Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for September, 2008

The seeds of hip hop lay in community and dissent. Seminal break beat master, Kool Herc’s sister rented the community center in their housing project in the “Boogie Down” and gave a birthday party. She hired her brother to spin. Hip hop was born.

Later, in response to racist and exclusionary door policies at midtown Manhattan discos, latin and black kids threw their own funktions and using the club hits of the day, reduced the length of the records to the “breaks.” Emcees rhymed over these parts. The fly girls and fly guys went a little crazy. Like a disco fever, the flavor spread. In it’s earliest and purest form, hip hop was a way for rebelious people to have a good time.

kool_herc

HIP HOP’S FOUNDING FATHER KOOL HERC

While still spreading the fever, Guerilla Union principals, Josh and Chang, the promoters of RTB, provided several opportuinties for the participants and patrons of the tour.

A vehicle for up and coming emcees to peep the moxie and flavor of the vets. Exposure of the vets to the fresh new styles of tomorrow’s sound today. Fair compensation for practitioners, of what appears to be, an art form in transition. Plentiful networking opportunities and a place for friends and families to gather in support of this thing that used to be ours exclusively. All of this was accomplished in an environment that still felt underground and indy yet relaxed and friendly.

I was all over the networking, friends and family parts. As I stated earlier in The Chronicles, it was hot seeing my old friends. It was hot seeing new ones too.

The Wirk is the latter. We were introduced by a mutual friend after I saw her on his MySpace page. I asked who the pretty girl with the glasses was. She’s prettier than her pictures.

She’s a software consultant for SAP with an adventerous spirit and a pencahnt for wearing wife beaters. She’s computer savvy but not a nerd. She’s acredited but doesn’t like to read. She skims.

She’s got wanderlust and refuses to sit still. She’s in a different city 3 or four times a month and sometimes three cities in a week. She has a cat.

She’s got a soft spot for the games of chance. She once asked me, “If you call Gamblers Anonymous, who is more likely to answer the phone, a man or a woman?”

671px-Two_red_dice_01.svg

A PAIR OF WHITE DICE PRESUMABLY AFTER THE WIRK HAS BLOWN ON THEM

Close friends and followers of this page know that I’m a serious high stakes blackjack player. I thougthfully answer, “the culture of gambling is populated by men so it’s most likely that a man would answer.”

She says, “I don’t know but I got five on it.”

The Wirk is inappropriately funny. She has answered her phone to tell me that she can’t talk because the bones are in her hand and that she’s on a roll. She’s focused.

She’s careful to let me know that she reads this blog. Which is good, since she subtly inquired whether or not I’d do it. Until I did. She’s influential.

She loves NFL footbal and is an avid hoops junkie. She frequents both college and pro games. She was a fan of my beloved Knicks until Charles Smith couldn’t convert or get fouled, by three Bulls players in a big playoff game in ’93. She’s mildly oppionated. She’s a Duke fan. But who’s perfect?

She’s midwestern, multi culti and razor sharp. She’s extremely American and mad modern. She’s got a hot dress game. She’s young and energetic and proud of it. She’s edgy and appreciates others who are too. She’s annoyingly busy.

She’s a pop culture fanatic with an array of fun facts at her disposal. She’s got well thought out reasons for the demise of Janet Jackson’s recording career. Madonna means something to her, George Michael is the truth and Tina Turner is a goddess in her book.

tina_turner

ANNA MAE BULLOCK THE DEITY

The Wirk has got really big brown eyes that see through you. She’s built to last. When God was giving out smiles, she got on line twice. She keeps the needle in the red. She is without a doubt, “what it is right now.”

I’d invited her to the Miami and LA gigs. She was booked. She likes to plot her month around the concerts she’s attending and trips to Vegas. I hosted her brother, Shaheen and a friend in Miami. He’s a music junkie and wanted to see De La. Cool kid.

I invited her to the SF gig. Two days before RTB in the Yay, she was in Dallas on business and undecided about attending. The day before the show, she was at home in the DC area. She decided to fly out for the day. She’s a bit spontaneouos.

When she gets to the Four Seasons it’s still a few hours before show time. We get caught up. She order’s a room service kobe burger with wasabe mayo and comments on the view. A massive Ikea that dominates the industrial park where the hotel is located. She’s been in the area before on business.

Spain’s 17 year old, olympic point guard sensation, Ricky Rubio is playing on the flat screen. He’s two years away from shaking the NBA up. He’s got a bit of “Pistol” Pete Maravich in his get down. She appreciates being put up on his game.

The reach of NY’s independent, hip hop record companies did not extend to her native Dayton metro area when she was a kid. She’s a bit unclear about why there’s all of this drama surrounding RTB. She knows the bigger hits. De La’s Me Myself and I is a favorite. I play a few jawns. I take special care to play their remix of, Buddy for her.

I’ve also invited MTV exec, Tina Perry. Tina and I know each other from NY, at the time she was an associate at a top law firm there. She’d been a club crawler. Recently, she’s been in LA and in the employ of the MTV Networks. She’s the business affairs exec on, From G’s To Gents. She’s flying up from LA and will be meeting us later at the gig.

l_00c502c7a56f9b93dc5a830a6142859a

THE WIRK AND MISS MTV

It’s getting late and it’s time to bounce. The Cayenne is pulled around, it’s starting to feel like the Bat Mobile. The Wirk, The Ep and I are off.

As we’re pulling up to the building, my phone rings. It’s Rena checking in from NY. I tell her that I’m about to go into the show and ask if I can call her back.

On the road leading to the venue, we notice five-o has a caucasian male hemmed up and inquiring about his sobriety. They’v got him looking up into the sky and touching his nose. I’m not so focused on him. I hear music playing in the distance.

The Ep whips out the Blackberry and calls, RTB don, Josh Boumel and tells him that we’re in effect. JB appears and escorts us backstage and bounces.

There are picnic tables in the backstage area and The Ep spends a bit of time with us before he goes to handle his. I introduce The Wirk to Plug 3 DJ Mase.

417407701_small

PLUG 3

Arguably, hip hop’s greatest living MC, Rakim is on the mic. He’s a wooden performer but a lights out MC. I say, “Rakim is on” and lead The Wirk into the house. He’s doing his thing the sun is blazing and I think that it’s a shame that because he’s on so early, few people will get to witness, The R.

He does all the jawns. Follow The Leader, Paid In Full and the classics, I Know You Got Soul and Eric B Is President. I look at the 3/4 full house and see an audience that’s 70% white. As I go line for line withThe R, I reflect on the debt that the Obama candidacy owes to hip hop.

My phone rings again. It’s another of my MySpace friends, Cory. I told her that I’d be in town for the gig and that we should meet. Over the music, I yell and tell her that we can be found, stage right and about a dozen seats up into the orchestra on the aisle.

Until after the tour, I haven’t had a picture up on the site. I’m a mystery to most of the citizens of my virtual Soul City. I describe my green print shirt and tell her to look for the sun’s shine off of my head.

