WHILE AT THE BEAUTIFUL BALTIMORE INNER HARBOR ON THIS WARM AND MUGGY MAY DAY, I WAS INSPIRED BY THE NUMEROUS SKATERBOARDERS TRAVELLING AROUND THE WATERFRONT. THAT INSPIRATION LED ME TO THINK OF ONE OF MY FAVORITE TRACKS FROM ONE OF MY FAVORITE EMCEES: LUPE FIASCO.
TODAY'S INSTALLMENT SHOULD COME AS NO SURPRISE. "KICK, PUSH", FROM THE DEBUT ALBUM FOOD AND LIQUOR, IS A SONIC MASTERPIECE. THE FIRST TIME I LISTENED TO THE INTRO, AND THEN THE JAZZY HORNS, I WAS HOOKED. I ASSUMED THIS SONG WAS SAMPLED FROM AN OLD 60'S OR 70'S JAZZ SONG, BUT IN ACTUALITY IT COMES FROM A FILIPINO SONG CALLED "MAGTAKSIL MAN IKAW (BOLERO MEDLEY), BY FILIPINO SINGER CELESTE LEGASPI. THE ORIGINAL IS A DENSE AND VIBRANT CUT FROM 1980. THIS SONG IS 4 MINUTES AND 9 SECONDS OF SONIC HEAVEN TO ME, AND IT SHOWS HOW FAR-REACHING HIP HOP EARS CAN BE. SOUNDTRAKK, THE PRODUCER WHO LACED THIS TRACK FOR LUPE, PROVES THAT HAVING A DISCERNING EAR DOESN'T LIMIT WHERE HIP HOP CAN MINE ITS SAMPLES FROM.
BOLERO MEDLEY---CELESTE LEGASPI
KICK, PUSH-----LUPE FIASCO
I'M GOING TO LET THE SONGS SPEAK FOR THEMSELVES TODAY, SO BASK IN THE GLOW OF LUPE FIASCO'S DENSE WORDPLAY AND LYRICISM, SOUNDTRAKK'S PRODUCTION PROWESS, AND THE FILIPINO JAZZINESS OF CELESTE LEGASPI. BELOW YOU WILL FIND ACCESS TO THE FEATURED ARTISTS VIA THEIR RESPECTIVE WEBSITES:
HERE IS THE DEBUT VIDEO AND SINGLE FROM THE FORTHCOMING ALBUM LOVE MACHINE. PHILLY RESIDENT VIKTER DUPLAIX HAS BEEN AND UNDERGROUND MAINSTAY ON THE URBAN SOUL CIRCUIT FOR A FEW YEARS NOW, SO IT COMES AS NO SURPRISE WHEN VIEWING THE DOPE VIDEO FOR "ELECTRIC LOVE". ENJOY THE ARTISTRY!!!
TEAVOLVE----MEGAN LIVINGSTON AND GODS’ILLA, MAY 18TH, 2010
Gypsy Soul has been serving up some delicious appetizers and entrees recently at Teavolve. located in Fells Point. The recent album release party for The Foreign Exchange powerhouse vocalist YahZarah was a huge success, and Tuesay, May 18th was no different. The Ear Candy series is quietly becoming the talk of the town here in Charm City, so having two different, yet vastly talented, artists perform on this evening was a definite pleasure. The featured artists for the most recent Ear Candy were Megan Livingston and Gods’illa; if you didn’t have the opportunity to attend, please be advised that it was a worthwhile experience indeed.
Arriving at Teavolve around 5:30 or so, I was kindly greeted by Shaunna Pickett, one of the Gypsy Soul family members. She immediately made me and CVEG CEO Lewis Williams III, who also was in attendance, feel at home. The atmosphere at Teavolve was serene and very positive, as Gypsy Soul was setting up the venue for an evening of beautiful music. I had the grand opportunity to see first-hand how the Ear Candy series at Teavolve is evolving into a sonic experience. From the musical vibe blaring through the speakers, to the nice touch of candies on each table, Ear Candy took on a metaphorical meaning.
I was introduced to the first artist that I had the opportunity to interview, Megan Livingston, who was accompanied by her musical partner and Baltimore underground hip hop artist Labtekwon. I was very excited to sit down with these two gifted artists. Once we were all led to the interview area in the lobby of the adjacent building, we sat down to begin the ten minute interview. We exchanged pleasantries, and I could sense from Ms. Livingston that she would be a very insightful woman. My questions were meant to engage open dialogue with Megan, and the interview commenced with her talking about her musical influences. She talked about a vast and eclectic range of artistic influences such Bob Marley, India Arie, and the classic Motown sound of the 60’s. It was refreshing to see that she wasn’t afraid to live “outside the musical box“, so to speak, and Ms. Livingston expressed how her eclectic nature became the fuel for her debut album Black Beckee. She discussed how the writing process is inspired by “a moment”, something I could identify with as a writer. The vibrant artist also spoke about her collaborative effort with Labtekwon (Piankhi 7) and Thurs Deephrey, under the moniker The Tao Of Slick. Ms. Livingston’s alter ego with the group is Hazel Black, and she discussed during the interview how she enjoyed the collaborative effort and how The Tao Of Slick was another opportunity for artistic expression. She was very excited about the acoustic set that evening at Teavolve, and promised that the stripped-down performance would entail some surprises. We finished the interview with hugs and a few pictures, and I was finally able to exhale, because I made it through the interview without asking too many insane, off-base, crazy questions (I hope). Megan Livingston is a force to be reckoned with in this fickle music industry, and I appreciated the chance to enter her musical mind and find out what makes her the artist she is.
“From Forestville to Brooklyn” was the mantra shared by Truth, Acem, and Powerful, three physical brothers that make up the hip hop experience known as Gods’illa. This hip hop collective formed in 2004, and have been blessing microphones throughout the DMV and beyond for the better part of six years. I had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with these three unique and dope brothers, and finding out more about Gods’illa. Asking each of these emcees about their influences gave me the chance to gather insight into the positive nature of Gods’illa. They cited Brand Nubian emcees Sadat X and Lord Jamar as influential artists, as well as hip hop legend Rakim. These were just a few of a great many emcees that Truth, Acem, and Powerful could recall as dope artists that not only spit insightful lyrics, but educated the listeners in the process. Each artist that comprised the group had the opportunity to discuss his vision,and hip hop-inspired upbringing. It was very good to sit down with Gods’illa, because their passion for creating dope hip hop was quite evident. I could also feel the passion for their Nation of 5% teachings, which is peppered throughout their respective lyrics. Because Gods’illa is based out of the DC area (Forestville, MD to be exact), they has a close affiliation with like-minded DMV artists. They gave a shout out to Asheru, Diamond District, and Substantial. Substantial has a special place in the Gods’illa annuls, because, according to each member, he was the one that christened them with the name Gods’illa. During the course of our discussion, I realized that these three entities wanted to do more than just promote themselves, but illuminate the current state of hip hop culture. Up And Up Presents Gods’illa: The Album represents the blood, sweat, and tears sacrificed by the members of Gods’illa. I appreciated the notion that these upwardly mobile entrepreneurs talked about Up And Up as a movement, including their Tuesday Night Open Mic held at LIV Nightclub, located at 2001 11th Street in the Nation’s Capital. Gods’illa made it quite clear during the interview that radio politics will not hinder or dismay their collective vision. I could sit down and discuss with them for hours about the state of hip hop and the culture as a whole, but our ten minute sit-down was coming to a close. It was a very good experience sitting down with these three positive brothers, and I used the opportunity wisely to gain insight into another dope group from the DMV area.
After the respective interviews with Megan Livingston and Gods’illa, I had the chance to view those that were in attendance, and I could feel the anticipation for the acoustic set featuring both artists. Coors Light was in the venue as the sponsorship for the evening festivities. The hosting privileges for the evening were taken care of by Lyrical the Lyricist, a renowned spoken word artist here and abroad. DJ L’il Mic provided the soundscape leading up to the acoustic event, and DJ Phaze was also present spinning the hip hop and neo-soul for the evening. Lyrical the Lyricist set the tone for the musical extravaganza by blessing the audience with a few spoken word pieces. Once he garnered the attention of the audience, Gods’illa took to the floor. Because the atmosphere was one of intimacy, Gods’illa immediately grabbed the ears of the attentive crowd. Truth, Acem, and Powerful used the Teavolve floor as their platform to spit a capella lyrics from an individual standpoint, each one reaching and teaching those in earshot. Gods’illa also gave us a nice call and response joint to finish their set. The brothers exhibited a nice stage presence and kept the crowd captivated. After the host enlightened the crowd during the interlude with more spoken word, Megan Livingston graced the floor, accompanied by a solo drummer. Ms. Livingston stated that she wanted to take the acoustic set “back to the essence”, and the drummer added a subtle, yet powerful, touch to her performance. The stripped-down aspect of the evening allowed her beautiful and melodic voice to capture the moment, and the audience at this Ear Candy performance were in for a definite treat. Megan Livingston blessed us with a few audible treats, including “Best Friend” off her debut album. Once the crowd was able to coax this very talented artist out for one final encore performance, the acoustic set came to a close. Ms. Livingston showed her marketing savvy by having on hand a CD box that appeared like a tea bag, as well as a Chinese-box inspired item that included three different teas. This was a very fitting end to the musical experience at Teavolve.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the evening at Teavolve. From the ambiance surrounding the venue, to the music provided by the featured artists, I wholeheartedly feel that Gypsy Soul is a shining gem when it comes to marketing and showcasing artists that may not get the proper promotion, for whatever reason. Much love and thanks goes to Kayenecha Daugherty, the visionary behind Gypsy Soul, as well as her family of supporters and cohorts. It was a definite pleasure to be in the house at Teavolve on May 18th, and I’m looking forward to more progressive artists to visit Charm City and be welcomed by Gypsy Soul.
