lundi, juin 29, 2009

Be Advised

My MacBook broke and the good folk at the Genius Bar had it, which is why I stopped blogging. Thanks be to them (and valid AppleCare) I have a shiny repaired laptop burning up my legs right now. Final Black Music Month Post demain.

Photo Credit: DJ Eucalyptus

dimanche, juin 21, 2009

The Listening: "Be Thankful for What You've Got"

My job is to listen to people. 2-3 days a weeks I sit in a recording studio with strangers and record oral histories. I have heard the most disturbing and heartwarming things. I can't say I am always cheered by the heartwarming. Sometimes I'm jealous but I mask it with a polite pleasantness I pride myself in exemplifying and think about how I can move towards eradicating those petty feelings.

So today I want to shift towards thinking about the good in my Dad because there is a good deal of it. There is nothing I can do about his failings but wallow in them and that's proven toxic.

So although there are wonderful aspects of myself that are products of his influence, it's still hard to sincerely say Happy Father's Day, I will say to those equally torn, via William DeVaughn, be thankful for what you've got.

"Be Thankful for What You Got" [MP3]
William DeVaughn

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

vendredi, juin 19, 2009

The Listening: "Welcome to the Colored Section" & "Cloud 9"

I knew when I began this exercise that Donnie would make my Juneteenth post but I couldn't decide between two songs from his debut, The Colored Section.

"Cloud 9," I listen to most often. It celebrates features of Blackness, like nappiness, that many of the most prideful seldom trumpet. Where much is made of us being hard on each other to preview and prepare for racism, "Cloud 9" takes the opposite approach.

Now "Welcome to the Colored Section" lands in exactly the same triumphant spot but takes a different journey. Soberly gospel from the opening piano solo on through, "Welcome..." distills our story, from that Black Atlantic valley through Black pride and comes to the most satisfying apogee.

So here are both but BUY THIS ALBUM. I got it for free years ago but since have bought multiple copies as gifts. It's brilliant.

"Cloud 9" [MP3]
"Welcome to the Colored Section" [MP3]

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

jeudi, juin 18, 2009

The Listening: "Beyond"


Intellectually, I understand that hip hop music can cover the waterfront but instinctually, when I hear the piano loop, JS-1's apt scratchwork and O.C.'s businesslike flow on "Beyond" I think, "Now, this is what hip hop is supposed to soundlike." Seriously, I've got doubles of this record. It goes hard.

"Beyond" [MP3]
OC & DJ JS-1

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

mercredi, juin 17, 2009

The Listening: "Why"

Me and L'Erin used to sing this joint ALL THE TIME. I mean we were socially conscious kids but our performances were more hyperbolic than heartfelt. And looking at the video, the hard dancing, the Cross Colours, the HBCU sweatshirts, the earnestness, its everything those video soul/teen summit days were and those were some of the best times of my life.

You know, as No I.D. noted, albums aren't as cohesive as they had long been, I might argue that where the production is mish mash, the thematic content has narrowed. A lot of Black pop when I was growing was socially conscious without the stigma. Fashion too. Remember Cross Colours was "Clothing without prejudice." Maybe it was newness of crack, gang violence and HIV/Aids that made Black artists sing some occasional uplift.

Oh and peep the "tall" one from The Boys in the video.

"Why" [YouTube]
Small Change

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

mardi, juin 16, 2009

The Listening: "Expect Your Miracle"


My childhood church had four choirs: the Chancel Choir, which favored a classical repertoire, the Angel Choir comprised of the babies, the L.F. Greene or teen choir and the sanctuary favorites, the eponymous F.A.M.E. choir.

They along with their guitar & bass players, pianist, organist and multiple percussionists were in the loft two Sundays a month two services a day and ripped congregants from their red pews regularly. Off the top, I don't remember much of their repertoire except for "Move Mountain" and Clark Sisters' classic, "Expect Your Miracle." I loved how they'd break down the chorus by vocal range. The sopranos would hit, "I expect a miracle every day. God will make a way out of no way." Then the altos and so on until they reached the lowest register, which was the menfolk and maybe Sandra Jackson. That really got people hollering. We sort of expect a "feminine" voice in gospel so those deeper tones really made an impact.

