Mitchell, Hicks, Smith will get shot at NFL

Just days after not being drafted, former Aggie offensive lineman Qasim Mitchell signed a free agent contract with the NFL’s Cleveland Browns. Mitchell, the 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive tackle from Jacksonville, N.C., started all 35 games of his Aggie career and was slated as a third to fifth round draft choice. However, Mitchell went undrafted, leaving the door open for the Browns to sign him. Mitchell was named to the All-MEAC first team, Conference Lineman of the Year, Associated Press All-American and a Sheridan Broadcasting Network Black College All-American.Running back Maurice Hicks and fullback Taalib Smith were invited to rookie minicamp of the Chicago Bears. Hicks, the 6-foot, 205-pound back, led the MEAC in rushing with 1,325 yards, including an NCAA-Division I single-game record 437 yards against Morgan State on Oct.6. Hicks was selected as the MEAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, Associated Press All-American, Football Gazette and Sports Network All-American, Sheridan Broadcasting Network Offensive Player of the Year and First team All-MEAC.Smith, 6-foot-2, 280-pound fullback from Durham, N.C., was used primarily as a lead blocker.

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Platinum Thoughts add new flare to local music

A local group is making lots of noise with new music on the way while thinking being platinum.Platinum thoughts is a five member hip-hop group, that uses elements of R&B music to complement their lyrics. The group is based out of Greensboro. Group members are Kelli B (the Ad Liber), J 4 Me (Beat Maker), Tinacious (Ish Talker), Nicky P (Rhyme Slayer) and Manifest (Freestyler), the only male. The group has been together less than a year but member Kelli B admits they are “tight like neckbones.” The group made a name for itself by competing in free-style contests, open mic shows and winning a showcase in Washington, DC. Following the showcase, the group was asked to appear on 102 Jamz’ “Busta Brown All-star Morning Show.” On the show, the group performed their song, “LaidBack,” and also sang the new intro song they had prepared for the show.”The Cricket Song” and “LaidBack,” are currently being pushed and have gained airplay on 102 Jamz also. “Every song is gonna take you to a whole ‘nother level,” says Tinacious of the groups repertoire of songs. The group writes and produces their music and records at a local studio in the area. Energetic, is how the group describes their live show. “You can expect the unexpected from us performing,” said Kelli B.The group members are very confident in their ability to make it to the next level. All members are learning the business aspect of the music industry, in order to better prepare themselves for the road of success ahead.”Right now we are making sure everything is copywritten,” says J 4 Me. “We’re all getting registered with ASCAP and our next goal is vinyl, you know you got to get that to the DJ’s because that’s main stream.”Currently, the group can be seen in local shows and in clubs in North Carolina and they are scheduled to perform on May 4 in the Talent Showcase at Dizzy G’s and as well as a concert at Catawba College. The group also plans to release its album, “Tired of Waiting,” by the end of May or beginning of June. Platinum thoughts can be reached via email at just4me997@aol.com or j4me@triad.rr.com.

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Aggies will be counting on “D”

Let’s hope that this was a small preview of things to come. In a game that meant nothing to the Aggies win-loss record, there was a little of everything in the annual spring football game on April 20. After losing star tailback Maurice Hicks and returning only eight seniors, the Aggies will turn to their strength once again: the defense.“We moved some people around on defense and things have come along very nicely,” said Aggie head coach Bill Hayes. “There’s a lot of talent on the defensive side, but team speed is the big difference. Overall, things were far from perfect, but the spring went reasonably well.”Throughout spring drills, the Aggies’ revamped defense showed signs of promise and look to put to rest all of the talk of “rebuilding.” Offensively, the Aggies look a bit shaky with questions still lingering. Most notably, the quarterback situation is unsolved with several prospects battling it out. During the spring, redshirt freshman Randal Rankin and Booker Washington took most of the snaps, but with highly regarded recruits Jason Douglas and Marshall Glenn coming in, the quarterback battle won’t get much easier. Despite the instability at quarterback, the Aggies are deep in the receiving corps with Jamal Jones, Bud Phillips, Kenny Perry and Curtis Deloatch expected to make big plays. Deloatch, an All-American kick returner, is a converted quarterback. On the offensive line, the Aggies are young but may emerge into a dominating force with time. Patrick Jordan, Junius Coston and Desmond Long will anchor the line and try to help rebuild an offense that faltered late last season.“A&T looked really good on defense but kinda off the mark on offense,” said Aggie fan Thomas Ray, a spectator at the spring game. “Hopefully, they’ll be able to get it together and be better than they were last year. When Hicks went down last year, it just seemed like things went into shambles, especially when they lost to teams that they should have beaten.”The Aggies will open up their 2002 season with in-state rival N.C. Central on Aug. 30. The game is tentatively scheduled for Ericsson Stadium in Charlotte.

