Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Every so often, the most high will send you one of his messengers to let you know if you're on the right track or not. But it is up to us to recognize them and properly interpret their purpose for crossing our paths, irrespective of how long they stay. Today, the most high sent one across my own path. I was chillin' on the block with one of the elders having a casual conversation when this woman of wonder and surprise happened upon us. After her anecdote of miraculous fortitude rooted in an unshakable belief in her strengths and the will of the universe, she commenced to telling me about myself. She was direct and concise. She was also 100% on the mark. I was flabbergasted. I now know that I am treading firmly on my intended path and understand what I need to do to fortify my efforts. We exchanged information and like a flash, she was gone. Almost like an apparition. But what she said will forever resonate with my spirit. I thank the heavens and the universe for sending her. I am open, I am receptive, and I am listening. ASHE!!!
I love my folks. And whenever my peoples are in a position to shine, I do my best to further illuminate them in any capacity that I can. In this instance, I'm asking you all to help me do the same. My buddy Jeff is in a NYC-based rock outfit called I Love Monsters. Here's Jeff:
In an opportunity that could be viewed as the culmination of three long years of paying dues and lugging around amps and other assorted gear to a sh*tload of gigs, I Love Monsters recently happened upon somewhat of a big break. They're in a contest sponsored by FreeCreditScore.com. In attempts to broaden the awareness of their services to a younger, hip crowd, FreeCreditScore.com invited bands from across the country to submit demos for consideration in their band search. With a mountain of entries and a daunting task at their helm, they whittled the hundreds of hopefuls down to a final four (one from Chicago, one from Los Angeles, one from Detroit, and one from New York City), of which I Love Monsters has the honor of being one of!
Many of you may have seen the television commercials over the past month, each featuring one of the four finalist bands.
But the real ticket is the online component. On the site, you're given the opportunity to vote for one of the four bands. Up until August 9th, you can vote once every 24 hours for your favorite band. If you're in NYC, show some love for I Love Monsters!! Go to the site and vote here!! The three runners up get $7,500 each. The winning band gets $10,000, a full line of Gibson instruments, a Pearl drum kit ($12,000 value), a studio session with music industry veterans, plus a swanky stroll down the red carpet at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards! You're still reading this?!? GO VOTE NOW!!!!
For more info on I Love Monsters, hit up their website here.
Monday, July 26, 2010
This past year has been one of collaborations with folks who are equally, if not more, talented than the kid. At this point, I've got several projects on the table that I'm juggling. I'm really excited about this one. In case you hadn't noticed, I'm being vague for a reason. Let's just say I like to keep thangs under wraps until the time is right. Until then...
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Yeah. They're back. And they've got a reality show too (thanks a lot, Centric). Big surprise. I miss the days when artists got by on talent alone. All these gimmicks are starting to wear thin on me. Especially when everyone seems to have subscribed to the idiom of mimic the gimmick.
Even the groups with proven vocal chops have resorted to said gimmicks. Damn shame. Nokio...you a grown ass man, dog. Do better.
To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure if the new Dru Hill album is any good and I'll most likely take my sweet time finding out. I'll probably tune in to the premier episode of their reality show for a few good laughs, but I'm sure it won't lead to me checking for their album any sooner. It must be terribly disconcerting being a moderately successful late 90s R&B group having to contend with all these whiney young R&B thugs. But hell, I guess if the radio station break-up viral vid didn't create a buzz...their next logical step would have been to secure a reality show. Bills come faster than checks do.
(embedded YouTube video)
Good luck, fellas. I wish you all the success in your quest to relive your youth and recapture your fame. But I can guarantee you, the fuschia mohawk will not be a craze. Yeah...will not.
BTW...they'll be at J&R Music World on Tuesday, July 27th for an in-store appearance and autograph session if you feel the need to laugh at them in person:
TUESDAY, JULY 27TH
J&R MUSIC STORE @ 12:30PM
23 Park Row
New York, NY 10038
Monday, July 19, 2010
I've always been moved to point out the various examples of how pop culture is in a perpetual state of recycle. Unabashedly tearing a page from my comrade in critical cultural analysis Tahir Hemphill's stolen creative series, I have found a mode in which to do so. Today's example is that of the cover art from legendary trumpeter and music educator Donald Byrd's 1963 hard bop opus, A New Perspective.
