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Mike WiLL Made-It rises as 1 of music's top producers

Whenever Mike WiLL Made-It receives any praise for his work on Beyoncé's anthemic "Formation," he thinks about all of the people who doubted he would ever work with the Grammy-winning pop star.

"Back then, I was like, 'Man I could do something crazy for Beyoncé.' But they was like, '...Beyoncé don't be working with just anybody bro,'" he recalled. "People told me that 'Beyoncé ... doesn't work with just anybody.' Now, I'm to the point where I'm face-to-face with Beyoncé in the studio, and all that plays in my head.

"It's basically not letting anyone tell you what you can't do."

Mike WiLL stayed true to the advice his father gave him a long time ago — to remove "can't" from his vocabulary. It has helped him reach his goals as a producer and songwriter, and craft hits like Rihanna's "Pour It Up," Juicy J's "Bandz a Make Her Dance" and Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop." He also executive produced Cyrus' "Bangerz," her 2013 album that pushed her to full-blown pop star status, and he has produced for Kanye West, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and more.

But last year Mike WiLL saw his biggest success as he co-produced and co-wrote Beyoncé's "Formation," which earned him, and Beyoncé, Grammy nominations for song and record of the year. He also produced Rae Sremmurd's "Black Beatles," which reached the No. 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven weeks. The song, featuring Gucci Mane, became so popular that it often served as background music to the viral "Mannequin Challenge," where people acted motionless while the camera scans them.

Despite the skeptics, Atlanta-raised Mike WiLL has really made it.

"Everybody was against him," said Swae Lee of Rae Sremmurd, the rap duo that includes his brother Slim Jxmmi (the group is signed Mike WiLL's Ear Drummer Records).

"But he stays locked in on the art," Swae Lee continued. "He's focused on his craft. He's not worried about no one else. Today, he's like one of the greats in the industry."

Now, Mike WiLL has taken the next step as a producer: He released his debut album, "Ransom 2," last week — a day after his 28th birthday. The album features Kendrick Lamar, Rihanna, Big Sean and Young Thug.

"He'll take a small idea and make it into a big one," Slim Jxmmi said of Mike WiLL. "I've seen him take one of my freestyles and make a whole entire song out of it. ... Mike has this knack for putting it all together into a big song."

A freestyle is actually what led to "Formation."

When Swae Lee blurted out, "OK ladies, let's get in formation," during a car ride to the Coachella music festival, Mike WiLL knew he had something.

"Swae Lee might have a laundry list of voice notes, but never records the song," the producer said. "But I told him we got to record this. In my mind, I'm thinking we're going to get this to Beyoncé. I'm thinking about it being a woman empowerment song like 'Single Ladies.'"

Working on "Formation" forced Mike WiLL to push back his own album, but also gave him time to hone his sound and tweak the songs.

"I wanted to drop an album I feel good about, that I feel strong about," he said of "Ransom 2," the follow-up to "Ransom," his 2014 mixtape. "Ever since I started doing mixtapes, it's always been a dream for me to release an album. Like how Timbaland had everybody on his album."

And like Timbaland, Mike WiLL has a goal of producing for more A-list acts, including Adele. He said he spoke with the British singer's manager about working on her "25" comeback album, but it never panned out.

"I feel like we can come together and do a song that's never been heard of," he said.




Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter: His work can be found at

David Tennant among new claimants over tabloid phone hacking

Lawyers say nine people, including actor David Tennant and former Formula One driver Eddie Irvine, have launched legal action against Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper operations over alleged tabloid phone-hacking.

Law firm Collyer Bristow said Thursday it is representing Irvine, ex-"Doctor Who" star Tennant and seven others over "phone hacking and other unlawful activities."

Murdoch closed the tabloid News of the World in 2011 after revelations it had eavesdropped on the voicemails of celebrities, politicians and even a 13-year-old murder victim.

Several journalists were convicted, and Murdoch's company paid out millions in compensation.

Collyer Bristow partner Steven Heffer said Murdoch's company closed its compensation scheme in 2013, and "my clients have been left with no alternative but to issue claims in the High Court."

Murdoch's News U.K. had no immediate comment.

New EPA Head Rejects Pesticide Ban Recommended By The Agency

In 2015, the EPA proposed banning chlorpyrifos, which has been linked to serious health and brain issues — especially in children.

North Carolina's 'Bathroom Bill' Is One Step Closer To Being Repealed

But some anti-discrimination advocates aren't satisfied with the measure that would repeal House Bill 2.

The Real T. Rex Is Fuzzy-Bodied, Scaly-Faced And Lippy

The actual dinosaur looks different than you think.

Review: In 'The Boss Baby,' it's clear who wears the diapers

The creators of "The Boss Baby " have obviously been mining the playwright's gritty, foul-mouthed "Glengarry Glen Ross" to build the title character, a ruthless, capitalist-minded newborn with pupils the size of saucers who insists that "Cookies are for closers."

To make the connection even firmer, they've hired Alec Baldwin to voice the baby, reprising in cartoon version his motivational speaker from hell from the 1992 film version of "Glengarry Glen Ross." The baby is also drawn in Baldwin's black suit and tie with a gold watch and slicked-back hair.

The casting and homage to Mamet's snarling, soulless character is funny indeed but seems somewhat outsized in this sweet film, overpowering its understated humor and terrific animation. Altogether, it sometimes seems like "The Boss Baby" was a really good 20-minute short film that became stretched out like a piece of gum until the taste grew stale.

An army of animators — no, really, the endless end credits are staggering to sit through — have been employed to make a 12-course banquet out of a whimsical board book by Marla Frazee, which introduced the suit-wearing toddler. Onscreen, alternate realities mix with several exciting chase sequences, Elvis impersonators, montages and moments of tenderness.