Cory finds us. She’s a big blonde in a green dress with tiny white polaka dots and a big smile. I explain to The Wirk that she’s been having domestic problems. The Wirk tells me that she was with the suspect that we saw earlier in police custody. The husband in question. Apparently, her domestic problems have followed her to the venue.

Between sets, Cory explains that her husband had come to the show, stolen her car and crashed it in his attempt to get away. Yay area police took a dim view of this and booked her man.

>l_f339aa0feb14effef5c69244914c1489

CORY

My phone rings a bit later. It’s Miss MTV. I find The Ep and he and I go get her. She gets there just before De La hits. I introduce her to The Wirk and they exchange plesantries. De La let’s loose. Their act is bordering on performace art. They’re murdering ’em.

Plug 3, DJ Mase grabs the mic and spits in the middle of the set. I was unaware that his rhyme resrtictions had been lifted. Later he tells us that he’s been rhyming since ’95.

There’s a pause in the proccedings. Mase returns to the turntables and starts to tap out the drum pattern fron Tana Gardner’s dance smash, Heartbeat. The basis for the remixed, Buddy, The Native Tounge anthem.

The band then asks the crowd if they like funk. An obvious precursor to, Me Myself and I. The biggest single in the band’s career. I tell The Wirk before the bass line drops that they’re about to rock, “your shit.”

Funkadelic’s (Not Just) Knee Deep was expertly sampled to good effect while the band took a humorous poke at racism. The jawn was wildfire and went top 10 pop in ’89 at a time when it was a struggle to take a rap record to the top of the R & B charts.

This was obviously an important record in Dayton.The Wirk jumps to her feet and shakes it with intention.This is an extremely well rounded girl.

After the set, Dayton’s finsest, Miss MTV and I retire bacKstage. We commandeer our own picnic table.

Long time Tribe securtiy don, Muhammad stops by to meet the ladies. He tells us that he’s come up and now he’s running security for the tour. I wonder aloud if he’s doing the right thing by chilling so hard with us. He assures me that he’s making us all a little more secure. and anything else can wait.

He laces me with a crew meal ticket and bounces. I get on line for the buffet. Simple choices, chicken or fish. I go fowl and pile on the fixins.

I bring two forks back. The Wirk is uninhibited. Somewhere in her background she’s acquired an appreciation of mashed potatos, dressing and gravy. We eat with relish. I’m smiling while I watch her do her thing. The kobe burger has been long forgotten.

I return to the buffet for cookies and lemonades. When I get back, I notice that the temperature has changed in the area. I since the presence of a star. I turn around and Mos Def is in the house. He comes over and we hug.

The Wirk and I are telling Miss MTV about Cory and her husband. Miss MTV says incredulously, “Her husband stole her car, crashed it, got arrested and she still came to the show? That’s hip hop.”

The Pharcyde is on while the three of us kibitz. Miss MTV is sharing some bacstage MTV Networks scoop. Comic pimp, Kat Williams is getting a new show on Comedy Central. Perhaps they have finally found a talent that can move them beyond the damage of the Dave Chapelle debacle.

I comment that Pimpin Kat, “has a limited scope.”

Miss MTV tells us, “it’s all about your team. He’ll be surronded by writers and producers etc…hell, everybody ain’t Stevie Wonder.”

She’s reminding me of the day long ago when I taught her about The Great Stevie Wonder’s ability to write, play, sing, produce and perform his jawns with very little help. Her comparison rings true and it’s very insightful. I turn to The Wirk and say, “You see why I keep her around right?”

Speaking of comedy, the always entertaining Red Man and Method Man rock next. We return to the house for their set. Their feel good, get high vibe is a hit in the Yay.

“>method_man_redman_how_high_004

CHRONICALLY HILARIOUS METH AND RED

We stay in the house between sets and soon it’s time for The Mos Def the mos special one to touch stage. He’s all arts and crafts. Two djs and a mic. His brother Rahman and Preservation and the steel. That’s all.

He plays samples for Cali. He sings. He rhymes. He does, his mother’s tribute, Umi Says. I’m getting a little emotional when he gets to the vamp and sings/chants, I want my people to be free to be free/I want black people to be free to be free. His love of community is obvious and touching. That kid has got soul.

God’s Son, Nas is on next. I retire to the backstage area for a meeting with the RTB dons, JB and Chang. Nas is cool but I got the records. I’m doing a little paper chasing. The meeting went well.

I run into Michael Rappaport, he’s running around with his skeleton camera crew and sound package trying to capture private and meaningful, Tribe moments for his documentary. We do the wassup and keep it moving.

76021539_9e559a468b

MICHAEL RAPAPORT

I see the Zulu King, Afrika Bambata. The dj from the Roxy, the 18th Street Manhattan roller disco that went skate free and hip hop on the weekends. Former Sex Pistols cohort, Kool Lady Blue promoted a party to European bohemians that comprised hip hop’s first real crossover audience. For a keep it real flavor, sprinkled in were b-boys, fly girls, guys and early executives of the fledgling hip hop industry.For a moment, the Roxy was hip hop headquarters.

I saw T-La Rock perform there, caught my first Run/DMC show, met Rick Rubin there, saw The Beastie Boys do ther first show, saw The Entertainer, Doug E. Fresh rock and saw Madonna do a track date to a partially empty club. I also heard every important hip hop and club record released from ’83-’86 .

The Roxy was on fire and Bam played the records. I stop, kiss the ring and reflect on the day when any hip hop party could break into a chant of, “the Zulus run the muthafucka yeah yeah, the Zulus run the muthafuck yeah yeah.”

Of course, this would usually happen after Jimmy Castor’s Just Begun played and some Spanish kids had been spinning on top of their heads in a circle. For three years I never missed a Friday night at the Roxy.

I’m back in the house in time for Tribe’s set. Like UPS, they deliver. Later I found out that old tensions resurfaced and there had been a flare up between Phife Diggity and the Ab. Even so, the show is dope.

When, Scenario plays I’m again privileged to witness just how much soul that the Wirk is Wirking wit.

We say good night to all and The Wirk, Miss MTV. The Ep and I all pack into the Bat Mobile and make our way back to Palo Alto’s Four Seasons.

We play the lobby and chop it up. Kobe sliders are ordered, gourmet pizza, sparkiling Italian champagne and a cab that Bono put The Ep on one night at the Chateau Marmont.

I play it simple. My cough has deepened. It’s now a hack. My conversation is interrupted by coughing fits. I get the green tea and and the Henny with a little honey and some lemon. I mix them all together. The old disco goers remedy. A trick I learned after spending too many, winter NY nights in a row clubbing.

The conversation was warm. Red Man passed by. The Ep and I shout him out. A conversation about David Mamet leads to somone revealing that his play, Speed the Plow is returning to Broadway. The Wirk asks if that wasn’t Madonna’s theatrical debut all those years ago. Of course it was.

