Allison Samuels

Stories by Allison Samuels

  • 'Minor' Is Major

    Songstress Alicia Keys likes nothing more than to mix a little Beethoven with a dash of Biggie when she sits down to compose. The influence both artists have had on her is instantly evident in her debut release "songs in A minor,'' which sent the music world spinning when it premiered at No. 1 on the Billboard charts two weeks ago. From the sample of Chopin that opens her hit song "Falling,'' to the hip-hop-laced "Girlfriend," Keys's eclectic mix of something old and something new is striking a chord with radio stations looking for the Next Big Thing.President of J Records Clive Davis figured he'd found something pretty special when he signed the 20-year-old away from Columbia Records and onto his upstart label last year, following his ouster from Arista Records after 25 years. Anxious to show that he still had the touch, Davis, 68, put his hands-on approach into overdrive with his new find. He wrote a two-page letter to Oprah, asking that she let the singer perform on her show....
  • Honey, I Shrunk The Rappers

    Ten-year-old Lashawn Bailey is screaming so loud that tears are streaming down her caramel-colored face. On this Saturday night, she and about 1,000 other little brown girls have packed into the Wiltern Theatre, in Los Angeles, dressed in their flyest gear. The girls are there to see their idol, but he's taking far too long to emerge. So they begin to shout at the top of their lungs, "Bow Wow, Bow Wow, Bow Wow,'' and finally, in a haze of smoke and bright multicolored lights, the object of their desire--14-year-old Shad Moss, a.k.a. Lil' Bow Wow--appears onstage in all his cornrowed glory. The girls go wild as the miniature rapper dances and skips, doing hip-hop proud with his fast-paced lyrical flow and diamond-studded Mickey Mouse medallion. "When I say 'Bow,' you say 'Wow'," he says--and do they ever.In this age of 'N Sync, the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, teen mania is finally crossing over. Kids 12 and up have been spending an estimated $155 billion a year on music and...
  • Scared Silly

    Two years ago Shawn and Marlon Wayans cooked up an idea they just knew their brother Keenen would love. They wanted to do a spoof of teen slasher films like "Scream''--and they wanted him to direct. Keenen, ever the big brother, told them to make sure they did their homework. So Shawn and Marlon watched more than 100 scary movies. They hated the chore, but figured their eldest brother--who'd put the family on the map with the hit TV show "In Living Color"--knew what he was talking about. Good instinct. "Scary Movie'' was a sleeper hit, taking in more than $160 million worldwide and making Keenen Ivory Wayans, 43, the most successful black director in history.Now comes the really scary part: proving it wasn't a fluke. Dimension Films, which made $480 million with the "Scream" trilogy, smelled another killer franchise in the offing. At last year's premiere of "Scary Movie," Dimension's Bob Weinstein ordered Wayans to come up with a sequel in record time. "We knew we had a huge hit and...
  • Life With Father

    Richard Williams watched as the crowd turned on his youngest daughter. This was supposed to have been a glorious victory for Serena, who'd long trailed her sister Venus in the rankings and hadn't won a major tournament of her own in months. Instead, Serena's big win at Indian Wells, Calif., this past March was greeted with the angry sound of fans yelling "loser" and "cheat." Why had the crowd, always so fascinated by his golden girls, suddenly become so surly? And who was to blame? Serena was going to face Venus in the semifinals, but at the last minute Venus pulled out, saying she had a knee injury. Rumors that the father had ordered one daughter not to compete against the other began swirling with gale force. Once again, Richard Williams found himself in the eye of the storm.That's exactly where he's most comfortable. Williams consistently manages to rile the tennis world with his inflammatory remarks. Not about to sit back and take the heat for the uprising at Indian Wells,...
  • Tiger's 'Brothers'

    The young man had come to the United Center in Chicago because he needed help. At the age of 21, Tiger Woods had just won the '97 Masters--by an amazing 12 strokes--and the rush of fame was overwhelming. So he sought the advice of the only other person who he thought could relate: the world's greatest basketball player. Woods waited patiently for Michael Jordan to shower, complete his postgame interviews and sign the obligatory autographs. Then the two sped away in Jordan's black Porsche to Lake Michigan, where they boarded a luxury casino boat to relax away from the glare of the spotlight. The two men, who had previously chatted only in passing, talked into the wee hours about the pressures of fame, the strain of competition and what it means to be in the select group of people known as the "greatest ever."A friendship was struck that night, and soon Tiger found himself part of Jordan's inner-inner circle, along with former basketball player Charles Barkley and pro-foot ball star...
  • Kobe: Thanks For Sharing

