As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a jawn from blazing new MC, Drake. “Unstoppable” is the name of his breakout performance featuring Lil Wayne and Santogold. If you haven’t heard it yet, get bizzy. M.I.A. mentor, Diplo is pulling the strings on this one.
Black History Month ’09 has been a memorable one. A political satirist in the employ of Citizen Murdoch’s fish wrap, crossed the boundaries of common sense and sound judgement when he created a cartoon that credited a monkey with being the architect of the much-needed stimulus bill. This set off a firestorm of controversy that gave Rev. Al Sharpton a chance to do what he does. Get himself booked on TV.
Similarly to the Imus “nappy headed hos” incident, the media outlet was slow to recognize the racist nature of its employee’s failed attempt at humor, and was forced to disassociate itself from the work of the offender as a result of organized economic pressure. The need for greater diversity on the editorial desks of New York’s fourth estate continues to be a glaring one.
The movie business got together a week ago Sunday night and honored itself. Director Danny Boyle’s rags to riches love story, Slumdog Millionaire, deservedly crushed the competition and took the best picture and director’s statuettes. The ceremony was colorfully produced and somewhat disjointed. It featured a show stopping dance number that included a performance by Mrs. Shawn Carter.
African-American actresses, Taraji P. Henson and Viola Davis, shared the honor of being nominated in the category of Best Supporting Actress for their respective performances in The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button, and Doubt. The eight minutes that Davis spent on screen, proved once again that there are no small roles. Oddly, the annual montage that recognizes the members of the film community who have died since the previous year’s ceremony, omitted legendary screen siren, Eartha Kitt.
Clues of just how different the Obama presidency will be are starting to be revealed. On Thursday afternoon, for the first time, a sitting president received a visit from a professional sports team that is not the defending champion of its league. The former backup point guard from Occidental College, hosted his favorite squad, the Chicago Bulls. There were no reports that Chicago’s rookie point guard sensation, Derek Rose, offered any tips on economic policy.
Friday night, the visiting Bulls played the Washington Wizards. The game was viewed from court side by Obama. This will hopefully give a boost to a league that was forced to take a two hundred million dollar loan on behalf of 11 unnamed franchises that are also in need of stimulus. The Wizards won by 23.
Wednesday night the Obamas hosted a reception and concert to honor Stevie Wonder. The Library Of Congress Gershwin Prize was bestowed upon El Toro Negro, the national treasure and Motown’s most potent creative force ever. The prize commemorates the contribution made by George and Ira Gershwin while celebrating the song writing excellence of the recipient.
PBS broadcast the show on Thursday evening, and a diverse group of performers entertained Wonder and the Obamas with interpretations of classics from the Wonder song book. An eclectic group of artists including: Diana Krall; Martina McBride; Tony Bennett; Will.I.Am; new jazz bassist/vocalist, Esperanza Spalding; the previous Gershwin Prize recipient, Paul Simon; and the contemporary artist whose work best represents the Wonder worldview of political consciousness, spirituality, romance, and soulfulness; India.Arie.
Arie’s current release, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics is the real deal. The gifted young singer/songwriter has recorded a work of maturity and depth that reflects her deepening understanding of the world around her. Her politics had been previously understated, but her anthemic, There’s Hope, from Testimony Vol. 1, had been a track the Obama campaign could believe in, her involvement with Ashley Judd as a UNICEF ambassador and AIDS activist, and her contribution of her song, Beautiful Flower, as a fund-raiser for Oprah’s South African Leadership Academy for girls, all contributed to a more overtly political direction in her music.
Arie’s Wonder influenced writing and phrasing are used to good effect on Ghetto, a mid tempo contemplation on the globalized universality of poverty. The brilliant rereading of Sade’s Pearls is deeply moving, and features the Ivory Coast’s Dobet Gnahore. Her duet with Musiq Soulchild on Chocolate High, is simply sweet soul music. Therapy, a tribute to an ideal mate, is another standout.
All and all, Testimony: Vol. 2, Love & Politics, is a modern look at today’s world through the eyes of an evolved and spiritual artist. The combination of pop song craft, world music, and church, contribute to redefining the R&B genre and giving it a much needed dose of internationalism. It’s an ideal soundtrack for the new stage that the African-American experience is being presented on.