Screenwriter Michael McCullers, an alumnus of "Saturday Night Live" who went on to write some of the "Austin Powers" movies, has built an insane plot to accommodate Frazee's briefcase-wielding, spicy tuna roll-loving parody of 1980s avarice.

Both the book and film share the same premise — that a baby's arrival changes a family. The movie version is told from the point of view of a 7-year-old only child with a swoop of hair (Miles Bakshi) whose idyllic world is shattered by the arrival of son No. 2 (Baldwin). It gets worse: The new baby can both talk and scheme. He's actually undercover on behalf of a corporate behemoth to push his agenda. (New parents will totally get that.)

Directed by Tom McGrath, the director of the "Madagascar" franchise, "The Boss Baby" is best when it riffs off other action films, such as "The Matrix," ''Mary Poppins," ''Honeymoon in Vegas" and "Raiders Of The Lost Ark," to name a few. The animation and sound effects are so superbly rendered — the fantasy sequences have an entirely different and nifty flavor — that a drop of drool or a puff of baby powder seems to have real texture and feeling.

The laughs aren't machine-gun fast; they're rather gentle, surprisingly not completely scatological, and only a few are meant for adults only. (One takes place on a plane, in which the pilot welcomes customers with the line: "Ladies and gentlemen — and those in coach.")

But make no mistake: A lot of money has gone into this story about the joy of brotherhood. The soundtrack includes tunes by Paul McCartney, Irving Berlin, Elvis, Carole King and Burt Bacharach. The voice cast also includes Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel and Lisa Kudrow.

Baldwin — no surprise — turns out to be simply great at playing a big, scary baby. His unmistakable presence here also adds a strange twist to a movie that its creators couldn't have anticipated. Baldwin, after all, has become notorious on "Saturday Night Live" for playing another suit-wearing character who's also egomaniacal, compassionless and a self-described business genius. This spring, Baldwin plays them both.

"The Boss Baby," a DreamWorks Animation release, is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America "for some mild, rude humor." Running time: 97 minutes. Three stars out of four.


MPAA definition of PG: Parental guidance suggested.


Follow Mark Kennedy on Twitter at

Hawaii Judge Extends Restraining Order Against Revised Travel Ban

U.S. District Judge Derrick Watson granted a motion by the state of Hawaii to convert the temporary restraining order into a preliminary injunction.

Back to burgers: Carl's Jr. ditches bikini-clad ads

The chains are famous for advertisements featuring models and celebrities like Paris Hilton, Kate Upton and Emily Ratajkowski munching on burgers while scantily clad.

A new commercial for the chains shows the imagined Carl Hardee Sr. taking back control of the operation from immature son Carl Hardee Jr. Carl Sr. rips down photos of swimsuit models and puts up framed pictures of hamburgers. The chains are now calling themselves "pioneers of the great American burger."

The company's racy advertising campaign had a defender in Andrew Puzder, who is stepping down as CEO of the chains' parent company, Carpinteria, California-based CKE Restaurant Holdings. Puzder withdrew as President Donald Trump's nominee for Labor Department secretary last month.

Acclaimed and off-beat magazine The Believer has new owner

A highly praised and proudly off-beat literary magazine, where contributors have ranged from Nick Hornby and Anne Carson to Leslie Jamison and Daniel Handler, is changing ownership.

The Believer, a San Francisco-based publication and five-time finalist for the National Magazine Award, has been purchased by the Black Mountain Institute at The University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The Believer was founded in 2003 by authors Vendela Vida, Ed Park and Heidi Julavits, with a commitment "to journalism and essays that are frequently very long, book reviews that are not necessarily timely, and interviews that are intimate, frank and also very long." It had been published by McSweeney's, the independent company run by Vida's husband, author Dave Eggers.

The Black Mountain Institute was established in 2006. It sponsors a wide range of programs, publications and fellowships, working with Nobel laureates Toni Morrison and Wole Soyinka, among others. The Believer will be edited by the institute's executive director, Joshua Wolf Shenk. Financial terms for the acquisition weren't disclosed. The Believer will continue to be released bi-monthly, and the first edition under Shenk's leadership is scheduled for Aug. 1.

"In any era, it's a challenge to make a paper magazine work, especially a literary and arts magazine like The Believer that, by design, takes few ads. In this digital moment, producing a paper-and-glue magazine is especially hard," Vida told The Associated Press in a recent email. She said The Believer has always been "break even at best," although its readership has been steady (around 5,600 subscribers) and its finances have "become more reasonable and stable."

"The Black Mountain Institute has resources that can sustain The Believer and help it thrive. To persist and grow, The Believer needs resources and an ambitious agenda, and Josh and the Black Mountain Institute have both."

Vida and Julavits will remain as consultants to the magazine. (Park left The Believer in 2011.) On April 21-22, Vida will be in Las Vegas and with Shenk will host "American Dreams: A Festival," presented by The Believer and the Black Mountain Institute and featuring Eggers, Carrie Brownstein and Miranda July among others.

Shenk told the AP that he was a longtime admirer of The Believer and called it "a perfect blend of alt and popular." He said he looked forward to working with Handler, Hornby and other longtime contributors, while seeking new talent and ideas.

"It's always been a space for emerging writers, and writers who want to do something weird and beautiful," he said. "I just ran into the poet Jamaal May, and I was asking him, 'What do you want to report on and come back with a dispatch?' I'd also like to find the modern Hunter Thompson, a real literary outlaw to cover (President Donald) Trump's Washington."

Scientists Are Growing Working Eyes Where Eyes Shouldn't Grow

The researchers have also made six-legged frogs and two-headed worms.
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