BELOW YOU WILL FIND THE INTERVIEWS FOR MEGAN LIVINGSTON AND GODS'ILLA
HERE IS THE NEW MATT KOZA-DIRECTED VIDEO FOR YAHZARAH'S CURRENT SINGLE, "WHY DONTCHA CALL ME NO MORE!", FEATURING SOME FAMILIAR F.E. FAMILY AND FRIENDS. THE VISUALS ARE VIBRANT, AND THE STORYLINE IS CRAZY...
ON FRIDAY, MAY 14TH, THERE WAS NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT APPROXIMATELY AT 6:30PM, STATING THERE WAS A TORNADO WARNING IN THE WASHINGTON, DC AREA. ACCORDING TO THE REPORT, A FUNNEL CLOUD WAS SIGHTED. LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT THE WARNING IN QUESTION COULD HAVE BEEN LITTLE BROTHER APPEARING AT THE BLACK CAT. MY INTENTIONS, OF COURSE, WERE PURELY HONORABLE WHEN I DECIDED TO MAKE THE TREK DOWN BW PARKWAY TO SEE LITTLE BROTHER'S LAST AREA PERFORMANCE.
BECAUSE OF CIRCUMSTANCES EARLIER IN THE WEEK, I FIGURED THAT I MAY NOT BE ABLE TO MAKE IT TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, BUT THE OPPORTUNITY PRESENTED ITSELF AT THE LAST MINUTE. I WAS EXCITED, NERVOUS, ANXIOUS, AS IF I WAS PERFORMING ONSTAGE WITH THE LEGENDARY EMCEES FROM NC. WITH MY 15 YEAR OLD STEPSON IN TOW, I ARRIVED AT 1811 14TH STREET , THE LOCATION FOR BLACK CAT. ONCE THERE, I NOTICED THE THRONG OF FANS OUTSIDE THE VENUE, ALL SHADES AND TYPES. "COFFEE SHOP CHICKS AND WHITE DUDES" MIXED AND MINGLED WITH UNDERGROUND HIP HOP HEADS, OLD AND YOUNG. YOU COULD SEE A NICE MIX OF DEMOGRAPHICS REPRESENTING FOR PHONTE AND RAPPER BIG POOH, AND I WAS ONE OF THE REPRESENTATIVES.
ONCE I GOT TO THE DOOR, I NOTICED AN OMINOUS FLYER THAT SIGNALED THINGS TO COME FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE HUMID EVENING. "TONIGHT'S LITTLE BROTHER SHOW SOLD OUT". NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! I DECIDED TO TRY AND GET INSIDE THE VENUE ANYWAY, SOME HOW, SOME WAY. AFTER FIFTEEN MINUTES OR SO OF WAITING IN LINE, LISTENING TO SOME DISAPPOINTED FANS THAT COULDN'T MAKE THEIR WAY INTO THE SHOW, I SHOWED MY ID, AND WAS GIVEN A WRIST STAMP. SO FAR SO GOOD. ONCE I GOT TO THE TICKET AREA, I WAS KINDLY DIRECTED TO THE FOOD FOR THOUGHT CAFE ON THE LEFT SIDE OF BLACK CAT. CAN YOU SAY DISAPPOINTED? I HELD OUT HOPE FOR A COUPLE HOURS, BUT BY 11:30PM OR SO DECIDED THAT ENTERING THE MAIN STAGE AREA WAS JUST NOT IN THE CARDS FOR THE EVENING.
I DID GET THE OPPORTUNITY TO NETWORK AND CHAT WITH SOME LIKE-MINDED INDIVIDUALS THAT FRIDAY EVENING IN THE NATION'S CAPITAL. I ENCOUNTERED A BOHEMIAN CHICK FROM VIRGINIA BEACH THAT WAS SO SAD AND UPSET THAT SHE COULDN'T GET IN TO SEE NOT ONLY LITTLE BROTHER, BUT THE OTHER ACTS SUCH AS JOZEEMO, JOE SCUDDA, AND TRUCK NORTH. I NOTICED A BROTHER SELLING CD'S IN FRONT OF BLACK CAT, SOMEONE I ENCOUNTERED A YEAR OR SO AGO AT THE MALL NEAR THE WASHINGTON MONUMENT. HE WAS MARKETING HIS V FOR VENDETTA CD, SO WE CHOPPED IT UP FOR A FEW. SHOUT OUT TO VAUGHN AND SEAN FOR PUSHING A POSITIVE PRODUCT.
FROM WHAT I COULD SURMISE, THE LUCKY INSIDERS WERE TREATED TO A VERY DOPE PERFORMANCE. I WASN'T INSIDE TO VIEW HISTORY, BUT I WAS A VERY SMALL PART OF LB LEAVING THEIR IMPRINT ON THE ENTIRE DMV AREA, AND HIP HOP IN GENERAL. BLACK CAT IS ONE OF THOSE VENUES THAT NURTURED LITTLE BROTHER FROM THE VERY BEGINNING, SO IT WAS VERY FITTING FOR THEM TO SHOW LOVE AT THIS DC PERFORMANCE INSTITUTE. A VERY BITTERSWEET "CURTAIN CALL" INDEED...
FOR TODAY'S EPISODE, I'M GOING TO SHED LIGHT ON THE EMCEE WITH THE MOST UNDERGROUND ANTICIPATION AND BUZZ (SORRY DRAKE). HE HAILS FROM THE N.O., AKA THE CITY KATRINA COULDN'T DESTROY. JAY ELECTRONICA IS SOMETHING OF AN ENIGMA IN HIP HOP, BECAUSE MUCH LIKE DRAKE, AND EVEN GAME, YOU CAN'T PINPOINT ON FIRST LISTEN WHAT REGION HE IS FROM. TO ME, THAT'S A VERY GOOD THING, BECAUSE HE SHOULDN'T BE PIGEON-HOLED. JAY ELECTRONICA HAS BEEN BUBBLING FOR A GOOD WHILE NOW, BEING COSIGNED BY P DIDDY, ERYKAH BADU (WHO HAPPENS TO BE THE MOTHER OF BABY ELECTRONICA), TALIB KWELI, AND NAS, WHO SOUGHT THE PRODUCTION TALENT OF MR. ELECTRONICA FOR "QUEENS GET THE MONEY", A PIANO-BACKED TRACK PERFECT FOR NAS TO OPEN HIS MOST RECENT ALBUM.
THE SONG OF CHOICE TODAY BY JAY ELECTRONICA IS NONE OTHER THAN "EXHIBIT C", THE UNDERGROUND BURNER THAT HAS BEEN CAUSING INDUSTRY CHATTER FOR THE PAST FEW MONTHS. THIS UNDENIABLE UNDERGROUND CLASSIC WAS PRODUCED BY NONE OTHER THAN JUST BLAZE. THE FIRST TIME I LISTENED TO THIS SONG I WAS STRUCK BY THE IMAGERY AND SAMPLE BECOMING ONE AND THE SAME, AND WITH GOOD REASON. HERE IS "EXHIBIT C":
SUCH A POWERFUL, INSIGHTFUL, DOPE SONG!!!! JUST BLAZE DID AN EXCELLENT JOB OF CAPTURING THE FEELING BEHIND THIS TRACK. I WASN'T QUITE FAMILIAR WITH THE SAMPLED TRACK, BUT I KNOW IT WAS SOMETHING I'VE HEARD BEFORE. WITH A LITTLE RESEARCH, I CAME ACROSS "CROSS MY HEART" BY BILLY STEWART, A SOUL ARTIST FROM THE CHESS RECORDS CAMP. CHESS RECORDS IS THE LABEL HEADED BY LEONARD CHESS, AND MADE VISIBLE IN THE MOVIE CADILLAC RECORDS. THE SONG WAS RELEASED IN 1968, JUST TWO YEARS BEFORE HIS LIFE WAS CUT TRAGICALLY SHORT AT THE AGE OF 32. HE DIED IN SMITHFIELD, NORTH CAROLINA WHEN THE CAR HE WAS DRIVING PLUNGED INTO THE NEUSE RIVER. THIS STORY WAS SOMETHING THAT I HEARD FROM TIME TO TIME, WITH MY UNCLE THAT RAISED ME BEING FROM SMITHFIELD. DURING HIS SHORTENED CAREER, STEWART RELEASED SOME RECOGNIZABLE JOINTS, INCLUDING "SITTING IN THE PARK" (1965) AND "BY THE TIME I GET TO PHOENIX" (1969). THE LATTER SONG WAS ORIGINALLY RECORDED IN 1965 BY JOHNNY RIVERS, AND MADE FAMOUS BY GLEN CAMPBELL AND ISAAC HAYES. PUBLIC ENEMY EVEN HAD THEIR OWN TAKE ON THIS SONG, RECORDING "BY THE TIME I GET TO ARIZONA" IN 1991 AS A PROTEST OF THE MLK DAY CONTROVERSY IN ARIZONA.