    Kobe Bryant never imagined that watching his Los Angeles Lakers win could be so humbling. But confined to the bench with an ankle injury for a couple of weeks in March, Kobe couldn't kid himself: the defending NBA champion Lakers were clearly playing better without him. All season long the 22-year-old superstar had infuriated his teammates with his selfish play and aggravated Shaquille O'Neal, the league's reigning MVP, by challenging his leadership. Coach Phil Jackson had warned Kobe that the spat with Shaq could even jeopardize his Laker career. Bryant tried to distract himself by thinking about his impending nuptials, only a few weeks away. And it suddenly dawned on him how "for better or worse" just might apply to his team as well. "He was starting a whole new life with a lot of new rules," says a teammate in whom Kobe confided. "If he was going to have to share toothpaste and the remote with his wife, why not the ball with his team too?"When Kobe returned to action in April, he...
  • Suge As Media Event

    Growing up as an only child in Augusta, Ga., I regularly spent time with my grandmother, the daughter of a share cropper who put eight daughters through college during the 1950's and 1960's. She revered Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahalia Jackson; she even had the infamous velvet wall hanging of them at the Last Supper on her dining room wall. ...
  • Hits Until The End Of Time

    Tupac Shakur was a huge basketball fan--he even portrayed a wanna-be ''baller'' in the 1993 film "Above the Rim." But the rapper had never been to a professional basketball game before Suge Knight took him to one in 1996, shortly after Shakur signed with Knight's Death Row Records. "It was the Lakers versus the Bulls, with Michael Jordan playing,'' recalls Knight. "Pac was jumping up and down in his chair, cheering like a little kid. I could tell no one had done anything like that for him before," says Knight, who became a father figure to Shakur. ...
  • Suge Knight Is Back In Business

    For nearly five years, Marion (Suge) Knight, the multimillionaire impresario of gangsta rap, has been sitting behind bars in a California prison, dreaming of Death Row. In a matter of days, his time will be up. "The first thing that I'm gonna do when I get out of here is take an hourlong bath," says Knight, the cofounder of the rap label Death Row Records. "I'm sick of showers." Next week, Knight is set to be released from Mule Creek State Prison near Sacramento, after serving five years of a nine-year term on assault-related charges. He'll spend up to two months in a federal halfway house or work-release program (his lawyer doesn't know yet which); by midsummer, he should be home. "Then, I'm going to get me a double cheeseburger and some chili-cheese fries. I've been thinking about them motherf-----s for five years." ...
  • Wall Of Soul

    When her debut album, "Who Is Jill Scott?" hit the music racks last July, the soul artist decided she didn't want to shout the answer from the rooftops. There'd be no full-spread ad in Rolling Stone, no "Live With Regis," no cardboard cutouts in Virgin Megastores--even though the man with the money behind her record label, NBA legend Michael Jordan, could have guaranteed that and more. Instead, Scott and her Hidden Beach Recordings opted for a more grass-roots approach. Release day found her at a black-owned mom-and-pop record store down the street from her West Philly home, and in the weeks that followed she plugged her work with visits to high schools in Brooklyn and South-Central L.A. Anyone who really wanted to know who Jill Scott is would have to buy her album. ...
  • Ready For His Close-Up

    It was like watching Ricky Martin emerge from the backstage door and head for the limo--except this was the usually sedate environs of spring-training baseball. The thousands of fans thronging the Texas Rangers' complex in the backwater of Port Charlotte, Fla., were there to watch Alex Rodriguez, 25, arguably the game's best shortstop ever. Rodriguez made history when he signed a 10-year, $252 million contract with Texas, the biggest in sports. The young kids know a baseball hero. The young women know a hunk. All day long, a flock of fans follows him, from the batting cage to the infield to the far reaches of the outfield. After four hours of workouts, most of the Rangers are done for the day. But Rodriguez plops down in a lawn chair, where he signs balls, bats and shirts for hundreds of fans while bantering good-naturedly. When one young woman invites him home for dinner, he flashes a megawatt smile and asks, "What you cooking?" ...
  • The Nba's No-Shows

    L.A. vs. New York figures to be a showcase for NBA excitement. But by the time the Lakers arrived for their once-a-year showdown against the Knicks in Madison Square Garden last month, the dysfunctional L.A. team bore little resemblance to last year's NBA champion. Its two superstars, Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, were embroiled in a fierce public squabble over who was "the man." While Bryant played a one-man game, his teammates stood around and glowered. And O'Neal, who sat out the contest with a foot injury, never even emerged from the locker room for an NBC cameo. The Laker loss was its 15th--two more than the team suffered all last season. Meanwhile, Bryant appears to be reaching new heights of selfishness. "I already have a ring," he told a confidant. "Now I want to get a scoring crown and an MVP trophy."Everyone expected the NBA to stumble after Michael Jordan's departure and a bruising labor battle that wiped out almost half a season. But the game that captivated America...
  • Badu Back On The Throne

