Daily Archives: December 24, 2013

Music Mixx….Tupac (circa 1993)

SoulBounce’s Class Of 1993: 2Pac ‘Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z.’

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Rappers are often considered the street poets of modern society. One of hip-hop’s most prolific street poets was Tupac Shakur who painted colorful and, sometimes, dark images of urban life through hardcore wordplay that spoke to and for his generation as 2Pac. This persona was mainly established through when he released Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. on February 16, 1993.

Most remember 2Pac for his tumultuous and deadly “thug life” that ultimately lead to his murder in 1996. I recall a Tupac whose introduction to hip hop was a balance between youthful enjoyment and socio-political awareness. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. was an album that embodied his life as a 21-year-old rap star caught in the whirlwind of the industry’s hedonistic rewards, while holding on to the harsh realities of his fans and his own past. Tupac’s poetry resonated in the souls of young, black youth, hence the album’s double-platinum status.

The first song from the album, “Holla If You Hear Me,” was 2Pac’s autobiographical outburst of rebellion, frustration and oppression. His flow marched forcefully through a battleground of poverty, injustice, police brutality and attacks on the black family. More importantly, this introductory rhyme fest was an open invitation to join the movement as 2Pac spoke “truth to ya youth” against a backdrop of beats reminiscent of Public Enemy‘s “Rebel Without a Pause.”

Any true hip-hop head keeps the classic “I Get Around” single in their party playlist. Produced by Digital Underground‘s Shock G, this joint still goes hard with its ’90s-esque beat, jazzy piano and sampled head nod to Roger Troutman aka pre-Auto-Tune. Despite the sexy vibe and guest verses from Shock G and Money B on this club banger, Pac’s lyrics are the highlight as he further ascends to the heights of a braggadocio solo artist who was still “down with the underground.”

Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. offered another exemplary rap classic in “Keep Ya Head Up.” The beat borrows from Troutman’s “Be Alright” with a Dave Hollister-delivered hook paying homage to “O-o-h Child” by The Five Stairsteps. The hit single was dedicated to Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old girl who was unlawfully killed by a Los Angeles storeowner. 2Pac sought to uplift his community with lyrics of encouragement and understanding thus demonstrating his life was not fixated on debauchery. He used this hit single, which sold more than five million copies, to inspire better treatment of people of color while encouraging the less fortunate to keep their head up amidst a world that is often harsh and unforgiving.

Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. was more than 2Pac’s breakout album that would be the foundation of his legacy. This album underscored his poetic genius, self-awareness and compassion that glistened in the shadows of his latter works (that are more angry and narcissistic). 2Pac demonstrated that he was more than a thug. His light shined brighter than being part of a party-theme rap collective. 2Pac was a poet who loved his people, his culture and his life. He was engrossed in creating poetry that resonated in the souls of his people, while the rest of the world went along for the ride. Make no mistake, the heart of Tupac Shakur’s purpose and poetry was strictly for…well, you know.


My Sista’s Business….Melissa Hibbert

Entrepreneur: Melissa Hibbert

In Her Shoes

Melissa Hibbert is relatively new to the beauty scene but is quickly changing the face of the industry with a cosmetics line that delivers flattering and wearable hues for women of color. From a successful career in Corporate Marketing to becoming one of the industry’s “go-to” makeup artists, Melissa dishes on what it took to launch the beloved SHEEQ Cosmetics line, her commitment to healthy beauty, and building a brand that reflects her personal style:

In Her Shoes: What career path were you on prior to launching Sheeq Cosmetics and what inspired your transition?

Melissa: Prior to launching SHEEQ Cosmetics and even before working as a beauty professional full-time, I worked in Corporate Marketing for 14 years with some of the biggest brands in the country. I have an MBA and enjoyed a very robust career, however, I was not fulfilled and I knew I had a different purpose, so I walked away from corporate to pursue my passion for Beauty. I was inspired to launch SHEEQ Cosmetics after working in the industry as a professional makeup artist and saw a need to provided quality, luxury, makeup and skincare products that are also healthy for women of color. My products are paraben-free, hypo-allergenic and non-comedogenic. Far too often, we use products that are harmful to our skin and bodies, but we continue to consume them because they are accessible or because a “celebrity” is endorsing the product. I meet countless women with skin issues and they know instinctively that it’s because they have been using a particular brand, but continued to do so, because it was their only alternative, until they got a taste of SHEEQ Cosmetics.

