Surviving Your First Five Years in Journalism

Surviving Your First Five Years In Journalism

I’ll never forget my first job. I interviewed with The Miami Herald while attending the UNITY: Journalists of Color convention in Seattle, and Managing Editor Rick Hirsch talked to me about my reporterly hopes and dreams. I’m sure I said a bunch of stuff that made him inwardly chuckle, but he gave me a shot. By the Sunday of convention he had offered me a gig as a one year intern at the paper I came to affectionately call Ma Herald.

I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to get away from my parents and prove to everybody that my expensive Medill School of Journalism degree was well worth the cash. I was ready for my Pulitzer and prepared to be the black Lois Lane flying about South Florida.

And then I got down there, and my mom stayed with me for two weeks. And as she left, I sat on my brand new Rooms to Go bed and looked at my purple ROoms to Go couch, and I bawled my eyes out. My mommy was gone. I was in a strange place with a new, silver Altima, a ground-level apartment in a little known Broward County town and I didn’t know how to do my own hair in that humidity. I was a wreck! At least I knew how to string a sentence together. Except I didn’t.

Continue reading “Surviving Your First Five Years in Journalism”

From Prince to Lemonade: My Week in Pop Culture

eric richardson

I’ve literally been writing my tush off. Ever since Beyonce dropped “Lemonade” and the Purple One passed, the opportunities to produce stories examining their pop cultural influences have been many.

I tied the lack of diversity in most mainstream newsrooms into the discussion of who exactly should (or should not) be commenting upon Lemonade. And I stand by my column: more diversity is good for business, so businesses ought to be giving a plethora of people an opportunity to write or comment or report on  a story involving Beyonce. Continue reading “From Prince to Lemonade: My Week in Pop Culture”

Remembering Doug Banks

The soundtrack of my early life was pretty much curated by Doug Banks. The legendary radioman dominated Chicago airwaves in my formative years, and I’ll never forget getting dressed for school and listening to Doug and Bonnie. Oh. How they laughed and giggled and carried on. Pure joy in the am. I met Sinbad through the Doug Banks Show. I learned about Jodeci and got my news on Anita Hill and experienced some of my first political discussions by listening to Banks.

Back in the day, you could listen to Eddie and Jobo on B-96. And I liked them, but they could be oblivious to people of color at times. And other jocks were just assholes. Straight up. Banks played the music I liked and had a good spirit. You could tell just by listening.

All these memories of slathering on lotion and selecting a high school trendy outfit while listening to Doug flew through my mind yesterday as I wrote an obituary for And this morning, I was pleasantly surprised to see that The Washington Post quoted heavily from my piece.

Continue reading “Remembering Doug Banks”

Holiday “Don’t” List

After spending a day reading disheartening Facebook posts about insensitive family interactions and texting with friends who are desperately seeking respite from people hogging their newborn babies around the Christmas tree, I thought I’d put together this nifty list of what NOT to do around the holidays.

Christmas may be over, but Kwanzaa and New Years are still going strong. These things shouldn’t have to be said but apparently a bunch of people missed the memo on basic manners. The good news is that 2016 offers an opportunity to get it right!

That said, here’s my PSA of a holiday party list. Continue reading “Holiday “Don’t” List”

Adriennewrites on Chiraq and the anti-Chiraq movement

Repost to add context to the Spike Lee “Chiraq” movie discussion, as reported in The Chicago Tribune. The below story first appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times on June 1, 2014. It was a front page story, and I decided to research and write it because of the popularity of the word Chiraq paired with the oncoming summer weather – which to Chicagoans means both construction and more shootings.

Why was Chiraq such a popular term? Who created it? And how did it impact the city? Also, I wanted to know more about the anti-Chiraq movement. Read on.

By Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, Chicago Sun-Times Chicago, aka Chi-town or The Chi. Or Chiraq. That latest nickname might not be as popular as the others, but it caught on in pockets here and across the nation as the city’s killings and shootings made headlines. Blame it partially on the pundits: They’ve long suggested, often erroneously, that Chicago’s violence is similar to that found in Iraq during the war. And to those who use the word, it embodies the attitudes that have created a Chicago where shots fired are commonplace and shooting deaths are expected to climb as the weather warms up. But some people are ready for the word Chiraq (pronounced Chi-rack) to retire. To finish reading this story, please click the following link: Chiraq

Behind the Scenes of Common’s Album Release Party: Nobody’s Smiling

This story first appeared on

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Attending an album listening party is sometimes a hit or miss. Many are dull, accompanied by humdrum music. Quite a few are full of earnest-to-the-point-of-rudeness fans and self-important music bloggers who talk more than they listen.

