Hip-hop is a lot like the title of Jim Jones' "Blow Your Smoke." For all of us ardent followers of this rhyming circuit of storytellers who weave aspirational fantasies about Bentleys and shopping sprees, it doesn't matter much that the German luxury car is a loaner or that the fresh-from-the runway Lanvin frock is going back to a publicist. To paraphrase the Diplomat boss, sometimes it's just about blowing smoke.
If anyone knows that rap is as much caked-in grime as it is glossy surfaces, it's the cast of VH1's brand-new docu-series "Love & Hip Hop," officially premiering Monday night (March 14) at 10:30 p.m. ET. On Friday, MTV News caught up with three of the principal castmembers — Chrissy Lampkin (longtime lady of Jim Jones), Emily Bustamante (mother of Fabolous' son) and Olivia Longott (ex-G-Unit songstress) — and they spilled details about their lives and the show.
"For me, the struggle is mostly the image struggle, keeping up with the image," Emily said, when asked what the biggest challenge was about being in a relationship with a famous rapper.
In the weeks since the "Love & Hip-Hop" teaser trailer hit the Net, viewers have been chirping about the women behind the MCs. But the biggest surprise for many fans is that these rappers have been in serious relationships at all. Seeing iconic or veteran rappers on shows like MTV's "Run's House" or E!'s "Snoop Dogg's Father Hood" is one thing, but the idea of a domesticated Fab, whose legion of female fans get worked up over his chipped tooth, is another.
"Me as a wardrobe stylist, I dress these guys, when they put on their bling and their clothes and their shades, they turn into a character," Emily explained. "So that's the biggest struggle for me, the image thing, having to deal with that."
Emily, who describes herself as Fab's "secret" in the premiere episode, recalled being approached by the execs behind "L&HH." She was sold on the chance to brand herself as wardrobe stylist "Emily B." So was Loso supportive?
Emily paused for a moment. "Was he supportive? ... He said, 'Eh, I don't know if that's a good idea.' ... He said, 'I'm not gonna tell you not to do it, but I don't know if it's a good idea.' So maybe he was right," she laughed, adding quickly, "For him!"
Meeting Chrissy helped cement the decision, and though Fab and Jim traded barbs on Twitter last April, their female counterparts proved fast friends.
"In the beginning, it was a pilot about me and Jimmy ['Jim and the Family Jones'], and he wasn't really comfortable with that," Chrissy explained. VH1 producers volunteered to bring in "some more females, make it more interesting," and eventually Emily, Olivia and aspiring rapper Somaya Reece were added to the cast; Emily's close friend Mashonda Tifrere (ex-wife of Swizz Beatz) also appears.
"If I don't have to work with Jimmy every day, I'm with it!" the ever-bouncy Chrissy, who actually proposes to Jim on the show, laughed. "He didn't want to be bothered with the cameras every day."
According to Olivia, best known for her turn on 50 Cent's G-Unit roster, including a feature spot on her ex-boss' hit "Candy Shop," the series is also about re-charging her music career.
"A lot of people don't really know the real Olivia. I felt like I was kind of sheltered being in the Unit, so this was a way for everybody to see my personality and see how I really am, especially when you see me with these two women," she said gesturing at Emily and Chrissy. " 'Cause we have a lot of scenes together. So you get to see the relationships and how we bond. ... It's a big deal for me because a lot of people also don't know that really I can sing, sing."
With fame in the balance — and all the negative press that can come with it already rearing its head — the ladies said they're just beginning to adjust to the media glare.
"I'm not really in the belly of the beast when it comes to the industry. I've been playing a supporting role to somebody who's going through all types of pitfalls, losses and gains," Chrissy said. "So I can see what it does, but I don't know what it truly feels like — until now, but this is very new, it's premature."
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