The day is over and everyone goes their seperate ways. I’m exhausted and sick. But I hit the bed with a warm feeling caused by the knowledge that there’s still a Hip Hop Nation and I smile.

to be continued

insideplaya

for Sarah

Read Full Post »

I first saw Janet Jackson as a cute 9 yr old on her older brothers’ summer replacement show in ’75. The following fall, touring off the essential party jam, Dancing Machine the entire family came to the NY area and played in the round.

Along with the hits, Janet did an impersonation of Mae West opposite her brother Michael’s take on Sinatra. Cute kids, family stuff.

My mother organized a bus ride that was sponsored by our church. We were years away from Velvet Ropes, nose jobs, wardrobe malfunctions, pedophile charges and rumors of secret children.

michaeljanet

POWER SIBLINGS

We were also years away from the mega touring success and massive record, tape and cd sales that would collectively make Michael and Janet the most successful brother and sister to ever record.

Janet was the baby so she got to watch. She watched Michael and the others blow up first as The Jackson 5. Then after an acrimonious split with Motown that resulted; in their brother Jermaine staying behind; starting a solo career, marrying Motown founder, Berry Gordy’s daughter, and the rest of the family regrouping as, The Jacksons, at Epic Records, she found out a truth about the record business: it could split families apart.

She apprenticed in TV. She was a memorable addition to the ensemble cast of Good Times as, Penny. Then a less memorable period on the the forgettable tv version of Fame. She wasn’t exactly setting the world on fire.

She signed a deal with the independent west coast, powerhouse pop label, A & M Records. Home to Sting, Bryan Adams and Quiny Jones’ Quincy Jones Productions. She put out two stiff projects. She didn’t seem to have the stuff that the rest of the family had.

In an attempt to compete in the exploding black pop market that her brother Michael and Prince were dominating at the time, A & M hired a new A & R man to put them in the game. Former Jackcson 5 music director and long time family friend, John McClain

McClain was the scion of a hooked up African-American LA based entertainment family. His father, Big John owned an, LA soul music station and he was a guy you needed to see if you were in the black music business in the day. McClain in later years would be the man to sign Death Row Records to Interscope.

The first order of business at A & M was to fix Janet. At this time in the music business, you might get 3 albums to break in a particular market. Now, a second single is not guaranteed.

By hiring ex Prince sidemen and emerging pop funk producers, Jam and Lewis to oversee her third project. McClain insured that they would all make history.

jamlewis

GROOVE MERCHANTS JAM & LEWIS

In early ’86, the release of, What Have You Done For Me Lately, the first single and video from the album, Control sent shock waves throughout the music industry. A cute and pudgy Janet jumped out of tv screens dressed in all black and doing the hot dance of the moment, “the snake” in a malt shop. On the song itself, she was beefing about an unimaginative lover with lazy dating habits. She struck a chord in disgruntled listeners and smashed.

The albums Control, Rhythm Nation and Janet each sold six million units domestically. The tours that supported, Rhythm Nation and Janet sold out buildings that hosted NBA basketball games. She was not a star she was a consistent corporate profit center.

She got out of her deal at A & M and signed with Virgin in ’97 for $50 million dollars. Always an astute observer of the market place, she released the most interesting single of her career. The hip hop, neo influenced, Got ’til It’s Gone. The down tempo lounge joint that featured a sample from Joni Mitchell and a cool kid verse from then paramour, Q-Tip.

The Virgin realationship was off to a good start. Until you got the cd home. It was not reflective of the direction of the single and it showed a move away from her pop funk roots toward up tempo dance music. It also revealed a tendency that wasn’t clear before. Janet was musically concerned about sex. More specifically, Janet loved to sing about her pussy. Subsequently, it would be the rare church that would sponsor bus rides to see her performances.

Janet-Jackson-The-Velvet-Rope

THE BEGINNING OF THE END

The S & M feeling of, The Velvet Rope was not a bad one, it just wasn’t done creatively. Record sales began to dwindle.

Subsequent Virgin releases sold less. Some of this could be attributed to a revolving door of executives at the label and mismanagement. Some to musical miscalculations.

While Janet was signed there, the day to day US head of the company had an affair with alternative bad boy, Custom. He apparently decided that it was over before he let her know. She called him over 80 times and left increasingly more and more threatening messages on his home phone.

Custom recorded a few of them and mixed them over a music bed. He then sent it to the head of business affairs for Virgin US, plunging the label chief into a scandal the led to her firing. In the aftermath Custom was signed by ARTISTdirect.

Mariah Carey had a disasterous one cd career there and was given a $50 million dollar check on her way out the door. She resurfaced at Def Jam.

While signed to Virgin, D’Angelo spent parts of 4 years and $3 million dollars on a record that he never released. He left the company and signed with J Records in early ’07. Virgin didn’t exactly have a grip on the black music game.

Despite the chaos around her, Janet soldiered on. Like all of the products of the great Motown music assembly line, she was a pro. Though she was never signed to Motown herself, five of her older siblings were and she was schooled by them and their father Joe.

One thing became certain. The hits were coming less often for Miss Jackson. Jam & Lewis were still down but it wasn’t clicking. They laced her with ’01’s, All For You, a snappy dance track that featured a loop from Change’s Glow Of Love. Sales continued to lag.

The tour was hot though! Seeing Janet meant seeing close to three hours of hits performed. But the records were not moving. Kanye West was brought in to give her a hit. It too was marginal.

Virgin then tried to get their game on track and hired super producer, Jermaine Dupri. His first order of business was to fix Janet. This was presumably not going to be difficult. They were already hooked up backstage.

Jermaine had released a video from a compilation project of his that cast Janet as a sex worker bursting out of a nurses uniform. He clearly had influence over her.

janet-jackson-6

JANET UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF JD

I met with him in his capacity as Virgin Black Music Chief in the late summer of ’06. The day we met, Janet had been quoted on the world wide web giving Jermaine credit for being the best lover that she’d ever had.

Virgin politics reared their head again and Jermaine was forced out of the company. He too bounced to the newly hot Def Jam and took his girl wit him.

The result of their Def Jam collabo was another vaginal tribute, Feedback. I’m partial to the subject matter, I liked it but I didn’t have much company. Again the product wasn’t moving.

Today Def Jam and Janet Jackson announced that they are parting ways. One of the most iconic talents of the MTV era is without a recording home.

The new reality of the recording biz will give her many options to reach the consumer. Downloads, cell phone platforms, social networking and the rest, can give her control again.

Her current tour sold three west coast basketball arenas out last week. She’s crushing ’em with my old friend LL Cool J opening.

