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November 27, 2014

Response to Ferguson: Systemic Problems Require Systemic Solutions

Ferguson ASSOCIATED PRESS

Decades of segregation and inequality in Ferguson, as well as most American metropolitan areas, have fostered a racial inequality exacerbated by the criminalization of not just poverty, but the criminalization of black and brown bodies. Too many whites are too willing to believe that a black body poses a threat.

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20 Questions With R&B Singer/Songwriter Eric Benét

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R&B crooner Eric Benét had his share of collaborative hits, including 'Georgy Porgy' with Faith Evans and 'Spend My Life With You' featuring Tamia, but the crux of his notoriety came from his highly publicized marriage to Halle Berry, where Benét's infidelity ultimately ended things.

That's all in his past now.

The Grammy Award nominee is newly engaged, and his daughter, India, is following in his footsteps by pursuing her own singing career. Fresh off touring with Fantasia and Kandi Burruss, Benét has been promoting his latest offering, 'Lost in Time.'

The 44-year-old singer sat down with BlackVoices.com to chat about how he proposed to the new lady in his life and how he's grown since his controversial breakup.

Here's 20 Questions With Eric Benét.

BlackVoices.com: How's the reception been to your new album, 'Lost in Time'?
Eric Benét:
It's been dope. They really have been feeling this new record. The whole idea behind it was to do a homage to '70s R&B and soul, where live instruments were played and people would sing as opposed to having overprocessed [music] and using Auto-Tune to the high heavens.

BV: When you perform the new stuff live, what kind of feedback have you been getting?
EB:
Performing the new record live has been incredible. The new single, 'Sometimes I Cry,' went to # 1, and it was one of those songs that I could perform in front of an audience before it got airplay, and it got a crazy reaction. That is usually a rare occurrence; people generally need something on the radio before they say, "That's my song," but people went crazy for it.

BV: You're newly engaged and have a beautiful teenage daughter. What place are you in your life right now and how is that reflected in the new album? You seem to be doing really well.
EB:
I feel like I'm living a dream right now. I have this daughter who I've become just so proud of and has turned out to be this beautiful, strong, confident and intelligent woman. And I have the love of my life who wants to spend the rest of her life with me, and we're just over the moon about our future. I feel like I'm making the best music I've made in my life. S**t is good, man [laughs].

BV: Why do you think it took this long to find your happy place?
EB:
I think a lot of it comes with just growing up. I think a lot of the mistakes that I made in my life had to do with me being young and stupid. I think I'm at this place now where wisdom is translating into happiness, and it's a great thing.

BV: Speaking of your daughter, isn't she following your footsteps and pursuing a music career?
EB:
She is a really talented songwriter and singer, and she's singing on a song on my new album, called 'Summer Love.' She did an incredible job on it, but I feel like such a hypocrite when I talk to her about choosing college over the music industry because I've become my parents. When I was her age, I wanted to drop everything and just join a band, and my parents really, really wanted me to go to college and I did. Then, I dropped out after two years and did my damn thing. So, now I'm my parents. I'm encouraging India to stay in college and get her degree, and all of this crazy music stuff we will go after when she gets her degree.

BV: Are you worried about some of the things that come along with the fame and the pressure of being an entertainer, and do you two have these kinds of conversations?
EB:
That really does concern me. I know this industry from a couple different angles. There have been times when I have been hot and then there have been times when I couldn't get arrested in a town. There are times when I have been in-between and a lot of that acceptance can be really trying on somebody emotionally. It really concerns me that my daughter may go through the same thing. The only want for a father and mother is to have a better life for our children. At the same time, India has to follow her own dreams and find her own way. As a loving father, I am going to support her whatever that is.

BV: You're engaged to Manuela Testolini. 'Halle's Ex is Engaged to Prince's Ex' was the story, but you two are your own people. Is it safe to say that you're first marriage was full of drama?
EB:
I think you can get away with saying there was drama there.

BV: How did you meet your new fiancée?
EB:
Before I was somebody's ex and before she was somebody's ex, we were just Eric and Manuela, and I think that we just complement each other in so many ways. We met four and a half years ago and started dating shortly after, and she has an incredible heart. Some people try to put the spotlight on themselves and she's always trying to put the spotlight on children who need backpacks for school, and she's just a loving, beautiful person. It was very easy to fall in love with her.

