VH1's 'Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta' gets dirty
VH1 really seems to be following the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Amid growing criticism of its latest season of “Basketball Wives,” the network is introducing yet another title in a booming roster of provocative programs slanted toward African American viewers wanting to wallow in the behind-the-scenes drama (quite evidently, there is a ton) that goes on with women attached to the music and sports worlds.
“Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta,” a spin-off of the popular New York based docu-series in which slapping, drink throwing and hair pulling became a plot point, is set to premiere on the network on Monday.
The 10-episode series is anchored in a new crop of industry players: Grammy Award-winning producer Stevie J (Diddy, Jay-Z, Mariah Carey), his girlfriend, Mimi Faust, and his protégée, an up-and-coming Latina rapper named Joseline; rapper Lil Scrappy, his girlfriend, Erica Dixon, and his mother, a former hustler known as “Momma Dee”; Atlanta rapper Rasheeda, her manager-husband Kirk Frost; songstress K. Michelle; and Trinidadian R&B singer Karlie Redd.
Pop & Hiss caught up with two of the aspiring performers, Joseline and K. Michelle, to talk drama, putting themselves in front of the camera and, of course, music.
K. Michelle: I think with any decision you make there’s always the hesitation. I was going to do "Love & Hip Hop: New York," and when "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta" came around it was a great fit to my personality, everything. I thought about the pros of doing the show and they outweighed the cons, but all in all it was about me telling my story and being myself and letting the world know the real K. Michelle.
Joseline: I was kind of scared, a little bit. But my manager said it’s a great idea; he said, "You should do it and it would be great as far as your music goes." I did a lot of my things in my life before. It doesn’t even matter, people are going to have their opinions, so I did it.
You did it even considering all that viewers saw on the original “Love & Hip Hop?” The show can get intensely personal.
K. Michelle: This show really is huge in the urban community and every community in the music world. [I wanted to be] able to be a part of something that shows six women and their struggles. We might not always get along all the time, but these women have real hurdles they are crossing.
Joseline: I thought about a few things here and there. A few times I said, “… what am I doing?” But then, I’ve never been scared to let anyone know I raised myself. Me and my mother wasn’t close; I used to run away for a lot reasons. I learned everything on my own until I met Stevie. I feel like it was for a reason. I can share my life and it can help a lot of people. I didn’t finish high school; I didn’t go to college; I started stripping at a young age. I just wanted to show the people and young girls that there’s another way.
In the first episode, things get rather heated at a birthday party. With the criticism that VH1 is getting for some of these shows having altercations that quickly get physical, were you worried about associating yourself with this show?
K. Michelle: You know what? For me, I have my own issues. It’s very difficult for me to judge the girls on "Basketball Wives" or any of the women on "Mob Wives" or any of the women who are showing their lives on VH1. But what I did want to pay attention to is that I'm portrayed right. I’m not perfect in this show, by any means. The biggest things I wanted the producers to portray is not an innocent K. Michelle but an honest and real K. Michelle.
There is a lot of camera time given to personal drama. How much music are we going to get in the show?
K. Michelle: Stay tuned. When we tape, we tape so much so you never know what's going to make it into an episode. There's a lot of focus on me rebuilding myself as a woman, the music is involved but there's a ton of focus on me and my new love life. Its about the re-branding of K. Michelle.
Do you really think people will walk away from this wanting to hear your music?
Joseline: Definitely. I believe and know everyone is going to love my music. I put in a lot of work and I’ve had a lot of struggles. I’m really showing people how much of the struggle I’ve had. I’m not just a beautiful face and a beautiful body, it’s more than that. I know people are going to love the music, that’s what I’m doing the show for. I know people are going to want to work with me. I’m talented, I’m beautiful, I’m young, I’m striving, I’m ready to work, I’m ready to be a role model for the young girls. Why wouldn’t they want to work with me? Not being cocky, just being confident in my work and what I do.
Now obviously there is going to be a lot of talk about your relationship with your manager. Have you prepared yourself to be looked at as the villain, because that’s certainly the way it seems edited when you watch the trailer and the first episode?
Joseline: Of course, I think a lot of people are going to believe I am the villain. The truth of the matter is, Stevie is my manager and we’re going to be working together forever. Once people get to know the full story and see what’s going on, they will know I’m not the villain and I’m trying to work. They will know I’m not trying to take anyone’s man; they will know it’s not like that. But it’s OK, people are judging me already. They’ve been judging me. Everyone has their opinions. They can say what they want because I know what I am and what I’m not. I just want to work and make beautiful music.
Outside of the drama sure to boil on the show, when can people expect to get their hands on some music?
K. Michelle: July 9! That’s one thing I’m happy about. My fans, and my haters, are always asking, "Where’s her music?" It’s my first full project, a free EP called “Zero ... Given.” I'm at a point where K. Michelle likes herself. There’s still some things where I’m not as happy as I should be, but right now ... your opinion of everything that’s me, at this point there is zero ... given.
Joseline: Actually, I have a single that’s coming out really soon; it should be out in a couple of weeks. It will be on iTunes and vh1.com; it’ll be everywhere. I don’t have an exact date for my album, but definitely the single is coming very soon.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Photo: The ladies of "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta." Left to right: K. Michelle, Karlie, Rasheeda, Mimi, Joseline and Erica. Credit: VH1