Music Artist Spotlight: Juriel Alexander

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Juriel Alexander was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, an infamous haven for some of the greatest Hip Hop and R&B artists. His love for music surfaced at the tender age of 3 years old as he began singing and showcasing his innate talent. With such a passion for vocal expression, it was only natural that Juriel became a member in the church choir and exceeding his prowess. Little did he know that his life would be forever altered as he had begun to mature. with impressive talent and steady determination, he is performing in sold out shows, touring with major artists and recording his best music yet out of one of the hottest recording studios in the heart of Brooklyn. He is even taking the stage at venues that he watched his idols perform. In the midst of his professional career, Juriel has graced the stage and opened for major faces such as the group INTRO, the group RIFF, the princess of comedy JESHILARIOUS, Terrell “T-Rex” Simon, Cory Gunz, T Soul from “The Voice”  and more. He also has singles with artists such as Fred the Godson, Myssone, and Chris Porter. With his single “Uh Huh” circulating on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Prime and anywhere else you may download music, the anticipation of the release of his new single “Everybody Knows” featuring Fred the Godson, and his album, “Made It” on the way; we can expect big things coming from this young prodigy.

Here are some music videos from Juriel Alexander below…

For more on Juriel Alexander check out his website Here.

Mich Le: Jotting My Journeys – London

With the inundating coverage on the royal wedding that we’ve recently been subjected to, I saw fit to write a post about my trips to London. I did go to the royal wedding, but we signed a waiver, so I cannot talk about it (haha, just kidding!). I have, however, been to London twice. The first time it was for work, so I did not get to do too much because we were on schedules.

Funny Story / #DontJudgeMe:  I decided to go shopping on my lunch break during my work trip to London.  What I didn’t realize is that our lunches were also restricted, too, so by the time I’d gotten back, they were 15-20 minutes into the meeting! And here I am walking in with a shopping bag!  Luckily, I was advised that the meeting was in progress in a different room, so I hid my bag in a storage area! I left it there until the next day, as if I’d went on lunch that day and bought it.  I felt so embarrassed – who does that?!

In case you’re wondering, it was a pair of boots. Boots that I received the most compliments on probably out of all my other shoes that year. They were nice, very expensive, but they weren’t of good quality. Talk about not getting what you paid for, geesh.  All of that ducking and diving and hiding for nothing!

My second trip to London, England was last year. By the way, London, England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom are all different, geographically, though they are often used interchangeably. As a Historian at heart, I made sure that I was able to visit the places that I did not get to go to before which were primarily historical places. I had to finagle to get into one of those places (just my luck), but we’ll get to that. I travel a lot, but London, England remains in my top five favorite places to visit. It is actually number two.

Where I stayed:

I stayed at the Caesar Hotel London. It is a four star hotel in the Bayswater section. I’d rate this hotel one of my favorite hotels to have stayed at. It was in a quiet area on a quant gated street, with a serene garden of trees and sitting area directly across from it. The room had more space than I’d expected. If you’ve stayed in other hotels in Europe, you may have noticed that they tend to be on the smaller side.  The hotel had great architecture, and the hotel itself was immaculate. They also had room service which is always a plus in my book (Food in the middle of the night, maybe a drunken one (I said don’t judge me!), and I don’t have to go out and get anything?  Yes, please!)

What I liked the most about the hotel was actually the staff. They were very kind, welcoming, and helpful. Every time we were leaving out, but had a question, we went to the front desk, and they always provided us with a map, and they’d even outline things in order for us to get a better sense of where we were going. The only downside is that it is not close to major tourist sites, or in the liveliest of areas. It was close to shops, restaurants, and pubs, but to really “see” London, we had to catch the Tube, which was very easy to navigate. The hotel was very close to Paddington station and other Tube stops, so you did not have to go far for public transportation.  It was a great hotel, and I would recommend it.