BV: How did you propose?
EB:
There's a song on my record called 'Never Want to Live Without You.' It's actually my second single after 'Sometimes I Cry.' I held off letting her hear that song because I had special plans for that song. We were having a little dinner one night, and we were talking about our relationship and our future, and I just started singing 'Never Want to Live Without You' to her and after I finished singing the song, I asked her to marry me. I'm really looking forward to what the future holds for us.

BV: Are there things that you are taking with you into your new marriage that you've learned from your first marriage to Halle Berry?
EB:
I'm going to take a greater appreciation for honesty into this relationship, starting with being honest with myself. I learned a powerful lesson. I think before when I was in a relationship, if there was something I wasn't getting, I would sweep it under some rug in the back of my mind and deal with it on my own. After doing that for a while, that had a very bad outcome. One of the beautiful things about our relationship is she is very open about what she wants and expects. I've done the same with her, and we meet each other on common ground.

BV: Is this easier than having a relationship where you don't have a microscope of paparazzi watching you? You two have been together for years, and a lot of people had no idea.
EB:
I love the fact that we have been able to go under the radar. I think superstardom has its perks, but it definitely has its disadvantages. My name hasn't been at the top of the charts long enough for the people who care about me taking the garbage out or having a coffee at Starbucks. I prefer them not to. It's been really cool. It's not a conducive thing for a relationship to be in a fishbowl for everybody to monitor every move you make. It will make you crazy. In the last relationship, it made me a little crazy, and this is much better.

BV: So much of your music reflects your story in love and getting out of your relationship with Halle. Was there a dark period for you?
EB:
There were a few years after Halle and I broke up that I really needed to do some soul searching and growing up. Realizing that I need to be a better person and I need to be a better man. If I want to attract the type of person I want to spend the rest of my life with, I have to grow up in a lot of ways. I worked on myself and really tried to be a better person. I'm grateful about the person that I am now. It feels good to be in a place of wisdom, knowing and just to be a man.

BV: You were spun as a sex addict. Are you having trouble being monogamous still?
EB:
I have no issues with not being monogamous, and I don't plan on having any issues with that. Manuela has like Egyptian family members and Italian family members. [If I cheated on her] you would hear about me being in a mysterious car accident and it would be a wrap.

BV: Do you talk to Halle now?
EB:
I watch Halle from afar, and I want her to be happy and find peace. We don't talk. India nor I have not spoken to her in quite a while now.

BV: Was it hard for you being deemed the bad guy with the breakup?
EB:
You know what going on in your head and if you are a good person or a bad person. I think if you were to do something wrong, people who really don't know you at all, that would be their impression of you. I've got a lot of layers to my personality and to me. I've done some stupid and bad things in my life. I've done a lot of cool and great things. The fact that I'm the poster child for infidelity, it was annoying. But at the end of the day, when it comes to being the type of person I wanted to be, you have to own it and take accountability for what you do. I've really grow as a person and a man.

BV: Is there anything that you would like to do in addition to making music?
EB:
I don't think I would abandon making music. I've been perfecting a screenplay for a couple of years now and would like to do more of that – more writing. The other things I think about doing all come back to music. I want to develop an artist and do music for movies. I may take off the artist hat, but there will always be things that I want to do that are associated with music.

BV: What are your thoughts on the music on the radio today?
EB:
There are things about it that have gotten better, but for the most part, I think it has digressed in a way in my genre: R&B. Technology has become a crutch for a lot of artist who don't have a lot of talent. Back in the day, if there were instruments being played on a song, that meant somebody was actually playing them as opposed to someone looping a couple of chords over and over or someone who has a drum machine. When I listen to R&B today, it sounds like a mixture of techno and hip-hop with Auto-Tune vocals on it. In that respect, I think R&B overall has digressed, but I think the artists out there, like Maxwell and Chrisette Michele, hold a torch for real musicianship and real song construction.

BV: In terms of the future, will you hit the road anytime soon?
EB:
I was on the road with Fantasia and Kandi. I am doing a couple of dates here and there over the next month or so, and in April, I am going to do my international promo thing in Europe, Korea and Japan. In May, I am going to come back and do another domestic tour.

BV: Is there a dream tour collaboration that you have?
EB:
I would love to get on the road with Al Green, Maxwell, Corinne Bailey Rae, just to name a few.

BV: In five years, where do you want to be?
EB:
In five years, I want to be watching some type of 'Your Baby Can Read' DVD with my new twin babies at home. I would like to have a couple artists who I am promoting and producing, and I would like to be in production and co-producing my first film.


Eric Benét's 'Lost In Time' is in stores now.

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