Giant Step’s Resident 31: Pete Rock, N.E.R.D., Raphael Saadiq, Kelis

Photo from Pete Rock at Hudson (c) Bartek Radwan

By Mawuse Ziegbe

The most authentic thing about Sex and the City is all the bitchy conversations New Yorkers have about relationships. Every single time I venture out for dranky dranks, the talk always turns to how batty single people are and how dating in New York is like lighting your head on fire. There’s the girl whose ex-boyfriend used to beg her to go to crappy parties and then ignore her while he danced with other girls. There’s the guy who freaked out and sent his lady friend home in a cab when she received a text message after midnight. And then there are my poor guy friends who, no matter how fugly or partially unemployed, always end up swatting away giggly girls who furiously claw at their nether-regions simply because they’re single. Yeah, boo hoo. Anyway, finding a meaningful relationship in NYC is like trying not to laugh during a Sarah Palin speech. But for knuckleheaded dreamers like myself, that doesn’t dull the chase.

And that’s why Pete Rock’s recent Giant Step throwdown at the Hudson was double the fun. Everyone there was simply too attractive. Men with velvet blazers were sipping cocktails like they were born with a pinky ring. I spent most of the time nursing a red wine and making eyes with the fellers (I’m too much of a loony tunes to actually talk to boy people). Pete Rock was getting all House Party 2 with it, blasting Johnny Kemp and TLC like it ain’t no thang. Despite his groovy, soulful album offerings, as a DJ he’s usually good for a boot-stomping, ashy-knuckle, Boyz N The Hood type of time. But I liked the switch up because pajammy jams are like totally more fun than drive-by shootings.

Also high on the funness scale is Raphael Saadiq. Raphael touched down at SOBs for his last New York performance of the year. He’s one of the few artists that I just become a drooling mess for. Me at a Raphael Saadiq concert is just this sad mix of two-stepping and screaming. Raphael takes the stage and then I’m just bellowing foolishness for the next 40 minutes: “Oh my god, he’s doing a rock version of “Be Here!” Oh snap! He just mixed “Get Involved” with “Feels Good!” Is that a 12-minute reprise of “Sky, Can You Hear Me?!” Yes, dear god encore!” Then I mouth the lyrics like he’s talking to me, impale other people’s feet with my stilettos and steal posters. I’m that person. And it feels great.

Another semi-authentic thingy about Sex and the City is getting into that party. Last week, one of the places to be was arguably the N.E.R.D. and Nas throwdown sponsored by Smirnoff at Capitale. I used to constantly hit up these corporate ragers, knocking back cocktails and hi-fiving the typical group of industry ankle-biters who crowd these things. I stopped going to these events because there is always an infestation of people at the door trying to get in. The crowd was also this goofy mix of ruddy, balding corporate fatheads and shallow, downtown hip hop fatheads. However, all was forgotten when N.E.R.D. took the stage and did their “I’m wild at 35!” dilettante rock. Nas is talented and all but he has the stage presence of a brick of cheddar. But he did get my attention when he brought out Kelis to sing “If I Ruled The World.” She wandered out, drink in hand, and listlessly crooned the chorus before kissing Nas and wandering off as unceremoniously as she came. Yes, honey, it’s late and we’ve all seen this pony’s tricks before. But at least you got into the party and you’ve got a man. Some of us are making careers chasing both.

Amplify by John Brown’s Body is #1 on Billboard’s Reggae Chart

“Amplify is a big stew of a lot of different influences and sounds and grooves,” says JBB drummer and co-founder Tommy Benedetti. “I think reggae applies to us in the way that we definitely draw from drum and bass. That’s always the foundation of what we start with. We also tried to step outside of the normal reggae grooves‚ sounds‚ lyrics and topics on this one, and what goes on top wound up being very progressive and current.