Where I Went:Tower of London

Out of everything that I did, the highlights were my visits to the Tower of London and Westminster Abbey. I have watched many documentaries, movies, and series revolving around the English monarchies, so visiting these places had me like a kid in a candy shop!  If you aren’t familiar, The Tower of London is a castle in central London by the Tower and London bridges. It dates all the way back to about nine centuries ago and was home to many of the royal families and the subject of many siege attempts. It is most notable for the story of The Princes in the Tower (you should really look it up). Also, it houses the Crown Jewels including the crown, scepter, and other items, and they are actively in use by the Queen. Security is tight, and there is no standing around.

West Minster Abbey

I really was in awe when I visited Westminster Abbey. The day that I planned to go, they were having an event, and the limited number of tickets that they had outside of attending the event sold quickly. I pretty much scoured the internet for a long time trying to find tickets because I wanted to visit it so badly. I was lucky enough to find a third party site that I found tickets on.

Majestic is the perfect word to describe Westminster Abbey. Throughout history, it has served the purpose of sanctuary, a place of worship, coronation ceremonies, weddings, and even literally has kings and queens buried inside of it. It was amazing to see the tombs and memorials of some of the people that I actually read about. I was fascinated! Between The Tower of London and Westminster Abbey, I kept picturing the royal families that lived there, what they did, how they entertained visiting kings and queens, I imagined the children running up and down the hallways, the decisions that were made inside the walls, just everything that you could think of.  By the way, they had no heat or insulated walls (of course, it’s thousand year old castle), but it was cold and dark in certain areas.  I don’t know how they did it.

Big Ben and Buckingham Palace

I did see Big Ben, but I saw that the last time as well. Also, I did get a chance to see Buckingham Palace on both of my trips to London.  What I was most surprised about was the vulnerability. I’m quite sure that the royal home has high-tech security, but it just seems so open to have so many spectators just standing around. It was cool to see that the Queen’s Guards (the ones that wear the large furry black hat and red coat) actually do not move! How they stay so still, I do not know. It would also have been cool to get a glimpse of  Her Royal Highness.

Of course I did some shopping as well. I went to the legendary Selfridges and other stores, in the iconic shopping district of Oxford Street. I didn’t eat at anywhere special.

My Thoughts on London:

What I love the most about London is the fact that it is a melting pot. I compare it to New York often. When you visit New York City, you are seldom looked at as if you are out of place, you don’t feel uncomfortable, and you can just blend in. People don’t stare or gawk at you because you may dress or look a little differently, or for any other reasons, but you just blend in. London, at least in my experience, is the same way. I never feel uncomfortable or out of place. I’ve been to other European cities and countries where you feel the opposite. I also love the fact that at every corner, almost literally, there is a piece of history. There may be a castle, a bridge, or the iconic red telephone booths and red buses.

Well, if you read that long and detailed review about my trip to London, thank you! Check out some of my pictures below.

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Big Ben

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Fashion House Coach Goes Dark With Disney X Coach Collection

Fashion House Coach has teamed up with Disney to create a limited-edition line called Disney x Coach “A Dark Fairy Tale.”  When you think of Disney, you think of the iconic big-eared mouse.  This collection is a great deviation from that thought.  Just imagine if your favorite Disney character was a corpse when they saw their reflection in the mirror.  That is what the latest collaboration between the Magic Kingdom and legendary house of style encompasses.  I really like the line.  Many of the items sold out within a week or so of release – including the shoes that I wanted.  Don’t feel sorry for me though; I stalked the site and finally found a pair, and they were sold out again.

I think that the collaboration is successful in marrying a fashion line that hasn’t been known for its edginess, with a bit of a darker twist.  In doing so, there was a risk to both Disney’s character (no pun intended) and the label’s.  Although, Coach has really evolved within recent years, bringing items that are trendy, while keeping much of what made them a successful brand in the first place.  While it is blatantly obvious that their target market is millennials, their new direction was much needed and allowed for the company to emerge from the obscurity that it experienced for a time-period.

Checkout some of pieces of the line below.  Links are under them items.

