The One & Only… ASSASSIN

PANACHE: Hi Assassin, so as 2016 rolls in, what are you celebrating or most thankful for right now?

Assassin: In 2016, I am celebrating 15 years in my career. There is a lot to be grateful for in that. I’m most thankful that through it all, I’ve been able to do what I love and grow as an artiste but most importantly, as an individual. I’m most grateful for my family, friends and core support.

PANACHE: Tell us about your latest work and what you hope people take away from it?

Assassin: Earlier this year, I released my album “Theory Of Reggaetivity”. I had a great experience working on the project and I hope people will get that I poured my heart into it and also of course be positively moved by the music. After all, it’s ‘Reggaetivity no Negativity’.

PANACHE: What would you say has been your key to success over the years?

Assassin: I think my sincere love and respect for art form Reggae/Dancehall, has been the key influence in my decisions and actions and as such I have been able to commit to developing and improving on my craft with hard work. The kind of work that only the true love of it can get you do… The 5 a.m. running on the beach to improve stamina, breathing techniques and the very discipline of waking up every morning before the sun to work on my craft. The countless hours spent just being around people I figured I could learn from to improve and finding lessons where none was being taught… I could go on for days…

PANACHE: With such a high profile life, how do you keep your privacy?

Assassin: I have always tried consciously to separate my personal life from my professional. Understanding that there is the inevitable overlap, it becomes a matter of discretion and management. With social media being a new and ever changing phenomenon, I’m still learning how to keep the delicate balance.

PANACHE: What is the biggest misconception people have about you?

Assassin: I would have to say, it seems no matter what age I am, people always seem to think I’m much older. Recently had a 30 year old man try to convince me that his mother and I were classmates… I’m 2 years his senior.

PANACHE:What do you love to do outside of work?

Assassin: I love to spending time with my family. I love going to the movies or catching one at home. I love playing football and basketball and I love home gardening or rather home farming… #BackyardToKitchen

PANACHE:What advice do you have for young artistes in the industry?

Assassin: Love and respect the music. Identify where you want to go and work hard at continuing to develop yourself and your craft. And be true to yourself, do not compromise your values nor beliefs for anything.

PANACHE: If you were offered the opportunity to start a fashion line or open restaurant or something else of your choice. Which would you choose and why?

Assassin: I’ve always had a love for architecture and construction and so something in that sector. Also home ownership is one of the ultimate goals many individuals have and shelter is a basic need, so it would be another area in which I could positively impact people’s lives.

PANACHE: Name one thing you love and hate about social media?

Assassin: I love the fact that it’s a way to connect with so many people all over the world but at the same time it can disconnect and distract you from those in your immediate surroundings. It’s like Social/Anti-Social Media. |P|

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Introducing Vivian Green

On the heels of her new single climbing the charts and a recent Soul Train Centric Certified Award nomination, songstress Vivian Green presents a strikingly kaleidoscopic about face with her remarkable fifth album Vivid. Helmed by multiplatinum producer Kwamé (Mary J. Blige, Keyshia Cole, Christina Aguilera, Fantasia), Vivid marks a new phase in the career of one of the most dexterous voices in contemporary R&B. Engaging a vast array of styles, from jubilant retro pop and her signature balladry to sample-laden funky steppers and passionate duets, Vivid is a bold venture in a new musical direction for an artist stepping out of her comfort zone. As a teen back in her hometown of Philadelphia, Vivian began actively pursuing her love of music. Her unique blend of moxie and unparalleled dedication to her craft eventually landed her an opportunity to join the roster of Ruffhouse Records, home of artists such as Kris Kross, Cypress Hill, and the legendary Fugees. Though short-lived, the opportunity was confirmation of her extraordinary talent and a segue to other opportunities within the music industry. In 1997, Vivian garnered a placement as a songwriter on Grammy winning vocal group Boyz II Men’s chart topping multiplatinum album Evolution.