The new album, which also climbs to #10 on the CMJ World Music chart, was just released by Easy Star Records. It presents the band with the highest chart position in its history and outsells its 2005 release Pressure Points by nearly 20% in its first week of release.

Listen or buy from here.

Giant Step’s Resident 30: Detroit, Home Sweet Home, Sarah Palin, Maxwell

Photo of Jazmine Sullivan at STEVEN (c) Donna Ward

By Mawuse Ziegbe

When I’m not camping out in craptastic bars in the LES or at a concert furiously scratching notes like a geekazoid, I daydream about the most fantastical situations. Maybe one day I’m making Smores with Amy Winehouse. Maybe I’m taking a magic carpet ride with Diddy. Maybe I’m shaving Common’s head. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m in the Midwest having the bestest time in a truly underrated city. Last week, I went to Detroit on business which is like Narnia for cheap beer-swilling, early ’90s dance addicts like myself. God bless the Motor City Casino Hotel where the driveway is lit up with a maze of rainbow lights like so many glittering Quaaludes. Ce Ce Peniston and Crystal Waters jams are pumped throughout the lobby and the rooms look like the set of a J. Lo video. I partied with some friends at an “apartment” (which, after living in “cozy” NYC apartments, looked like an airport hangar) that held a boutique, a DJ booth and a mess of bedrooms. People were cheery, the music was good and when it wasn’t good, it didn’t matter because alcohol in the Midwest basically costs a hug and a kiss.

But New York is the only place you will find buxom soul singers sweatin’ out a shoe store full of beautiful people. Our precious Giant Step orchestrated another throwdown at Steve Madden’s LES outpost which was swarmed by rapturous Jazmine Sullivan acolytes who knocked over precarious stiletto displays. It was a short 3-song set which she ended with her balmy reggae single, “Need U Bad.” Music heads who have been waiting for her time in the sun and newly enchanted well-wishers were all pouting for more. But children, she is going on tour which, by the by, is fronted by MAXWELL!! I mean, THE Maxwell – in all his singing-naked-in-the-bathtub, Afro-and-sideburns-before-it-was-cool, making-songs-for-sex-scenes-of-every-Sanaa Lathan-movie-since -1995 glory, – is actually coming to your city! You can pay to watch him gyrate for a few hours and maybe touch his head or something if you camp outside the tour bus. With Maxwell, John Legend and Raphael Saadiq on the road, 2008 is officially the year of the intellectual groupie.

2008 is also the two-year anniversary of one my favorite bars, Home Sweet Home. It’s basically an unmarked, unfinished basement packed with taxidermy and a broken disco ball. But its appeal is the reckless, sensual and, if I may, crackity sensibility that makes downtown NYC so legendary. I’ve had nights where one minute I’m teaching some hipsters the Soulja Boy and the next I’m vomiting onto a stuffed weasel. So, of course the anniversary party had to reflect that psycho glamour with complimentary Patrón and a giant moose ice sculpture which doubled as a shot luge. Resident performers Sweatshop Labor and Young Lords held court and even smiley trip-hop vocalist Sia came out for a drink and a dance. And yes, I got a little reckless, sensual and crackity.

However, more than taxidermy and making up adjectives, the hottest thing in the streets right now is the election debates. When they plucked that Sarah Palin woman from Baby Siberia, I thought she must have been a brainy, ambitious, innovative politician who could really shake up the stodgy and grim Republican ticket. Instead, we have this aging beauty queen with prom hair and a foreign policy perspective that’s seemingly informed by Rainbow Brite. I wish I could skip through the most important test of my life winking and giving shout-outs to 8 year-olds. Maybe, just maybe…if I keep dreaming.

Friends We Love: 120 Seconds with Street Artist Ellis G.

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Brooklyn based shadow artist Ellis Gallagher aka © Ellis G. airs his thoughts on common sense, respect, the NYC Police Department and clarifies the differences between “street art” and “graffiti.”

Check out Ellis G. at: myspace.com/ellis_gee