In the parlance of the music game we are all one hit away from major success and once a hit always a threat. Janet ain’t through. The pro will resurface and then watch out. It’s gonna be on.

insideplaya

Read Full Post »

I’m not leaving for SF for another few days. The RTB tour was routed for weekend dates and the Yay area gig isn’t until the next weekend. This was really cool, given the fact that the next day, I was paying heavily for my night at the Hazzard’s

I slept in and got myself together around midday. The Epecurean fell out in the Hazzard’s living room and spent 19 hours on the living room couch.

I had an appointment for dinner but I stopped by to check on my boy. Money rose briefly and mumbled something about Gatorade and carbs. He shook my date’s hand and went back into his coma.

I got back with his order and some chocolate cake from Dupar’s for Coach Hazzard. The Epecurean came to life and shook it off. He was serious about SF and wanted to make sure that I didn’t get a flight back to NC..

The next night, we played it low key and had a family outing. DJKhalil, Coach Hazzard, The Epecurean, DJ Khalil’s brother, Los Angeles Laker advance scout, Rasheed and a date all went to see, The Dark Night. If you’re the last person in the free world to see it, don’t hesitate any further. It’s a classic.

heathjoker

HEATH LEDGER AS THE JOKER THE ROLE OF HIS ALL TOO BRIEF LIFE

The following morning I was skedded to meet with Hidden Beach honcho, Steve McKeever for breakfast at his Malibu home. Even though she’s not a morning person, Rena got up at 6: 30 to drive.

Steve and I go back to when he was a west coast based business affairs attorney and I was handling east coast promo duties for Wing Records. We were both in the old Polygram system.

Since his signing of Jill Scott in 2000 he’s been quietly building a neo-soul empire with the Hidden Beach imprint. He’s recently signed Tony Rich and Teena Marie. But this particular morning, along with his wife Candi’s waffles, Steve is serving his new pet project, Yes We Can: Voices Of A Grassroots Movement. A new soundtrack for the Obama campaign.

In addition to running his label, Steve is the key west coast operative for Obama. He and America’s next president are both Harvard law school grads.

The cd has new heat from; Kanye West, Sheryl Crow, Dave Matthews, Lionel Richie, Jill Scott and Yolanda Adams. Stevie Wonder’s Signed Sealed and Delivered and John Mayer’s Waiting On The World To Change are also included. It’s perfect music for the change that we can all feel coming.

John Mayer

JOHN MAYER LENDING HIS VOICE TO CHANGE

Later that night, The Epecurean scoops me and we head out for barbecue, a subject near and dear to his heart. We’re keeping it real and we hit a spot over on Pico called, Cecile’s. Tender short ribs, juicy chicken and tangy sauce. We were both sick the next morning.

After dinner we stopped by the studio to see Mos. His brother, Rahman is slicing beats, tour manager Naheem is hosting his lovely visiting cousin and her girlfriend and Mos is playing the star.

I quietly take a seat in the corner and vibe. There’s a jawn in progress and there are men at work After a while Mos asks what’s up. I tell him that I’m just trying to catch the beat.

Mos is wild intelligent and extremely cultured. Over the years, I’ve had many conversations with him about film, jazz, hip hop and such. We had dinner a few years back in Charlotte and he introduced me to Elvis Costello and Diana Krall. Mos is cool.

The studio crowd thins. There are only pros in the room. Mos, The Epecurean, the engineer and me. Mos plays the whole new jawn for me. An unfinished work but still ready enough for friends and family.

MosDefTru3Magic

THE VOICE OF THE HOOD

The next morning, The Epecurean and I are supposed to hit the road north. Rena is heading back east for a few days and we’re giving her a lift to the airport. Before we bounce, I walk up to the dry cleaner up the street and grab the linen suit. My gear rotation has been mad tight. I only packed for three days.

When I get back from my walk, Rena tells me that I’m not looking well. I’m coughing and sweating. I think Rock The Bells fever is taking hold.

On the way to LAX I reflect on the previous nights listening session. I ask The Epecurean, “Is Mos going to do something about that record?”

He responds, “What do you mean?”

I say, “Like put a hit on it.”

We drop Rena. She’s rocking a pair of heart stopping white pants. She leaves me with the keys to the crib and the cell phone. Rena’s heaven sent and built like it too.

The Epecurean and I jet out to Venice for staging purposes. I’m packed and good to go. He needs to gather.

I’ve got a deep irritation in my chest. My temperature is rising. The Ep is not doing well either. He’s in need of a dose of Nyquil.

Questions have arisen about whether we should leave today. Plans are laid to start and we decide to spend the night in Santa Barbara instead of making the trip uninterupted.

Once we hit the road, I break out the black i-pod, the one that The Ab programmed and that proved to be a hit on the disco truck. There are over 200 James Brown tracks on it. I go to JB’s playlist and chill.

Along the way I am witness to some of the most beautiful topography in the country. The beach along the Pacific Coast Highway, the mountains, vineyards and all the blue sky that you can handle.

James is shouting, “Mama come here quick/and bring that lickin stick.” There’s not much conversation taking place. The music is blaring. Maceo is killing the solo on, Soul Power ’74. Same Beat rocks. The healing power of funk is in effect.

soul-power

THE SMASH SOUL POWER ’74

We pull up in Santa Barbara and check into an inn on the beach. Lots of Brits. Cool spot.

The Ep is driving through the main street of town. He’s pointing out restaraunts of interest. The Ep is in his element. He decides on a fish joint. I get a martini and the lobster crab cakes.

We’re kickin back and he tells me that because of my love of jazz and martinis, I remind him of one of the sixties’ guys on, Mad Men. The Ep is funny.

The next day we’re pulling into Palo Alto’s Four Seasons Hotel. There are women of Muslim heritage in the front with a mature blonde handing out envelopes. They pull off in a Navigator as we’re entering the lobby.

I ask the desk clerk if there are invitations to a party in the envelopes or tips. She smiles knowingly and says that the women had been long time guests. I wonder aloud if they are planning to buy the chain.

The clerk turns to The Ep and says, “It’s so nice to see you again Mr. Jackson.” On sight recognition is heroin to business travelers. You never get enough.

We get to the rooms. The Ep goes into his, skeds a massage appointment, throws on one of the house bath robes, knocks on my door and asks do I want to go with. I say no.

I’m coughing violently and I want a bit of room service. I get a bite and go to sleep. I want to be rested for the show tomorrow.

to be continued….

insideplaya

shouts to Goapale, C-Line, Brian Koppelman, Aphrodita and….The Wirk

Read Full Post »

I’m watching ESPN right now. They’re cablecasting live from “up in the Bronx where the people are fresh.” The most famous sporting stadium ever is hosting it’s last contest.

The NY Yankees were playing Baltimore’s Orioles and defeated them convincingly. Outfielder, Johnny Damon and sometimes catcher, Benji Molina both homered.

The great hispanic fireballer, Mariano Rivera came out of the bullpen in the ninth and did his thing by getting the last three outs in order. Sinatra is, “spreading the news” and once again, his, “vagabond shoes are longing to stray.”

franksinatra9

THE CHAIRMAN

Earlier in the day, “the worldwide leader in sports” went wall to wall from Yankee Stadium and waxed nostalgic for a six hour pre-game show.