But Common, always the consummate professional, managed to pull off a top tier listening party this week complete with an intimate crowd of about 200, a dash of local celebrity, an revealing on-stage interview with fellow rapper <a href=”” title=”Rhymefest talks to the Sun-Times Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about new album Violence is Sexy” target=”_blank”>Rhymefest,</a> two internationally known deejays and, of course, a rousing examination and explanation of the work and worth of his upcoming album<a href=”” target=”_blank”> “Nobody’s Smiling,”</a> due out July 22.

Not one to mince words, Chicago’s own <a href=”” title=”King Louie sits down with Adrienne Samuels Gibbs and talks about Chicago’s new hip hop” target=”_blank”>King L</a> only had this to say about it: “It was dope.”

Here’s a bit of what I heard and saw:

I heard portions of each song off the sometimes moody album. Some of the tracks add perspective to the ongoing discussion surrounding Chicago’s violence, minus the glorification. Others are hip hop club bangers. And one in particular, “Hustle Harder” will be a hit with the ladies since it features Common giving a big ups to women who are the mother and father in the home. That track specifically features Snoh Aalegra and local on-the-rise lady rapper Dreezy.

<a href=””><img src=”” alt=”Adrienne Samuels Gibbs” width=”250″ height=”250″ class=”size-full wp-image-191699″ /></a> This is the album cover for the deluxe edition.

Common doesn’t shy away from his city and the album is amazingly, and refreshingly, Chicago-centric. First off, it’s on a new label overseen by well known producer No I.D., who is Chicago born and went to school with Common all the way back to the duo’s Luther South days. (This album is Common’s first release from <a href=””>I.D.’s anticipated Artium Records</a>. Note to newbies: No I.D., though young in years, is almost an old-head experience-wise on the music scene and has had his hands on production of most of what’s hot, including cuts by Jay-Z, Jim Jones, T.I., Drake, Big Sean and Rihanna.) Continuing the Chi-town-ness of the album, the South Side’s own Lil Herb figures prominently on a track entitled “The Neighborhood.”

<a href=”” title=”Lil Herb shines in Nicki Minaj’s song, “Chiraq””>Lil Herb</a> and Common?!! Yep, that’s what I thought too. Common deftly addressed the age, and topical, differences: “Man, he came on that track and ..he blessed it. [Herb] got an introspective which sometimes you don’t get from some of the younger artists… He was talking about how he grew up in a small house and was staying with his grandmother and you kind of get to know somebody through that… He really stepped up when it came to being on that type of track.”

Who else was there? <a href=”” title=”Hebru Brantley talks to the Sun-Times’ Mike Thomas about his new exhibit, Parade Day Rain” target=”_blank”>Hebru Brantley,</a> <a href=”” title=”King Louie talks to Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about the creation of the word Chiraq” target=”_blank”>King L</a>, <a href=”” title=”Izzy meets the Prince of Wales” target=”_blank”>Israel Idonije</a>, DJ Timbuk2, <a href=”” title=”Rockie Fresh talks to the Sun-Times Adrienne Samuels Gibbs about local hip hop” target=”_blank”>Rockie Fresh</a>, Rhymefest, Dj Jermaine (who spun for part of the night) and superstar hair stylist AJ Johnson (who once starred in the Style Network show, ‘Chicagolicious’.)

<a href=””><img src=”” alt=”Hebru Brantley and friends at Common's album release party. Image by Desmond Owusu.” width=”300″ height=”250″ class=”size-full wp-image-191745″ /></a> Hebru Brantley and friends at Common’s album release party. Image by Desmond Owusu.

Some outlets are reporting that there are seven or more album covers, each giving shine to a local rapper. The label only provided me with two covers, the one you see higher up and another featuring just Common. The deluxe cover, shown higher in this post, is a composite of Common’s face along with King L on the right and on the left, Lil Johnny.

For hard core fans, the deluxe CD or the CD sold at Target will be the best bet. The Target version has 14 tracks, including the bonus track “City to City.” The deluxe version has three bonus tracks. The standard version has 10 tracks. There’s also a vinyl edition being released as well for turntable aficionados.

The event was hosted by <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Miller Fortune</a> (an un-distilled “spirited” golden lager that debuted in February 2014 and was presented to the crowd in pretty little tumblers,) and <a href=”” target=”_blank”>Complex</a>.

— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

Catching Up with DJ Mustard

Adrienne Samuels Gibbs and DJ Mustard at Double Door.
Adrienne Samuels Gibbs and DJ Mustard at Double Door.

