Modern Jukebox or Megan Trainor,” he told So Booking Cool in description of the song. “Baby” has now become Tolliver’s favorite.

JODIE AND JACOBTolliver, who hails from Ohio, has been active in music since he was a child. Currently, he is the opener for legendary rock n’ roller Jerry Lee Lewis aka The Killer. Previously, Tolliver portrayed the pianist in the Las Vegas production of “Million Dollar Quartet.” The popular musical tributes the famous recording session between Lewis, Elvis Pressley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins. During his run on the tour, Tolliver was recruited for the 14th season of American Idol. Both stints have allowed Tolliver and Lewis to build a close bond.

“The man truly is a genius,” Tolliver said. Lewis is also an exception to the “never meet your idols” phrase. “He’s 83 and he’s at the point in his life where I think he’d love to see somebody wanting to keep [rock ‘n’ roll] alive and keep it going ‘cause it is really great music. If you’re at a dance and let’s say “Johnny B. Goode” comes on, everybody starts dancing…people love that music, it makes people happy, it makes people dance.” Tolliver’s goal isn’t to copy; it’s to help keep the genre going.

Before making it big time, Tolliver actually was interested in public relations. He saw himself being the publicist for a musician. Proving that life has an interesting way of unraveling, Tolliver was not always passionate about playing the piano. Listen to the interview to learn more about his trajectory, including the time he stopped playing the piano for five years, how friend and Full House creator Jeff Franklin’s party led to Tolliver befriending Sweetin, the book he’s currently reading, Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll by Peter Guralnick (Little, Brown and Company), his thoughts on mentorship and the new Bohemian Rhapsody movie, and more! For more information visit Tolliver’s official website.

Interview With Jerald L. Hoover, Author of “My Friend, My Hero”!

HOOVERThough it took nine years for Jerald L. Hoover to get his book, My Friend, My Hero published, it would later celebrate 25 years of release; win multiple awards and garner accolades; become a semi-finalist in the Gotham Screenplay Contest; and make Hoover a staple in his hometown of Mount Vernon. He was awarded with the WritersCorp Award by president Bill Clinton and was among the top selling black authors in the early 90’s. The professor, motivational speaker, playwright, award-winning author and sports journalist is now excited for the new generation to be introduced to My Friend, My Hero, the first in a series.

The young adult novel tells the story of Bennett Wilson, a level-headed athlete who seemingly has it all with the top colleges lining up to sign him to their basketball roster, but life tests him in a major way when his mother falls ill and behind on the rent, forcing Wilson to consider the bad road he’s always tried to avoid in order to save his family. The novel, which Hoover began writing when he was 17-years-old, is a powerful story of friendship, education, the choices one makes.

25th 3D Light Red Shirt“My endeavor is to reach everyone, but out of everyone I want 1 million young men to read the book because I really think it will shape their thinking to be more positive and proactive,” Hoover told So Booking Cool. “And I really think that will help America going forward.”

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Hoover’s journey to writing My Friend, My Hero and getting it published; how the book is still relevant; why he champions literacy; the comment he’ll always remember from a fellow reader about his book; the marketing ideas he implemented for his book; and info on the series; and more! For more information, follow Hoover on twitter, as well as the Hero Book series.

Interview With “Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story” Author, Marc Shapiro!

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While New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro likens the life of a writer to that of a roller coaster, he also believes that as a creative, the psychological benefits of the craft are high. He would know. Shapiro has written everything from articles, horoscopes, short stories, poems, to approximately 80 celebrity biographies, including the bestseller, J. K. Rowling: The Wizard Behind Harry Potter. Lin Manuel Miranda (check out our review here on Renaissance Man: The Lin Manuel Miranda Story, An Unauthorized Biography)Mary Tyler Moore, George Harrison, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, Adele, and Fifty Shades of Grey author, E.L. James are among the high-profile lives he’s penned. He even wrote one about the hit rock song “Hey Joe.” Recently, he revealed that he finished writing the late Senator John McCain‘s life story (this interview was done prior to the senator’s death).  Shapiro, who says he’s always been attracted to creative people, is also interested in finding out what makes them tick.