Blue Note Records is renowned not only for their incomparable contribution to the genre of jazz, but also their groundbreaking graphic design featured on their many album covers. The covers from the crucial first few decades were helmed entirely by graphic artist Reid Miles and label co-founder/ photographer Francis Wolf. As we all know, anything that is deemed legendary is typically bound to influence and be replicated. In this case, it is Wolf & Miles' iconic style. Their collaborative creations succinctly capture a specific moment in time with great panache and unmistakable precision. Here, the art department at Island/ Mercury Records overtly attempted to recreate such a moment with the cover art for Comic Strip.
To be fair, we can't fault the ever-charming, eccentric, and legendary French composer Serge Gainsbourge for this obvious bite. Comic Strip, a compilation album, was released six years after his death. And to be honest, because Gainsbourg was a recording artist that was active during the 1960s, the label could be forgiven for trying to recreate an "authentic" nostalgic visual (an aesthetic approach that saw a sharp rise in the 1990s). But in attempts to cultivate a "series" of posthumous Gainsbourg compilations that year, the label was one release short of beating a dead horse:
Yes, I know many of you may simply rationalize this as the label's right to utilize the ubiquitous helvetica font as they please. But there are obvious parallels to Byrd's cover that cannot be disputed. For all non-believers, I'll clue you in on one: typeface color scheme and spacing. Need another? Ok: record company logo placement.
In retrospect, the Gainsbourg releases aren't the first to try to duplicate A New Perspective. Amiright.com has taken the time to compile a short list of releases that have copied Byrd's now iconic 1963 cover. And don't be surprised when you scroll to the bottom of that list to see that Blue Note has taken the liberty of biting itself!! Check out Graham Marsh's tomes in ode to Wolf & Miles' creations here and here!
Friday, July 16, 2010
Thursday, July 15, 2010
(embedded YouTube video)
Wow. I love it when I see growth in an artist who has shown longevity. Especially when that particular artist's downfall was predicted almost immediately after they made their debut. Over the past 18 years, MJB has gallantly slain all the haters and naysayers. She's defied the odds and the biters alike. She has triumphantly walked down the long and winding road to glory, sidestepping the pitfalls and traps that have ensnared many of her peers. But I've always wondered what was next for her. As the music industry has increasingly been pushing its artists into diversifying and commodifying themselves at all costs, MJB has largely remained...a singer. And remarkably so. She's never had a clothing line, reality show, sitcom or situation drama, or feature film (save for the ill-fated 2001 stinker Prison Song and her cameo role in this past Spring's Tyler Perry film).
But now, the Yonkers native seems like she's ready to brand herself with the introduction of her fragrance My Life. Though HSN will probably do the groundbreaking honors for the initial release of the perfume, I'm sure it will be available in many local retailers and chains very soon. After almost two decades in the game, this was a subtle way of branding the MJB name. She's truly walking the path of an icon. I'm just glad she's still here and still making good records.
(embedded YouTube video)
When I saw this commercial last night, I couldn't say or do anything for about 5 minutes afterwards. I was utterly in shock. Seeing a suburban soccer mom throwing her school-aged kids and all their multi-culti friends a Chips Ahoy party with a funky, late 1970s jam as the backdrop was kind of...weird. At the same time, it warmed my heart and filled me with hometown pride to know that a genre of music from my native city was getting some play from Madison Ave. Thirty-two years after its initial release, the first official nationally-released Go-Go song has been immortalized in a television commercial. While "Bustin' Loose" doesn't embody the archetype Go-Go sound that came to fruition in the 1980s, it held the DNA of the nascent genre within the components of its groove. If Chuck Brown still holds the copyrights to this grizzly jawn, I'm sure he'll be smiling from ear to ear when that check comes in the mail. Huh, man!