This article first appears on the now defunct and you can also read more about it on my Facebook page here.

“You ratchet!” “Stop acting ratchet!” “That song/video/tv show/church sermon is ratchet!”

The word ratchet has reentered the everyday lexicon and is taking on a meaning decidedly outside of what’s printed in Merriam-Webster’s dictionary. In today’s world, ratchet usually is a combination of lewdly, humorously bogus shenanigans. But for DJ Mustard, born Dijon McFarlane, ratchet is music. His music.

Recently signed to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation, and slated to drop an album before summer’s end, the LA-based Mustard swears his next album will showcase his vintage style and feature “the usual” collaborators, including Nipsy Hustle, Ty Dolla $ign and “Jeezy, of course.”

Adds the beats maestro: “Of course it’s going to be ratchet! Who you talking to? Ratchet. For sure.”

Let’s back up a bit. This conversation took place Saturday at the Double Door, where Mustard performed for free as part of the Brisk Iced Tea “Brisk Bodega” concert series in conjunction with Noisey and Chicago’s own hip hop website Fakeshoredrive. Mustard got on stage after WGCI’s DJ Moondawg warmed up the crowd, and local artist Tree performed. (Scroll way down for the Youtube. Note: The Fakeshoredrive video features occasional strong language, so it might not be OK for listening at work. Break out those Beats please.

And just before Moondawg made things way too loud to conduct an interview, I chatted with the West Coast producer about his groundbreaking career and what it’s like to have a hand in some of the hottest club bangers out right now.

As Complex says, Mustard is “running hip hop.” And though he has worked with Wil-I-Am, Miley Cyrus and French Montana, Chicago’s own Jeremih and others, including Wiz Khalifa, his songs are best experienced in a club situation. There, you can experience the beat. Feel it. That said, in a world where hot djs (think: David Guetta) are as popular as rappers, Mustard is winning.

“We are headed that way but in a hip hop way,” says Mustard, referring to his goal to meet or exceed Guetta’s radio domination. “It’s gonna be my own translation though.”

LA Weekly captured Mustard with this gem of a paragraph:

His breakthrough was Tyga’s “Rack City,” a quintessential summer jam with a minimal-funky bassline, snaps, and cold-blooded 808 drums. It detonated stripper poles and satisfied the “menace quotient” for guys who’d prefer death by rockslide to dancing to radio trance-rap. Mustard’s beats bang hard enough for the hood and catchy enough for the Top 40.

Again. Ratchet.

Last fall he signed to Roc Nation, and he actually likes it. (Who wouldn’t?) “It’s like being with the family,” he says. “I need help with anything I call them and they’re there. You know how people have bad tastes with labels? My label is fine.”

He also stopped by Chicago’s uber trendy it-restaurant Girl and the Goat for a dinner with the entourage. They didn’t have a reservation but somehow got in anyway. Maybe it was the Jay-Z connection.

“I had a lot of food I’d never had before,” says Mustard, reflecting upon Stephanie Izard’s award-winning fare. “I was just giving them a try you know? Broaden my horizons. I had something, some flower s**t. It was good though. Squash Blossom. It was actually dope.”

Video below:

— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

About Ben Carson’s comments on prison and homosexuality…

Ben Carson is brilliant.

I’ll never forget the first time I saw the movie “Gifted Hands,” which details how he rose from a less-than-stellar childhood and blossomed into a life as a celebrated neurosurgeon. We used to learn about Ben Carson during Black History Month at church. He made us proud. Since then, he’s also blossomed into a potential GOP presidential candidate and in that area, he’s certainly facing challenges. Chief amongst them are some of the things that he says.

Earlier this week he made a statement on CNN that seemed to link sexuality with sexual preference with jail time, which indirectly references  sexual assault. He essentially said that homosexuality is a choice and as proof of this, he said that prison is proof that heterosexuals can turn into homosexuals.


It was the kind of statement that – as a viewer – made me stop because I knew it would become one of those slow train wrecks. And it did. Once social media’s finest caught wind of the comments, the entire situation went downhill. You can watch the CNN story on the whole fiasco here. Carson also apologized but the damage was done.

Here’s the quote everyone’s up in arms about:

“Because a lot of people went to prison straight and came out gay.” – Ben Carson. is covering this from every angle.  I wrote a story for them about the very real issue of prison rape and the laws created to stop it. There’s a lot to unpack and yet more to do. In part, here’s what I found out and reported for the website.