BEFORE I GET ANY FURTHER OFF TOPIC, HERE IS THE SONG THAT SERVES AS THE BACKDROP FOR "EXHIBIT C":
THE LYRICS OF JAY ELEC AND AND THE SAMPLED BILLY STEWART JOINT MAKE FOR A MARRIAGE IN HIP HOP HEAVEN!
DO THE KNOWLEDGE AND RESEARCH BOTH ARTISTS. JAY ELECTRONICA REVELS IN HIS LYRICISM AND UNORTHODOX APPROACH TO MUSIC-MAKING. YOU CAN SEARCH OUT HIS UNDERGROUND DISCOGRAPHY ON HIS MYSPACE PAGE:
I HOPE THAT BOTH JAY ELECTRONICA AND BILLY STEWART GET THE JUST DUE THEY DESERVE, JAY BY SHOWCASING LYRICISM INFLUENCED BY NAS AND PHAROAHE MONCH, AND BILLY BY CRATEDIGGERS AND LISTENERS THAT NEED TO GET IN TUNE TO HIS MUSICAL STYLINGS.
UNTILOUR NEXT SESSION...KEEP DIGGIN', KEEP DUSTIN' OFF THE TUNES!!!
PEACE TO MY MAN AHMED THE LAST BORN CHILD FOR SLIDING THIS CD TO ME A COUPLE WEEKS AGO AT THE DMV TAKEOVER AT TASTE LOUNGE. THE ARTIST IN QUESTION IS NEPHEW. THE ALBUM IS ENTITLED PHEWTURISTIC BIOGRAPHY. THIS IS QUALITY PRODUCT FROM A LOCAL CAT, 18 TRACKS WORTH OF QUALITY PRODUCT, TO BE EXACT. I'M ALWAYS COOL WITH ARTISTS THAT TAKE THAT GRASSROOTS APPROACH TO THE GRIND. BEING THAT I'M SOMEONE THAT MOST PEOPLE WOULD CALL A HIP HOP "PURIST", I WANTED TO MAKE SURE THAT I WAS VERY OBJECTIVE WHEN LISTENING TO THIS PROJECT.
NEPHEW STARTED OFF THE ALBUM STRONG WITH THE FIRST CUT," 32 BARS". THIS TRACK SHOWCASED NEPHEW SPITTIN' REALITY BASED LYRICS OVER THE "WHERE I'M FROM" JOINT JAY-Z USED, SO IT DEFINITELY SET THE TONE FOR THE REST OF THE ALBUM. MUSICALLY, NEPHEW SHOWED DIVERSE STYLES, RANGING FROM CLUB BANGERS TO UNDERGROUND HEAT. A FEW OF THE TRACKS STOOD OUT THEMATICALLY AND SONICALLY, SUCH AS "BABY GIRL", WHERE HE SPITS "...WE CAN GO TO SHAKE AND BAKE AND SKATE THE DAY AWAY...", A DEFINITE NOD TO SHAKE AND BAKE SKATING RINK ON PENNSYLVANIA AVENUE. THIS IS A JOINT THAT CAN GET SPIN ON RADIO, SO IT BOGGLES THE MIND THAT 92Q IS NOT SUPPORTIVE OF LOCAL ARTISTS, BUT THAT'S ANOTHER STORY. I'M RESERVING THIS SPACE TO GIVE SOME SHINE TO A DOPE ARTIST LIKE NEPHEW. IF YOU'RE A FAN OF SOME DIRTY SOUTH MUSIC, THEN YOU HAVE A JOINT LIKE "DO IT". MUSICALLY, YOU CAN HEAR DIRTY SOUTH INFLUENCE, WHILE LYRICALLY IT'S DEFINITIVE, GRITTY HARM CITY. THERE IS A STADIUM/ROCK FEEL TO "I REMEMBER", WHILE "MORE BARS" SHOWCASES A COOL VOCAL SAMPLE THAT COMPLIMENTS NEPHEW'S VERBAL ASSAULT. THE TRACK THAT WILL STRIKE AN EMOTIONAL CHORD IS NUMBER 15, "DEAR MOMMA". NEPHEW SPITS REALISM THAT ANY MAN, WOMAN, AND CHILD CAN RELATE TO, ESPECIALLY THOSE THAT CALL B-MORE HOME. USING THE TUPAC-HELMED JOINT OF THE SAME NAME (DIFFERENT SPELLING THOUGH) ONLY ADDS A REALISTIC AND EMOTIONAL DIMENSION TO THE SONG. THIS IS A DEFINITE WINNER ON THE ALBUM. "DOING ME", FEATURING LONNIE MOORE, IS ALSO SOME CHAMPION, ANTHEM-TYPE MUSIC ON THIS MEATY ALBUM. NEPHEW COMES FROM THE HEART ON THIS TRACK, AND THE GUEST EMCEE LONNIE MOORE COMES WITH THE METAPHORS. RHYMES LIKE "HOW YOU GO FROM A HIGH SCHOOL MASCOT, HIGH SCHOOL SIZE CRIB, SILK ROBE, AND ASCOT" CAUGHT MY ATTENTION, BECAUSE I'M A FAN OF DOPE LYRICS AND PUNCHLINES. NOT TAKING ANYTHING FROM NEPHEW AT ALL, BECAUSE HE'S A STRAIGHTFORWARD EMCEE THAT LETS HIS RAWNESS AND EMOTION SPEAK VOLUMES. THE ALBUM ENDED STRONG WITH "KATZ", A SONG THAT SAMPLES A FAMILIAR 80'S TUNE (I'M NOT GONNA DIVULGE THAT INFO, JUST COP THE ALBUM). SHOUT OUT TO BRAIN, THE PRODUCER WHO CONTRIBUTED TO A BULK OF THE TRACKS TO THE ALBUM (HE CAN BE REACHED AT 443-929-5016 FOR TRACKS/PRODUCTION).
NEPHEW SHOWS AND PROVES OVER THE COURSE OF 18 SONGS THAT HE IS AN ARTIST WITH INSIGHT AND RANGE. HE LYRICALLY SPITS FIRE, VERSES THAT LISTENERS CAN IDENTIFY WITH. HOPEFULLY HIS VOICE CAN BE HEARD OUTSIDE OF THE BELTWAY. THIS IS JUST ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF B-MORE HIP HOP THAT CAN COMPETE ON A NATIONAL LEVEL, WITH THE PROPER PUSH AND PROMOTION. GO GET A CHICKEN BOX, HALF & HALF, AND POP THIS IN YOUR CD OR MP3 PLAYER.
May 10, 2010 was a good night indeed at Club 347, named because of its address at 347 North Calvert Street. Monday evenings at this cool, intimate spot are known for its array of local jazz artists sharing their musical chops with a hungry jazz audience. Judging by the plates of food and music being played, hungry had a dual meaning on this chilly spring night.
Even though I arrived after 10:30PM on this jazzy night, there was a sizeable crowd in the venue, eager to hear jazz music by an assortment of artists. With my laptop bag in tow, I took my place in the standing room-only crowd, vibing to the mellifluous sounds coming from the 347 house band. I was definitely enjoying the musical stylings, along with the vast majority of the 150 or so in the house. Of course there were individuals either networking or catching up with friends on this evening, but they couldn’t deny the jazz music being played. Baltimore has a rich history when speaking about jazz music, ranging from Eubie Blake, Ethel Ennis, to Ruby Glover, and it can be said that the jazz community in this blue collar city is sometimes lacking in choices. On this night, however, the music spoke for itself, and the Club 347 patrons listened attentively.