    Erykah Badu has been accused of it all. Accused of being way too righteous, accused of getting too carried away with her religious philosophies (just get her going) and accused of being way too weird. But it wasn't always that way. When she first emerged on the scene in 1997, the girl from Texas with the head wrap, the mass of honey-colored dreads and the doe- like eyes gave music a New Age, funkified jolt it hadn't felt in years. Her light, edgy voice and Terry-McMillan-novel-come-to-life lyrics brought millions to her throne. She came back the next year with a classic live album that introduced us to a no-good man named "Tyrone,'' and then she took a break. While she was away, Lauryn Hill, Macy Gray and Jill Scott took up residence, but now Badu is reclaiming her spot with her second album, "Mama's Gun.'' A feel-good mix of rock, blues and soul, it captures the fire and spirit of Badu with such catchy tracks as "Booty'' ("your booty may be bigger, but I still can pull your ni-ger"...
  • Root, Root Root For The Losers

    The Los Angeles Clippers, the NBA's perennial doormat, may not be ready to compete against the stellar Los Angeles Lakers on the floor. But the Clippers, who play in the Staples Center, just like the NBA champs do, are aiming to take on Shaq, Kobe et al. for the affections of L.A. basketball fans. This season the Clips have launched an ambitious new marketing campaign that casts its players in stark contrast to the league's prototypical self-promoting, sneaker-and-soft- drink-selling stars. Its TV ads, titled "Believe," are a tribute to old-fashioned values like loyalty and teamwork--and, above all, a paean to the fans. Various Clippers, exhibiting a defter touch than they've ever shown on the court, proclaim: "I believe in you, the basketball fan"; "I believe me and the guys are ready to play for you"; "I believe you deserve more than 100 percent."This novel tack has been enhanced by full-page newspaper ads and ubiquitous bus posters. And while the team can't boast about its record...
  • Bigger, Stronger, Faster

    One by one, they've left the field. First John Elway in a blaze of Super Bowl glory, then Steve Young in a haze of concussions and, finally, Dan Marino with every passing record but no ring. When Troy Aikman and Brett Favre retire soon, it will mark the end of, arguably, the NFL's greatest quarterbacking era. But already a new class of quarterbacks--bigger, stronger, faster, more mobile and more likely than ever to be African-American (eight of 31 teams have had black starting QBs this year, an all-time high)--are ensuring that the NFL is in good hands. And making the biggest impression is Daunte Culpepper, who has, at season's midpoint, led the Minnesota Vikings to an NFL-best 7-1 record.At 6 feet 4 and 265 pounds, Daunte, 23, is the largest quarterback in NFL history. He has played quarterback since a youth-football coach saw him gathering up footballs downfield and hurling them back effortlessly. "I've never thought of my size as a hindrance," Culpepper says. In fact, it's his...
  • Basketball's Bad Boy

    It's 1:30 a.m. in a small recording studio in a seedy South Philly neighborhood where NBA superstar Allen Iverson and his boys are laying down tracks for his debut album, "Non Fiction." After 30-minutes of nonstop rap, Iverson, dressed in oversize jeans, a black T shirt and matching do-rag, orders a break to talk with a reporter about his musical venture. But when his pals don't quiet down, the NBA's quickest point guard erupts in a fury as explosive as his first step to the hoop. "Motherf-----r, don't you see me doing a motherf-----g interview? Shut the f--k up, you bitch-a-- motherf-----r. That's what's wrong with y'all a---s. That's why you ain't got s--t."Iverson's crew is stunned into silence, embarrassed to be dissed so publicly. If the Philadelphia 76ers star can disconcert his own posse, it's hardly surprising that his rookie rap song--with its disdain for "bitches" and "faggots"--has distressed so many, from the NBA to the NAACP. While the album won't be out till next year,...
  • Cool Like That

    After 15 years in the rap game, LL Cool J knew he'd have to keep it real in a hip-hop market overrun with new faces. So he holed up in his grandmother's basement in Queens, N.Y., just like he used to do when he was a fresh-faced kid in a Kangol hat, and began writing the slickest, most arrogant raps he could think of. The result, a CD called "G.O.A.T. Featuring James T. Smith," is LL's best work on the mike in years. "I had to move back to New York to write this album because I'd been in California too long,'' says Smith. "I was doing the Hollywood thing so much that it affected my sound and the stuff I was saying.''That Hollywood thing has been Smith's successful run in TV and movies ("Any Given Sunday," "Deep Blue Sea"), the area where he's put most of his focus of late. But acting was never supposed to eclipse what made Smith a household name in the first place. "Music keeps me honest and connected to the streets. Hollywood can make you forget that it's not about a fantasy world....
  • 'We Have The Power'