If you scratch your noggin every time I mention the word "Go-Go," as people from outside of the DMV (D.C./ Maryland/ Virginia) area often do, I'm not in the mood for a history lesson just now. Sorry. Not trying to be crabby, but I'd rather give you a Vimeo lesson instead. Though I've been told that the Mike Cahill and Nicholas Shumaker's 2002 Go-Go documentary The Pocket was a more rounded depiction of the scene, it has virtually disappeared from cyberspace altogether. In addition, it has been said that Charles "Shorty Corleone" Garris, lead singer of venerable go-go band Rare Essence, is putting together his own documentary on Go-Go entitled Go-Go: One City. One Sound. One Movement. If all else fails, and you're somewhat of a bibliophile, you could always check out the superb book by Kip Lornell and Charles C. Stephenson entitled The Beat: Go-Go's Fusion of Funk and Hip-Hop. It's pretty comprehensive.
Check out the original video from 1979:
(embedded YouTube video)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
It looks like POV is on fire this season. Brooklyn-based filmmaker Landon Van Zoest's latest offering Good Fortune takes a look into the latent downside of the myriad of humanitarian economic sustainability projects being undertaken in Africa. I won't tell you too much about the film, so you'll just have to tune in to PBS tonight and see what's really real for yourself. If you miss the broadcast, don't fret...you can watch the entire documentary on the PBS site from July 14th through October 12th. More info here. Stay informed. Stay woke.
Monday, July 12, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Tomorrow at Prospect Park in mighty, mighty BKLYN, an event of epic African diasporic proportions will take place. Questo & crew (nee The Roots) will be headlining yet another installation of their Afro-diasporic showcase series Okay Africa! This is further testament to the fact that over the past 5 years, the Celebrate Brooklyn summer concert series in Brooklyn's Prospect Park has definitely given Central Park Summerstage a run for its money! Also on the line up are, Talib Kweli, Blitz The Ambassador, Dragons Of Zynth, and Zakee Kuduro (shout out to my man Marcus Price)!! The festivities will be hosted by the star of the Tony award-winning Broadway musical FELA!, Sahr Ngaujah! And the best part is...IT'S FREE!!! Gotta love NYC in the summertime!! More info here!
Friday, July 9, 2010
Basquiat is definitely one of my cultural icons. So much to say about this cat. Definitely an enigma. Director Tamara Davis is releasing her Basquiat documentary film The Radiant Child this summer. If I'm not mistaken, it has already made the rounds at the film festival circuit and is winding down to a theatrical/ DVD release at this point.
(embedded YouTube video)
(embedded YouTube video)
DJ Spooky, in tandem with Salt Space, is hosting a FREE screening of the film on Monday, July 12th @ 8PM. RSVP now at the following email address:
Thursday, July 8, 2010
(embedded YouTube video)
At this point in the 21st century, it feels like we're witnessing the devaluation of art. In the music industry, as technology significantly became cheaper, home studios began to supplant the big budget recording studios. Auto Tune has been the preferred effect of the day, dumbing down the art of true vocal prowess. Some would even argue that computer pro apps like Photoshop and Illustrator killed a certain aspect of graphic art. However all of the above variables have produced some very innovative, inspiring art. The problem is that it has been more of an exception and less of a rule.
And now, as if the fact that everyone and their grandmothers are now conspicuously brandishing their shiny, new Canon and Nikon digital SLRs and calling themselves "photographers," Hipstamatic has developed an app for the new iPhone! Staying true to it's name, the Hipstamatic app creates those trendy, retro, Polaroid-esque over exposed, washed out photos utilizing different colored "flash gels" and "lenses." Including a host of filter effects to give you that authentic late 70s, early 80s look, Hipstamatic will make you the life of the open bar! And if that's not hipster enough for you, just download the Williamsburg Hipstapack! And to make sure that you're sucked into such a great deal, the Hipstamatic app is priced to go at $1.99!! That's right, $1.99!! You heard me, $1.99!! Sometimes I feel like technology has incrementally contributed to the dismembering of the tactile human experience. Real talk.
But seriously, I'm at a loss for words. My sentiments can be best summed up by Colcum, who left this comment in response to Hipstamatic's YouTube video two weeks ago:
"This is another step towards the death of photography. Every asshole suddenly becomes an artist."