“Some days it’s a pain in the butt to make a living doing this, but more often than not, it’s fun. You’re doing what you love to do and making a living, and getting paid for it,” he said.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about Shapiro’s projects, both past and present, including the recent release of his debut short story collection, Short Story Collection: Stories of High Strangeness, the execution of Renaissance Man, his insights on being an author, and journalist, and the time he had three weeks to write the LA Times bestseller, Total Titanic: The Most Up-to-Date Guide to the Disaster of the Century, and more!

Interview With Michelle Staubach Grimes, Author of “Pidge Takes The Stage”!

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Literacy has always mattered to Michelle Staubach Grimes, the daughter of the legendary record-breaking, two-time Super Bowl champion, Roger Staubach. She saw firsthand the value of determination and hard work. Her commitment to literacy was fueled after she attended the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy a decade ago. “That’s when I learned about the literacy crisis and how many kids can’t read, how many adults can’t read…it really inspired me to go back to school and study creative writing at night,” the author and mother of three told So Booking Cool. It also inspired her commitment to help increase literacy rates by teaming up with organizations and programs, as well as launching her own movement, #PidgePromise (Laura Bush and Jimmy Kimmel are among the supporters.)

Pidge Takes the Stage - Book Cover (1)The campaign, which strives to promote reading and writing, is based on Grimes’ character, Pidge from Where is Pidge? and its new sequel, Pidge Takes The Stage, both of which are illustrated by the award-winning editorial cartoonist and art director, Bill DeOre.

The series highlights themes of family, friendship, work ethic, persistence, and discipline. “One of the big lessons in the book [Pidge Takes the Stage] is when Pidge’s teacher says to her ‘unspectacular preparation leads to spectacular results,’ and I took that quote from my dad, who was a football player, when I asked him to describe training camp to me.”

“I say to kids life is a grind, we have to work hard. You may not love school, but you have to work hard at it, not skip your practices, and not give up,” said Grimes.

Listen to the full interview for our discussion about being the middle child, parenting, the dynamics of creating a children’s books, what it was like working with her editor, why aspiring authors need to be astute about their competition, and more! For more information, visit http://www.whereispidge.com/

Interview With Yahdon Israel, Writer and Creator of Literaryswag!

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Photo by John Midgley

An important goal for Yahdon Israel, the creator of the Literaryswag and Lit Platform movement and book club, is to bring more fans to the art, not more artists. Many writers and other industry-related professionals attend book events, whereas at a Beyoncé concert, most of the attendees are not singers but fans, he noted. “If the only reason you enjoy something is just because you’re doing it, then you’re really limiting your capacity for it to affect other people,” the writing instructor explained to So Booking Cool.

“Most people are never gonna be a writer, and they don’t have to be. The [Literaryswag] book club shows you don’t have to be a writer, have an MFA, nor study literature to have something valuable to say about a book. You just have to be someone with a perspective and that’s more than enough.”

Israel, who is based in New York, started writing seriously, as he puts it, when he was nineteen-years-old. Now at 28, the writing instructor said one of the most important aspects of his classes (in addition to learning from his students) is for his students to be able to put into words what they understand of themselves. He will begin his new nearly sold out (only one seat currently remains) creative nonfiction workshop July 9 at Park Slope. Later this month, the Awards VP of the National Book Critics Circle, will host his next book club meet on Wednesday, July 25 at 7pm at the Brooklyn Circus. The event is open to all.

Listen to the full interview to learn how culture and hip hop frame Literaryswag, why he thinks writers and authors should be more visible, his thoughts on black consumerism when it comes to book buying, how he hopes to build his movement to immerse the current and future generations into the appeal of books, the book release he is highly anticipating, and more! For more information on Israel, visit his official website. 

Interview With Allen Maldonado and Kellon Akeem About Their New Film “A Father’s Love”!