Former greats dropped by. Witnesses to history shared their observations and memories. The topics were rich and varied and included; Gehrig’s retirement speech, George Brett’s meltdown over his overruled homerun in ’83, Aaaron Boone’s dramatic blast from ’03 that felled the hated Sox, Muhammad Ali’s TKO of Ken Norton in ’75, Joe Louis’ blow for freedom that knocked Max Schmelling out, and raised doubt about Aryan superiority, a Pope’s visit, Mandella’s stop through, Bush’s post 9/11 first pitch and so on. The stories flowed like Bud in the cheap seats.

image009

THE LUCKIEST MAN ON THE FACE OF THE PLANET

aaron boone

THE ONE HIT WONDER

When I was a kid, toward the end of the Mickey Mantle era, the Yankees sucked. Even though Mantle was arguably the great player of his era. A three time American League MVP, a triple crown winner with speed to burn, an eye for the ladies and a taste for alcohol, he was poorly surrounded and retired without having achieved his true potential.

The late David Halberstam’s brilliant examination of the crumbling of the dynasty that had been built by the Ruths, Di Maggios, Berras and the rest, October ’64 attributed the team’s demise to it’s unwillingness to sign black talent.

In a time that was dominated by Willie Mays, Frank Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Hank Aaron, The Yankees had one black player and none of hispanic descent.

According to Halberstam, the great Mantle and his teammate, Roger Maris were defeated by a St. Louis Cardinal team that proved to be the model for the modern major league franchise.

Built on speed and pitching, the ’64 Red Birds featured; the base stealing expert, Lou Brock, strikeout artist, Bob Gibson, team leader, Joe Torre and the man who brought free agency to sports, Curt Flood.

U1662202-15

THE GAME CHANGER, CURT FLOOD

Flood challenged baseball’s “reserve clause.” The standard feature in major league contracts that made a player the “property” of the team that first signed them forever. He took his case to the supreme court and won a decision that resulted in players being awarded free agency: the right to seek employment from the highest bidder at the end of a contract period.

Since the Yankee brand had fallen on hard times by the early seventies, a smooth operator from out of town bought in. A shipping magnate named George Steinbrenner.

Free agency took hold for good by ’75. The Oakland A’s of the early part of the decade had a collection of the best talent in the game. They also had an owner that was unable to adapt to changing times and refused to pay market value for his workers, Charles O. Finley. Finley’s antiquated persepective, coupled with Flood’s supreme court decision served Yankee interests well.

After having won the World series in ’72, ’73 and ’74, Finley began to sell the team piece by piece. His ace pitching star, Jim “Catfish” Hunter was the first to go, the “Catfish” was lured to The Bronx by the Yankees in ’75. And then, two years later, Finley foolishly refused to re-sign the most dynamic player of the decade, Reginald Martinez Jackson. Reggie to you.

Reggie had swagger. He was joining a Yankee team that had been in the World Series just the year before and starred Yankee great, Thurmon Munson. Even with Munson putting on a hitting show, they had been swept in 4 games by Cincinnati’s “Big Red Machine”. A team that featured a slugging lineup of current hall of famers, Johhny Bench, Joe Morgan, Tony Perez, as well as hall of fame pariah, all time hits leader and betting enthusiast, Pete Rose.

Reggie was brash and not suffereing from any lack of self esteeem. In an off season interview, that he’d given to a national sports publication, Reggie swore that no team of his would ever be pushed around like that in a series. He went on further to state that the proud Munson was a “nice” player and that the Yankees were like, a mixed cocktail and he, “was the straw that stirred the drink.” With the stroke of a pen, George Steinbrenner had brought the modern age to Yankee baseball and made me a Yankee fan for life.

reggie-jax

THE STRAW

Greatness lay ahead for this team but first Reggie had to meet the manager. The only Yankee to ever wear number 1, former Mantle drinking buddy, Billy Martin.

Martin and Mantle’s imbibing predated the age of celeb rehab. Their view of a drinking problem meant not having one. During his playing days with the team, Martin was a take no prisoners infielder who if cut, would bleed pinstripes.

Martin, Mantle and pitching star, Whitey Ford got into a fight at ’50’s NY hot spot,The Copacobana and Martin was punished and shipped out of town to some Americn League backwater. 20 years later, he was back as the manager of his beloved Yankees. Obviously, if there was to be any drink stirring going on he’d be doing it.

Once he was firmly a member of the team, Jackson proved to be a catalytic agent. The locker room was divided in warring factions, all of them battling for space in the sports columns and on the tabloid back pages.

It was high drama. Reggie battled with Martin. Munson with Reggie. The third basemen, Graig Nettles crticized Reggie’s defense. Reggie seemed to think that he wasn’t paid for that. Martin and Steinbrenner fought openly. In fact, Steinbrenner would eventually fire and rehire Martin five times.

That NY summer was also the one where, the east coast was plunged into darkness by a power failure and the famous blackout of ’77 sparked rampant looting. Serial killer, Son Of Sam terrorized the city. Strong Island native, Dr. J was preparing for a second NBA season. Marvin Gaye dropped the classic, Got To Give It Up. And Reggie Jackson hit homeruns with regularity.

That season’s World Series saw the Bombers pitted against the Los Angeles Dodgers. A classic six game battle that the Yankess won 4 games to 2.

Reggie powered the team to it’s first championship in 15 years and his 4th ring of the decade. He hit five homeruns in the series and three in game six alone.

The next season, the ’78 edition, the team beat the Dodgers again after overcoming a 14 game lead in August that was held by the Red Sox.

Martin ws fired midway through the year. Munson died in a plane crash in the summer of ’79. The team was devastated.

In an attempt to reinvigorate the franchise, Steinbrenner signed free agent, Dave Winfield to the biggest contract in sports history up until that point.

Reggie was not re-signed for the ’82 season. Steinbrenner went on a buying spree that netted poor results. After ’81 the team didn’t reach the Series again until ’96.

The ’96 team featured a group of home grown products of the Yankee minor league system; Bernie Williams. Andy Pettite, Jorge Posado, Mariano Rivera and a young shortstop named, Derek Jeter. They would be managed and led by the old Cardinal team leader, Joe Torre to 13 straight playoff appearances, 6 World Series and 4 World Series titles.

Jackson is alive, a hall of famer and he participated in tonight’s closing ceremony. He received a long round of applause and the stadium rang out with the old cheer of, “Reg-gie, Reg-gie, Reg-gie.” The crowd seemed to be stirred.

insideplaya

shouts to Nicole Moore, No. 6, The 4th Ward crew Mickey Rivers and Ed Townsend

Read Full Post »

On the resume of every cool chic is a stint in the service game. Before moving to LA, Rena had been a bartender and cocktail waitress at top new millenium, NY nitespots including; Bungalow 8, Markt, Jimmy’s Downtown, Lotus and of course, the lounge in the basement of The Coffee Shop.

m_0f5aa1b2f383af2f96c3e5ccb348cdbb

RENA

I arrive at chez Hazzard with Rena and Jaleesa asks me to name my poison. I go for a martini. Per my request, Rena makes for the kitchen and creates magic with the jigger and laces me with the perfect beverage. Shaken not stirred.