Mostly because of the law, we now know a lot about the pervasiveness of the problem. The government has collected thousands of reported cases of sexual assault within prisons. It has also found that correctional officers commit nearly half of reported prison sexual assaults. “PREA gives us really tremendous tools,” says Amy Fettig, senior staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project. “But implementing a new system always has some problems. It’s going to need refinement.”


Let’s talk about it. Hit me up on Twitter @adriennewrites or on Facebook @adriennesamuelsgibbs


On The Run Concert Recap

This review, by Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, first appeared on

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When the king and queen of pop culture take the stage together, the results are flawless. Beyonce and Jay-Z rocked out a crowd of nearly 60,000 with a set list of some 45 songs that lasted around 2.5 hours at Soldier Field Thursday night. More than a concert, the “On The Run” tour was entertainment. Beyonce’s windblown hair, bedazzled costumes and spiky heels only added to the glamour of the evening as she and her husband performed duets (for lack of a better word) of the rap and R&B nature.

They kicked it off with “Bonnie and Clyde” at around 9:30 p.m. Expert mixing wove in “Upgrade U” and then “Crazy in Love.” The songs weren’t performed in their entireties. It was more like Beyonce and Jay gave the best snippets of their hits in an effort to keep things moving and to keep the crowd guessing. That treatment worked, allowing the power couple to breeze through 10 more hits (“Show me what you got,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “Tom Ford,” to name just a few) which increasingly revved up the crowd and even caused the metal beams of the top tiers of the football stadium seating to sway.

The couple worked the overwhelmingly diverse crowd into a frenzy. After a furious and tightly danced routine, Beyonce often would do nothing more than stand still – booty cocked out – and raise an eyebrow to illicit screams. And Jay had only to shout out the South Side to coax out a crowd roar that needed no meter to measure.

Beyonce’s dancers, (including captain Ashley Everett, who blazed bright with her shock of red hair) were as much the show as Queen Bey. They slithered. They jacked. They stepped. They profiled. They “danced hard,” as some might say on the South Side. Jay, as usual, had no dancers (except for two short transitions between songs.) On those rare occasions, he “borrowed” Bey’s ladies and two gents (the fabulous brothers who ought to be called the Wonder Twins, with their capoeira-graceful moves.)

Was it the Beyonce show featuring Jay-Z? Or was it the Jay-Z show featuring Beyonce? I’d argue that Jay-Z was the act who came on between Bey’s songs so that she could change clothes. Then again, mid-concert, it seemed the reverse was true. The couple, who are dealing with rumors of divorce, seemed to present an open book with their home movie-centric interludes shown over two to three big screens. But Bey’s rendition of the infidelity-swirled “Resentment” slowed things all the way down. As she has in other performances in the On The Run tour, she changed the words of the song to reflect the dalliances of a man she’d known for 12 years – which sounds amazingly like Jay and was sung so sadly that people began to cry.

Beyonce.jpg”>Beyonce performs during the On The Run tour at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 20, 2014 in New Orleans. | Photo by Robin Haper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images Beyonce performs during the On The Run tour at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on July 20, 2014 in New Orleans. | Photo by Robin Haper/Invision for Parkwood Entertainment/AP Images

Beyonce surprised with eloquent sound production, and interesting dual-location staging, that added new life to old hits. “Bow Down/I Been On,” already a banger, seemed even more… heartfelt when laced with extra guitar licks from the all-lady band. Then “Flawless” was well, flawless, and then Jay stepped in with “On To the Next One,” which is still the best you-don’t-matter-but-I-do song I’ve ever heard. Despite the cavernous size of the venue, Jay’s words clearly rang through the 55-degree air. I’ve been to Bears games and could barely understand whatever is said on the loudspeakers, so Jay’s extraordinary vocal clarity was astounding given the sheer size of the space and the noise of the crowd.

This was a tightly scripted concert which didn’t much deviate from performances held in other cities. Beyonce only occasionally shouted out the Chi. Jay did much better, frequently asking the city to raise their hands, or throw up a diamond or finish a verse. He even quipped: “You know I had to slow it down for all the weed smokers tonight,” he said.”Yeah, I smell it.”

Other standouts include “Partition” which had people running back from the bathroom (the concert, frankly, had gotten slow just before this point) to see Beyonce spin on a stripper pole in her boudoir outfit and slink sexily around a chair, even performing some moves usually seen on the Las Vegas strip. Jay got no parts of that though. In fact, though the storyline of the concert was about the couple, complete with home movies, Mr. and Mrs. Carter first openly touched – awkwardly – at the finish of “Drunk in Love,” which was midway through the show. They exchanged more affection near the end, after a sweetly-sad rendition of “Young Forever.” Sweet because the music stopped and the crowd chimed in to finish the song. Sad because some 60,000 people, mostly under 35, were singing about living forever. And we all know know that can’t be, and yet in that moment, under the spell of Beyonce’s flowing hair and her powerful voice, and listening to the empowering wordsmithing of Jay, it does seem that anything is possible.