 

So Booking Cool recently had the pleasure of discussing storytelling in the form of film with Allen Maldonado and Kellon Akeem who premiered their new movie, A Father’s Love, at the American Black Film Festival (ABFF). The short film, which centers on a teenage couple dealing with intense circumstances, was met with positive reception at the 22nd annual event. “What we want people to take away, without giving the movie away, is that there are all types of fathers out there and all types of situations that go on in people’s homes that you just may never know about….we want to make people aware of everybody’s surroundings,” Akeem said.

A FATHER'S LOVEA Father’s Love is the debut from Mansa Productions, a new film company launched in January by Akeem and actor Jessie T. Usher. The business partners worked with seasoned talent, such as RonReaco Lee and Tichina Arnold, which helped ease the process of producing their first movie.

When chatting with Akeem and Maldonado, it is clear both are excited for what the future holds and are passionate about their craft. In fact, Maldonado, a serial entrepreneur, founded the app, EverybodyDigital to serve as a platform for short-films. He noticed the need when he realized many short-filmmakers feel lost after the film festival circuit ends. The aim is to help creators extend the life of their projects. Similarly, Akeem says he and Jessie are also looking for talent to join Mansa Productions.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about filmmaking, film festivals, Maldonado and Akeem’s big upcoming projects, their advice for aspiring writers, producers, etc., and more! For more information visit Mansa Productions and EverybodyDigital.

Review: “What Truth Sounds Like” by Michael Eric Dyson

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WHAT TRUTH SOUNDS LIKE: RFK, JAMES BALDWIN, AND OUR UNFINISHED CONVERSATION ABOUT RACE IN AMERICA, Michael Eric Dyson. St. Martin’s Press, $24.99 (294p) ISBN-13: 978-1-250-19941-6
Publication date: June 5, 2018

An Acerbic Truth. A Bold Truth. An Encompassing Truth. An Unsettling Truth. A Disruptive Truth. A Troubling Truth. A Terrible (or Terrifying) Truth. A “Truth” Truth (Ruth).

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson’s latest—just happens to be his greatest (book that is). In what is a defining moment in his authorship and critique about all things “race” in America, Dr. Dyson utilizes the full power of his protruding arsenal of words, incalculable intellect, and asymmetrical compulsion for expressing complexity using simplicity as well as simplicity using complexity to tell an unfiltered, uncomfortable, uncompromising truth: An Acerbic Truth. What Truth Sounds Like: RFK, James Baldwin, and our Unfinished Conversation about Race in America is an alarming but astonishing, disturbing yet defining, and exhausting while exhilarating literary spectacle that uses a meeting between then-Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and James Baldwin et al (in May of 1963) as a backdrop to contextualize the current racial climate in America.

Dyson “slices and dices” and “fishes and dishes” an inconvenient, almost mean-spirited, occasionally cryptic, bushel of truth with a perfect admixture of edge and eloquence. Politicians, Artists, Activists, Intellectuals, Crackers, and Bad “Niggers” (one of the chapter titles) beware. Dyson dares to spare no one; not friend, or foe, or historic figure, or president. If you are in his analytical or conjectural line of fire, be prepared to be assailed with verbal projectiles. This book is not for the faint of heart.

Dyson lays the groundwork by recounting the events that led to this historic meeting and provides a brief bio of the major players involved (i.e., Robert F. Kennedy, James Baldwin, Lena Horne, Dr. Kenneth Clark, Lorraine Hansberry, and the only surviving “witness” amongst the aforementioned, Harry Belafonte). However, the most compelling figure in attendance was probably the least known, Freedom Rider Jerome Smith, who did not mince words. When Kennedy intimated that Blacks shouldn’t listen to the incendiary “lyrics” of the Nation of Islam and Malcolm X because that could spell trouble, Smith said, “You don’t have no idea what trouble is,” and that’s when the meeting went downhill—or uphill (depending on your perspective) from that point.

In the succeeding chapters, Dyson uses his verbal scalpel to dissect and his barrister-esque elocution to build a case for the final chapter, “Even If: Wakanda. Forever,” which is arguably Dyson’s most powerful utterance ever. I would humbly suggest the reader to begin by reading the final chapter first to enhance the experience and to better appreciate Dyson’s indomitable genius.

