Giant Step Resident 49: J. Cole, Big Sean, Fresh Daily & Jesse Boykins III

tomorrow-1-600x5961By Mawuse Ziegbe

Lately, some new artists have hit the interwebs who are down right addictive and, if all goes well, they will be giving fans the shakes on a massive level. J. Cole’s “A Dollar and A Dream II” affixes graceful metaphors about the throes of quarter-life insecurity to a generous piano melody that makes a clean break from the ever-ubiquitous synth-hop. Jay-Z scooped the North Carolina MC as the first signee to his newly-formed Roc Nation imprint; a move that makes sense since Cole has the same low-key cleverness that has rendered Hov a mega-bajillionaire. He’s young so his mixtape The Warm Up has the requisite knuckle-headed sneaker and swagger rhymes. But the clean production has the classic brooding sensibility of jazz-sampled hip hop from Slum Village and Little Brother. Tracks like “I Get Up” and “Losing My Balance” are that good good.

[Read more...]

Giant Step Resident: All Points West with Jay Z, Q Tip, The Pharcyde & more

libertyBy Mawuse Ziegbe


The 2009 All Points West Music and Arts Festival in New Jersey’s Liberty State Park was kinda like an open-air high school lunchroom where shaggy rockers, glittery rappers, and freewheeling artsy kids all held court in their respective corners. Spotty showers soaked the first day of the weekend-long festival which left dedicated (a.k.a. fool-headed) fans tramping through glutinous mud to the sounds of Vampire Weekend, The Knux and Peanut Butter Wolf. The Pharcyde rocked loopy hits like “Runnin’” and “Passin’ Me By.” The original line-up was in full effect – including a formerly dreadlocked Tre sporting an appropriately Jersey Corleone hat – and showed love to J. Dilla by playing Slum Village jams like “Raise It Up.” Q-Tip deployed his trademark energy, grooving through Tribe’s hits and busting out a quirky yet charming cover of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

[Read more...]

Giant Step Resident 48: Summertime

6By Mawuse Ziegbe

Monday morning I woke up in a rumpled tank top with my cell phone plastered onto the side of my face, an ache in my thighs, and vodka sloshing through my veins. This level of abject foolishness means only one thing: summertime! It’s July but for a lot of New Yorkers making do with a pittance of sunshine, summer has just only begun. But even through a completely soaked June, some of us kept our dispositions on the sunny tip like singer Miz Metro. She premiered her bubbly video “Trashion” – a montage of her flouncing about the LES – at her recent SOB’s mixtape release party. While her fussy outfits and re-purposed Metro Card accessories evoke a street artist/trustafarian trying to “find herself,” her music is actually warm and effortless. Toasty soul from zany white chicks is usually pretty fun.

[Read more...]

Giant Step Resident 47: Michael Video List

badBy Mawuse Ziegbe

No need to expound upon his achievements or even mention his last name. We all have our favorite Michael moment. Mine is headbanging to “Bad” as a toddler in pre-school. Instead of nap time our teacher let us run around like, well, babies. Me and a roly-poly, pigtailed friend nearly snapped our necks every afternoon. I’m pretty sure that guy was fired. But I would always see him bopping around Boston with his headphones on; very likely bopping along to “Bad.”

Part of Michael’s legacy is the advancement of music videos. Every time we see a lit dance floor, an errant tiger, Prohibition-era pop-lockin,’ or massive flying marbles, Michael will be on our minds. But for every indelible hip thrust, he also left a rash of quirky videos that are largely beeping off the radar. Here are some of Michael’s equally awesome – if less celebrated – moments.

[Read more...]

The Resident 46: The Roots Picnic, Summer Jam ’09, LL Cool J, Estelle

estelle08_cd-736899By Mawuse Ziegbe

Puberty would not have been the same without LL Cool J. Honestly who was hotter than shirtless, lip-lickin’ LL in 1995? Coolio? Tag Team? Exactly. And yet when Estelle and LL Cool J took over Terminal 5 for the Grammy and T-Mobile tour I was not prepared for how totally phat it would be. Estelle was aiight – she was two-steppin’ and bitching about her ex-boyfriend – entertaining but all things I could see any sloshed slag do on a Saturday night. LL weaved through his 20-year-plus repertoire flexing to hits like “Doin’ It,” “Rock The Bells,” “Phenomenon,” “I Need Love,” “Headsprung,” and “Radio” with the energy and abs of a delusional MySpace MC. I spent much of the time jonesing for FUBU, Dunkaroos and general nineties awesomeness. So, mad props to LL and the booty-quaking potency of his def beats.

The Roots don’t score as many mainstream snaps as LL but they continue to prove their legendary status with events like the 2nd annual Roots Picnic. Following a typically grizzly Chinatown bus ride to the illadelph, I caught Antibalas’ fairly uninspired set. Philly’s own Santigold often relies on her fussy downtown b-girl look and heart attack-serious dancers to carry a performance. But she actually smiled and flicked her hair a bit more than usual through songs like “Find A Way,” “Unstoppable,” and “Say Aha.” Throngs of mall-accessorized girls thrashed along to “Creator” and Spank Rock made [Read more...]