 

Set Sail Philadelphia 2018 Officially Kicks Off With a Tall Ship Parade

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This past week, ships from all over the globe set sail in the Delaware river.  This marked the official start of Sail Philadelphia 2018, also referred to as the Tall Ship festival.  Thousands gathered on Thursday to watch a dozen of ships set sail in Philadelphia, PA’s iconic Penn’s Landing location.  Ships included in the nautical parade are from Bermuda, Portugal, and the US, with many of the ships being historic.  Close to a whopping 200,000 spectators are expected to gather at the event which will take place up until Memorial Day – Monday, May 28, 2018.  The ships will mostly remained docked and visitors will be able to take tours of the ships, which will cost upwards of $125 for cruises.  The event will also include a carnival, vendors, and family activities.

Click here for more information.

Devil May Cry 4: Special Edition

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Devil May Cry 4, the sequel to DMC 3 was originally released in January of 2008. The story follows both main characters, Nero, a teen who possesses demonic abilities and has vowed to stop the series main lead Dante, the son of Sparta who has assasinated demons from the Order of the Sword. DMC 4 is the second in the series to place control on two characters at the same time, or better yet multiple times throughout the series. The title follows the similar adventure-styled hack and slash as the other previous titles as players possess a myriad of different firearms and swords. When initially released, it was the first entry in the series to have been placed onto multiple consoles consecutively. Although met with positive reviews and praise like DMC 1 & 3 before it, DMC 4 was especially favored due to its challenging difficulty and special moves. In addition, the playable Nero proved to be a fan favorite amongst many. Dante has four different play styles players can use which can add both a complexity and uniqueness to the game. Mixing and matching between styles proves to be fun and the customization element is abstract. Nero however possesses abilities that are more fluid than Dante. Nero carries a bit more speed, style and grace in comparison. Each character has their benefits, it just depends on what you like as the player.

This remastered edition released in mid 2015 not only carries Dante and Nero as playable characters, but also Trish (Dante’s mother), Vergil (Dante’s brother) and Lady a gun toting woman who is Arkham’s daughter from DMC3. It also adds a new special game mode called Legendary Dark Knight which creates an overwhelming amount of enemies on each stage. Japanese and English voice tracks are also included with improved special effects and textures. In all, the game looks cleaner in presence and is still an enjoyable series to own.

Here is a stream of DMC4: Special Edition. Check out the video below.

God of War: Fulfulling Mother’s Wish

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After a long and fulfilling playthrough of the lastest God of War title, the ending was finally reached. Here is the last part of the game in which Kratos and Atreus fulfill his mothers wish. The ending rendered a bit of mixed criticism in my opinion, but you can watch it here for yourself in my game stream.

:::WARNING, VIDEO BELOW CONTAINS SPOILERS:::

Digital Art: Program Buying Guide 5/18

Last month we featured some digital software for design that creatives should purchase to enhance their projects and take them to the next level. Here is another list of software that will heighten any design project. Take a look at them below:

CINEMA 4D

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Cinema 4D is a 3D modeling, animation, motion graphic and rendering application developed by MAXON Computer GmbH in Germany. With Cinema 4D you can create a range of stunning graphics and realistic renderings as seen above. The polygonal modeling, animation, lighting, texturing and rendering is incomparable to most programs. It employs the use of four variants; Prime (Core App), Broadcast (Motion-Graphics), Visualize (Architectural Design) and Studio (All Modules). In addition, a fifth variant was produced in 2014 called Lite which comes packaged with Adobe After Effects.

Click Here to Purchase.

AUTODESK 3DS MAX

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AutoDesk 3DS Max is a 3D computer graphics program for compiling 3D animations, models, games and images developed and produced by Autodesk Media and Entertainment. 3DS Max features an impressive range of materials and texture elements for efficient rendering of any kind, from scenery to people.

Click Here to purchase.