Note: I refuse to hyperlink this crap. By hating on them in this blog post, I've given them more than enough publicity. Go Google them yourself.
Remember the days when BET made an altruistic attempt to represent the breadth of the collective U.S. Black community? Well, if you were born in the last 20 years, you probably don't. I grew up in the 80s, when the DC-based station was just a fledgling. Still holding fast to the upwardly mobile yet culturally rich ethos of Black America's 80s social paradigm. Amidst the battlefield of crack and AIDS, there were several shining pillars exemplifying everything from Black bourgeoisie to Afrocentricity. With Bill Cosby and Oprah Winfrey storming the Nielsen ratings, a new dimension of social and economic currency had been affixed to the Black image. And now we had a network to go with it.
I remember watching BET when I was a kid. When Donnie Simpson was the king of the network with his nightly music video program, Video Soul. Not only did Donnie facilitate the most insightful, personable interviews, he also played a broad variety of videos from the African diaspora. As strange as it may seem, I became politically aware because of BET. Whether it was the informative reports from Sabrina Dames on BET News (later Ed Gordon) or the selections that Donnie Simpson placed into rotation on Video Soul, BET helped me to form the basis of my knowledge of the Black diaspora. On Video Soul, I learned about apartheid in South Africa through music videos such as "Sun City" by Artists United Against Apartheid and "Free Nelson Mandela" by The Special AKA. I went to school, made a plaster Paris model of the continent of Africa, and started asking more questions in class. I was becoming a regular little Michael Evans at the age of 10.
Amazulu's "Montego Bay" was also one of the videos played on Video Soul. I knew little about Jamaica outside of the Kaya album cover my friend's ganja-smoking older brother used to roll his daily herbal supplements on. I remembered Bob Marley's face from the "Could You Be Loved" video BET often played, so I made the connection. However, Bob's video didn't allow me to conceptualize Jamaica, the country itself (I only remember the multi-culti kiddie version of this video, not the alternate version). The culture. The people. It wasn't until Amazulu shot this video for their 1986 song about the capital of St. James Parish that I fully understood. There were Blacks in other places around the world other than Africa and the United States?! Getouttahere!!! Anyway, enjoy this little piece of nostalgia from my youth. It brings back memories that I'll cherish forever.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
I have to be completely honest with you. Although I have grown to embrace and respect (somewhat) museum culture in New York City over the past decade, I had absolutely no idea that the Queens Museum of Art even existed. Real talk. So because of that, I can't say whether they're trying to follow in Brooklyn Museum's footsteps by signing on with Target to offer residents of the city a free day to explore their digs and frolic.
However, I have taken notice of their free Fridays program, being that they're screening a film that I've been wanting to see for some time: Streetball. If you remember my post about the Paley Center's World Cup centered events in tandem with the ADFF from last month, Streetball was one of their featured films that I'd missed. Well, if you were in the same boat...have no fear. This Friday, in addition to a host of other activities centered around South Africa, the museum will be screening Streetball! I'll definitely be there! More info here!
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
What more needs to be said? At this point, Soul Summit Sundays in Ft. Greene Park during the summer have become legendary soul shakedown parties. He who knows it, feels it. This will be my 5th summer attending the festivities and, I must say, I can't wait! Get ready for a non-stop barrage of deep house, tribal house, Paradise Garage classics, and more! Additional info here!
I know I should have told you about this last month when I first got word of it. I know this makes me look extremely negligent and out of the loop. I know you're probably thinking why I don't just tell you about it already instead of throwing out all these sentences prefaced with "I know." Tonight, as part of PBS' POV series, documentarian Yoruba Richen tells the story of land reversion rights in post-Apartheid South Africa through the lives of two Black communities in the country with her film Promised Land.
If any of you remember the 2008 documentary Banished, you'll know that this story is but a strand in the fabric of the plight of displaced peoples across the African diaspora and indigenous peoples around the world. I urge everyone to tune in to PBS tonight and continue this discussion amongst your respective circles. Being that the world is focused on the 2010 Fifa World Cup being held in South Africa at the moment, it has the potential to give the impression that all is well in the host country. But there are still many wounds that have yet to be healed. Promised Land is but a mere example of one of those wounds. Check your local listings for air times for Promised Land here.