More than that, the song was so simple and very uplifting in a vaguely Christian Joel Osteen way. You didn't feel bad about your faults, or anxious of evil or fearful of hell. It was about uplift and positive thinking and, of course, miracles. I'm thinking I should sing this each morning when I rise. Meet me in Riverside Park.

(I can't find an MP3 of this. If you have it, message me & is TVOne gonna replay their Unsung?)

"Expect Your Miracle" [YouTube]
The Dynamic Clark Sisters with Mattie Moss Clark

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

lundi, juin 15, 2009

The Listening: "Azucar de Cana"

Soul of Black Peru CD COver

I just finished watching American Experience's documentary on Roberto Clemente. His story is one of import to sports historians and Afro-Latinos. A Puerto Rican, his parents cut cane and as much as cotton, cane, or in Spanish, azúcar de caña, has helped define so many Africans and their descendants lives in America. Songwriters recognize this. My favorite song by Les Nubians is "Sugar Cane" and a dozen years ago I was introduced to Afro Peruvian music through Eva Ayllón's "Azúcar de Caña" from the compilation The Soul of Black Peru.

In 2008, I finally saw Eva Ayllón live, in Carnegie Hall of all places. She now lives in Jersey but is considered the Whitney Houston of Peru. And however dated that comparison is, the point is, she's a diva. I left with some photographs, a commitment to learning how to play the cajón but no memory of her singing this here song as it didn't make the set list.

"Azúcar de Caña" [MP3]
Eva Ayllón

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

dimanche, juin 14, 2009

The Listening: "Peace of Mind"


I saw "UP" today. It's a love story. A life story too. Living well is really all about perspective and with it comes... Julie will sing you the rest.

This EP sounds nothing like her later output. She's now more on the nose R&B. I still like her but not like I did when I copped this from Earwax.

"Peace of Mind" [MP3]
Julie Dexter

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

samedi, juin 13, 2009

The Listening: "Po' Folks"

nappy roots

I know a little something 'bout being broke but this don't make me feel bad about it.

"Po' Folks" [M4A]
Nappy Roots

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

vendredi, juin 12, 2009

The Listening: "Love Poems"


So I get star struck. I've shared a word with Andre 3000 back when he was Dre from Outkast, Big Boi too. I've run into Tracy Chapman, Maxwell and DJ Premier and each and every time I see someone whose music means something to me I get geeked.

I was relatively unselfconscious about it until I moved to New York. I believe it was the summer after my first year of graduate school at NYU and I went to see Bilal perform at the Jazz Standard.

I had long pledged allegiance to D'Angelo and still do but then it seemed like B was the heir. In fact, at first I thought it was D singing on "Soul Sista" when my friend Marcia played it off the Love & Basketball Soundtrack in her Spelman dorm room one evening.

So sitting through an intimate performance at Jazz Standard where he was joined by N'Dea Davenport was a treat. At show's end, he was loitering a few feet from me so I decided to get him to sign my program. I walked up to him, greeted him and made my requestst to which he screwfaced "why?"

I didn't have an answer. I wanted something to take home but can't imagine I articulated it all that well. I wasn't blogging then. I didn't have a camera. The program would have been my souvenir. Anyway, he laughed at me, signed the program and I walked away determined to throw it in the closest trash receptacle once I made it outside. I was embarassed and it felt wierd to feel shame about loving someone's music.

It's so New York to get played for fandom. I wish I hadn't kowtowed to the 5 boro endemic cool posturing but I have 'cause I don't like to feel bad.

But unfortunate encounter aside, I can't shake his music and I don't want to. I've his seen him performe countless times since and I've always been entertained and frequently catapulted to stratospheric heights. Dude's a force, a tremendous creative whose circle is just as strong.