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Walls, Aggies run through Athens

Recently, the N.C. A&T men’s and women’s track teams competed at the Bulldog Limited Invitational at the University of Georgia. Ten Aggies finished with high honors, while the relay teams took fifth in the women’s 4×100 and second in the men’s 4×100. Tim Walls, ranked sixth in the nation, set a new school record as he ran a 10.19 in the 100-meter dash, breaking the record of 10.2 that he set a season ago. “With it being as hot as it was, 101 degrees, I knew I’d run faster,” said Walls. “Toonk (Gerald Wright) and I warmed up real good and felt great about it. With the MEAC Championships coming soon, I believe we’re gonna drop it there, and I feel that all of us are looking forward to it.” With his time of 10.19, Walls provisionally qualified for the NCAA Championships in Baton Rouge and is just three one-hundreths of a second from qualifying for the NCAA 100-meter dash. The men’s 4×100-meter relay team has already met the NCAA provisional standards, and led by the trio of Walls, Wright and Montay Wilds, they are looking forward to big things. “I feel like we’re progressing the way we need to be progressing,” said Wright, who placed sixth in the 200-meter dash with a time of 21.35 seconds. “Tim broke his own record, and if we had run the relay, we probably would have broke our record that we set at nationals last season.“Individually, I had a bad start, but I’m a late peaker. However, I’m faster at this point than I was last year,” Wright stated.Other top finishers for the men included Everett Bruce (2nd, triple jump, 15.66 meters), Brian Williams (4th, triple jump, 13.67 meters) and Richard Stewart (2nd, long jump, 7.04 meters).In women’s action, Stacie Lee took second in the 400-meter intermediate hurdles with a time of 1:08.00 and also garnered fourth place in the 100-meter hurdles with a time of 14.70 seconds.“I felt that we did an excellent job and it was like a breakthrough performance,” said Lee. “The weather was really warm and maybe we needed that. It boosted our confidence to go out and perform the way we did, and we feel that we should do well at the championships if we do perform the way we did at Athens but a little better.”Crystal Williams (10th, 200-meter, 24.82), Tiffany Purham (7th, triple jump, 11.61 meters) and Donisha Freeman (5th, shot put, 12.98 meters) all took home top 10 honors as well for the women.Both teams are in preparation for the highly anticipated 2002 MEAC Outdoor Championships, which will be held May 2-5 in Tallahassee, Fla.

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Durham comes alive with hip-hop concert at Duke Chapel