    To get a sense of the issues facing black professional women, NEWSWEEK invited a handful of prominent "sisters" to talk about life: Cheryl Mills, the former deputy White House counsel and current vice president at Oxygen Media; Mae Jemison, former astronaut and current director of the Jemison Institute at Dartmouth; Debbie Allen, director, producer, actress, dancer; Lisa Sullivan, founder and president of LISTEN Inc.; Ananda Lewis, MTV host; Amy Holmes, political commentator, and Tracey Kemble, HBO producer. Excerpts: ...
  • The Color Of Funny

    After the premiere, there is a party. But it's only after the party that anybody really parties. Welcome to the after-after party. It's a Monday night in Los Angeles--actually, it must be Tuesday morning by now--and Eddie Murphy, Keenen Ivory Wayans, Prince, Arsenio Hall and an army of Cristal bottles are holed up in an extravagant hotel suite high above Universal Studios. They're celebrating the premiere of "The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps." More than that, though, they're celebrating an electric moment for black comics in general. It's been an uneven summer for Hollywood at large--seen anything great lately?--but black comedians have been triumphing at the box office right and left. Martin Lawrence kick-started the summer with "Big Momma's House" (which has since made $120 million). Wayans delivered "Scary Movie" (now up to $130 million). And Murphy's own "Nutty II" recently had a $42.7 million opening weekend, a personal best for the actor. At the after-after party, the old...
  • Periscope

    What rapper Juvenile needed was a little extra spending money. What he got was a major hassle. He was in San Diego last Wednesday, taping a segment of "SoCal Summer," MTV's beach-house show. At about 9:30 a.m. he and two business associates stopped by an outdoor cash machine in the exclusive Del Mar area. Then, Juvenile, a.k.a. Terius Gray, tells NEWSWEEK, here's what happened:As he was about to make a withdrawal from his Merrill Lynch account, local police showed up and questioned why he and his record mates were in the area. The conversation grew heated; Juvenile entered the bank to find someone to vouch for him. When he couldn't, police detained his group in the back of a squad car--for several hours. It wasn't until police could check out their story--they called Juvenile's hotel and MTV--that the group was released.Juvenile suspects Merrill Lynch called the police after seeing three black men with tattoos, baggy pants and diamond jewelry outside its building. Merrill Lynch...
  • 'Who Is Jill Scott?' Here Are Some Answers.

    Have you ever seen Michael Jordan dance?" Jill Scott asks. Scott knows what it takes to get The Jumper moving. Her album "Who Is Jill Scott?" is the first one released by Hidden Beach, Jordan's new record company. "Who Is Jill Scott?" is a shimmering collection partial to songs--"Long Walk," "Love Rain"--that celebrate new love. With her lush, jazzy vocals and neosoul sensibility, Scott, 28, sounds like Billie Holiday crossed with Erykah Badu. In fact, Scott wrote the hit song "You Got Me," which won a best-rap Grammy last year for Badu and The Roots. The Philly native badly wanted to record the tune herself. "I was upset at first, but then I was like, 'Sister girl, wait a minute. The first song you write wins a Grammy and has a Grammy-winning singer. Stop tripping'."
  • The Doctor Is In The House

    How do you know when you're truly the man? How about when the your the mayor of Los Angeles buys your mansion? That's what happened to Grammy-winning rapper-producer Dr. Dre this April, when Mayor Richard Riordan paid almost $3 million for Dre's five-bedroom Victorian. That's not the only precious real estate that Dre controls. His 1999 album, "Chronic 2001," still hovers near the top of the Billboard charts after more than 30 weeks, where it was eclipsed by Dre's own protege, Eminem. Add to that his superhot "Up in Smoke" tour (this week's stops: Boise, Indianapolis and Columbus), and you begin to think that his popular theme song, "Dre Day," is something of an understatement. It's looking more and more like Dre's Year.Considering the year (or two) he's just come off of, that's pretty amazing. His previous album, "Dr. Dre Presents the Aftermath," was disappointing--in fact, so disappointing that it took Dre two years to put the pieces together again and head back into the studio....
  • A Whole Lotta Lil' Kim