I've always like "Love Poems" despite the spoken word breakdown. The vocal performance. The vocal arrangment. Here it is.

"Love Poems" [MP3]

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

jeudi, juin 11, 2009

The Listening: "Set Me Free"


My colleague Jeremy and I hopped on the F train after Joe Schloss' incredible book party at Powerhouse Arena this evening. He took it to Delancey to transfer to the J and I to 14th to hop on the 1. For the two stops we were together, he pulled out his iPod, cued it up, placed the buds in my ear and played this here song.

Now he watched me as I listened. I smiled expectantly as to not disappoint but wasn't optimistic. The beat dropped, I nodded and was quickly astounded by the caliber of soulfulness.

It's not often that I hear a new soul singer that impresses me but Blaire done did it with this one.

"Set Me Free" [MP3]
Monica Blaire

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

mercredi, juin 10, 2009

The Listening: "Strugglin"


I reviewed First Contact last year for eMusic and I fell in love with "Strugglin."

When one is going through it, acknowledgement is comforting, so is help, better it be unsolicited.

I don't ask for help. As I've seen it, folk can't disappoint you if you don't provide them with opportunity. And so here the band sings what I'd love to hear but won't request.

You know, It's been one of those days. I don't know that anyone I know I could help but my help receptors are so weak that I don't even know how to apply it when offered so I went to church and took a mini walk with "Casa Bey" : "...miracles and answered prayers."

"Strugglin" [MP3]
Stone Mecca

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

mardi, juin 09, 2009

The Listening: "Millions"


All my Facebook friends are commenting, liking and/or unliking , "What Single Women Can Learn From Michelle." I didn't care for its suggestion that single Black women need to get more realistic about their romantic prospects. It would be an insult to me to know that it took a dose of 'reality' for a guy to pursue me. I don't think that God intends us all to chase after the Gabrielle Unions/Morris Chestnuts and finding oneself with, let's say, an Alfre Woodard or a Joe Morton isn't a fail. We are individuals with unique chemistry and desires that we sublimate for other people's pretty sexy, cool.

As for Muhsinah's "Millions," I crack up every time I hear her begin with "You're close to spectacular." Style would call that a neg. Close to? Why qualify? Of course, Muhsinah follows with, "how on earth did you land next to me?" which empties it of all the funkiness. It's flattery. We get it. But it's also self-deprecating. Not that I haven't or couldn't still feel the same but why wouldn't mr. "close-to-spectacular" be right there next to her or me for that matter. Why wouldn't he chose her out of all of those seeds?

I think we can be present to superficiality, the standards of attractiveness and gender roles most of us have been bred to want, and still call shenanigans.

If I fall for dude with a penchant for highwaters and a less than regular appointment at the barber shop, that's not lowering my standards, that's love. And I love how the beat flips.

"Millions" [MP3]

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good."

Libellés :

lundi, juin 08, 2009

The Listening: "360° (What Goes Around)"


"I don't dis' nobody to be be somebody. I just like to kick the flavor to make the people party."

I love everything about this song and accompanying video: the young men dancing (Brand Nubian always had the BEST dancing in their videos), the colorful polo shirts, the knapsack before backpacks had baggage, the jubilant party scene. I want to say Puba was a style icon but I used to see plenty of models in the style section of the Source in similar apparel. I read it faithfully and I still want a Helly Hansen jacket; I think it would set off a casual fall 'fit quite nicely.

More can be said of the video's party scene. The girls are clothed but that was the style then. What's most important is that they are not in great number gesticulating while paunchy rap entourages bust champagne bottles all over their baby oil gelled bodies (irrespective of Grand Puba admission that he "usually busts records on getting buck naked.") They're bopping from side to side like everyone else and the camera is rightly not trained on their physical assets. I don't think we should take the visual disparity between Puba's debut solo single and what we have been looking and listening to regularly since 'round about "Vivrant Thing"." Videos like this made me want to be a part of something, made me feel apart of something with no bitter aftertaste.