At nearly 60 years old, one can sense as Dyson transitions from “old head” to “elder” that What Truth Sounds Like, is a precursor for what will be his greatest works, which will undoubtedly happen post-Trump. But for now, What Truth Sounds Like, is a Wake-up call for the Woke which is why this book is minimally 25 years ahead of its time.

Thus far, we have only “witnessed” Dyson’s intelligence; his wisdom has yet to be realized—and it is as imminent as our mortality. And, as imminent as his reconciliation with his teacher-mentor-friend-brother: Dr. Cornel West. And that’s an Acerbic Truth, Ruth.

Reviewed by Professor Clifford Benton

Interview with Diann Valentine, Author of “Going The Distance For Love”!

DIANN VALENTINE
Photo by Robert Ector

Love and relationship expert, television personality, entrepreneur, speaker, publisher, and author, Dianne Valentine recently appeared on So Booking Cool in support of her debut book, Going The Distance For Love: 22 Tips On Handling Your Issues and Finding Love…Wherever It May Be. As someone who informs that she has been in love with love since she was seven-years-old, this is an endeavor close to her heart, no pun intended. The book was composed of her and her friends’ personal experiences, a process Valentine described as a “lethargic” in having to think back on her life. However, she used these real stories to provide the lessons learned, and more importantly, to help women realize they are not alone.

“…Even experts and authors kind of create this picture that they have it all figured out and that they’re perfect; and the reality is I am an expert because I’ve lived it, and I’ve seen it, and I’ve experienced it, and I’ve studied it over the course of my entire career. I didn’t wake up yesterday and say ‘oh, I’m a love expert.’ I’ve been with women in love for over twenty-five years,” said the wedding planner and interior designer. Women have appreciated the knowledge, experience, and candor she demonstrates in Going The Distance for Love.

Listen to our full interview with Valentine to learn more about her insights on love, relationships, and being single (including their respective misconceptions), some of her past dating blues, why she thinks black women should consider dating in Rome, her response to our suggestion of her writing a romance a novel, and more! For more information, visit Valentine’s official website.

Review: “Authority Marketing” by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton

authoritymarketingAUTHORITY MARKETING: HOW TO LEVERAGE 7 PILLARS OF THOUGHT LEADERSHIP TO MAKE COMPETITION IRRELEVANT, Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. ForbesBooks, $16.95 (160p) ISBN-13: 978-1946633132
Publication date: May 3, 2018

While many modern business-related books stake claim to having the “answers” few actually deliver. An exception to this trend is the recently published Authority Marketing by Adam Witty and Rusty Shelton. The authors assert in this world of social media, branding, and hypercompetition, the paradigm has shifted from product-centered marketing and personality-centered marketing to “authority-centered” marketing; thus, they have developed the formula: Expertise + Celebrity = Authority.

In short, according to the Witty & Shelton: Effective Authority Marketing involves a strategic process of systematically positioning a person as the leader and expert in his or her industry, community, and marketplace to command an outsized influence and edge on competitors.

The authors cite seven pillars of Authority Marketing (and dedicate a chapter to each one): Branding and Omnipresence; Lead Generation; Content Marketing; PR in Media; Speaking; Events; and Referral Marketing. During the course of these chapters, Witty & Shelton provide compelling anecdotes to illustrate concepts so the reader “gets it.” The language is straightforward, not stuffy, and the authors don’t write as if they are being paid by the number of words (or syllables for that matter).

An example used to illustrate the point of personal branding made by the authors is their mentioning of David Meerman Scott who decided to insert his middle name to distinguish himself from the numerous David Scott(s) across the globe. Think noted sports journalist, Stephen Smith—I mean Stephen A. Smith. Witty & Shelton also discuss the importance of “owning” your media presence, keynote speaking, writing a book, and using Twitter—strategically!

Authority Marketing’s strongest attribute (inarguably) is its intent on being written as a “how to” instead of being a jargon-laden, academic treatise overrun by “analytics” and theoretical constructs. The book is a must-read (excuse the cliché but it applies in this case) for college students (regardless of major), entrepreneurs, and people who want to go from being “dreamers” to being “doers.”

Reviewed by Professor Clifford Benton