On April 25, in front of Duke University’s Chapel, Durham was host to one of the hottest shows ever: Sankofa, the Pharcyde and the incomparable hip-hop band The Roots.Imagine standing outside with red, blue and white lights beaming in your eyes from the stage as artists flowing as they pour their hearts out to hip-hop beats. My mind was hardly on the constant flow of EMS workers.Hip-Hop band Sankofa did a good job on stage for an opening act. Their diversity within the performers of the band brought a fresh look at hip-hop music.The second act was the rap artist the Pharcyde. The Pharcyde performed without the usual lineup of Slim and Fat Lip. If you were really into rap in the early 90s, you would have appreciated their performance. The Pharcyde took its personal favorites “Drop” and “Passing Me By.” They used the classic b-boy style to wow the crowd. Even the instrumentalist did different dances and entrances in the crowd.The final act was the legendary hip-hop band the Roots. The South Philly natives put on an incredible two hour performance. The Roots consist of Kamal, Hub, Scratch, Black Thought, Rahzel, Malik B and ?uestlove. There was so much energy in the crowd when they performed. ?uestlove was a mastermind during the show and with his drum solo. Black thought presented raw energy to the audience with sweat running down his face and his white T-shirt being soaking wet. The Roots have done such songs as “You Got Me” featuring Erykah Badu and Eve and “The Next Movement.” They covered songs from their previous albums and songs from their new album “Phrenology.”The Roots came at the audience hard with the rock classics “Welcome to the Jungle” by Guns N Roses and “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana.They even covered hip-hop classics like “Push It” by Salt N Pepa, “Brass Monkey” by the Beastie Boys and “The Bridge Is Over” by Boogie Down Productions.Then, they decided to do some tracks from some of the hottest artists out today. “Shake It Fast” by Mystikal, “Knock Yourself Out” by Jadakiss, “Rock the Mic” by Beanie Siegel and Freeway are only to name a few.You would have thought famous hip-hop human sound machine Rahzel was on the mic when Scratch was on the stage. I felt guilty seeing the performance for free.

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Baseball team looking forward to tournament

School’s almost out and graduation is approaching so you know what that means, the MEAC Baseball Tournament is about to begin May 9 – 12.The Aggies are coming off a 6- 2 win over the High Point University Panthers on Wednesday, April 24. One of the big players in that game was third baseman Bruce Williams. “We came out, we had 13 hits, and if you hit in double digits, you’re gonna win,” said Williams. “We had no errors and the defense was tight.”The Aggies finished up the season this past weekend at home by hosting Savannah State, against whom they opened the season in January. The Aggies won one of three in that series. “We are definitely trying to sweep the whole series, so we’re looking forward to playing them this weekend,” added Williams.During the beginning of the year, the Aggies were plagued by injuries and were struggling to win games. Junior pitcher, first baseman and outfielder Austin Love felt the same. “Our bats were kind of cold earlier in the year, but now, we are starting to hit a little bit more,” said Love. “Our pitching has been dominating with the exception of a couple of games. In the tournament, we are going to need to swing the bats and play solid defense and pretty much need to get all cylinders of our game rolling.”The Aggies have set a lot of goals this season and Love feels that they haven’t accomplished many of them. However, the main goal that they want to reach as a team is still open and that is winning the MEAC championship. “If we bring all parts of our game to the table, we should have a pretty good chance come tournament time,” said Love.

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“Two Trains Running” brought audience to laughter, tears

The Richard B. Harrison Players of North Carolina A&T State University presented” Two Trains Running” by August Wilson, from April 18-22 at the Paul Robeson Theatre.This is the third Wilson play, that explores the African American experience. It takes place in Pittsburgh in 1969 at a diner owned by Memphis, played by David Watkins, the main character of the play.Memphis is fighting to get a fair price for his diner from the city, which is buying up the entire neighborhood for urban renewal. Watkins played this older guy as if he had once before owned a diner, with the way that Watkins paid attention to all of the characters while still doing his job as the owner. As the main character he had many lines and did a wonderful job executing them. With the right clothing and make-up, he fit this character well. “This role was challenging for me but, this is what I like to do, and I try my best to be good at it,” said Watkins.Risa is played by Sunshyne Gay. She is the waitress and cook at the diner, who has slashed her legs to discourage men. Being the only female in this play both Risa and Gay felt as if she had to carry the weight of all females. She shows a very loving and caring attitude toward the men, however, she still knew what she stood for and was fine on her own.Sterling, played by Lelund Thompson, has been newly released from jail, and was looking for any means to support himself and to stay out of trouble. This smooth-talking character is not only out to seek employment, but to win the heart of Risa the waitress. His style is clean and Thompson gave this character the kick that it needed. “To get into my character I decided to do my character study at the county jail, which was time-consuming but worth the work,” Thompson said.Holloway, played by Troy Whitehurst, is the eldest of the group and serves as the spiritual advisor. He portrays an older man who knew just about every thing that went on in the community. Being that Risa is the only female in the diner, Sterling is not the only man who had a thing for her.Wolf, play by Michael Williams, is a smooth-dressing ladies’ man who once expressed feeling for the waitress.West, played by Jae Sims, is the lonely, wealthy funeral home owner who was always dressed in black. He was a very strong character. Finally Hambone, played by Tomike Ogugua, was found to be funny at times and very sad at others. He was a traumatized, but determined man seeking to get what belonged to him. Although this character did not have many lines, this was a fantastic example of character study. “Instead of me playing a character I want to become a real person with real issues and problems,” Tomike said.All the characters showed their efforts to change their plight in white America. It was very clear that all the actors did their character study and used all their skills to their fullest ability. “The actor did a great job portraying their characters,” said theater major Rondrell McCormick.The play was directed by Frankie Day Greenlee, the director of the last spring show, “Antigone.”This play brought forth laughter as well as tears, as the characters shared their stories of trial and triumph. Overall the play was entertaining.