    BEING A HIP-HOP DIVA HAS some non-negotiable requirements. You gotta rock the ice (i.e., sport diamonds), you gotta wear the designers (Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci) and, most important, you gotta have the hair. Missy Elliott and Mary J. Blige won't leave the house in less than impeccable diva form, and on this hot Sunday afternoon in Los Angeles, they're here to support their girl, Lil' Kim, by appearing in Kim's new video, "No Matter What They Say." In their frostily air-conditioned trailer, they're playing Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall," downing banana schnapps and laughing like schoolgirls at a dance as they await the arrival of another partner in crime, Toni Braxton, who's running late and calling constantly to find out who'll be doing her hair and makeup.Still, even with so much diva-tude in the room, no one outshines the Queen Bee. Lil' Kim strolls in wearing her favorite outfit--next to nothing--and the brown-girl fest is in full effect: hugs, kisses, admiring glances at new...
  • A Season Of Shame

    As he turned 25 years old last week in an Atlanta courtroom at his own murder trial, football star Ray Lewis wasn't looking much like a hero. Wearing a sober suit, he scribbled notes on a yellow legal pad and talked to his defense team, barely glancing at his two codefendants just 10 feet away. It was a humbling posture for Lewis, who last season had another great year for the Baltimore Ravens, leading the league in tackles, making the All-Pro team, enjoying a new $26 million contract. He'd been swaggering then, hitting the clubs in a full-length mink coat and a much longer limo, surrounded by worshipful friends. But the night of the Super Bowl last January, outside a club called the Cobalt Lounge, there was a confrontation and two men died. Lewis has pleaded not guilty. A defense attorney asked one prospective juror what his initial reaction was when he saw the news reports. "I said to myself, 'Oh, no--not another sports figure.' It was just something I was tired of."So is...
  • Critical Moment

    Our Opinionated Guide from One to Five StarsMUSIC ...
  • Hipper Than Hip-Hop

    Rapping may be the only thing puffy can't do. Rumor has it that after the dismal sales of his last album, Sean (Puffy) Combs might quit performing altogether. Although he isn't commenting, others are. "Something always suffers when you try to do too many things, and I think he realized that it's time just to focus on producing," says competitor Dr. Dre. Or on one of the other slashes in his job description. Last week the rapper/producer/restaurateur/designer was nominated for fashion's equivalent of the Oscar. His eponymous Sean John line presented its first collection of actual menswear--dripping with '80s-style excess--only two months ago. Irrational exuberance rules: his cashmere pants and floor-length furs have made him a favorite to win at the American Fashion Awards on June 15, which would put him on an elite list that includes Isaac Mizrahi, Anna Sui and Todd Oldham. At least he's in good with the style police.
  • Joan Lunden Says 'I Do'

    Why the quickie marriage last week between Joan Lunden, 49, and her beau of three years, Jeff Konigsberg, 39? The summer-camp owner presented Lunden with a ring--literally on a silver platter--over dinner on April 8, and they were married just 10 days later. She denies it, but the timing could have something to do with Regis. The former "Good Morning America" co-host is reportedly in the race to replace Kathie Lee, and being happily married with children could boost her chances with the "Live" producers. Lunden already had the kids--Jamie, 19; Lindsay, 17, and Sarah, 12--from her first marriage. At least Lunden wouldn't talk too much about their potty training.
  • The Next Big 'Thong'

    Being cheeky hasn't hurt Sisqo's career. Propelled by his ode to the female posterior, "Thong Song," his debut album has sold more than 2 million copies. MTV declared the tune--in which telling a woman she "got dumps like a truck" is high praise--its official spring-break anthem. The single is so hot that last week Sisqo announced he would tour with 'N Sync this summer. But the next day, he seemed ready to pull out. "I'm the best," he said. "I don't need to open for anybody." That was news to his people, who evidently called their blond bombshell to settle him down. By the end of the day, Sisqo was back with the boys. Guess all that platinum may have gone to his head.
  • Shaq In The Battle Again

    Last season Shaquille O'Neal kept to a well-established routine. In the evening, after recovering from the rigors of practice, he would head over to a local high-school gym and work on free-throw shooting, his Achilles' heel. Later, the Lakers' superstar center would plunge into the social whirl at a local hot spot or a celebrity party. And in the morning, Shaq would flip on a Jay-Z CD and make a phone call to the NBA brass to gripe about the beatings he was taking on the court and how the refs weren't doing anything about it.This season, only the free-throw ritual remains. Shaq has cut back on the carousing, the result of an ultimatum by new coach Phil Jackson to what was one of the league's most notorious party teams. And he's halted the phone calls, too. "I'd call, but nothing ever changed," says O'Neal, who is still just 28 and in his eighth pro season. "So I'm serving notice. I don't want trouble in the playoffs. But I'm going to come at people the way they come at me, and it...