Keke Palmer ‘The Boss': It’s Time for Young People to Break Down Barriers
Keke Palmer is a woman of many talents. Starting when she was still in elementary school, Palmer landed roles as Queen Latifah's niece in 2004's Barbershop 2: Back in Business, and then landed the lead in the 2006 film, Akeelah and the Bee. She also had numerous roles on TV including Tyler Perry's House of Payne, True Jackson, and more recently, EPIX's Berlin Station, and the upcoming third season of Scream. Palmer balanced her screen work by getting into the studio where she recorded 2007's So Uncool and her 2016 record, Waited to Exhale.
While she was initially advised not to do both disciplines, Palmer continued on and showed that acting and music can go hand-in-hand when she played Ella in the Broadway musical, Cinderella. She also played Marty Maraschino for the TV version of Grease Live!. And when you thought that she already had a lot going on, she started her own record label. Called Big Boss Entertainment, Palmer recently dropped her single, appropriately titled, "Bossy" and is set to release her new album, The Boss, later this year.
The Boombox had the chance to chat with the 24-year-old artist and entrepreneur about growing up in the industry, giving back to the community, and of course, what it means to be a boss.
Let's start with "Bossy." It's the first single off your own label, right?
Yes, but there was a pre-cursor record called "Pregame" that I did a video for and put that out in December. And "Bossy" is my first single off my new project, The Boss, which is off my new label, Big Boss Entertainment. And for me, pretty much I was on a label since I was 12 years old. I'm 24 now, and I think I just got the point where I realize that the system, as it has been, has never really worked for me. I don't think it's working for a lot of people, and I think we're in a time where millennials are finding new ways to hear artists and find new music. And I want to be a part of encouraging that, putting talent into the forefront and also making it easier for artists, such as myself, to be heard and be your own boss.
And you had a very successful 2017 as an actress, why pivot back to music for 2018?
Music has always been a major part of me as an entertainer. I didn't really separate the two, and I think that was the issue for a long time. Everybody else made me feel like I couldn't do all of them. Everybody makes it seem that there's this big competition between music and acting, as if both of them aren't artistic expressions. But it took a lot for me to ignore what other people were saying. It was as if doing music was betraying acting, and acting was betraying music. I do them all, and Broadway really helped me to do that.
Who are you musical influences? And have they changed as you've grown up?Aaliyah, Brandy, TLC. A lot of people influence me, but right now, I'm listening to a lot of trap stuff. I really like Trippie Redd. I can't say he inspires my music directly, but he inspires me to try different things. I love that he doesn't pigeonhole himself to one thing. He has rap influences, but he also has rock influences, pop. I just really like what he's doing as a young artist out there.
And in addition to putting your own music out through your label, you want to help other artists do the same. So has the search for new talent already started? And what are you looking for in an artist?
That's definitely something I'm looking to do ASAP. I mean I'm working on my project and finishing it, but I'm looking for new talent. I have my eyes on new talent. That's a major part of my excitement for the label. Because the reality of the situation is, I'm not going to be in front of the cameras forever. So there will come a time for me when I want to have my own family and do other things, but I do want to still have my hand in entertainment, because I love it so much. It would be an honor for me to move aside in order for other young people to come forward and shine.
Aside from the music and acting, you also work with Saving Our Daughters and Broadway. Can tell us more about that?
I've been working with Saving Our Daughters for quite some time, since I was 12 years old. It was started by Curtis Benjamin in honor of his daughter, who was dying of cancer. And so [I wanted] to give back to the inner city community and allow young girls to see things that they maybe would be able to see otherwise. And one of the things we did was partner with the Covenant House. It was a way for them to see my Broadway show, Cinderella. So that's a branch of Saving Our Daughters called Saving Our Cinderellas. They actually still do it to this day.
As a boss, what do you hope to teach young people out there who want to become entrepreneurs themselves?
Independence, freedom and ownership. I think it's a great time for young people to discover and break down barriers that people put up before them. I think that we have a lot things that other generations before us didn't have so we have an opportunity to recreate systems, to break old ones down and rebuild new ones. We can be in full control, not a dictatorship; and we could all work together as a community and become a driving force in the world today. I'm hopeful for that.
You’re a vocal advocate for so many things and you have the ear of your peers and elders. Will we see Keke Palmer for president or other public offices in the future?
I don't know. I'm not very political. So that kind of is nerve-racking to me, but I am about the people. So there's that fine line because politics are supposed to be about the people, but not often are they [about the people]. So I can see that and see how people find that connection to me. I don't know about that area, but I know that I care about the community.
What does the rest of 2018 look like for Keke Palmer?
You'll be getting some singles and then [an album} to follow. I also have some filming for some TV shows. I have a film coming out. I have another film that I hope to get into Tribeca Film Festival. So a bunch of different things.
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