Interviews

Published on February 14th, 2018 | by Jerry Doby

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Keke Palmer: Newly Independent, The Boss Discusses Her New Imprint and Mission

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

I first saw Keke Palmer on screen as the piano protégé on Barbershop 2 and was amazed by her presence on Akeelah and the Bee, which was the vehicle that let the world know we were watching someone quite special. Since that time, Keke has been a staple in the industry from children’s shows like Bubble Guppies to the Lee Daniels‘ triumph Star and she commands the lead character role in the next iteration of the MTV Movie Scream.

We caught up with Keke for a lively and informative conversation to discuss her new indie label venture Big Boss Entertainment, her impending full-length release The Boss and her amazing movement Save Our Cindarellas which she launched as she made history as the first black woman to play the role of Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella…on Broadway!

We opened up discussing her new record label imprint!

Keke: So, Big Boss Entertainment is my new label, and for me, I’m just somebody that really, I’ve always gotten lost in the label system, simply because I always felt like people were trying to exploit me and my talent as opposed to really nurturing me and helping me to develop my voice as an artist. So I got to the point where I’m just like, why do I keep tryna force myself in a system that doesn’t fit for me and work for me, and also a lot of other artists are doing the same thing when we’re in a time now specifically, with social media and the new way we’re able to find our favorite artists’ new music, we can design a way that works best for us. And so that’s what really inspired me to wanna start Big Boss Entertainment, not just for myself, but for other young entertainers helping them on their way and through that, working on my project, The Boss, the first single Bossy is out now.

Keke looks to release her full-length project The Boss under her independent label Big Boss Entertainment around summer 2018.

I mentioned my editors pick joint Wind Up, the video for which I found to be fun and quite theatrical so Keke gave us the backstory

Keke: That was one of the first projects that I really put, definitely with the video for Wind Up, I really put the theatrics aspect, into my music career. Because for a long time, I was always afraid of connecting those worlds, but after I did Broadway and saw how well that blended together. How you could give music and how you didn’t have to be afraid of it. Then I also worked with R Kelly for about a year and he expressed the same thing to me. He’s done the same thing with the Isley Brothers and also with Trapped in the Closet, so he’s not afraid to put a sense of theater and theatrics and storytelling with his music. He’s like “Keke, if you’re good at that there’s no reason you should run away from that”.

And so with Wind Up, it was really fun for me, because in that video it’s exactly kind of a version of what I did. It was imagining me doing my own Ted Talk. Giving a performance of how I came from poverty and got to where I am now. So, I really love Wind Up as well, and you’ll definitely see a lot of theatrics with these projects as opposed to my Lauren EP, which came out last year, which is also about me: the girl behind the entertainer Keke Palmer. The girl who made Keke Palmer who she is. The girl from Robbins, Illinois and who I am outside of being this entertainer. How I really feel and what my mind is like, and you get The Boss, which is all about me being that boss bi*ch. You’re still gonna get different dynamics of what it is to be a boss, but you’re definitely gonna be more of that extravagant side of who I am.

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

Keke’s single Pregame which dropped this past December delivered a showcase of nuances and timbre and intonations, she really delivered some serious energy on that. Her challenge line in the joint “…Three Shots, Line ‘em up…” had a deeper meaning under the surface which she described briefly after we had a quick laugh together!

Keke: Yes, no seriously, and that’s totally my energy. A lot of people get to see different aspects of me and that really is something that I do love about my career. I have fans that are much, much older than me, then I have fans the same age as me, then I have fans that’s much younger than me. Some of them have maybe seen me on Bubble Guppies and my other fans maybe have seen me on True Jackson and my other fans maybe seen me on something else. But with music, again, you’re gonna always get, I feel like my personality, and it’s gonna be more personal to me. So with Pregame and with the Boss Project it’s about, kinda me when I’m in my Keke element it’s like Pregame is about: yo, we out here honey, and trust and believe we are bringing life to the party. That’s my personality help the party get started. I get that from my dad. We got the jokes, we got the energy and that’s what Pregame was all about.

Keke proved she had a goofball sense of humor when during a radio appearance in NY, the producers talked her into doing a prank call to a pizzeria, asking for love advice!

Keke: That was so crazy when they contacted me about doing that. I’m a daredevil, so I’m really ultimately down for anything. I’m always gonna be game to try it, so I didn’t know what the hell I was doing when it came to those prank calls, but it worked out for good…as long as people are laughing and happy.