Due to a scheduling conflict, she is unable to join us for dinner and bounces after she pours. She threatens to return later but doesn’t make it back.

Karuna and The Epecurian will be coming through but have seperate previous engagements. The Epecurean has Mos Def business to attend to and Karuna has a standing date with the beach. Also expected is the third son of the Hazzards, west coast producer, DJ Khalil.

Jaleesa, her sister Traci and I are all in the backyard getting our taste on and listening to Cannonball Adderly, Nancy Wilson, Johnny Hartman, Trane, Coleman Hawkins and Miles on Coach’s i-pod. Coach is chilling and playing his position. It’s a decided contrast from the previous night’s show. As Thelonious Monk says to a sideman in the documentary, Straight No Chaser, “It’s so za-zu-zazz!”

Karuna arrives and I make with the intros. It’s time for a second Martini and she displays her previous experience in libation preperation. The second round is strong and dry.

The menu is classic Jaleesa; chicken, salmon, asaparagus, new potatos, candied yams, mozzarela, tomatos and basil, olive oil and bread. Before she got zen wit it and installed a fountain in the backyard, she used to grow her own collard greens. There are no home grown collard greens on the menu today. I take a moment and reflect on the price of aesthetics.

Dinner is served in the dinning room. We’re surrounded by family photos and art work by Bearden and others.

After dinner, Coach and I cut the tips off of two Domincans and get to puffing. Karuna shakes and pours a little more magic.

3223893851_498a1744ff_o

THE HAZZARDS

The Epecurean arrives with with two bottles of unpronouncable champagne. The flutes get broken out and we get a bit more festive when the champagning begins. He is served a plate and eats outside in the back. The sun is down, lamps are lit, Traci says good night and it’s about to go down.

DJ Khalil comes through. His Apple laptop with the Serato program is up and good to go in the living room.

DJ Khalil is in his mid thirties and an accomplished producer who has worked with 50, Jay-z, Nas and others. When I first met him he was in his mid teens and a diligent, aspiring young man with a dream. He was in the backhouse/home studio with two turntables a mixer a sampler and a drum machine.

He blew up as a mobile dj, started a group of his own, the well respected, Self Scientific, put in a bit of work as a leading player in the backpack business and is now one of Dr. Dre’s top trackmen. Tonight he’s here to play, after dinner, ol skool, NY hip hop.

DJ Khalil

DJ KHALIL

The champagne is a wrap. Another martini is offerd and accepted. DJ Khalil, Karuna and I go into the living room. DJK has been working on a new project with a group of Canadian musicians. It’s been his habit since he was a kid to play his new shit for me. Tonight we continue our tradition.They call themselves, The New Royales.

It’s different, radically different. Three lead vocalists. A wispy, sexy Portugese female with a killer quality. A dude who’s heard every, Beatles record ever cut and sounds like one of the Gallagher brothers from, Oasis and a second guy with a less distinct personality.

All of it backed by top notch, super edgy, state of the art tracks that are a combination of hip hop, alternative and brit pop. The prodigal Tounge, Busta Rhymes is spitting a hot sixteen on a smash dance track.. Black Star refugee, Talib Kweli is on another jawn. I hear half a dozen different examples of excellence. They’re gonna do well.

l_b5a8ef01de5816e15bf46271bb51989d

THE NEW ROYALES

Jaleesa, Coach and The Epecurean join us in the living room. Another martini is served. Dinner was exceptional, the comapany is warm and the music begins to play.

DJK’s family nickname is Doc. Doc begins to play like a man posessed. It’s strictly ’80’s and ’90’s classics. Big Daddy Kane, De La, Tribe, Dilla remixes, Biggie, Supa Luva Cee and Casanova Rudd, Stetsaonnic, Biz Markie, Slick Rick. He’s killing us!

I’m in the hottest lounge that I’ve been in in years. The beats are crazy, the martini’s are now flowing. The Epecurean gets nostalgic and begins to give lessons in ’80’s black teenage dances. He starts to dance with purpose and breaks out into the wop. He’s worried that he’s not made his point and goes into the extreme wop. I’m wondering if he’s going to throw his back out.

We’re all falling over laughing. Doc plays, Mobb Deep’s, Drink Away The Pain. It’s well past 3am. The Epecurean gets his running man on. We’re all obligated to chant, “go Jayson, go Jayson.”

Doc is still putting it down. He plays an obscure, Brand New Heavies remix of their, Sometimes. He and I are the only two in the room who know this jawn. I’m compelled to sing badly. Lead singer, Siedah Garret and I are harmonizing poorly. I’m not discouraged, “talking ’bout a revolution or maybe just a change of mind.” The room is spinning faster than Doc is. Doc went on and on and on….

It’s about 4am and I go into the den. There’s a flat screen on one of the walls and Michael Phelps is on it and beginning his assault on olympic history. Karuna and Jaleesa join me.

After his time as a UCLA undergrad, Coach Hazzard spent a decade as a top notch, journeyman point guard in the NBA. The summer in between college and his rookie year, he was a member of the gold medalist, ’64 edition of the, USA mens basketball team. Jaleesa mentions that his medal is upstairs and asks would I like to see it.

She goes to get it and a digital camera. Somewhere there exists a picture of me sloshed and wearing a bit of history around my neck.

All of the martini consumption has been done by The Epecurean and me. Wisely, Jaleesa has stuck with wine, Karuna beer and Doc and his father drank water.

While high on vodka, laughter, hip hop and the company of family. The Epecurean says, “You know you gotta come to San Francisco. Right?”

RTB will be moving north the folllowing weekend. I’d packed for a three day turn around. but I was not going to let that keep me from pressing on.

to be continued

mad shouts to John Wooden, Ed Eckstine, AJ Calloway, Karen Kennedy, David Rabin and…The Wirk

Read Full Post »

I started in the game as a promotion man. Someone who promotes records to radio for the purpose of receiving airplay.

I’d done a brief stint in both, college and commercial radio in the early ’80’s as a dj. I returned to Soul City at the age of 22 and was installed as the director of college radio promotion at, Sugarhill Records. I began my record career by inducing college programmers to play, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five’s, The Message. From note one, I’ve been a witness to history.

Due to the tutelage of Sugarhill Records don, Joe Robinson and later, hip hop wunderkind and yoga enthusiast, Russell Simmons, I learned the ways and nuances of the radio promotion game. In radio promotion, after the fundamentals are acquired, it then becomes a matter of two things, contact and credibility. I had both.