And then there is the music. Shit is straight buoyant (and it sourced Natural Resource's "Negro League Baseball.") Puba's a longstanding master wordsmith from penning Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth's "The Creator" right on through his work with Brand Nubian. He integrates politics and play seamlessly and not only is his nasally voice distinctive but his judicious intonation too. His sense of humor and confidence seal the deal. I love Grand Puba.
"360 (What Goes Around) [MP3]
Grand Puba

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

dimanche, juin 07, 2009

The Listening: "I Need You"


I remembered I loved this song when I heard it today in Atomic Wings. Fret not, veteran vegetarian I remain, I just had to pee.

I've never purchased an Alicia Keys album even as I saw incoming freshman at Spelman crib her style and blast her debut from the campus' brick dorms many evenings, it wasn't 'til "You Don't Know My Name," that I was even compelled to download an mp3. Although I've seen her kill at Radio City Hall and sang along to "Unbreakable" on many a car ride with the fam or dusk walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, it might have taken hearing this song this sunny weekend workday to make me a believer. Maybe it's where I am right now. Maybe it's my penchant for the passionate or just a little latent neediness but "north needs south, east needs west and no needs yes, yes, yes. Up needs down, life needs death and no needs yes, yes, yes. I need you..."

I love the drums and keyboards.

"I Need You" [MP3]
Alicia Keys

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

samedi, juin 06, 2009

The Listening: "Someday I'll Find You"

I can't provide context. I just learned who Noël Coward was courtesy of Wikipedia. As for biracial British soul singer Shola Ama, this is the only song I have heard by her and I have loved it since spending half an afternoon at a Sha Tin HMV listening station being enveloped by her voice.

What I can say is how distinctive Ama's nineties version (see the video here) is from this thirties version, that although I bought Twentieth Century Blues that afternoon, I don't think I have ever listened to the album in full and I don't know if believe Shola's "I'll find you," but I like hearing her claim it.

"Someday I'll Find You" [M4A]
Shola Ama

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

vendredi, juin 05, 2009

The Listening: "Uhuru Sasa"


A couple of years ago, the manager of and up & coming woman producer picked me up from my Park Slope apartment and drove me to Staten Island to interview her client. As we headed south on seventh avenue in her SUV, I huffed at daily annoyance. In a neighborhood overrun with white children, the nannies seemed to be almost exclusively Black. It pissed me off and I let it me known. The manager, pretty damn riled up herself, then questioned what better job is available to immigrant women, many older and undocumented, with little formal education. And she revealed that her mother, a Jamaican immigrant, long worked as a nanny.

Now my disdain for seeing little white babies suckling at Black teets had never been directed toward the women, or entirely the babies (maybe a little towards the babies), but a positioning. The bile that rises in my throat is shot there in anger over all the life generations of women who look like me couldn't live for tending to the families of others. Sometimes I think I would live outside of the law before I ever tended to a white child but that is spoken from the pivilege of never having had to consider such employment. So many Black women, past and present, didn't/don't have much of a choice.

Walking through Macy's today, Andy Bey, in his old gig as the voice of Gary Bartz NTU Troop, came through my headphones singing what I felt that day, what I feel most days about this subject.
"Hell no! I won't raise your children and you no more. Hell no! Because I've got some children of my own to raise up."
I'm not going to be able to do it. Love to the children of the world but we can't always be the ones to dispense it. But when some of us do, be certain that your snarl doesn't wound who it aims to liberate. Uhuru Sasa ("Freedom Now" in Kiswahili).

"Uhuru Sasa" [MP3]
Gary Bartz NTU Troop

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

For more on Gary Bartz, see my VIBE interview.

Libellés :

mercredi, juin 03, 2009

The Listening: "Do You Remember"


In my first semester at NYU, I took a course taught by Robin Kelley on the African Diaspora. There was an assignment, a written response, a journal entry or maybe an annotated bibliography, that I was to complete on the subject broadly and I invoked this here song. It took the form of a question as if no one else could recognize the tentacles extending from Scott's music to negritude broadly. Kelley noted in the margins on my paper that he heard where she was coming from as well and it learned me how easily one's "aha" can be another's "oh yeah."