ADOBE ILLUSTRATOR CC

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Adobe Illustrator CC is a vector graphics editor developed and marketed by Adobe Systems. It usually comes prepackaged with the entire Adobe Creative Suite (now Creative Cloud) which includes Illustrator, PhotoShop, InDesign, Dreamweaver, AfterEffects and other notable Adobe applications. Illustrator. Illustrator is built for vector artists and other artists who crave clean cut produced graphics. It employs a myriad of tools such as the paintbrush, the pen, and the pencil

Click Here to purchase.

INKSCAPE

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Inkscape is a free and open-source vector graphics editor which can be used to create or edit vector graphics such as illustrations, diagrams, line arts, charts, logos and complex paintings. It is also compatible with other programs such as Adobe Illustrator. Its primary format is SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics). It can render primitive vector shapes and text and is also capable of embedding, tracing and customizing shapes and gradients. The inner working is similar to Illustrator.

Click Here to purchase.

ARTRAGE

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ArtRage is a bitmap graphics editor for digital painting created by Ambient Design Ltd. The program supports both the Windows and macOS as well as both Apple and Android devices. It is not considered a “professional” program as many other digital applications are as it caters to those of all ages and all different skill levels. Originally it was designed for use with tablets, but has expanded since then. Mediums include oil paint, spray paint, pencil, acrylic and others. Other tools tracing, smearing, blurring, mixing and several others.

Click Here to Purchase

The Locker Room: Tip 2

When You Should Bulk Up and When You Should Cut…

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This topic may be a no brainer to some, but for others it could prove challenging. There is a long standing history with the question of when one should “bulk up” and when one should “cut”. The perfect bulking season is during the Winter and Fall seasons. The reason why is because it is cooler outside and many family gathering holidays become present. This means that we are going to bundle up and of course eat more. With all the extra intake of food, training should be more intense to compensate. This could mean heightening your training level through increased weights or just increasing your reps, anything to get that major pump going. This is also the perfect time to set your supplement cycle, retrieving products that will help build muscle mass and regeneration. As far as cutting, this should occur in the hotter season, specifically Summer and Spring. This is the time in which we wear less clothing and the heat tends to make us perspire. With that being said, taking advantage of this in the gym is your best benefit. One should begin a fierce cardio regiment, while not losing sight of the gains attained in the cooler seasons. So cardio is important as well as weight training, but weight training should be lighter with more reps. You could also stack on cutting supplements.

Want to Add 12 Years to Your Life? Here’s How.

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People are living longer nowadays which has been scientifically proven.  With the advances in science, medicine, and technology, the life expectancy has steadily increased.  There was a small drop of 0.1 years in 2017, but that was the first drop in two decades.  To put it into perspective, in 1960, the average life expectancy was 69.7 years, and it is now 78.6 years.  That isn’t necessarily the largest increase that one would expect in over five decades, but its progression which is what we want.

Although people are living longer, that does not necessarily mean that people are living better.  What does that mean?  Well, those bad habits that we all have, but aren’t so easy to give up.  Some of those habits being far worse than others.  In a recent study done by Harvard, they’ve determined the top five GOOD habits that can add 12 years to your life because who doesn’t want to live to be 90 years old?  That’s a blessing.

Top 5 habits that can add 12 years to your life:

5).          Eat more produce

Fact:  Eating more produce can lead to a 24 percent reduced risk of heart disease, a 33 percent reduced risk of a stroke, and a 28 percent reduction in cardiovascular disease risk.

Tip:  Incorporate more produce in dishes and not just eating them plain.  For instance, instead of just eating broccoli alone, you can incorporate it into a healthy stir-fry dish.

4).          Avoid drinking alcohol  

Fact:  Alcohol impairs judgement when consumed and can lead to drinking and driving, unintended sexual activity, and violent behavior.

Tip:  Set parameters on how much you will drink, mix a drink with a non-alcoholic beverage which will reduce your intake, and try to avoid triggers that may cause you to drink more heavily and frequently.

3).          Exercise regularly:

Fact:  Aside from physical health, regular exercise improves mental health as well.  It can improve your memory, concentration, and creativity.