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Now City emerges with new talent

Atlanta and New Orleans are not the only areas that plan on representing the Dirty South! Up and coming group Now City plans to show the music industry what North Carolina is all about. I had the chance to interview David “Ski” Willis, producer and CEO of Now City Records. Ski welcomed me into the comfort of his home and we discussed his plans with Now City in his private basement studio in Winston-Salem. Ski seemed very relaxed as he began to describe some of his equipment. He has MPC 3,000’s drum machine, a Triton keyboard and a Technique 1200 which he explains are your basic tools for hip hop.A native of Greensboro, Ski moved to New York to pursue a career in music.”I started out rapping,” said Ski. “I didn’t have producers helping me with beats so my moms bought me a SP1200. I started making beats for myself.”He then hooked up with his future partner Clark Kent. “He advised me to sell my beats. I didn’t know how to do that at the time, but I took his advice and sold my first beat to Father MC.”The first successful record was with hip-hop artist Sporty Thievz on Roc-A-Bloc Records, which was based out of New Jersey. Ski is also known for his work on Jay Z’s highly notable album “Reasonable Doubt.” He started Now City a year ago, and has big plans to take the hip-hop industry in North Carolina to another level. “The only obstacle I face coming out of North Carolina is playa hating. People are putting other artists down here and nobody wants you to be successful.” Miss E Wreck also commented on the reality of being an artist in North Carolina. “I feel like a whole lot of artists have versatility. It’s not going to be just one group representing North Carolina,” said Miss E Wreck.Ski’s latest project has been producing rap artist Camp Lo’s new album and maybe his own album in the future. “I really liked the ’70s style Blaxploitation Era. I want to bring the 70s style back and have guest appearances like Outkast, Cee Lo and Camp Lo on the album. The name of my album would be called “Tracksploitation.”Now City consists of Krunk, Miss E Wreck, Hot Wright, Lil ‘Rise, Dolo and Dutch. Dolo, Dutch and LiL’Rise joined Now City in the fall of 2001. Dolo is from Durham, Lil Rise, Dutch, Miss E Wreck and Hot Wright are from Winston-Salem and Krunk is from Greensboro. Each artist with Now City has his or her own individual record deal. Now City’s album is due mid-July.

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The NFL Draft

The NFL Draft this past week was a thing of beauty for some teams and misery for the others. Who didn’t know that the Houston Texans were going to select Fresno State quarterback David Carr with the number one pick? Who didn’t know that the Carolina Panthers were going to select North Carolina defensive end Julius Peppers with the number two pick? Who didn’t know…you get the point. The NFL Draft was just as bad as watching the NBA Draft when a whole bunch of underclassmen that aren’t prepared to play are drafted. Nonetheless, winners from the draft included the Houston Texans and the old Houston team, the Tennessee Titans. Both selected draft choices that they needed, with the Texans getting a franchise quarterback and the Titans adding defense to their stock. However, the Bills were the top winners as they snatched quarterback Drew Bledsoe in a trade.The losers included the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals. The Dolphins landed Ricky Williams in a trade during the offseason but didn’t get much else. The Bengals…what were they thinking! Now we know why they can’t win.

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