Janelle Monáe @ Skybar At Mondrian 2/7

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In a spectacular display of performance perfection, Grammy nominee Janelle Monáe showed the crowd at Skybar at Mondrian in LA that she was more than worthy of the “Best Urban Performance” Grammy, regardless of the final outcome the following night.

Giant Step is pleased to have brought you Janelle for a one-off treat in Los Angeles. She certainly made it a night to remember, diving into the adjacent pool for a swim and climbing a tree for kicks! Check it out below:
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Giant Step’s Resident 39: Theophilus London At The Studio At Webster Hall and A-Trak At Mehanata

Photo of Theophilus London (c) Gina Erdmann

Let’s be adults about this – I’m fat. This isn’t insecure Bridget Jones whining. I’ve honestly packed on some pounds. At first it was kind of cool. When I rush downstairs my belly fat quivers. Kinda like the stomach flip you get when going down a rollercoaster. If I jerk my head to the left, the right side of my body jiggles. Sorta like there’s a waterbed underneath my skin (groovy). Every morning I play the challenging game of “stuff the thighs into the dark wash denim.” And every morning it’s like shoving a television set into a condom. I know I can free myself of the flub through simple diet and exercise. However, I waste more time haggling with the membership director at the Bedford Avenue YMCA instead of actually spending the measly 45-minutes on the treadmill. I cancel out the nutrients of a salad by dumping bits of cheese pizza into it. The times when I could be feeling the burn (I live a whole two blocks away from the aforementioned Y) I’m stuffing my face with candies and watching Mahogany.

In an effort to end Operation Pork I’ve tried to be more aggressive with my nightlife excursions. Recently, I attended the glorious Flashing Lights party at Mehanata. The first floor of Mehanata had crazy iridescent plastic leaves covering the ceiling which made me feel like I downed some ‘luudes and partied in an enchanted freezer. A-Trak spun some dizzying Euro House jams from Fedde Le Grand and Mylo. Upstairs was a Balkan Beat party where I danced with a slight fellow from Albania and jumped around like the harvest just came in.

Also, I’d been curious about Theophilus London for a while. I finally got closure at his This Charming Mixtape release party at The Studio at Webster Hall. Performance-wise, he has a loooong way to go. It’s a pale version of the slobber over the microphone, hump womenfolk in the audience, me against the mainstream thing that Spank Rock has been owning for years. It was like watching a bunch of really hyper zoo animals trying to break the cages with their screams. The ubiquitous Jesse Boykins III was his backup singer which was not a great look for London. Boykin’s easy cool was more captivating than London’s desperate mayhem. It was like watching Smoky Robinson two-step next to Ol’ Dirty Bastard. However, the music itself is proper. London and Boykins’ “Cold Pillow” is an airy electro-soul jam with an addictive beat. His remix of Solange’s “Sandcastle Disco” is equally catchy.

Maybe I can listen to it when I hit the gym. Or when I wallow in my own flub eating candies.

Footage From De La Soul At The Florida Room’s 1st Anniversary 1/23/09

Celebrating The Florida Room’s 1st Anniversary at Delano in Miami, Giant Step brought together the Grammy Award-winning De La Soul with Brendan O’Hara & The Big Bounce.

We have a few photos and a video from the night for your viewing pleasure. Watch as De La Soul throws down to an incredible crowd; it was quite a night.

Photos (c) Seth Browarnik/Red Eye Productions

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Sixth Annual globalFEST & Arts Presenters 52nd Annual Conference Ring In 2009

8941globalFEST Photographs by Benjamin de Menil
Click for Flickr photo archive

This is the season of new beginnings all over the world and fueled by the excitement and anticipation of President Barack Obama’s new incumbency, the ever-expansive and felicitous 52nd annual Association of Performing Arts Presenters Conference (‘APAP’ – www.apapconference.org), January 8 -12, at the Hilton in New York City, symbolized a fierce determination by the entertainment industry to serve up a great forthcoming year.

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Giant Step’s Resident 38: Illa-J, Here We Go Magic, Jay Rock, President Obama

(Chuck Kennedy-Pool/Getty Images)

I’ve been spending too much time on Chinatown buses. When I hosted Pop Off! a party in D.C. with The General Store Inc., I took the crackiest mode of transportation possible: Apex Bus. There is a level of decorum on the Boston to New York routes that the D.C. and Philly lines don’t even pretend to bother with. Sparky ticket-takers in neon jackets spat bold-faced lies at me muttering, “5 O’ Crock, 5 O’ Crock” when at 5:25 I asked them what time the bus was leaving. I arrived at the party two hours late but I did get to catch the very promising RA The MC. She charmed me with a little ditty about some cute boy with the unfortunate name of Nikki. And DJ Sharkey massaged my ears with jams from Human League and The Pharcyde that I rarely hear outside of my own bedroom.

The worst thing about living in New York is going to your hometown and experiencing how profoundly silly it is by comparison. When my mom broke her hip I took the next Chinatown chariot to Boston. At the hospital, some mouthy RN noted I had “real Negro hair.” I ruined my leather boots wading through a foot of brown slush surrounding Boston Medical Center only to watch yet another news report on regional hockey results on the hospital TV. Boston is like this odd, arctic plantation where President Obama is just another Negro and hat-tricks are far more newsworthy than clashes in Gaza.

All this meant plenty of time to sit by myself and listen to music. Lately, I’ve been mad about Here We Go Magic and their song “Tunnelvision.” It’s all plucky guitar festooned with whimsical, billowy vocals. It’s like crashing a ho-down with David The Gnome. I’m also intrigued by this song, “All My Life” by Jay Rock. He’s a Watts, California native who ostensibly looks like any other rank-and-file rapper. But he has humility and an ease about his sound that’s appealing. Awash with velvety violins, it’s both a throwback to the balmy G-Funk that made Dr.Dre famous and a slick update on the sample-heavy sound. And I finally sat down and listened to Illa J’s debut Yancey Boys. J. Dilla’s textured beats for artists like Q-Tip and Slum Village turned my early flirtation with hip hop into a full-blown affair. Illa J pays tribute to his late brother with a collection of supple, artful beats reminiscent of Dilla’s handiwork. A solid 50 minutes of music.

As a Chinatown bus veteran the one time I really should have been on a titanium clap-trap with a cartoon dragon emblazoned on the side was when Obama was inaugurated. I had to work but I spent most of the day awestruck, choking back tears and committing CNN’s coverage to memory. At least I can tell my kids that long ago, back when people still rode busses, people with Afros were harassed in hospitals and American presidents were hopeless, I witnessed the exact moment when one of those things changed.