After high school, Vivian’s ambition and growing reputation as a vocal powerhouse earned her a spot singing background vocals for another Philadelphia singer-songwriter on the rise: Jill Scott. But it wasn’t long before Vivian caught the eyes and ears of executives at Columbia Records, prompting the label to offer her a solo recording contract. The result was her 2002 debut album A Love Story, featuring the Billboard top 40 hit single “Emotional Rollercoaster.” The album was soon certified gold and reached the top 10 of the R&B/ Hip-Hop charts. In addition to her newfound solo success, Vivian made her acting debut with appearances in projects such as the Irwin Winkler directed MGM film De-Lovely and the ABC television series American Dreams. It was official: Vivian Green had arrived. Her eponymous follow up on Columbia, issued in 2005, reached the top 20 of the Billboard 200 and produced the R&B hit “Gotta Go Gotta Leave (Tired).” In 2010, Vivian released her 3rd solo album Beautiful via E1 Music. Produced by Anthony Bell (Jazmine Sullivan, Jaheim, Estelle), the album reached #13 on the Billboard indie albums chart. The title track reached #53 on the Billboard R&B charts.

The Green Room followed in 2012, cracking the Billboard R&B top 20 albums chart. That same year, Vivian collaborated with Verve Records recording artist/ jazz instrumentalist Brian Culbertson on “Still Here” – a silky duet with a considerable presence on the Billboard R&B singles chart. For a decade, Vivian had enjoyed a thriving career as an artist with a robust groundswell of support from her staunch fan base. Yet as she and Kwamé began sketching out the makings of her next project, the tides of change began to roll in. “When we went into our first recording session, he said, ‘Listen, you are known for making this sad girl music’,” laughs Vivian. “’But you come in here and you’re nothing like that. You’re silly; you’re crazy; you’re fun. So how come you’ve never made music that was reflective of who you are?’ And I couldn’t answer that. So he said, ‘Well, you know what? We’re going to do it this time’.” In an effort to fine tune the vision for the new album, Vivian and Kwame implemented a deliberate sonic and thematic shift that accurately reflected the true range of her dynamic personality. The result is Vivid, a multihued, supple body of work that finds Vivian weaving tried and true themes of tribulation into textured tapestries of lyrical triumph. “I always hear these stories from my fans about how my music got them through things,” Vivian explains. “Some of them may still need to hear that sad sentiment. But I can’t write songs like that anymore. I want my songs to embody some sort of solution now.”

To shore up the effort, Vivid also functions as a vibrant musical exploration and reinvention in one fell swoop. Cleverly employing a sample of Frankie Beverly & Maze’s 1981 funk classic “Before I Let Go,” Vivid’s lead single “Get Right Back To My Baby” is a testament to the potency of good love. While the hip shaking track has effectively served as a successful reintroduction to her audience with overwhelmingly positive reception, it almost didn’t come to fruition. “I didn’t think it was for me,” she concedes of the upbeat tune.

With encouragement from Kwamé, Vivian recorded the song to completion. To her surprise, Kwamé wasn’t done proving his point that the song had the makings of a hit. “Unbeknownst to me, he put it out as a buzz record. And people like Centric, VH1 Soul, DJ Booth, ThisIsRnB, and You Know I Got Soul all started posting it. Before we knew it people were talking about it and doing little write ups about it. The response was completely positive.” Before long, radio stations in key markets such as WBLS (New York), KJLH (LA), and WHUR (DC) began to put the tune in rotation. Vivian’s new sound resonated with old and new fans alike. “The record took of before we were even ready for it to take off,” she remembers. Frankie Beverly himself gave the song his stamp of approval during a radio interview. This was all confirmation that Vivid was headed in the right direction. The song was officially released in the spring, accompanied by a music video directed by Derek Blanks. “Get Right Back To My Baby” soon reached #4 on the Billboard Adult R&B Songs chart – her highest charting single in a decade. Vivian expands on the premise of passion filled intoxication with an assist from Raheem DeVaughn on “All I Want Is You,” an exceedingly sensual vocal duet – a career first on a variety of levels. “I thought about it for a minute and I don’t know if I’ve ever done a song that sexy before,” Vivian remarks. “Especially after I listened to Raheem do his verse in the studio.” “Count Your Blessings,” featuring gospel vocalist Treena Ferebee, gives listeners an impassioned and semi autobiographical glimpse into Vivian’s wondrous journey to success and her reasons to be inherently thankful. “My fans sometimes tell me that I’m underrated and that I don’t get the credit I deserve,” reveals Vivian. “I appreciate the sentiment, because they appreciate my music and want the whole world to celebrate me. But I don’t feel that way. I feel like I’m incredibly blessed. The fact that I’ve gotten the chance to do what I love to do for my entire adulthood is a huge blessing within itself.” “Leave It All Behind” ponders the possibility of escapism over a slinky bass line and inimitable groove while the throwback sound of “123” veils a powerful message of preserving self respect in relationships in a buoyant 1960s Motown aesthetic. “Love is wonderful,” says Vivian. “Love is great. But never let anyone think that you love them so much that you don’t love yourself. Always keep a piece of you for you.” The soul stirring “I’m Not Broken,” a song that functions as an affirming anthem in the shadow of a failed relationship, echoes this sentiment and the theme of resolution Vivid embarks on. “She’s a heroine in this song,” Vivian explains. “She walks away very powerfully whereas she could have chosen to walk away very differently. But she chose to be strong.” While the album covers a lot of new ground thematically and musically, one of the most notable surprises on Vivid is a guest appearance by Vivian’s boisterous 11-year-old son Jordan on the album’s intro.

