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Remembering Aretha Franklin and Her Heartfelt Connection With Nelson Mandela

In honor of the Queen of Soul's immeasurable impact, we revisit her passionate support of Nelson Mandela, and the anti-apartheid movement, through her musical tributes.

Iconic singer, Aretha Franklin, the "Queen of Soul" passed away on Thursday after a battle with pancreatic cancer. She was 76.

Franklin was considered by many to be the greatest singer of all time. Her influence on popular music cannot be overstated. The legendary artist sold 75 million records and earned 18 Grammys in a career spanning six decades and she was influential in many global social movements as well.

Having been a widely-embraced public figure for so long, Franklin was present for some of the biggest events of the 20th century, including the funeral of Civil Rights Leader Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the release of Nelson Mandela from prison in 1990.

Upon Mandela's release, the singer played a unique role in welcoming him to the States by performing at a freedom rally in his honor in Detroit. Rosa Parks, Jesse Jackson and Stevie Wonder were also in attendance for the historic night. During the celebration, Franklin called the anti-apartheid leader on stage, where he spoke about listening to and appreciating "the Detroit, Motown Sound" while he was in prison.


Watch her unforgettable performance of "The Impossible Dream" below.


"His spirit and his ideals, and his heart and his soul could not be imprisoned," the late singer told ABC News after his death in 2013. When asked which song she would sing as a tribute to him following his death if she had to pick, Franklin responded "'Respect,' no question about it."

Her 1990 concert wasn't the only time she payed tribute to the South African leader. She performed a moving rendition of "Make Them Hear You" on Mandela Day in 2009 at New York's Radio City Music Hall. Watch her performance below.

In Febuary 2014, just two months after Mandela's death, the artist sang another tribute to him at BET Honors, this time delivering a heartfelt performance of Sam Cooke's classic "A Change is Gonna Come." You can watch her full performance from that night via BET.

There's no doubt that Franklin will be honored in the same way that she so graciously honored Mandela throughout his life. Fellow artists, fans, public figures and former presidents alike have taken to social media to share heartfelt tributes to the Queen of Soul. Barack and Michelle Obama have shared particularly heartfelt messages to the singer who performed at Obama's inauguration in 2009, read them below along with messages from Angelique Kidjo, Cynthia Erivo, Ibeyi and more.










C Natty/emPawa

You Need to Watch C Natty's New Music Video For 'Ojah'

Video Premiere: Check out the striking first release from Mr Eazi's #emPawa30.

C Natty arrives in style with his new single "Ojah."

The track, which is the first release from Mr Eazi's new group of #emPawa30 artists, sees the Nigerian artist delivering a highly-infectious and grooving concoction over jazz-leaning afrobeats produced by Killertunes.

The new music video for "Ojah," which we're premiering here today, is equally as stunning and follows the story of someone who doesn't take others' advice. C Natty told us the following about the DK of Priorgold Pictures-directed video:

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News Brief

South African Hip-Hop Producers Tweezy and Gemini Major Set for Instagram Live Beat Battle

Two of South Africa's hip-hop super producers Tweezy and Gemini Major will face-off in upcoming Instagram live beat battle.

After Instagram live beat battles such as Swizz Beatz versus Timbaland and Mannie Fresh versus Scott Storch amid the lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it was only a matter of time until the hip-hop community across the world followed suit.

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Image courtesy of Adekunle Adeleke

Spotlight: Adekunle Adeleke Creates Digital Surrealist Paintings That Celebrate African Beauty

Get familiar with the work of Nigerian visual artist Adekunle Adeleke.

In our 'Spotlight' series, we highlight the work of photographers, visual artists, multimedia artists and more who are producing vibrant, original work. In our latest piece, we spotlight Adekunle Adeleke, a Nigerian visual artist, using digital mediums to paint dream-like portraits of Africans. Read more about the inspirations behind his work below, and check out some of his stunning paintings underneath. Be sure to keep up with the artist on Instagram and Facebook.

Can you tell us more about your background and when you first started painting?

I am a self taught artist. I started drawing from when I was really young. I mostly used graphite pencils and paper. But about six years ago, I think it was 2014, I wanted to start getting into color. I was a university student at the time and I lived in a hostel with three other people, so I couldn't go traditional so [instead], I started making paintings digitally, first on my iPad and then on my laptop with a Wacom. I have been painting ever since.

What would you say are the central themes in your work?

I personally think my work celebrates beauty (African beauty to be precise) and occasionally absurd things. I really just want to make paintings that are beautiful.

How do you decide who or what you're going to paint?
I do not have an exact process. I do use a lot of references though. Sometimes, I had an idea of how exactly the painting would look, others I just make it up as i go along.

Can you talk about a particular moment or turning point in your life that made you want to pursue art or a creative path?

I am not sure–I did not actively pursue art in a sense. I was just doing it because it was fun and I wanted to. Then people all of a sudden wanted to put me on projects and offer to pay for my hobby. I have thankfully been able to make art and also work in a separate field—which I also enjoy–by day.

"Canary" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Hibiscus" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist

"Chinua Achebe" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist

"Noir" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Goldi Locks" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Wax" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

"Nest" by Adekunle Adeleke

Image courtesy of the artist.

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