There was an assortment of jazz musicians in the spot, looking to bless the 347 crowd with music and vocals. There were a few artists that stood out, such as Charmaine Harris, a female trumpet player. She showed her musical chops during the impromptu jam session, allowing the onlookers to marvel at her trumpet solo. There were also a few vocalists that exercised nice range from a singing perspective. The version of “Bloody Valentine” being sung by one of the female vocalists in the house was a definite pleasure to my ears, and from the way the crowd was jamming, you could tell most agreed.
I stayed at the venue until close to midnight; even though I was there for a short period of time, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. From the Club 347 House Band to the energetic crowd, all in all it was a good experience. Monday evening at 347 would make for an enjoyable night, either solo or as a cool dating spot. I strongly recommend this jazz gem, and I hope the jazz scene in Charm City continues to flourish and grow.
FOR TODAY'S INSTALLMENT OF SAMPLE SUNDAY, I AM GOING INTO THE VAULT TO UNEARTH MUSIC FROM A PRODUCER THAT HAS BEEN EXTREMELY INFLUENTIAL FROM A HIP HOP STANDPOINT. DAVID. AXELROD. NAME DOESN'T RING A BELL? HIS MUSIC MOST LIKELY WILL. HE'S RESPONSIBLE FOR THE SONIC BED OF SONGS FROM ARTISTS AS DIVERSE AS BLACK STAR, DR. DRE, MADLIB, L'IL WAYNE, AND DE LA SOUL. DAVID AXELROD'S DISCOGRAPHY CAN BE TRACED BACK TO THE 1950'S, AND HAS SPANNED THE BETTER PART OF FIVE DECADES.
DAVID AXELROD HAS DEFIED CATEGORY WHEN TRYING TO DETERMINE WHAT TYPE OF MUSIC HE HAS BEEN INVOLVED WITH. ELEMENTS OF JAZZ, R&B, SOUL, ROCK, CLASSICAL AND EVEN COUNTRY MUSIC CAN BE IDENTIFIED WITHIN THE SONICS. HE WAS BORN APRIL 17, 1936 IN LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA. MUSIC PERMEATED HIS LIFE FROM AN EARLY AGE, ESPECIALLY THE R&B AND JAZZ SOUNDS HE HEARD IN SOUTH CENTRAL LOS ANGELES DURING HIS FORMULATIVE YEARS. AXELROD GAINED NOTORIETY AS A DRUMMER, PRODUCER, AND ARRANGER, PRODUCING HIS FIRST ALBUM IN 1959, HAROLD LAND'S THE FOX. SOON, CAPITOL RECORDS SOUGHT HIS TALENTS, ENABLING AXELROD TO USE HIS MIDAS TOUCH IN A BROADER SPECTRUM. LOU RAWLS AND JULIAN "CANNONBALL" ADDERLY WERE JUST A FEW OF THE ARTISTS THAT SHARED THEIR CREATIVE TALENTS WITH DAVID AXELROD. THE CAPITOL YEARS WERE VERY IMPORTANT TIMES FOR AXELROD, IN MY OPINION, BECAUSE THOSE WERE THE YEARS THAT FORMULATED THAT SIGNATURE "AXELROD SOUND", IF YOU CAN ATTEMPT TO SAY THAT THIS PROLIFIC ARTIST HAD ONE LONE SOUND. MUSICALLY, AXELROD'S ARRANGEMENTS ALLOWED FOR THE DRUMS TO PLAY WITHOUT ACCOMPANIMENT, TO SPEAK THROUGH THE RECORDS, IN OTHER WORDS. THE MUSIC HAD THIS SPACIOUSNESS ABOUT IT. YOU CAN LISTEN TODAY AND LISTEN TO STRINGS, KEYS, AND DRUMS COMPLIMENT ONE ANOTHER, NOT OVERSHADOW EACH OTHER. I'M VERY PROUD TO HAVE A FEW DAVID AXELROD ALBUMS IN MY POSSESSION: SONGS OF INNOCENCE (1968), SONGS OF EXPERIENCE (1969), HEAVY AXE (1974). I ALSO HAVE AN ANTHOLOGY OF SOME OF HIS GREATEST PRODUCTIONS, AS WELL AS AN ALBUM FROM THE ELECTRIC PRUNES (MASS IN F MINOR), AN EXPERIMENTAL, PSYCHEDELIC GROUP THAT AXELROD ARRANGED MUSIC FOR.
FROM THE ALBUM EARTH ROT (1970), THERE IS A VERY DOPE, FUNKY, SLIGHTLY PSYCHEDELIC CUT CALLED "THE WARNING TALK (PART II)".
MOS DEF RELEASED AN APPROPRIATELY TITLED SONG "HIP HOP", FROM HIS 1999 SOLO DEBUT ALBUM BLACK ON BOTH SIDES. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE THE SONG, AND DIDN'T REALIZE THAT THE DIAMOND D PRODUCED SONG OWED ITS MUSICAL CHOPS TO AXELROD.
HERE IS THE MOS DEF JOINT FOR YOUR LISTENING PLEASURE:
AS DANTE SMITH RHYMES ON THE CUT, "MY RESTLESSNESS IS MY NEMESIS", SO HERE IS THE CUT THAT SERVES AS THE MEAT OF THE SONG:
I REALLY DIG HOW DIAMOND D, FROM THE DIGGIN' IN THE CRATES CREW, USED
A SNIPPET OF THE DRUMS AND KEYS (SEE 1:28 OF THE AXELROD SONG FOR THE SAMPLE). IT ALSO SOUNDS LIKE HE FILTERED THE BASSLINE TO PROVIDE A DOPE BACKDROP FOR MOS DEF'S LYRICS TO MAKE A PROFOUND POINT FOR HIP HOP (BOTH THE SONG AND CULTURE). WHAT MORE CAN I SAY (TO QUOTE JAY-Z) ABOUT THE ARRANGEMENTS AXELROD UTILIZED IN AN ERA WHEN MUSICALITY WAS A MUST, NOT AN OPTION?
I HOPE THAT THIS PIQUES THE INTERESTS OF MUSIC AFICIANADOS TO SEARCH THE DISCOGRAPHY OF MR. AXELROD. A GOOD PLACE TO LOOK WILL BE A VERY COMPREHENSIVE TWO-PART ARTICLE FROM WAX POETICS MAGAZINE:
I WILL CONCLUDE BY SAYING THAT MY APPRECIATION FOR DAVID AXELROD'S MUSIC HAS GIVEN ME AN OPPORTUNITY TO DIG DEEPER INTO THE CRATES FOR MUSIC THAT MAY NOT GET ITS JUST DUE, BUT IT IS DUE THE RECOGNITION ALL THE SAME. I'M SURE I'LL BE REVISITING AXELROD MUSIC WITH THIS ONGOING POST IN THE FUTURE. FOR THOSE INTERESTED IN VISITING AXELROD AND MOS DEF MUSIC, I'VE INCLUDED SOME LINKS.
THE MUCH-MALIGNED HIP HOP SCENE IN CHARM CITY RUNS DEEPER THAN WHAT HOMETOWN FOLKS AND OUTSIDERS MAY BELIEVE. EVEN THOUGH THERE HASN’T BEEN A HOMEGROWN ACT THAT HAS EXPLODED ON THE NATIONAL RADAR (WHILE STILL RESIDING IN BALTIMORE), THE POTENTIAL HAS ALWAYS BEEN PRESENT BUT UNREALIZED. DATING BACK TO THE MID-80’S, THE CLIMATE OF BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP HAS BEEN LUKEWARM, MAYBE BECAUSE OF OUR CITY’S BLUE-COLLAR WORK ETHIC, MAYBE BECAUSE OF OUR PROXIMITY TO MUCH LARGER URBAN METROPOLISES WITH MORE VIBRANT MUSICAL SCENES. WHATEVER THE REASON, THE SEASON IS NOW UPON US TO VIEW THE HISTORY, FOR FINDING OUT WHERE WE CAME FROM WILL AID US IN WHERE WE WILL BE HEADING FROM A HIP HOP STANDPOINT.