In Her Shoes: Once you decided to launch Sheeq Cosmetics, how long did it take to get the business off the ground?

Melissa: It took me about seven months to officially launch SHEEQ Cosmetics, but I had been using the products and testing it on my clients long before the launch. I had done the research and met with the manufacturers and put together my plan etc., so once it got off the ground, it really took off. I can truly attribute my education, business and marketing to the early and continued success of SHEEQ. It all became clear to my why I had to take the corporate path, it was preparation for this very moment.

In Her Shoes: What is a day like in your shoes?

Melissa: A day in my shoes is quite multi-faceted.  I start the day with my usual gratitude prayer, then I check and reply to emails and process any orders from the SHEEQ Cosmetics website.  I read news feeds and check out some of my favorite blogs for the latest info.  I usually post to my social media sites before 10am consistently.  Next, I am off to set, either for a television show or photo shoot.  There are days where I might travel with one of my celebrity clients for events and appearances.  And finally, I end my day enjoying a lovely dinner with the love my life.

In Her Shoes: At what point did you realize you were on to something  and that you were doing the right thing?

Melissa: The moment I decided to walk away from my corporate job, I was clear and I knew that changing the world through beauty was largely a part of my purpose. One month into working as a professional makeup artist, I started to book TV shows and celebrity clients and people started to take notice of my work and passion. Doors started to fly open and that’s when I realized, this is what I am suppose to do. Once I launched SHEEQ Cosmetics and I started to see the support, response in purchases and interest, it was exciting. To be an online store with no physical store front, our business is doing extremely well and I am grateful to our customers.

In Her Shoes: What does Sheeq Cosmetics stand for in the beauty industry?

Melissa: SHEEQ Cosmetics’ purpose is to let every woman of color know that “she’s exquisite”. Her beauty is unique, her individual beauty is enough and by all means, it should be celebrated. We emphasize wearing bold lip colors in our collection because far too often, women of color have been told that bold colors don’t look good on brown skin. It’s a lie! We stand by our customers in their choices to step out of their comfort zone, we encourage healthy skin, and we honor their desire reveal their beauty.

In Her Shoes: Do you feel like the brand is a reflection of your personal style?

Melissa: Yes, the brand is a reflection of my personal style. It is important to me to personify my brand, to be inspirational and aspirational. The SHEEQ woman is powerful, bold, confident and exquisite – she knows who she is and celebrates her beauty. I am very much this woman! Most people know that I love fashion, my style is contemporary glamour,and is reflected in my wardrobe choice, my hair and makeup.

In Her Shoes: What goes into the process of creating a Sheeq Cosmetics color?

Melissa: I am truly proud of our colors, both in the face products (liquid and powder foundation), as well as our lipstick and lipgloss collection. I am extremely fortunate to have found a manufacturer I trust and is easy to work with. When I decided I wanted to focus on a niche market – women of color, it was imperative to find a manufacturing partner that has a history of delivering quality, high performance products that are also good for you. It made the process and selection seamless, because they have a proven track record. So, once I decided to “go bold” with the lip collection, I had countless colors to choose from in reds, plums, magentas etc. but I focused squarely on the undertones that would be most complimentary to women of color. Everything in life and in business starts with a great partner!

In Her Shoes: What challenges have you faced being an indie brand?

Melissa: Whenever you enter a crowded marketplace with an indie brand that’s targeting women of color, seemingly competing against the giants who spend billions of dollars marketing products to the same audience, it’s challenging getting the attention of media and  of the customers who have been loyal to a particular brand for a long time. However, with challenges comes opportunity and we have been able to build our brand and reputation through hard work and consistency. With SHEEQ, our intention is never to compete, it’s simply to provide an option and alternative. When women of color decide to make their purchases, our aim is that they consider us – and they have.

In Her Shoes: Do you have any new and upcoming projects for Sheeq Cosmetics we need to look out for?

Melissa: Yes, March 2014 is our one year nniversary and we do plan on launching new products and unveiling new projects that we hope will excite and engage our core customers even more. We will also have some partnerships and retail store visibility in 2014. And finally, SHEEQ Cosmetics will be on the screen, we are going to be doing some strategic branding and marketing in new TV shows where the product will be visible. There is plenty on the horizon so stay tuned!

To learn more about Melissa Hibbert and SHEEQ Cosmetics visit www.sheeqcosmetics.com.

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