Friday, July 2, 2010
The ever eccentric, peculiar, and talented Cody ChesnuTT. It seemed like this quirky brotha was poised to be our next Black rock savior of sorts. But he came in and largely bowed out of our musical world in 2002 like a flash of light. Almost eight years later, he reemerged this past Spring with a new single and is now set to take to the stage in NYC tomorrow as part of the Weeksville Heritage Center's Garden Party event, commemorating Emancipation Day! I'm sure Cody will have copies of his new EP Black Skin/ No Value on hand to vend. In addition, the event features a film screening and a lecture on the history of Haiti.
More info here. Have a happy Emancipation Day! Have fun, y'all!!
Note: if you don't know about Weeksville or Emancipation Day (as it pertains to Blacks in New York City), do your homework.
Weeksville Heritage Center
1698 Bergen Street
(between Buffalo and Rochester Aves.)
Brooklyn, NY 11213
For the longest time, I could never tell whether these guys were a biker gang or a forgotten gaggle of rumblers that defected from the set of the cult classic 1979 film The Warriors. But I must say, the Coney Island Dancers LOVE House music and they damn sure know how to party! This weekend, they're kicking off the summer (albeit a little late) with their first house party on the Coney Island Boardwalk. Soul Summit has been known to rip it up during the summer months with their Ft. Greene Park Sunday soirees. But over the past year and change, they've been expanding to different venues throughout Brooklyn. And while I'm not certain if this is in conjunction with the popular Sandcastles event thrown by Preston & Friends, that shouldn't keep you from coming out to catch some seaside house vibes this weekend with the gang from Coney! I'm sure it will be a Saturday to remember!
West 10th Street @ the boardwalk behind The Cyclone.
B, F, N, Q to Stillwell Avenue
F, Q to West 8th Street.
Yeah, I know. Baile Funk is so...2004. But apparently, no one has done a documentary on it yet. So leave it to the folks who "discovered" it and repackaged it as a North American sub-culture novelty to give us a fly on the wall perspective of this Brazilian ghetto sensation of a genre. Since 2002's breakthrough film City Of God, we have been titillated by Brazil's favelas and its unique brand of third world gangster. For myself, Brazil has always been a point of fascination. And no, it has absolutely nothing to do with sex tourism or the outlaw lifestyle. As a country, it's culturally rich, racially complex, and socioeconomically disparate. At the intersection of that lies a cornucopia of social phenomena. One of which is Baile Funk. Upon my first listen, it sounded like a key group of favelados got a hold of some Miami bass and Baltimore club music and wrought them into a 21st century booty shakin' pressure cooker of tropical heat and D.I.Y. moxie.
Mad Descent is finally releasing their documentary Favela On Blast (the namesake of Mad Decent founder Diplo's 2004 Baile Funk mixtape) this month on DVD. To celebrate the completion of their cinematic debut, they are offering a free week of online screening for the film on Pitchfork's website starting July 9th! If you miss it, too bad. Just cop the DVD when it comes out on the 20th. More info here.
If you're in the know, I don't need to tell you that Blitz has been grinding hardcore for the past 5 years. He's has definitely been an "up-and-coming" cat to watch for on the underground NYC Hip-Hop scene for a minute. Now the native Ghanaian turns his sights to his home country's ascension to the quarter finals at the 2010 Fifa World Cup. Download his tribute to those rough & tumble footballers known as the Black Stars here. Also, some of you guys might be familiar with the documentary Bronx Princess that started making the rounds at film festivals a few years ago. Check out this clip where Blitz gives some insight on how he went about scoring the film here:
Check the website here for more information and future PBS broadcasts.
Being that the Black Stars are the last hope of the entire continent, I'm sure that their level of stress is at its zenith. But they're quite tenacious, so I'm sure they can take the weight.
With all that being said...don't forget to watch their game against Uruguay today @ 2:30!!!! GO BLACK STARS!!!!