I was laughing for sure, for sure and you can find the video on The Breakfast Club YouTube channel…enjoy!

To whom much is given, much is required, and when Keke was on Broadway doing Cinderella, she did something that a lot of people are now starting to do, for example with the Black Panther challenge and all that. Keke, in support of Saving Our Daughters and Saving our Cinderellas, made it possible for groups of young ladies to come and see her on Broadway. She had a diverse crowd, some of them homeless, some of them abused, some from shelters. Keke gave them a respite from that part of their lives.

Keke: Well shout out to the Covenant House, they also helped a lot with us having that possible with Saving our Daughters. But, Saving our Daughters is the organization I worked with for a long time with Curtis Benjamin who, of course, started it. Pretty much, it’s about helping young girls to always be empowered and to have the ability to see opportunities out there for themselves that they maybe didn’t realize at first. And so, Saving our Cinderellas is another facet of that, where we allow the girls to get the opportunity each to go to see a Broadway show. Cinderella was the first one that they got the opportunity to do that with, and they still continue to do that to this day and it’s something I’m very happy that we got an opportunity to do. I actually just did something again with Saving our Daughters this past holiday where we gave out Bratz Dolls with the radio station, and that was awesome too.

That’s an important part of my career, again, as much fun as it is being the entertainer, and I always have fun doing that, it’s also important to me to give back, and to also be able to invest time in other people the way that time was invested in me. That’s gonna always be a growing part of who I am. The more I go on, and the more I take a seat from in front of the camera and behind it, the youth and investing into the youth is always gonna be something that is important to me.

Now as a new corporate citizen, Keke participated, in an event during Christmas at the Obama Elementary school; We asked if there was a moment where she connected with somebody and saw in their eyes that they got it as to why she was there?

Keke: Oh yes, I think that that’s a moment that I’ve gotten addicted to. That’s happened to me many, many, many a time. I’m one of those people that believe in fairytales and I carry that spirit around all the time, especially when I see a child. I remember I was, I forget what school I was at when this particular thing happened, but I wasn’t in … I was not in Atlanta, I was out of town, I was in the south but I forget exactly where I was. I saw this little girl and she was looking at me and her mom was kinda like, “Come on girl, we ain’t got time for this”, and it seemed to me like they were rushed. So, I took her book, she had a book, and I signed it and I whispered in her ear “Everything you know is already true, don’t let anybody stop you from believing it”.

I just knew that she knew and I just wanted to let her know that the spirit of God is within all of us, so I wanted to express the spirit of God within me. I believe that it’s true, no matter what type of darkness, no matter what, it’s there. The spirit, you can access it at any moment and you can also see it in others. So, I’m here, you see it in me. Don’t forget this moment because it will come again and you can always access that place

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

Keke Palmer (Label Submitted)

Who is Keke Palmer? Keke gave us a bit of an introspective, describing her journey from the outside looking in, then and now, as she sees herself.

Keke: Keke Palmer is a young woman that’s just wanting to make a better way for generations to come. Keke Palmer is an entertainer and she takes it backs to the MGM style and all that; The Judy Garland, Ricky Rovey, Shirley Temple. She’s a throwback style, she’s kinda got her hand in everything. She’s doin all she can to entertain for joy, that’s the type of world I came from. Growing up in poverty, grew up in church. It was always about finding ways to entertain one another and make one other smile. It’s about using the glory of God within and shining it outwards. That’s who Keke Palmer is.

When you are successful and influential in the entertainment business, people come at you from all different directions with opportunities, money can get in the way and success can get in the way. This makes it easy lose track of ourselves, but it seems like Keke never really lost track of herself or if she did, she found herself again really quickly.

Keke: Absolutely, in my book, I Don’t Belong to You, I talk about some of those things. I think it’s a major part of life for that to happen. Defining yourself and rebuilding yourself, and it probably happens again and again. I think probably a period, 16 then 25, your 21 then 30, and then 50. Cause you learn more, you experience, you realize maybe I was a little bit ignorant about that. Oh, Sh*t! Alright, I’m back on the path again. It’s okay, everything happens in time. I talk a lot about that, also a lot about the beginnings of our parents.