By the late ’80’s, urban powerhouse Kiss-FM, New York and black FM pioneer, WBLS, New York were programmed respectively by, Tony Grey and Fred Buggs.

Tony was an out of towner with a penchant for corporate media infighting. He’d relocated to New York after delivering strong numbers for Philly’s Power 99. Fred had also done a stint in Philly but was a local boy who’d made good from Queens. Fred kept it closer to the street and is an on-air, NY radio legend. He’s currently the overnight guy at NY’s Kiss.

n630814422_769774_5132

FRED BUGGS
I knew music, I knew clubs, I knew artists and I knew the game. Until I got in with these two, I was an afficianado. After they embraced me, I became a force in record promotion circles.

After a brief period as the national promotion man for Jive Records. I decided to go out on my own. In truth, I just decided to bounce from the restrictive atmosphere of Jive.

They had a cool enough A & R direction at the time but no real label culture. To this day, this is evident in the way they’ve handled their troubled franchise player, Britney Spears. They love the records, now if they could just get rid of those annoying artists, they’d have something.

Soon after I left Clive Caulder’s label, I received a call from west coast A & R man, Ed Eckstine. Ed was the son of the legendary, Billy Eckstine. One of the first true crossover sensations of the 20th century.

Mr.B straddled the worlds of, be bop, big band and pop and was respected in them all. He was a velvet voiced crooner with leading man looks. His big band was an early gig for both Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker. Ed had roots in the game.

>n1064573728_30278254_4726

THE WING MAN ED ECKSTINE

Ed had also spent a good deal of time working with Quincy Jones at Quincy Jones Productions when Q was the standard. The period of Ed’s tenure with Q coincided with Quincy and Michael Jacksons history making collaborations, Off The Wall, Bad and of course the landmark, Thriller.

During the early sixties, Mr B. was the acknowleged leader of the west coast black entertainmet world. Right around that time relocated midwesterner, basketball coaching legend, John Wooden convinced high school phenom, Walt Hazzard to move west and lead the UCLA Bruins to it’s first, national division I men’s basketball title. Mr. B embraced the young Hazzard and helped to smooth his transition from high school phenom to national figure.

At the time of his call to me, I’d known Ed casually for about two years. During that time, he’d left Quincy, moved to New York to work at Arista, for Clive Davis and left Clive to start a Polygram backed joint venture called Wing Records.

Ed knew that I was plugged in and wanted to offer me a production deal for any artists that I might find. I wasn’t working with anyone and I was a full two years away from my first A & R stint. I suggested to him that if he needed someone to get his records played, I could make it happen.

Ed’s first two signings were the former Miss America and current Ugly Betty actress, Vanessa Williams and the Raphael Saddiq led, new jack, neo outfit, Tony Toni Tone. Due to my presence at east coast radio, every release form both of their debut projects jumped “out of the box” and on to the airwaves.

We had a year of wild fire success together and Ed invited me to LA for the second, Soul Train Awards ceremony. As a rule, it’s hard for me to go to LA, handle busines and bounce. So I was around for about a week after the show.

Friends of Ed’s were having their 25th wedding anniversary party and he wanted to know if I wanted to go. The party was at the house of the former UCLA legend, Walt Hazzard and his wife Jaleesa. I dropped in and I’ve never left.

to be continued….

1 love to Michael Johnson, Manny Bella, Bill Underwood, Jewel Love, Karen Durant, Pow Wow and…The Wirk

Read Full Post »

The next day got off to a slow start. I was a little jet lagged and slightly twisted after a night on the town with, The Epecurean.

While I was at dinner and the bar, I knocked back a few straight Stoli Orange shots and a few martinis. It’s an early indicator of what the west coast swing is about to cause.

Rena and I played the picnic table in her backyard and caught up. We hadn’t seen each other since she moved to LA.

She left New York in ’06, deferred medical school permanantly and moved to Hollywood to get it poppin. She’d done a bit of modeling in her hometown and wanted to expand her empire. She’s brave.

I enjoyed a Cuban, the LA sunshine, her sharp mind, and sexy but serious manner. It’s hotter than normal and the temperature is kindda high too.

Earlier, she’d gotten up and offered me breakfast. Scrambled eggs and grits. Honey is an ivy league grad and tutors potentially exceptional kids with bad study habits, in order to suplement her income.

The grits are right. The eggs are perfect. I feel like I’m living some sort of Esquire type fantasy. As friends go, she’s top shelf. The cigar is adding a heady and relaxed feeling to the day.

Grits

BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS

Karuna is driving and she’s been slowed by the previous night’s events. She’s feeling the effects of the Bar Marmont’s beer menu. She was also coming in from the valley and sticking to a starter rock star’s schedule. Which means no real movement before noon.

When Karuna arrives, she’s rocking a mini dress with a burnt orange print. It appears to be really big balls of what could be called fire. Short sleeved with a scooped neck. She’s also wearing brown boots. She’s been made aware of the appealing appearance of her legs some time ago.

Rena and I hadn’t changed yet. We go ’80’s style. I’m wearing a classic black Adidas hoodie and shell toes. I look like I’m just coming from Nell’s and hanging with, Davey DMX and my old friend, Jam Master Jay. Rena decides to give us period break dancer and rocks a pair of jeans and suede Pumas. I expect her to start spinning around on the top of her head at any minute.

We go buy a few gallons of water for the trip to San Bernadino. It’s getting late but the LA sun is blazing by now.

We all pile into Karuna’s car and I plug in one of the hot i-pods and begin to fill her request for all ol skool hip hop. I forego all of the playlists and begin to lace her manually. I’m serving a steady diet of, Mobb Deep, Biggie, Jigga, Slick Rick, The Beasties, L Boogie, Crooklyn Dodgers and such. When Biggie’s, I Got A Story To Tell plays she squeals, “That’s my shit”. Karuna is expressive.

>476914392_l

KARUNA

The distance is long but the trip is short. The company is pleasant and the music is hot. The water provides a nice balance and rehydrates me for another night of Rock The Bells.

When we pull up to the parking lot at the building, I begin to take in the setting. It’s a state park with rolling hill sides, a lake, mad grass and trees. Past the lake and up a winding pathway lies the venue. It’s breath taking.

As we’re nearing the summit, I hear the crowd responding to what sounds like a set from Zulu King, Afrika Bambatta. When Bam released, Planet Rock in ’82, I wonder if he knew how prophetic he was being.

Rena is concerned about my lack of a cell phone and gives me an extra one that she has in case we get seperated. She’s definitely holding a brother down.

We call, The Epecurian, Jackson because our tx aren’t where we thought they’d be. He tells us that we need to go to a vip window that’s halfway down the hill in the opposite direction. I’m less than enthusiastic.

The Epicurean

THE EPECURIAN

A golf cart appears that has room for seven plus the driver. The deal is this: it’s a shuttle between where we are and the vip window.

