Giant Step’s Resident 19: Bugz In The Attic, Brown Girls Burlesque, The Roots Picnic, J*Davey

By Mawuse Ziegbe

I know a lot of you beautiful flowers were wilting in this weekend’s oven fresh heat but I was cookin,’ honey. And I ran into some children who didn’t let the heat stop them no way. Monday night, DJ Daz-I-Kue of Bugz In The Attic was serving up global burners including fiery Afrobeat, disco and tribal house selections at The Hudson Hotel. And Wednesday night, the fabulous people let me moonlight in their world at the Fashion Delivers Pay It Fashion Forward event (ooh, what a cute pun!) honoring young designers. It was hosted by chipper ex-”House Of Style” host, Daisy Fuentes (ooh, where has she been?) at Marquee. Of course, the hook for me was Janelle Monae who swayed the blasé fashion types with a table dance and blithe accompaniment from her bewigged guitarist Kellindo.

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Janelle Monae © Jason Green

Thursday night, the fashion types gave me a reality check as I partook in a long, storied New York tradition: getting shut out of a party. Giant magazine cover girl Kimora Lee Simmons hosted an issue release party at Indochine. We loitered outside – I was with a writer whose story appears in the issue – while the doormen shooed us away, barking some business about capacity and not being shallow enough (I kid, I kid). After catching Kimora’s dramatic arrival, towering above a clutch of bodyguards (for serious, that woman is like, 10 feet tall. I’m not convinced her name isn’t Kimora Lee Bunyan), me and some other little people went to the House of Campari and did it up royal. The three-story loft housed loads of the bitter Italian liquor with groovy 70s-era commissions lining the walls including a shrine featuring a disco album by Robert “Benson” Guilliame. Outta sight.

Chicava HoneyChild at Brown Girls Burlesque © Vishnu Hoff

Last week, Prince Rogers Nelson got his AARP card and I celebrated by taking in the Shockadelica tribute by Brown Girls Burlesque. You know, instead of choking down EZ-Baked brownies, shimmying topless to “Kiss” is what I always envisioned my imaginary big sister would teach me. It was all fun and boobs as women of all sizes got the crowd all hot and bothered to songs from all eras of Prince. Then at midnight, ladies with hot draggy names like Miss AuroraBoobRealis and Sunshine Fayalicious passed out shots of purple likka (which went down like a fistful of needles). And the crowd went batshit when Dame CuchiFrita, undressing to “Little Red Corvette,” clamped the jumper cables to her…nevermind. You can find out how to join at www.myspace.com/browngirlsburlesque

Saturday, I rode the Chinatown bus in 90-degree heat to The Roots Picnic in Philly (and why was Zoe Kravitz slummin’ it in the seat in front of me?). I love how their idea of “picnic” is an outdoor festival complete with inflatable castles and um, baked bean stands. I caught Deerhoof which was weird; beeping noises and disjointed “rhythm.” Yeah. Although audio problems plagued the day-long concert, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings as per usual, shut it down. And I’ve seen the The Roots googol times and they’re just swell. They rocked everything from their own “Love Of My Life” to a pop medley featuring “SexyBack.” Even legendary bassist Hub came back for a special solo. And 8 hours after the show began, Gnarls Barkley took the stage. Although Gnarls was fine (no funny costumes), the audience was kind of stoned, er…tired and the LSD grooves were not helping. Cee-Lo even asked, “Did you hear the album.” The crowd responded with a slack-jawed, “whaaa?” Blame the ooweee.

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Gnarls Barkley © Mel D. Cole

Sunday night back in NYC I tried to get my culture game up by taking in Rachelle Ferrell at Blue Note. Blue Note is one of those institutions shrouded in New York legend but the performance was memorable because they had zero air conditioning. Or a fan. Or a window. But the heat ain’t stop Rachelle no way and she performed a gaggle of jazz and pop songs until she was literally soaking. And I have never witnessed that level of vocal virtuosity. She would jump from a sharp, tinny falsetto to a cavernous, guttural bass note – in the same word. Can we get a summer blockbuster featuring Rachelle Ferrell dissolving amateurs with her vocal prowess?

Afterwards, I saw J*Davey pack the house at S.O.B.s. Following high-energy sets from Taylor McFerrin and the duo Heavy (homeboy had a key-tar that sprayed spoogy silly string on the audience), Jack Davey and Brook D’Leau, backed by a live band, played a grip of their famously synthy catalog like “Slooow” and even a cover of “Message In A Bottle” by The Police. The highlight was during the slow-jam “No More” when girl-crazy NYC photog Mel D. Cole undressed Jack down to her black bustier and lacy boy shorts. My girl who took the tempo slowdown as a cue to fetch a beverage came back just as Jack pulled on her shirt and chirped, “What did I miss?”

Oh and before I go, FYI: Wale’s “Seinfeld”-inspired Mixtape About Nothing is that good good. Download it (and maybe rub it on your teeth to make them tingle). You’re gonna need something to keep cool.

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 18

Photo of Mickey Factz © Mel D. Cole

By Mawuse Ziegbe

I consider myself a hip hop head. But being a hip hop head with a vagina is not all tea and crumpets. For one thing, every show kinda feels like crashing a bachelor party. When I keep a hopeful eye for my sistren, I usually find a couple of ladies, eyes glazed over, clearly dragged to the show by their bedroom-producer boos. What really ruffles me is when MC Such and Such screeches, “this one’s for the ladies!!” Like, what? The other hour and a half of your set wasn’t for me? Why was I standing in heels and elbowing tipsy NYU kids all night? How about I return your album and just download that one song “for the ladies.”

So why do I keep going? Mostly, it’s hope (as Obama proves, yes we can!). For every clumsy cock-hop rapper flapping his gums, there’s a Kidz In The Hall. Back in undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, I heard about this senior, Jabari who was actually going to chase his dreams and become a rapper. Usually, Quakers file out of Penn and into cushy jobs like so many overachieving automatons (People don’t really blow 200 Gs on book-learnin’ and then go hustle and flow for a living). Maybe crippling student debt drives the duo of Naledge and fellow Penn album, Double-O because their latest album, The In Crowd, is all sorts of fantastic. Their influences are all over the place as glimmers of N.E.R.D., Camp Lo (who appear on the album), Little Brother (see track 2), and Eric B & Rakim are in the mix. They’re not immune from lyrical foolery but the Kidz do put their schoolin’ to work with the wordplay. They sound like good chilluns who cut-up in seedy pool halls.

Plus, they know err’body in the bourgeoning nerd-hop scene. Travis McCoy from Gym Class Heroes, Estelle, Skyzoo, Phonte from Little Brother, one of those beefy guys from Game Rebellion and more all came through their party at S.O.B.s like there was some collapsible clown car on stage right. The best surprise of the night was Mickey Factz who also impressed me at the In The Mood party last week at Midway. Ubiquita DJ SheRock (who you can often catch feverishly waggin’ her behind at a Hudson Hotel event) was unleashing burners in the DJ nook and downstairs Mickey was one big ball of dapper swagger, ending his set with a hearty version of his addictive midtempo track “Automatic.” He can be very on-trend (there is the boneheaded thump of “I Like Your Supras”) but his music is fairly classic – think powdery future soul with introspective lyrics and hot girls singing the hook. Overness.

The same night, the Brownswood Sessions 7 went down at NuBlu with José James. Another Ubiquita beauty, DJ Moni held court with the chunes as crackly projections bathed the walls. Once again, Brownswood, with José’s bold, round vintage vocals gives off that intimate, jam-session-in-my-bedroom feel that makes up for that wily trek to Avenue C. And speaking of home, I recently checked out Stanley Lumax’s “Back To My Roots” exhibit opening at Habana Outpost. I really liked his photos of rural Ghana when he showed at Harriet’s Alter Ego back in April and this exhibit features more colorful and poignant snapshots of Africa’s west coast. And thankfully there’s none of that forced “Africans are beautiful too!” visual rhetoric that cheeses up those Benetton campaigns.

But honestly, stark Benetton billboards featuring smiley Africans could have been the backdrop to every scene in Sex and the City: The Movie and I wouldn’t have noticed – I loved it!! It wasn’t the Couture Four still running around the island cocktailing and teabagging but rather sad yet lovely new phases for my favorite characters. Next week I may wax about what it’s like seeing the movie for the 4th time – because SATC is definitely for the ladies in the house.