"Do You Remember" gives voice, multi-octave assured and playful Black woman voice, to a shared past and taut, sometimes tenuous partnerships. Common put it this way, "It's the Black upon each other that we love so much."

"Do You Remember" [MP3]
Jill Scott

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

The Listening: "Soul Clap"


Early this morn, A.G., of Showbiz & A.G. fame, took part in the Roots Jam Session at the Highline Ballroom in New York City. The veteran Bronx emcee was accompanied by two equally light skinned (I don't know about their hair) hype men and performed a song off of the new Jay Stay Paid album. I sat at my balcony table frightened. I was concerned that in his cornrowed and grown stance he might just pass on performing stellar throwbacks for his new shit.

And then the Roots crew and guests segued into "Soul Clap" and I hopped up, cupped my palms together in appropriate frequency and commenced to rapping most every line. I was never as fastidious about memorizing lyrics as boys still are so I tripped up a few times. Despite my euphoria, I noticed that few others were on my level. There was barely a head nod in the sea of folk below. I mean, I guess they're young and I'm not mad at them for being born later but it just didn't feel right to hear something so spectacular and foundational fall on dumb ears.

I'm also linking "Next Level" 'cause when and where I make it, whatever shape that takes, I will ascend whatever rostrum/dais to "Brothers can't believe how the skills have gotten." Not to mention, I've always thought it would make a good ring tone. (The video was the business too. Ain't it make New York look appealing?)

"Soul Clap" [MP3]
Showbiz & A.G.

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

mardi, juin 02, 2009

The Listening: "Everlasting Love"

I know it sounds dated but that doesn't take away from its strength or that of the burly-voiced Tony Terry and it's not just nostalgia. While the late eighties/early nineties soulsters style has not preserved its cool, I think there is something to that brand of love song (See my earlier Tony Terry post at VIBE). It's unselfconscious. It's without hedge or posture. It's wedding song material, perfectly crafted for exaggerated slow dance. And, yes, I do like the opening horn solo.

"Everlasting Love" [MP3]
Tony Terry

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

lundi, juin 01, 2009

The Listening: "Be There"


I became interested in the late Donny Hathaway's catalog after Common's One Day it Will All Make Sense with all that talk of a stolen tape. "Be There" took a while to adhere but now it's a daily necessity. When I listen, I see a young woman on screen circa 1971 skipping through a lunch hour Manhattan people jam in a tawny skirt suit with embellished blouse, pirouetting to a stop at a Don't Walk sign and lifting her arms skyward in abandon as a camera closes in on her chestnut face. And with that, I'll make a plea for more wistful Black film.

Since this song considers the mechanics of romantic relationship, I must call attention to the second freshest event of this year so far, following and embodied by Obama's ascent, and that was Black Love in Public.

"Be There" [MP3]
Donny Hathaway

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good." - Common

Libellés :

The Listening: Black Music Month


It is out of sleeplessness that I am unmuting this blog. Fortuitous that schemes of coming up on Pro Tools for cheap, scheduling/recording interviews for my forthcoming podcast and securing a freelance gig or two should wake my weekend worn body early on Black Music Month morn.

I will be leaving New York soon for New England and if there has been one grand Gotham achievement it has been consumption. I mean the culture is what brought me here. It certainly wasn't the grind, the brusqueness, the cold.

The only way I know how to catalog my life here is in (relationship to) shows: Wingate Field, SOB's rap reunion concerts, Apollo theatre revelations, Blue Note supergroups.

But I wasn't cool. I had drama at the doors and there have been so many where I comprised a 1/4 or more of the audience. Still I wrote to record not just where I was and what I heard but that I was there.

This month I'll spotlight some of the music that I've walked with. For every day of this transitional month, I'll share a song for download/stream.

"...Black music is Black music and it's all good..." - Common

Libellés :