The Arts (cont’d)
Notorious BIG – Late rapper Christopher George Latore Wallace was born to Jamaican parents in Brooklyn. As a student, he excelled in school, but soon began selling illegal drugs at the age of 12. His debut album Ready To Die (1994) went platinum, announcing BIG as the king of East Coast hip hop and also made a star of his producer and fellow rapper, Sean ‘Puff Daddy’ Combs (now known as P Diddy.) It featured the hit singles One More Chance, Juicy and Big Poppa. His second solo album, Life After Death, ironically came 16 days after he was killed in a drive by shooting in 1997. It was certified diamond (selling more than 10 million copies) in 2000. His murder remains unsolved.
Heavy D – The late Dwight Errington Myers was born in Mandeville. His family emigrated to New York when he was a child. A rapper, record producer, singer, actor, his initial success came as the former leader of hip hop group Heavy D & the Boyz. The group released five successful albums, including the massive hit Now That We Found Love from the 1991 LP Peaceful Journey. He began achieving solo success after being featured on Janet Jackson’s Alright in 1989. A few years later, he began focusing on acting, appearing in shows such as A Different World, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Living Single. He also starred in movies, such as Who’s the Man?, BAPS and Cider House Rules, and had a run in the off-Broadway production Riff Raff. His last projects were released a few months before he died from a pulmonary embolism in December 2011 – the film Tower Heist, starring Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy and his last album was Love Opus.
Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton – One third of the pioneering hip hop girl group Salt-N-Pepa, she was born in Kingston but her family emigrated to Queens, New York when she was a child. Along with Cheryl ‘Salt’ James and Deidra ‘DJ Spinderella’ Roper, Denton became a part of music history as the first all-female rap group. Originally known as Super Nature, the group’s name was changed to Salt-N-Pepa before they released their debut album, Hot, Cool & Vicious in 1986. The group released four more albums, the last in 1997, before disbanding in 2002. Denton appeared on the fifth season of the VH-1 reality show The Surreal Life in 2005 and released an autobiography entitled Let’s Talk About Pep in 2008. She eventually starred in her own short-lived reality show of the same name in 2010.
Grace Jones – The iconic singer, supermodel and actress was born Beverly Grace Jones in Spanish Town, St Catherine and raised by her grandparents before moving to join her parents in Syracuse, New York. Her first taste of fame came as a model in New York, before moving on to rule the runways of Paris. She was highly sought after because of her androgynous, dark-skinned look, which also landed her on the cover of magazines such as Elle, Vogue an Stern. Jones transitioned to music in 1974 and put out her first album, Portfolio in 1977. It included the disco hit I Need A Man. She released two more disco records before changing her style to new wave with 1980’s Warm Leatherette. The 1981 follow-up, Nightclubbing, reached number one. A career in the movies beckoned and in 1984, she debuted as Zula the Amazonian in Conan the Destroyer, alongside Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her best selling album, Slave to the Rhythm came in 1985 and perhaps her most famous role as Helen Strangé in the Eddie Murphy film Boomerang came in 1992. She also contributed the song 7 Day Weekend to the soundtrack. Jones is still working today, and is set to release her 11th album soon.
Alicia Keys – Singer, pianist, actress and philanthropist Alicia Augello Cook was born in Hell’s Kitchen to a Jamaican-American father and a mother of mixed Italian/Scottish/English roots. Her debut album Songs in A Minor (2001) went platinum five times over and won five Grammys. She has sold more than 35 million albums and won more than 100 awards. Before the fame, Keys was a piano prodigy and top-ranking student who graduated high school at 16. She headed to Columbia University on a full scholarship but left after a few weeks to pursue her musical ambitions. Following the release of two more albums, The Diary of Alicia Keys and Unplugged, she turned her attention to acting, with a role in the crime film Smokin’ Aces. Keys has also starred in The Nanny Diaries and The Secret Life of Bees, and has produced and directed other projects. Her most recent album is 2012’s Girl On Fire and her sixth studio album is due later this year. Keys is also the co-founder and Global Ambassador of Keep a Child Alive, a non-profit organization that provides medicine to families with HIV and AIDS in Africa.