THIS STORY IS GOING TO DOCUMENT A MINUTE SECTOR OF BALTIMORE AS IT PERTAINS TO ITS LONG STORY WITH HIP HOP. THERE ARE THREE PHASES OF HIP HOP FROM THE “HOME OF THE WIRE”: THE BEGINNING STAGES (1980’S), THE MIDDLE PASSAGE (1990’S), AND THE CURRENT ERA (21ST CENTURY). TODAY I AM GOING TO START AT THE GENESIS DURING THE 1980’S. THIS IS THE ERA THAT I MOLDED MY OPINIONS AND VIEWS ON HIP HOP FROM A BALTIMOREAN’S PERSPECTIVE. THIS IS THE ERA THAT I IDENTIFY WITH MOSTLY, BECAUSE I GREW WITH HIP HOP. I GUESS I’M STARTING TO SOUND LIKE DRE FROM THE MOVIE BROWN SUGAR, BUT THOSE DAYS OF LISTENING TO WEBB-AM AND GOING TO NEIGHBORHOOD HIP HOP SHOWS AT FORT WORTHINGTON REC CENTER HAVE BEEN PLANTED IN MY PSYCHE. I VIVIDLY REMEMBER THOSE LONG, PRODUCTIVE NIGHTS HONING MY SKILLS ON THE 1’S AND 2’S IN THE BASEMENT OF LONG-TIME BEST FRIEND ED. HE WILL ALWAYS BE RECOGNIZED AS MY BIGGEST SINGLE INFLUENCE FROM A HIP HOP PERSPECTIVE. FROM ED, I LEARNED THE NUANCES OF THE TRANSFORMER SCRATCH, THE EAR FOR BLENDING JOINTS LIKE RUN DMC’S “SUCKER MC’S” INSTRUMENTAL WITH NEW EDITION’S “A LITTLE BIT OF LOVE” ACAPELLA., AND SAMPLING TECHNIQUES USING A CASIO SK-1. THOSE WERE THE DAYS (AS ARCHIE AND EDITH BUNKER WOULD SAY).
WHERE DO I START? THERE WERE QUITE A FEW SEMINAL CREWS AND EMCEES DURING THE 1980’S B-MORE HIP HOP ERA. THE WE ROCK CREW. NUMARX. THE UNO GIRLS. CHARM CITY CREW. SWEET COOKIE. Z3 MCS. KOOLEY C. THE SURE SHOT CREW. THE GOLDEN BOYS. BALTIMORE’S VERSION OF JOCK BOX. I COULD GO ON AND ON AND ON ABOUT THE MULTITUDE OF LESSER-KNOWN NEIGHBORHOOD RAPPERS, BREAKDANCERS, DJS, BEAT-BOXERS, PRODUCERS THAT INFILTRATED THE UNDERGROUND SCENE THAT WAS BURGEONING DURING THE REAGAN YEARS. I WAS A PART OF THIS SCENE MYSELF, ALBEIT IN A GROWING ROLE AS A BEAT BOX (GOING BY THE NAME TNT). I EXPERIENCED HIP HOP CULTURE AS A PART OF THE DRUNK MCS (SHOUT OUT TO KEITH AND CHRIS), THEN AS A PART OF F.O.A. (THE FRATERNITY OF ARISTOCRATIA). I VIVIDLY REMEMBER TAKING A DEMO TAPE PROUDLY UP TO WEBB-AM 1360 FOR CHUCK MAXX TO LISTEN TO (BIG BIG MISTAKE, BY THE WAY). BESIDES WEBB, WWIN-AM (1400) WAS ALSO PLAYING SOME HIP HOP AS WELL. VENUES SUCH AS STARS PALACE, GODFREYS, PLATO’S WHEEL AND COUNTLESS REC CENTERS IN THE AREA TYPICALLY WERE GATHERING PLACES FOR LOCAL EMCEES AND DJ’S. IT WAS A BREEDING GROUND FOR A SCENE THAT HAD POTENTIAL TO BE SO MUCH MORE, BUT SOMETHING HAPPENED.
THAT SOMETHING, IN MY OPINION, WAS THE ADVENT OF BALTIMORE CLUB MUSIC CAPTIVATING AND TAKING OVER IN BALTIMORE. NOT TO TAKE ANYTHING AWAY FROM FRANK-SKI BEING THE CATALYST IN THIS ARENA, BUT BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP NEVER GREW TO A LEVEL THAT IT POTENTIALLY COULD. I SENSE THAT HIP HOP IN BALTIMORE AT THE END OF THE DECADE BECAME SOMEWHAT STAGNANT. THE NUMARX, FOR INSTANCE, RELEASED OUR TIME HAS COME, FEATURING “GIRL YOU KNOW IT’S TRUE”, A SONG PRODUCED BY ANNAPOLIS MUSICIAN AND PRODUCER BILL PETTAWAY (SOMEONE I KNEW YEARS AGO AT AN ANNAPOLIS GAS STATION). THIS SONG DIDN’T GIVE THE NUMARX THE ACCLAIM THAT IT SHOULD HAVE, AT LEAST DIRECTLY, BUT ONCE MILLI VANILLI RECORDED THEIR VERSION, THE SONG GARNERED THE LIP-SYNCING SPECIALISTS A GRAMMY AWARD AND MILLIONS OF RECORDS SOLD.
SO GOES THE STORY OF BALTIMORE HIP HOP. THERE ARE NUMEROUS OTHER STORIES THAT COULD BE TOLD ABOUT THIS CAPSULE OF TIME. STORIES ABOUT ARTISTS SUCH AS DMX AND TUPAC THAT HAVE ROOTS IN BALTIMORE ARE ALSO A PART OF THE SCENE. THOSE STORIES WILL BE TOLD, IN FULL, OR IN PART, AS BALTIMORE’S HIP HOP SCENE CONTINUES TO EVOLVE AND GROW. HATS OFF TO THE PIONEERS, AND CHEERS TO THOSE THAT CONTINUE TO MOVE FORWARD WITH THE CULTURE HERE IN CHARM CITY, HARM CITY, BODYMORE, OR WHATEVER NOMENCLATURE YOU WANT TO PLACE ON THIS FAIR CITY OF OURS. NEXT UP I WILL DISCUSS HOW HIP HOP WAS AFFECTED BY THE BALTIMORE CLUB CULTURE DURING THE 90’S, AND HOW THE ARTISTS THAT PERMEATED THE SCENE DURING THIS ERA COPED WITH THEIR MUSICAL KIN.
KEV BROWN IS A BEAST!!!! ONCE YOU CATCH A GLIMPSE OF HIS ARTISTRY, YOU WILL SOON AGREE. I'VE KNOWN ABOUT THIS DMV PRODUCER/EMCEE FOR ABOUT A DECADE NOW, GOING BACK TO HIS A TOUCH OF JAZZ DAYS UNDER DJ JAZZY JEFF. KEV BROWN IS FROM THAT SCHOOL OF PRODUCTION AND EMCEEING THAT IS NEAR AND DEAR TO MY HIP HOP HEART.
KEV BROWN IS PART OF THE HIP HOP COLLECTIVE LOW BUDGET. HE HAS COLLABORATED WITH MANY UNDERGROUND HIP HOP AND SOUL ARTISTS, RANGING FROM ODDISEE AND KENN STARR TO ERIC ROBERSON. YOU CAN RESEARCH HIS DISCOGRAPHY:
TO VIEW THIS WIZARD OF THE AKAI MPC2000 IN ACTION, WATCH THIS VIDEO TO SEE MR. BROWN IN ACTION:
THIS WAS DONE AT FAT BEATS IN LOS ANGELES ON MY BIRTHDAY (JAN. 3RD, 2010). I AM GOING TO JUST LET YOU VIEW AND MARVEL AT HOW HE CAN TAKE AN OBSCURE JOINT AND CREATE SOMETHING THAT IS DOPE. YOU'RE DEFINITELY GOING TO HEAR MORE FROM ME ABOUT KEV BROWN AND HIS LOW BUDGET CREW IN THE NEAR AND DISTANT FUTURE. HOPEFULLY I WILL GET THE OPPORTUNITY SOON TO CHOP IT UP WITH THIS DYNAMIC BROTHER ABOUT HIS PRODUCTION TECHNIQUES, LYRICAL CONTENT, AND INFLUENCES, AS WELL AS HIS FUTURE ASPIRATIONS FROM A HIP HOP STANDPOINT.
YOU COULD FEEL THE ANTICIPATION IN THE AIR ON THIS MILD, SPRING EVE AT PIER 6 PAVILION. THE EMCEE AND ARTIST WITH THE MOST INDUSTRY BUZZ SINCE 50 CENT WAS ABOUT TO TAKE THE STAGE. AUBREY DRAKE GRAHAM, THE TORONTO, CANADA AND DEGRASSI: THE NEXT GENERATION ALUMNUS APPEARED AT APPROXIMATELY 9:20PM, TO THE DELIGHT OF FANS, OLD AND YOUNG. THERE WAS A MIXTURE OF DIFFERENT INDIVIDUALS DOWN AT PIER 6 (AND PIER 7 AS WELL, FOR THAT MATTER I ENCOUNTERED PERSONS FROM DIFFERENT DEMOGRAPHICS AND WALKS OF LIFE, THERE TO WITNESS THE DRAKE PHENOMENON THAT HAS BEEN PRESENT IN THE MUSIC INDUSTRY FOR THE BETTER PART OF A COUPLE OF YEARS AT LEAST. YOU COULD FIND A MIDDLE-AGED WHITE WOMAN STANDING NEXT TO A TWENTY-SOMETHING BLACK MALE, BOTH THERE TO ENJOY AND ABSORB THE MOMENT.