The girls get on and I take the back seat that’s facing in the opposite direction. A young player jumps on with us, sits next to me and is kicking it with his homie about the price of admission on his celly.

Smoothly, he tells his boy that he wants in but, “he’s not trying to pay $150 for two right now.” I’m reminded of the way, Goldie addressd Pretty Tony in The Mack. I get the feeling that I’ll be seeing him, later on, inside.

We get to our destination and The Epecurean meets us. He brings three especially colored wrist bands that grant access to the backstage area. He then escorts us to a tent/lounge with; wood floors, a fully stocked open bar, finger food, disco styled couch seating, dim lighting and tv monitors for watching the show. The Epecurean loves to host.

Rena and Karuna make their way to the bar and I post up on a couch. They bring me a rum and coke.

Sans Fergie, the Black Eyed Peas are on the mic. The sound is low on the monitor and I begin to survey the room. It’s been set up for the clients and friends of corporate sponsor San Disk to meet the artists on the show.

Some eager young kid comes over and asks if I’d like to meet Raekwon. I tell him that we’ve already met.

The Pharcyde takes the stage next. I eat a couple of sliders and spring rolls. I do a couple of rounds and express disappointment over the lack of chicken fingers.

It’s time to go in. RTB is an all day festival that features two stages. I guide the girls toward the developing stage. The place where the fresh new begin to incubate their styles. Spank Rock is about to do his thing.

l_ced0face9093fed58e5f5cef97504fc4

SPANK ROCK

He’s phrenetic and wildly charismatic. Most of his shit is about pussy. He’s got some scantily clad dancer/back up singer chics in perverted drum majorette gear. He’s aided in this debauchery by, Amanda Blank. She too has a seriously nasty mouth. There’s a lot of ass shaking going on. I’m enthralled.

The hot internet buzz story from the LA set is centered around another artist, who is scheduled to rhyme on the developing stage. Incognito performance artist and mc, MF Doom.

The second white rap act signed to Def Jam was, 3rd Bass. A duo that featured, Pete Nice and hip hop utility player, MC Serch. Their hit, The Gas Face featured a stirring guest soloist performance from Strong Island born, Zeb Luv X.

X spit hard enough to make it stick and was rewarded with a deal at the then newly hip hop directed, Elektra Records. He was signed by their fresh faced A & R exec, Dante Ross.

X was about to release a highly anticipated solo project and was then derailed by corporate politics. The artwork for his cd cover depicted a black man being lynched.

In a move that foreshadowed their dropping Ice-T, in the wake of the controversy surrounding his phsyco killer anthem, Cop Killer. The Warner Music Group dropped X and he never recorded for a major label again.

Instead, he reinvented himself as the mysterious, independently distributed, MF Doom and is never seen in public without his mask on.

mf_doom_3

THE FACE OF DOOM

Doom was due to come to the developing stage. Ardent fans waited and waited. They grew restless. An hour passed or more. Suddenly, Doom appeared and started to rock the mic.

After his set began, a few fans noticed a slight difference in his voice. Then someone noticed that he was a little bigger than the last time they caught one of his shows. First a buzz and then the realization spread through the audience that it wasn’t Doom after all, it was an imposter.

Debris was thrown. Insults were hurled. Boos soon folllowed. The imposter was driven from the stage. The audience let it be known that when it comes to Doom, they’ll accept no substitutes and that only the rebranded X will do.

RTB don, Josh Boumel’s wife Jonelle is in the area. She seems pleased to see me again. She’s elected to wear a bit more than she did at the NY show. She introduces me to quite a few people, none of whom I remember right now. She’s distracting.

During Spank’s set, Rena excused herself in order to speak to a cousin doing AIDS awareness volunteering for the afternoon. Karuna and I caught more of the show.

Rena returns, Karuna excuses herself to find a restroom and we don’t see her again until it’s time to go.

Rena and I go over to the main stage to see what’s what. Once again, Red and Meth are displaying their absolute performance mastery. It’s obvious that there’s a hunger in the audiences that I’ve witnessed for a new cd from them.

The Mos Def most special one. Actor, rapper, singer, mc extrordinaire and all purpose art nigga is flowing too.

I’ve know Mos since his hype man days with, De La. He’s always had artistic integrity. Lately, the price of maintaining it has been a bit high.

Mos has a decade in the game. His first release – along with Talib Kweli – the eponymously named, backpack masterpiece Black Star showed promise. His solo debut, Black On Both Sides contained the street come on anthem, Miss Fat Booty and the classic afro-centric ode to his mother, Umi Says.

His subsequent releases have increasingly dwindled in sales. They haven’t delivered on the promise of the first two. They seem to lack focus and his music career has lagged behind his acting work.

At his invitation, I caught his Broadway debut opposite Jeffrey Wright in Suzan Lori Parks’ Pulitzer prize winning play, Top Dog Under Dog. Mos was magnetic. I wish he could capture that spirit in his music again.

Parks

TOP DOG UNDERDOG PLAYWRIGHT SUZAN LORI-PARKS

We go to the backstage area. There I run into old friends and new ones. Josh Boumel expresses pleasure in seeing me on this side of the country with the tour.

On fire, west coast producer, DJ Khalil introduces me to, “The Chosen One” Jay Electronica.

Long time, NY character actor, Michael Rappaport sees me after many years and greets me warmly. He’s financing a self produced and directed documentary on Tribe and asks if I’d appear in it. He’s recently read of my exploits with, D’Angelo at Spin.com and comments on how wild the piece is. I tell him that I’d be honored to be interviewd for the film.

I’m back in the house in time to catch Nas. Like the pro he is, he bodys ’em.

Tribe comes through again and delivers what I thought was not only their best performance that I’d seen on the tour. But the best received.

LA in it’s way is the second home of hip hop. Especially ol skool. As you moved around the country in the ’80’s and ’90’s it was difficult to find access and exposure for rap records and artists. Black owned FM radio stations that played mostly R & B didn’t want to play the music.

LA was different. KDAY-AM located at 1340 on the dial was rap friendly. On a percentage basis, it played the most rap music of any station in the country at the time. Long time rap fans in LA know the history of the music. Not just the singles.

With this as a background, Tribe crushed ’em. The crowd went crazy. LA was ready for their game.

Rena commented that, Tribe’s The Low End Theory was her first rap album ever. She’d forgotten how many hits they’d had.

After the show was over, we reconnected with Karuna. She’d been hanging out all day with, The Epecurean.

We found the car and I suggested a late night meal at bohemian cafe, 101. Neither of my friends had been there before. It was a pleasure to introduce them to it.

After more eggs and toast, I called it a night. The next day, my adopted family, the Hazzards threw a barbecue for me at their home. I needed to rest. When Jaleesa Hazzard throws a party it’s real.

to be continued…

shouts to Coach Walt Hazzard, Steve and Candi McKeever, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Cool Kids, Laura Checkoway and…The Wirk

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »