It’s been a while since we last kicked it, and I wanted to drop you a note to let you know that I’ve been thinking about you. You haven’t been away long, but there can never be a visit that can be considered to be too brief where you are.
I’ve been working on my writing, and I intend to finish a book by the beginning of next year that will detail my time spent in music, hip hop and film and the influences that impacted my tastes during my formative years. In the interest of finding a style and tone for my book, I’ve immersed myself in a summer reading binge that has led me to recent works by Toure, Eric Schmidt, Earl Monroe, Phil Jackson and the latest from Walter Mosley.
It’s been a rough summer for many of us, but I’m not complaining. I have my health and I have recently completed two projects that will be appearing later this year and next. My friend Ericka Blount Danois has written a book about Soul Train and she asked that I contribute an essay for her afterword. It’s due out this fall. My man Glen E. Friedman has compiled a new book of photographs that he has culled from his time spent capturing the early punk, hip hop, and skateboarding scenes. His book will not only feature photos from key players in those three worlds, but will have essay contributions from many of them as well. He’s also asked for an afterword, and his book will be out next year. Of course, you’ll be home by then. Is there a decent library there? Are you writing?
I get an occasional magazine or newspaper article in and I still make time for new episodes of “The Killing” on AMC and a new thing on FX called “The Bridge”. They are both procedurals with troubled, quirky and slightly promiscuous female operatives at their centers who have emotional and functional challenges in the style of Claire Danes’ character in “Homeland.” Both shows are well written and they provide a welcomed respite from the long hours of reading. Do you get to watch tv up there? Do you get to see anything other than Wendy Williams?
I’d taken a break from Facebook and I’ve been enjoying a digital detox. People who appear to be balanced in so many other ways, throw toxic, uninformed opinions around like used snotty Kleenex tissues. Outrageous views on women’s rights, gun control and the basic injustice of the judicial system were flooding my newsfeed and I had to take a break. Recently, an old friend from the club days sent an e-mail that described how friends were missing my posts on politics, culture, race, music and such. So I decided to make a brief and tenuous appearance earlier this evening. Do you get online access there?
Well I won’t keep you much longer, I just felt like I needed to let you know you were in my thoughts, and you know you have been since I first met you all those years ago at that old celebrity malt shop in Beverly Hills, Larry Parker’s. It seems like yesterday when you, Pras and Clef were opening for Latifah on her U.N.I.T.Y. tour and you were all giving the country a taste of top shelf Garden State hip hop.
I was in L.A. independently working on a project for Motown (god I miss Jheryl Busby) “Nappy Heads” was the flavor and Uptown soul singer, Crystal Johnson called me to tell me that you were the bomb and I needed to get ready for the blast. Crystal was right, but I’d peeped your talent earlier when you were doing an interview on Entertainment Tonight to support “Sister Act 2″. I’d also caught you in a hip hop musical version of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” called “Club Twelve” that you did with our dear departed Heavy D. I thought you were a singer then, and I had no idea that you had mad flow too.
Time passed and an old friend became a friend of yours. He kept me abreast of your developments. I always had ideas so I tried to get you a guest collab on a Tribe joint. I even put you and Tip on the phone together, but I wasn’t successful. Remember? Do you have an iPod up there?
Then that day came that Crystal warned me about, and it happened: your crew dropped “Fugee-La” and it was on. Then you hit ‘em with that Roberta Flack joint over the Tribe loop and you were outta here. You still took my calls even while you made history. I was proud of you.
You told me that the first D’Angelo record was “boom bangin’” and that Latifah had stopped you on the highway to play it for you. I’d worked hard doing the A&R on it and when you told me it was real, I knew that I’d be ok.
Carlos Santana turned 66 yesterday and I remembered how the sound of his guitar playing filled many of my childhood New York memories. The soulful salsa rock fusion of his records made him one of the hippest artists of my youth, and then, as often happens, tastes changed and he disappeared from the radio. But not from your memory and your heart. When you went solo, you wrote a beautiful flamenco influenced soul tribute to your firstborn and featured Carlos on it. With that as a platform, he was able to record the biggest record of his career. I remember that you once told me that his “Abraxas” record was your favorite by him.
You also remembered how “boom bangin’” D’Angelo was and you cut a sweet duet with him that was all hooks and melody. You took the combination of hip-hop and soul that some of us had been experimenting with and swept the top awards at the Grammys the next year. Those were amazing times.
Well, I gotta bounce. I just wanted you to know that I still love you and just because you’ve caught a 90-day bid in the fed for tax evasion does not mean that I will judge you or stop loving you. Be careful in there and watch your back and when you get out, you’ll still be the most influential female artist of the past twenty years, and maybe when you get home India.Arie, Jill Scott, Macy Gray, Adele and the rest of those low singing bitches that you made a space for with your thing, will show you a little love and help you get back on track. If you need me, you know I’m here for you.