LEGIONS OF FANS WERE READY FOR THE PERFORMANCE TO COMMENCE, AND HE LAUNCHED INTO “FOREVER ”, HIS COLLABO WITH L’IL WAYNE. KANYE WEST AND EMINEM. THE CROWD, FROM WHAT I COULD OBSERVE, WERE VERY HAPPY WHEN DRAKE PERFORMED CUTS FROM HIS UPCOMING STUDIO ALBUM DEBUT THANK ME LATER. “FIREWORKS”, COMPLETE WITH SIMULATED FIREWORKS AT THE SONG’S BEGINNING, SET THE STAGE FOR THE REST OF HIS HOUR OR SO LONG SHOW. DRAKE BLESSED THE CROWD WITH A FEW FREESTYLES DURING HIS PERFORMANCE, LEAVING THE AUDIENCE WITH SUCH LINES AS “THE GAME NEEDED LIFE, SO I PUT MY HEART INTO IT”. EVEN THOUGH THE CROWD WAS THERE TO LISTEN TO SONGS THAT HAVE INFILTRATED EARS FOR THE GOOD PART OF THE PAST YEAR OR TWO, DRAKE’S STAGE PERSONA DIDN’T QUITE MATCH HIS SONG QUALITY. HE KEPT THE CHARM CITY CROWD ENGAGED, BUT DIDN’T SHOWCASE THE ONSTAGE CHARISMA OF HIS LABELMATES L’IL WAYNE OR EVEN NICKI MINAJ, WHO IS VERY ANIMATED, TO SAY THE LEAST. HOPEFULLY, IN TIME, DRAKE WILL DEVELOP A STAGE SHOW TO RIVAL HIS RECORDED MUSIC CATALOGUE. COMING FROM THE SCHOOL OF EMCEES SUCH AS KRS-ONE AND BUSTA RHYMES, ARTISTS THAT CONTROLLED THEIR HIP HOP AUDIENCE FROM BEGINNING TO END, I GUESS I AM A LITTLE JADED WHEN VIEWING AN ARTIST THAT WASN’T OF THAT MOLD.
THE BIGGEST SURPRISE OF THE SHOW WAS THE APPEARANCE OF BIRDMAN, CASH MONEY CEO AND PART TIME ARTIST. HE SHOWED LOVE TO DRAKE BY RHYMING ON A FEW JOINTS WITH HIM. I WAS A LITTLE SURPRISED THAT HIS YOUNG MONEY COHORTS WEREN’T PRESENT, AT LEAST ONSTAGE. NEVERTHELESS, DRAKE NAVIGATED THROUGH SONG AFTER SONG, SUCH AS “SUCCESSFUL”, “SAY SOMETHING”, AND OF COURSE, “BEST I EVER HAD”. JUDGING BY THE MOSTLY FEMALE CONTINGENT THAT POPULATED THE CROWD ON BOTH PIER 6 AND 7, IT WAS QUITE EVIDENT THAT THIS BUDDING ARTIST’S MUSIC IS CATERED TO THE ESTROGEN-BASED AUDIENCE. DRAKE EVEN SHOWCASED HIS VOCALIZING DURING HIS SHOW, TO THE DELIGHT OF THE MANY WOMEN IN ATTENDANCE.
TOWARDS THE END OF DRAKE’S SET, HE INTRODUCED THE BALTIMORE CROWD TO HIS LIVE BAND. THE BAND PROVIDED A NICE BACKDROP MUSICALLY TO THE SHOW. DRAKE SENSED THAT THE SOUNDMAN WAS READY TO PULL THE PLUG ON THE SONIC ASPECT OF THE SHOW, AND HE ADDRESSED THIS, TO THE DISMAY OF THE CROWD. ENDING THE SHOW IRONICALLY WITH “FAR FROM OVER”, I CAN SAFELY SAY THAT MR. GRAHAM’S MUSIC CAREER IS FAR FROM OVER. THE WAY THAT HIS PHENOM HAS CAPTIVATED THE MUSIC INDUSTRY MAKES IT VERY APPARENT THAT THE SKY’S THE LIMIT FOR DRAKE. HOPEFULLY, THE ARTIST THAT HAS SHARED THE SPOTLIGHT WITH INDIVIDUALS AS DIVERSE AS PHONTE, L’IL WAYNE, AND TIMBALAND, WILL GROW TO BE AN EMCEE THE MASSES CAN BE PROUD OF. JUDGING BY THE THRONG OF AUTOGRAPH SEEKERS WAITING FOR THE OBLIGATORY DRAKE SIGHTING NEAR HIS TOUR BUS, OTHERS MAY AGREE WITH THIS STATEMENT.
I WITNESSED A COOL SHOW OVERALL. ASKING MY THREE TEENS, AGES 18, 17, AND 15, ABOUT THE SHOW, BECAUSE THEY WERE IN ATTENDANCE, THE CONSENSUS WAS THE PERFORMANCE WAS EXCELLENT. NOT QUITE, IN MY OPINION, BUT THAT MAYBE DUE TO ME COMING FROM A DIFFERENT ERA OF HIP HOP ARTISTS. I WON’T ALLOW MY UNDERGROUND, NATIVE TONGUES-INFLUENCED HIP HOP ROOTS TO TAINT MY VIEW OF AN ARTIST THAT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO GROW INTO A VERY DIVERSE CREATIVE FORCE. I CAN’T FRONT THOUGH, IT WAS QUITE HUMOROUS TO WITNESS THE SCENT OF “GREEN PASTURES” AS THE TOUR BUS PULLED OFF FROM PIER 6, HEADING TO THE VELVET ROPE FOR AN AFTERPARTY. ONCE THE LAST OF FANS, GROUPIES, ONLOOKERS AND SPECTATORS LEFT THE SCENE, I CALLED IT A NIGHT, THUS ADDING A NEW CHAPTER TO THE BALTIMORE HIP HOP BOOK.
HOW TRUE IS THAT TITLE ABOVE? IS INTELLIGENCE NOT A RESPECTED QUALITY WHEN DEALING WITH HIP HOP MUSIC? WHO IS THE JUDGE TO BEGIN WITH? THIS TOPIC WAS SPAWNED BY A SIMPLE T-SHIRT THAT I SAW PHONTE (FROM LITTLE BROTHER) WEARING IN A PROMO PHOTO A GOOD WHILE AGO...
I AM DEFINITELY A FAN OF THOUGHT-PROVOKING IMAGES, SO I WONDERED WHY MR. COLEMAN WAS WEARING THIS T-SHIRT. AFTER RESEARCHING THE BACKSTORY BEHIND THE T-SHIRT, IT STARTED TO MAKE PERFECT SENSE, IF YOU EVER WATCH THE AT-TIMES BUFFOONERY WE CALL BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION.
I'VE BEEN A HUGE LITTLE BROTHER FAN FOR THE VERY REASON I'M WRITING THIS BLOG ENTRY, BECAUSE I COULD IDENTIFY WITH THE THOUGHTFUL, INTELLIGENT CONTENT AND DOPE MUSICAL STRUCTURE. EACH MEMBER PLAYED HIS ROLE PERFECTLY: PHONTE BEING THE DOPE LYRICIST, EVERYMAN, BROTHA NEXT DOOR WITH HIS COOL, JOKING PERSONNA; RAPPER BIG POOH AS THE PERFECT COMPLIMENT TO PHONTE WITH A TRADITIONAL, ALMOST OL' SCHOOL APPROACH TO CRAFTING LYRICS ANYONE COULD IDENTIFY WITH (AND A SLEPT ON LYRICIST IN HIS OWN RIGHT); AND 9TH WONDER BEING THE SOULFUL MAESTRO BEHIND THE LAPTOP-BASED BEATS COURTESY OF FRUITY LOOPS. THE FORMULA WORKED IN THE PAST WITH OTHER DOPE GROUPS SUCH AS EPMD, A TRIBE CALLED QUEST, RUN-DMC, SALT N PEPA, AND COUNTLESS OTHERS. FOR WHATEVER REASON, HOWEVER, A GROUP AS DYNAMIC AND RELATIVELY FLAWLESS FROM AN ARTISTIC STANDPOINT AS LITTLE BROTHER COULDN'T GET THE WIDESPREAD LOVE AND SUPPORT IT TRULY DESERVED. I HAVE COME ACROSS MANY HIP HOP HEADS THAT SHOW LOVE FOR THEM, BUT I FOUND IT A BIT ODD THAT PEOPLE I CAME INTO CONTACT WITH IN THEIR OWN HOME TERRITORY OF DURHAM-RALEIGH-CHAPEL HILL, NC DIDN'T EVEN KNOW WHO I WAS RAVING OVER WHENEVER I CAME TO VISIT. NC IS LIKE A HOME AWAY FROM HOME FOR ME, BECAUSE THE BULK OF MY FAMILY RESIDES THERE.