Diagnosed early in life with unknown disorder, Jordan reinforced Vivian’s decision to become a staunch advocate for special needs children. In an effort to bring awareness to the special needs community, Vivian is launching the #IAmDifferentIAmHuman PSA campaign. Shot by director Derek Blanks and comprised of short viral videos featuring Vivian, Jordan, and other special needs children with their mothers, the campaign will launch in November of 2015. “Being the mother of a special needs child has been a huge part of my life,” states Vivian, who was recently honored by the Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities in Philadelphia. “You’re not taught about this community until you encounter the community in public. But why is this a community that nobody really talks about? It’s about time someone started the conversation.” After 13 years in an industry that continues to define itself by the tides of change it is impacted by, Vivian Green is still standing. And while she has enjoyed the robust support of a fan base that has come to rely on her for a specific, she too has changed. Vivid is a shimmering reflection of that change. “I’ve been in a really wonderful place for a long time,” gleams Vivian. “I know that’s where I am in my life. Life is about learning. You go through things so you can learn from them and come out stronger. Those experiences are supposed to help you grow.” “This album is very empowering. Anybody who expects me to be the same person that I was then is kind of insane. Life happens. I had to get all that anger out. And I guess that music touched people and some people still want that. But I can’t give what I don’t feel. I don’t know how to do that. So I can still touch on heartbreak, but that’s not how it’s going to end. Not this time.” |P|

The Rockhouse Foundation

The Rockhouse Foundation transforms the places where Jamaica’s children learn and supports the people who teach them. The Foundation is dedicated to ensuring that its contributions to education are meaningful and long-lasting, through ongoing facility maintenance and on-site support. It employs early childhood specialists who deliver technical assistance and professional development for the faculty and staff of the Foundation’s early childhood schools. Since its inception, the Foundation has completely transformed and modernized five schools: Moreland Hill Primary and Infant Schools, Negril All Age School, Negril Basic School, Little Bay All Age and Infant Schools, Bunch of Stars E.C.I., in addition to the complete renovation and expansion of the Negril Community Library. Through these projects the Rockhouse Foundation directly impacts the lives of thousands of young people and their families.

The Rockhouse Hotel and its owners underwrite all of the administrative expenses of the Rockhouse Foundation, allowing every cent of every donation to directly support its projects. The Rockhouse Foundation is a New York State-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. In 2014, the Rockhouse Foundation celebrated its 10th Anniversary, and has invested over $3 million to help improve education for Negril’s young people. Latest projects encompass:

1. Inclusion Model Special Needs Early Childhood School In Jamaica, like most developing countries, children with physical and developmental special needs are frequently deprived of treatment by health and education systems that are unable to offer facilities, adequately trained professional care, affordability, or simple proximity. Rockhouse Foundation, in close partnership with Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, is establishing a comprehensive early childhood inclusion model school for students across the full spectrum of special needs and regular education students. It will cooperate with a special needs center in Kingston, employing similar practices, collaborating with its staff and leadership, and working jointly to encourage the establishment of a network of similar quality centers throughout the island. Because the unmet demand is so significant, it will also be designed as a center to train teachers and parents in the western region of Jamaica to detect and work with children with developmental delays and physical disabilities.