Tip:  Walk your pet for an extra 15 minutes per day, 3x per day, which is 45 minutes a day, totaling 225 minutes a week.  No pet?  Walk on your lunch break with a friend or co-worker instead of remaining sedentary.

2).          Maintain a healthy weight:

Fact:  Annual medical cost of obesity related illnesses reached $147 billion.

Tip:  Many insurance companies cover visits to a Registered Dietician, so check with your doctor and insurance company.  This is an instance where seeing a professional can reduce having to visit the doctor more often.

1).          Give up smoking:

Fact:  The CDC estimates that adult male smokers lose an average of 13.2 years of life, and female smokers lose 14.5 years of life because of smoking.

Tip:  Replace urges with other mechanisms that can stimulate relaxation.  For instance, get massages every week or replace smoking with activities.  Smoking is an expensive habit.  Try putting money that is normally spent on purchasing cigarettes towards partaking in stimulating and healthy outlets.

Female Hip Hop Pioneers Make History

 

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When we talk about the history of Hip Hop music, we seldom, almost never, mention the contribution that women have had on the industry.  Some of the women in Hip Hop have actually had greater feats than their male counterparts and have broken records.  You have the iconic female MCs such as MC Lyte, Queen Latifah (one of the greatest lyricists, including both male and female, of all time), Roxanne Shante, Monie Love, YoYo, and many others.  However, contrary to what many believe, Lil’ Kim was not the first female rap artist that combined skilled lyricism with sex appeal.  That achievement goes to the iconic rap group, Salt-n-Pepa.  Yes, before Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, and Nicki Minaj – all female rappers notorious for their inclusion of sexiness in their overall images, there was Salt-n-Peppa.  Just to note, that is not a biased opinion on women in Hip Hop having to be sexy, hence LL Cool J long being noted as a good MC and sex symbol.

Nevertheless, the Grammy Award trio, including DJ Spinderella, have recently made history becoming the first Rap/Hip Hop artists, male or female, to land a Las Vegas residency. To kick things off, they recently performed a medley of their hits on last night’s Billboard Music Awards.  They performed some of their greatest hits including “Shoop”, “Whatta Man”, and “Let’s Talk About Sex” – the latter being a ground-breaking hit where musicians specifically called out sex, safe sex, and the importance of it.  They did not allude to it or may a quick reference, but they spoke specifically about it.  That is something that was never done before until them.  It came during a critical time in history when the HIV and AIDS epidemic was gaining attention, but there still wasn’t enough effort made to combat the disease.  During the 80s and 90s, the FemCees solidified their place in Hip Hop, paving the way for many of the rappers today.

While we are on the subject of groundbreaking female rappers in history, there have been others that have broken records and paved the way.  In 1984, a 14 year old rapper from Queens, NY by the name of Roxane Shante became the first known female battle rapper, crushing guys in battle raps while still learning the basics of Algebra (insert Daaaammnnn! here).  Then there is my personal favorite, deemed one of the very first “conscious” rappers, Queen Latifah.  Overall, she is the most successful in terms of fame.  She is a rapper, singer, actor, producer, talk show host, movie star, Broadway star, and the list goes on.  Yeah, I love me some Queen La (insert head nod to U.N.I.T.Y. here).  Then there is MC Lyte who was the first solo female rapper to release a full album.  Da Brat was the first solo female rapper to have her album go platinum.  And Lauryn Hill is a whole other conversation (a good one).  And of course, Lil’ Kim.  Salt-n-Pepa may have opened the door for being sexy and still having good rhymes, but Lil’ Kim undeniably kicked the door down.  Not only was she forward about sex, and the personification of it, there is no denying that she is also one of the most skilled rappers ever.

Yeah, so, the ladies of rap deserve acknowledgement as well.  Personally, I am an old school Hip Hop head. I’ll just say the classics.  I am not feeling the direction that rap is going in at all.  Skills are a thing of the past, and auto-tune appears to be a thing of the future (insert screw-face/it’s lame/shaking my head here).

In the meantime, walk down memory-lane with me below.