THE ALBUM THAT REALLY HIT HOME FOR ME FROM LITTLE BROTHER WAS "THE MINSTREL SHOW", RELEASED SEPT. 13, 2005 ON ATLANTIC RECORDS.
I KNEW THE LISTENING AUDIENCE WOULD BE IN FOR A TREAT BECAUSE OF THIS ALBUM BEING RELEASED AS A CONCEPT ALBUM. THE RUNNING THEME ON THE ALBUM IS THE NOTION OF "UBN---U BLACK NIGGAS NETWORK". I THOUGHT THIS WAS BRILLIANT IMAGERY, SOMETHING NOT SEEN IN HIP HOP SINCE THE SLEPT-ON GROUP KMD (SIGNED TO ELEKTRA RECORDS) CONSTRUCTED "BLACK BASTARDS", AN ALBUM THAT DIDN'T SEE THE LIGHT OF DAY FOR YEARS DUE TO LABEL BACKLASH (AN IMAGE OF A BLACK SAMBO, THE ICON KMD UTILIZED ON THEIR FIRST ALBUM, HANGING FROM A NOOSE, PRETTY MUCH FRIGHTENED HEADS AT THE LABEL). ANYWAY, I MADE SURE TO COP "THE MINSTREL SHOW" AND LISTENED TO AN ALBUM FULL OF INTELLIGENCE, HUMOR, DEPTH, SOUL, ELEMENTS YOU RARELY FIND IN FULL ON ANY RECORDINGS. THE SONG THAT I LOVED FROM THE VERY BEGINNING WAS "LOVIN' IT", FEATURING JOE SCUDDA (IRONICALLY A WHITE EMCEE FROM THE JUSTUS LEAGUE COLLECTIVE). I SAW THE VIDEO, AND IT CEMENTED MY VIEW OF LB AS THE HEIR APPARENT TO THE NATIVE TONGUE COLLECTIVE (TRIBE, DE LA, JUNGLE BROTHERS).
LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT BACKLASH WOULD APPEAR IN THE FORM OF BET (AFFECTIONATELY REFERRED TO AS BLACK EMBARRASSMENT TELEVISION). FROM WHAT I UNDERSTAND, THE BRASS AT BET DECIDED NOT, I REPEAT, NOT TO SHOW THE VIDEO FOR THIS SONG BECAUSE IT WAS DEEMED "TOO INTELLIGENT". WHAT IN THE HELL DOES THAT MEAN IN TODAY'S SOCIETY ANYWAY? I'M ASSUMING THAT TALKING ABOUT WOMEN AS OBJECTS FOR SEXUAL SATISFACTION AND BRAGGIN' ABOUT MONEY AND MATERIAL ITEMS MOST INDIVIDUALS MAY NEVER OBTAIN IS A MUCH BETTER STANCE...I THINK NOT!!! I WAS INCENSED BY THIS STANCE THAT BET OBVIOUSLY TOOK AGAINST QUALITY, INSIGHTFUL HIP HOP. I TOOK BET REFUSING TO AIR THE VIDEO AS A SLAP IN THE FACE, AND I STARTED TO LESSEN MY VIEWING OF THE SO-CALLED BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION. A TOTAL TRAVESTY, IN MY OPINION. I STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT BET REFUSING TO PLAY THE VIDEO HINDERED SALES FOR LITTLE BROTHER WITH "THE MINSTREL SHOW".
I THINK A FIRE WAS LIT UNDER PHONTE COLEMAN, BECAUSE ON THE "SEPARATE BUT EQUAL" JOINT BOONDOCK SAINTS (FEATURING L.E.G.A.C.Y. AND CHAUNDON), PHONTE SPIT SOME OF THE MOST VISUAL LYRICS I CAN REMEMBER. HERE IS A TASTE OF WHAT PHONTE SPIT ON THAT CLASSIC SONG:
Right back to business off a six-week tour
And I ain't never seen drama like this before
Got a lot of shit to get off my chest
Some wild shit to address, so I told Khrysis press record
I'ma put it on wax and give you the raw facts
And truth about life and the things I'm dealing with
Black folks saying that I'm too intelligent
And white folks saying I'm a little too niggerish
It got me in a strange predicament
I wish black embarrassment TV was judged more wisely
But I don't know what's worse
The fact that they ain't playing our shit, or that it don't even surprise me
Because I shucking and cause I ain't jiving
Some of these crackers won't stand beside me
And cause I ain't killing and don't support pimping
Some of these niggas wanna call me a Cosby
Well, I'll be that dude, I'll scratch that itch
I'll play that role, call me Heathcliff bitch
If this ain't what you want then fine
But somehow, someway we got to draw that line
And it goes without mentioning, I thought about censoring
This verse so my label and manager stay cool
But as of this recording we ain't even outsold The Listening
So really what the fuck I got to lose?
Bitch it's Phontigga, lo the show ripper
Hoe cause my hoes would change week to week
But now my flows be changing from beat to beat
Tell my nigga Jim Bowes he gotta beat the streets
Cause I know that they need us - there's got to be more to this generation
than dranking and smoking all they weed up
This is my confession with the Embassy
You fuckin imbeciles can put your Rosary Beads up, now
BOONDOCK SAINTS (FEAT. L.E.G.A.C.Y., PHONTE, AND CHAUNDON):
HE ARTICULATED HIS PAIN AND "EMBARRASSMENT" IN A WAY YOU JUST DON'T FIND IN MAINSTREAM HIP HOP AT ALL. IT'S A SHAME MORE FOLKS DON'T KNOW WHO LB IS, BUT THE OVERALL CATALOGUE FROM "THE LISTENING" TO THE MOST RECENT (AND LAST, AT LEAST FOR NOW) ALBUM "LEFTBACK". I WILL KEEP YOU ABREAST OF MORE NEWS REGARDING A CREW I DEEM AS THE DOPEST IN HIP HOP.
HELLO BLOGGER WORLD!!! SUNDAY, MAY 2ND IS GOING TO BE THE INAUGURAL INSTALLMENT OF SAMPLE SUNDAY. THIS WEEKLY POSTING IS GOING TO SHOW LOVE FOR THE ART OF SAMPLING. BECAUSE THIS A WORK IN PROGRESS, THINGS MAY NOT STAY CONSTANT FROM WEEK TO WEEK OR MONTH TO MONTH. THE CONSTANT WILL BE ME SHINING SOME LIGHT ON ARTISTS, BOTH OLDER AND NEWER, THAT MAY NOT GET THE RECOGNITION THEY DESERVE. THIS WEEKLY BLOG SERIES WILL ALLOW ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO COVER SOME OBSCURE RECORDS AND ARTISTS. I HOPE THIS WILL EDUCATE AND SPARK CONVERSATION, AS WELL AS SHOW LOVE FOR A PART OF HIP HOP CULTURE THAT IS SOMETIMES IGNORED, DERIDED, OR CAST TO THE WAYSIDE.
IN MY OPINION, SAMPLING IS NOT JUST STEALING SOMEONE'S MUSIC AND CALLING IT YOUR OWN. ACCORDING TO WIKIPEDIA, "IN MUSIC, SAMPLING IS THE ACT OF TAKING A PORTION, OR SAMPLE, OF ONE SOUND RECORDING AND REUSING IT AS AN INSTRUMENT OR A DIFFERENT SOUND RECORDING OF A SONG". BECAUSE I'VE BEEN INVOLVED, DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY, WITH HIP HOP CULTURE, PRODUCTION, DJ'ING, ETC. FOR THE BETTER PART OF 30 YEARS, I'VE WITNESSED MANY FACETS OF HIP HOP AS AN ARTFORM. SAMPLING IS AN ARTFORM, BECAUSE MANIPULATION OF A COLLAGE OF SOUNDS INTO SOMETHING DOPE TAKES A CREATIVE MIND AND DISCERNING EAR, WHEN DONE WITH INTEGRITY. NOW, I'M NOT GOING TO GET ON MY "TRUE HIP HOP" SOAPBOX AND PREACH PREACH PREACH!!! I AM, HOWEVER, GOING TO SHARE MY THOUGHTS AND OPEN DIALOGUE ABOUT SAMPLING AS A WHOLE.