2. Moreland Hill Primary and Pre-K School In January 2013, after decades of neglect, the Moreland Hill Primary School had an enrollment of just 32 students and was slated for closure by Jamaica’s Ministry of education. In September 2013, the Foundation completed a total transformation of the school, welcoming a dynamic new principal and 120 pre-K-6th grade students who had previously traveled long distances in search of a better education – something that all children deserve.

3. Bunch of Stars Pre-K School The Foundation’s 2012 project centered on Bunch of Stars Pre-K School in Old Hope, Westmoreland, located approximately 15 miles east of Negril. For 20 years, Bunch of Stars was a community fixture, initially located on the veranda of its founder, and then for 13 years in a small, two room rudimentary structure without the most basic childhood supplies and amenities. Bunch of Stars now welcomes a burgeoning student population everyday in a brand new compound abundant with supplies, new furniture, a vegetable garden for sustainable school nutrition, and a rejuvenated spirit.

4. Little Bay All Age and Pre-K School Little Bay often feels like a forgotten community. It remains largely unchanged from the time, more than 30 years ago, when Bob Marley used to journey to the small fishing village for peace and quiet and to roast little fish on the beach. The All Age School, like the community, was full of promise but had seen better days. A complete renovation and expansion in 2010 ushered in a sense of pride and possibility, embedded in the school community today. Technology and teachers feed the minds, an organic garden feeds the bodies, and a revitalized facility feeds the community spirit.

5. Negril Public Library For decades, Negril’s students’ and community’s only option was a 500 square-foot library with minimal resources and no technology. In 2009, after extensive consultation, and with the Jamaica Library Service and the “Friends of the Library” committee, the Rockhouse Foundation modernized and expanded the landmark structure, creating Negril’s first new civic building in more than 40 years. Its award winning design by Kingston architects, Chris Stone and David Douglas, seamlessly blends classic Caribbean feel and colors with contemporary function and beauty. It houses Negril’s only free access to computers and the Internet, as well as thousands more books than the original structure could accommodate. Everyday, young and old alike cross its threshold in search of information, knowledge, homework help or just a good read.

6. Negril All Age School Negril’s only public elementary school was originally constructed for 100 students, many of them children of fishermen and farmers whose simple lifestyle had defined the community for generations. As Negril turned the page on a new millennium in 2000, its school held nearly 500 children in over-crowded, outdated buildings with leaking roofs that suffered from years of deferred maintenance. Negril All Age School was in desperate need of assistance. In 2004, shortly after it was established, Rockhouse Foundation launched its inaugural project, appropriately only ½ mile from the Rockhouse Hotel, whose owners had committed themselves to supporting the community more than ten years before when they purchased the property. Over the years, many hotel staff and their children had attended Negril All Age and, while often nostalgic about their time in school, were unanimously enthusiastic about the Foundation’s first renovation project.

7. Negril Basic and Pre-K School Negril Basic School is the primary feeder pre-K for the Negril All Age School and is located on the same compound. It suffered from decades of neglect and minimal funding and, not surprisingly, many of its graduates were not adequately prepared to enter their primary years with confidence. Rockhouse Foundation followed the transformation of Negril All Age with a similar makeover for its companion pre-K in 2006. Splashed with the same bright colors and filled with new early childhood furniture, educational supplies, games and toys, Negril Basic took on the same rejuvenated spirit as the “big school”. |P|

Clarks Combines Street Dance & Ballet in “Trigenic Flex” Showcase

English shoemaker Clarks has released a stylish promo video that uses ballet and street dance to showcase its new “Trigenic Flex” series.The Trigenic is a new footwear concept that combines an authentic moccasin construction with the latest in sneaker technology to create a shoe that provides movement and flexibility without compromising on design. The video, directed by Barrie Hullegie, shows dancers mixing new and contemporary styles, mirroring the Trigenic Flex as a modern take on classic Clarks heritage.

The Clarks Original Trigenic Flex series is available now for $160. http://www.clarks.com