Our parents, they only could do what they do, and that was their best and they’re human. And us being able to kind of reverse the, I don’t wanna say quote-unquote mistakes or the things, the habits that we attach to for generations to come. My parents really gave me the opportunity to know more than they did. That doesn’t mean that they’re idiots, that means that they gave up a lot so that I could make a better way for the generation to come and this is major. That’s really inspirational to me because that was brave of them to do. Driving four days and three nights from the Midwest to a place like California for their kid. My dad drew his pension, my parents gave up their lives. Seeing that type of humility and that type of bravery, that’s the foundation that I was built on.

Keke has a full slate of television and films on her calendar for 2018, she seems to be one of the hardest working all around entertainers in the biz!

Keke: Pimp is actually filmed, and we’re in the process of putting it in the Tobago Film Festival, so I’m very, very, very excited about that. I also have Scream, which is coming out on MTV, in March. Of course, I’m on this season of Star. Shout out to Lee Daniels who also is a producer on Pimp and he … so he actually, when I was doing that season of Star, I contacted him when I did Bossy, I was just doing my project and I was like, “Yo I know Lee wants me to do a song on Star, and I feel like this song, I feel like I could lend it to the show if he allows it. My character’s a boss wanting to reverse her relationship with the label. I feel like this would be a great song for her”. So I sent it to Lee and he was like “I love, I love it. This is the song of the season, you have got to do the song on the show. Yes, yes, yes girl”. It will be on the season premiere of this season that’s getting ready to come out this year. I’m super excited, we’ve got some twists and some turns on the show that I think people gonna really enjoy.

There’s a big jump from being a featured face and the LEAD, for lay people Keke discussed the difference in the pressure of being the lead, the main focus and carrying a vehicle, as opposed to being a contributing part of the vehicle.

Keke: Well, of course, you’ve got a lot less pressure, when you’re not the main character. Speaking of an ensemble or you’re a supporting role, or in a situation like where on Star, your character’s now dead. It’s still amazing of course, as long as you focus and make sure that you made each moment that you do have on screen the best moment that it could possibly be. So, no you ain’t gotta have as much attention and not have as much work as the lead character, you still wanna make sure that just because you don’t have all that, you wanna give it your all and make sure that those moments people do get to see on screen they’re pretty memorable.

If you’re the lead in a film you really have to exercise a lot of discipline, I mean of course I think disciple is just necessary throughout your career in general, but especially if you’re the lead actor because you are gonna be needed almost in every single scene, you do have more lines maybe than other people in the cast, you do kinda have to remember every step of where the script changes or where it has to go back and rewrite itself, especially if you don’t shoot in order. You don’t want your character to look a fool, you want your change to look sincere, your character’s growth to look sincere. It causes you to have even more of a higher level of discipline if you want it to be great because you wanna make sure you’re getting complete on time, make sure you’re aware throughout the entire shoot. It’s just a lot more on your plate, asks for a lot more focus.

What is the most fun about being Keke Palmer right now?

Keke: The most fun about being Keke Palmer right now is the freedom that I have with my music and the freedom that I have with my career. But I think I had such concept in my mind that I needed other people when it came to my music that it stopped it from being as free as it is now, so the independence that I have now in my career and now nothing can stop me. I don’t have those shackles on. There’s no wrong or no right way to do anything. I’m completely and utterly free when it comes to creating and so that’s what that feeling I mean that I have no limits. For real and that the world is mine.

Keke Palmer (Photo: Photo by Von Jackson www.vonjackson.com)

Keke Palmer (Photo: Von Jackson www.vonjackson.com)

Last but not least, the Hype Magazine wants to know what’s been your craziest where they do that at moment or WTF moment thus far in your career.

Keke: When I was like 11 years old I was with the little boy from Ray Charles, we were at the NAACP Awards, and this is, of course, years ago, so the teleprompter went down and when the teleprompter went down I just kind of started making little jokes and stuff, alright kind of like idle jokes, not knowing what to say. People were like “cool, I’m outta here”. As the night was ending and the award show was over, Kanye West ended up walking by and he was like “Ey, ey, little girl you did a really good job, you know what I mean, up there on stage. You was dope, you real funny”. I was like, “funny? He thinks I’m funny”. I was so happy because this was at the beginning of Kanye West’s really, really blowing up. He’s from Chicago, and of course, I’m from Chicago so I was really happy that he said that to me.

Kanye was right young lady…the superstar prophesied on an upcoming superstar and here you are!!! ~ JD

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About the Author

Editor-in-Chief of The Hype Magazine, and internationally published arts & entertainment journalist. Member of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture as well as the United States Press Corps.


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