FOR TODAY'S INSTALLMENT, I AM GOING TO SHED LIGHT ON THE PAST AND PRESENT, COURTESY OF THE SYLVERS AND 9TH WONDER. FOR STARTERS, THE SYLVERS WERE A VERY FUNKY AND DOPE FAMILY, IN THE MOLD OF THE JACKSON 5. MANY CONSIDERED THE SYLVERS TO BE A COPY OF THE JACKSONS FORMULA. THIS FAMILY GROUP, CONSISTING OF 9 MEMBERS AT ITS HEIGHT, WERE BASED OUT OF MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE, A HOTBED FOR SOULFUL, FUNKY MUSICIANS. THE SYLVERS DISCOGRAPHY IS RESPONSIBLE FOR PROVIDING THE SONIC BACKDROP FOR A MULTITUDE OF HIP HOP JOINTS. TODAY, WE ARE GOING TO FOCUS ON TWO WORDS: "SO CLOSE". "SO CLOSE" IS THE SHARED TITLE BETWEEN THE SYLVERS COMPOSITION FROM THEIR DEBUT SELF-TITLED ALBUM THE SYLVERS, AND THE DOPE COLLABO BETWEEN SKYZOO AND 9TH WONDER. 9THIS A FAVORITE PRODUCER OF MINE, BECAUSE I SEE AND HEAR SIMILARITIES IN HIS SOULFUL APPROACH TO PRODUCTION. THIS JOINT IS SPECIAL BECAUSE OF THE WAY 9TH WONDER FLIPS THE SYLVERS SAMPLE, TURNING IT INTO AN AURAL COLLAGE, IN THE SAME WAY SOMEONE WOULD CONSIDER ANDY WARHOL AN ARTISTIC GENIUS. 9TH HAS A WAY OF MAKING THE FAMILIAR HIS OWN. YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE ORIGINAL COMPOSITION AND HEAR THE FUNK, THE SOUL, THE FEELING BEHIND THE VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS. 9TH CREATED A SONIC BED TO ALLOW BROOKLYN-BRED LYRICIST SKYZOO, WHO I FEEL IS ONE OF THE MOST UNDERRATED EMCEES IN THE INDUSTRY, THE SPACE TO SPIT INTELLECTUAL, DOPE, BRAGGADOCIOUS LYRICS.
HERE IS THE ORIGINAL BY THE SYLVERS:
I'M FEELING THE PIANO AND VOCAL HARMONIZING IN THIS SYLVERS SONG. 9TH DID A NICE JOB OF FINDING VARIOUS PORTIONS OF THIS SONG TO SAMPLE AND CHOP. FOR THOSE THAT HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE SYLVERS LOOK LIKE, "HEERRRRREEEE WE GOOOO" (SHAMELESS SHOUT-OUT TO SLICK RICK)...
I SEE WHY THERE WERE COMPARISONS WITH THE JACKSON 5 AND DEBARGE!!!
NOW HERE IS THE UNRELEASED SKYZOO/9TH WONDER SONG "SO CLOSE":
CHECK OUT THE SYLVERS DISCOGRAPHY, BECAUSE IT RUNS PRETTY DEEP. THE CLASSIC "MISDEMEANOR" JOINT FROM FOSTER SYLVERS SERVES AS THE BACKDROP FOR THE D.O.C. DOPENESS "IT'S FUNKY ENOUGH". JUST LISTENING TO "MISDEMEANOR" TODAY TAKES ME BACK TO A PLACE OF INNOCENCE BACK IN THE 70'S, THE DECADE THAT NURTURED AND MOLDED ME INTO THE PERSON I AM TODAY (FOR BETTER OR FOR WORSE). I ALSO WANT YOU TO SEE THE POTENTIAL AND LYRICISM IN SKYZOO. OF COURSE, 9TH WONDER GETS NOTHING BUT LOVE FROM ME. 9TH WONDER HAS NOT ONLY BEEN A DRIVING FORCE BEHIND NC CREW LITTLE BROTHER, BUT HE HAS ALSO BRANCHED OUT TO PRODUCE MUSIC FOR VARIOUS ARTISTS SUCH AS JAY-Z, DESTINY'S CHILD, ERYKAH BADU, BUCKSHOT, MURS, AND EVEN "STRINGER BELL" HIMSELF IDRIS ELBA! BELOW I AM GOING TO INCLUDE LINKS TO VIEW THE ARTISTS FROM EPISODE 1.
I HOPE THIS FIRST INSTALLMENT WAS INFORMATIVE AND ENLIGHTENING. ONCE I GET INTO THE FLOW OF THINGS, I BELIEVE THIS SERIES WILL BE A COOL LOOK IN THE BLOGOSPHERE. I APPRECIATE ANY FEEDBACK, SUGGESTIONS, COMMENTS, CRITICISMS, PRAISE, WHATEVER IT MAY BE. I'M LOOKING FOR THIS FORUM TO BE OPEN, IN ORDER TO HAVE CONSTRUCTIVE GROWTH FOR WHAT I'M TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH. UNTIL NEXT SUNDAY...
I know Him, yet I don't
I love Him, but sometimes I question
What my purpose is
Is it to glorify the Most High?
Is it to be the best man I can be?
Is it to attain heights never before imagined?
I think it is all this and much more
In Him I am rich, but always claim to be poor
Through His Son I can walk through heavenly doors
Through the sun I can talk so much more
About all the powerful things in store
My heart and soul is what I pour
Out through the Holy Ghost
That captures me in a rapture
Bringing tears of joy and laughter
So I have to praise and raise
His name on high
And through mysterious ways I try
Baltimore Hip Hop has pretty much played second fiddle to its bouncier kinfolk Club Music for a long while now. What I've noticed in the past is a disconnect with the target audience here in Charm City. There also has been a divide with local hip hop artists, not showing the unity necessary to put The City That Reads on the hip hop map. Truthfully, I can't quite put my finger on that dividing reason. Maybe jealousy, the crabs in the barrel syndrome, or something more deep-rooted has caused hip hop artists to not rally around each other, for the most part, around these parts. I've been fortunate enough to observe and grow with hop culture from its infancy, so it's always troubled me that Baltimoreans weren't support enough, in my humble opinion, when it came to a music driven by the pain and angst that our urban streets presented. Baltimore is a blue-collar city built on a solid work ethic, but it's also an "inside the box" community that sometimes is afraid to expand it's horizons, for better or for worse.
That's why Wednesday, April 28th was a nice curveball to the normally mundane hip hop existence our region suffers from. Taste Lounge, located in South Baltimore (not considered a hot bed for hip hop in this fair city of ours), was the venue for The DMV Takeover Independent Artist Showcase. This event offered an opportunity for independent, up and coming artists the chance to shine in an area notorious for not giving the love and support artists need. Hosted by Dion (9 West Barber Shop), this dope event was a welcome relief to the local shows lacking organization and direction. I knew I was in for a very good event once I walked through the doors and listened to the collection of underground music DJ Black Wizard was blessing the crowd with. Hearing "Exhibit C" by Jay Electronica was a blessing, but listening to Little Brother emcee Phonte on "Tigallo For Dolo" blaring through the speakers put me in a positive state of mind for the rest of the evening.
Before I go any further, I definitely need to shout out budding businessman and local entertainment mogul Lewis Williams, whose Consumer Voice Entertainment Group was a vital part of the evening's festivities. He is indeed an important cog in the local entertainment machinery. It's good to see an intelligent and energetic give AND show love to the regional music scene. That was quite evident as the crowd thickened throughout the evening. The event was scheduled from 9PM-2AM; I stayed at the venue to observe, network, and show love for a few hours.
The first up to entertain the growing Taste Lounge crowd was Fly Boys. Unfortunately, technical issues prevented this crew from blessing those in attendance with any material. I was pleasantly surprised, however, that the diverse crowd of fly chicks and hardrocks didn't bring any negativity to the obviously disappointed group. "On to the next one", as Jay Hova would say. C4 was next to perform, and gave a cool performance and kept the crowd captivated. Once C4 finished their set, Ahmed-The Last Born Child, grabbed the mic. This dope lyricist spit intelligent and thought-provoking lyrics, which is ALWAYS a good thing in my lyrics-first mind. He ended his set with an appropriate tribute to Gang Starr emcee Guru, who passed away a week prior. Next to hit the stage was CVEG artist E.N.V.I.E., who performed some noticeable joints like "Jump Back" and "American Psycho". E.N.V.I.E. is one of the doper emcees in the DMV region, in my opinion. The emcee and artist that probably captured the attention of the showcase crowd the most was Slay, another CVEG artist. His set was filled with energy, and those in attendance were definitely feeling his performance (which included a couple of changes in his swag uniform). Once this lyrical emcee was complete his set, the deepest crew in the venue took to the stage. GSM had AT LEAST 18 individuals on stage, so it was somewhat difficult to distinguish the emcees from the rest of the crew. Nevertheless, they made their presence felt throughout the venue, and the crowd showed love to GSM. I compare them to M.O.P. and Wu-Tang with their stage presence. Other notables included General Beatz One, Murdaland Murk, and Red Bull. Green Eyes was also in the house, representing the Turntable Takeover program from WKSH Da Beat Radio. Once The Donk contest commenced, I knew it was my time to vacate the premises.
All in all, the night spent at that South Baltimore club was well worth it. I had the opportunity to meet some intriguing individuals who are looking to not only put Baltimore on the proverbial hip hop map, but are actually developing a united front, something that has been missing in this area, like I stated earlier. I look forward to the next dope event at Taste Lounge featuring more talent from the DMV.