Set List

03 Bonnie &amp; Clyde
Upgrade U
Crazy in Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds from Sierra Leone
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Tom Ford
Run the World (Girls)
Jigga My Nigga
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Naughty Girl
Big Pimpin’
Ring the Alarm
On to the Next One
Baby Boy
U Don’t Know
No Church in the Wild
Drunk in Love
Public Service Announcement
Why Don’t You Love Me
Holy Grail
Beach is Better
99 Problems
If I Were a Boy
Song Cry
Love on Top
Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
Niggas in Paris
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Hard Knock Life
Pretty Hurts
Part II (On the Run)
Young Forever
Lift Off


— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

Russell Simmons took me to yoga class, and I became a better interviewer because of it

Everyone’s talking about “mindfulness.” It’s a new-old sort of Eastern-based mental practice that appears to be coming back into vogue in the greater population. Essentially, to me, it means slowing down to smell the roses, remember to breath and center yourself. And when done correctly, many of the things that stress us out, give us heart attacks and feed our  bad attitudes tend to dissipate.

Mindfulness was the subject of my latest “The 312” column for the Chicago Sun-Times. You can read that here. But that column honestly is only the tip of the iceberg. I was very interested in what Yvonne Furth and Molly Redberg-Leshnock had to say about mindfulness as a tool for business success. The former executive of Draft FCB worked with her colleague, a local university professor, to combine yoga and mindfulness practices with solid business ideals in their recently-published book “From the Yoga Mat to the Corner Office.

In part, they advise us all to slow down enough to be conscious of our breathing, to compliment someone else everyday and to take the time to stretch and draw strength. Furth advises to live in the moment. Our minds are always working overtime, she says, so try to quell the franticness and slow down. Be in the now.

Russell Simmons is a person who seems to have perfected these ideals. His latest book, “SUCCESS THROUGH STILLNESS: Meditation Made Simple” shows how he practices what he preachesIn fact, I know this first hand. I’ll never forget when Simmons invited me to yoga class with him. I’d never participated in yoga before, and we were supposed to be conducting an interview for a magazine story. But, the sun was setting and he said that he has an unbreakable commitment to his yoga practice, so he would prefer to go to class and then conduct an interview. Would I mind going with him?

Of course not! I hopped in the car with him and off we went to a north side studio in Chicago. He also sent an assistant off to buy me a yoga outfit so that I could also participate. I certainly didn’t expect to sweat and breath and stretch before my interview, but it worked out well. He introduced me to yoga, my mind became still and focused, and as a result, I had an excellent story. (That night also included going to a swanky club, having a vegan dinner with a bunch of hip hop stars and Russell having a conversation with my then-boyfriend who called during dinner. I was absolutely mortified that Russell asked my then-boyfriend why I wasn’t engaged yet. But… I’m married now – eight years strong – to the same man, so there you go. Russell even sent me a congratulations text after Mr. Man popped the question.)

It was interesting to me that Russell put mindfulness and meditation above conducting an interview or anything else. He wasn’t being selfish. He was taking care of self. There’s a difference. He also wasn’t flustered about running late, and unlike some other CEOs I’ve met, he just didn’t have that uber ego. He wasn’t flustered about anything and he didn’t have to constantly tell people he was important.

Russell took his time to get centered and he moved on. I learned a lot from that experience. Since then, I’ve found that interviews go better when I take the time to relax and breath before the talk. They go even better when I’m centered for the entire week, as opposed to just the day of the interview. I’m less nervous and for some reason, people really open up to me. (For proof of that, see my Ebony cover story with Tina and Erica Campbell, aka Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary. During the interview, Tina said that she tried to stab her husband with kitchen knife after he admitted to cheating on her with a family friend. WHOA. Let’s just say I missed my flight from LA back to Chicago. And that story? Powerful stuff. You can also read it on my portfolio page and also more about it here.)

All that to say, mindfulness mixed with business is a partnership that works. You just need to take the time out to do it. Some call it prayer. Some call it meditation. When combined with your career, I’ve found that it just amplifies your gift. Or perhaps it’s more that when combined with your career, mindfulness helps you to focus on what’s important and to let go of what’s not. Whatever you call it, it works.

Want to continue this conversation? Hit me up on Twitter @adriennewrites.