‘NY Loves Dilla’ at Inaugural Event Hosted by Ma Dukes

dilla

Words by Korby Benoit

Since my earliest experiences listening to acts like Run DMC, The Fat Boys and UTFO the sound of hip-hop always made sense to me.  No one had to explain it to me or tell me that this was the “cool” music to listen to. Hip-hop has provided my musical foundation and my entry into the world of the arts.

In the spring of 1996, I was a high school student attending the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. By that time, I was a hip-hop geek who took great pride in his TDK and Maxell cassette collection of rap radio shows. I used to record Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito, The Underground Railroad with Jay Smooth, and DJ Evil Dee on Hot 97. Nevertheless, it was another Hot 97 show that introduced me to James Dewitt Yancey a.k.a. Jay Dee the artist later known as J Dilla. Future Flavors was the show and it was hosted by two of the genre’s most important and influential producers, Marley Marl and Pete Rock.

As I recall, at some point during their mix, Marley and Pete got on the mic to announce they were about to play a remix by Jay Dee. While I don’t remember if this was a remix for De La Soul, Busta Rhymes or Keith Murray, I do remember the level of excitement in the voices of the two hosts. I remember enjoying the song and like hip-hop itself, the sound just spoke to me. Yet this time in a way that was a little different; The sound was more melodic and the bass groove was simply groovier than anything I’d ever heard. At the time, it sounded like hip-hop from the future. Later I learned that Dilla was also responsible for Pharcyde’s “Runnin,” which was already one of my favorite songs in their catalog. It was evident that the producer had emerged with a new sound that rap luminaries and fans loved and longed for.

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Throwback Thursday: Freestyle Fellowship @ Metropolis – May 6, 1993

 

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For today’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories of our May 6, 1993 show with Freestyle Fellowship. And as always, we’d love for you to join us in reminiscing on the night and sharing your favorite Freestyle Fellowship memories!

Out of Los Angeles, California, Freestyle Fellowship were from the same era of LA rap groups like The Pharcyde. They were signed to 4th and Broadway and had a very jazzy hip-hop feel to them – kind of like the west coast juxtaposition to De La and Tribe. Their “Park Bench People” track in particular was a big hit for us down at the club. Jose James actually covered it many years later on The Dreamer.

This show was at Metropolis, which was the classic Giant Step venue. Metropolis was in the basement of what is now Blue Water Grill. It held about 250-300 people but we’d get like 400-500 people, all smoking and drinking. In this day and age, so many people would never be allowed in a club like that – those are times that are totally gone.

Freestyle Fellowship had a young manager named Kedar who was very impressive and also quite pushy, which definitely helped him get my attention quite early.

After managing Freestyle Fellowship, Kedar went on to manage D’Angelo, helped discover Erykah Badu, and eventually became the President of Motown Records where he signed India Arie. He’s also someone who took credit for coining the term “neo soul.” Like I said, a very impressive guy.

Having Daddy-O from Stetsasonic as a guest was a very nice addition to the bill. He was actually introduced to us by Kedar as his brother. For those that are not familiar, Stetsasonic were a hip-hop band from the late 80s/early 90s. One of their most popular tracks was a song called “Talking All That Jazz” that sampled Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions,” which also was a big hit at the club.

It was a very memorable show – a hot, sweaty, sticky late night downtown. Great band to see live.

Throwback Thursday: De La Soul & A Tribe Called Quest @ Ritz – Feb 16, 1992

 

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For this week’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares with us his memory of a 1992 De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest show at Ritz.

This show was at the Ritz, New York. The Ritz used to be where Webster Hall is now, but at this point the Ritz had moved uptown into what was Studio54. It was a big venue.

The show happened on President’s Day weekend and was a double bill with De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest. While we’d worked with Tribe before, this was the first show we did with De La. It was a Sunday, there was no school on Monday, and it was absolutely ram packed. Everybody wanted to be there. I mean, Tribe in ‘92, De La in ‘92, you know? It was pretty incredible – great performances with great energy. This was a classic, classic New York show.

One of the things that I remember very distinctly – and I actually talked to Q-Tip about this as well – there was a big fight by the side of stage. All these different posses came down and they were all standing at this side area. People would go up and they’d all start freestyling during the performers’ sets. When the fight happened, I remember Tip turning around – he was on stage – and just saying, “Can you guys just all chill out?” It was one of the first times I’d seen a fight at one of our events. It was very rare that something like that would happen at a Giant Step event. But when these posses would roll in, there was always beef between somebody and somebody.

Interview: Ali Shaheed Muhammad Presents ‘That’s My Ish’ @ The Dumbo Loft, NYC – July 13

 

Ali Shaheed Muhammad took a minute to talk his new That’s My iSh jam jumping off this Friday as well as new projects and travels! Lots of awesomeness in store. Get more information about the party after the jump.

Giant Step: We are super excited to hear you at That’s My iSh this Friday!  What can we expect to hear?  What’s the vibe going to be like at the party?

Ali Shaheed Muhammad: I’m excited too. For too long, Manhattan has been the go to place for nightlife. I’m looking to shake things up with my That’s My iSh party and turn the focus towards Brooklyn. Expect to hear anything between Elton John and Lil John. We touching all genres, but with an emphasis on the good good, not radio good.

GS: What personal projects are you working on these days?  When will the world get to hear them? 

Ali Shaheed: My main personal projects right now are my second solo LP and my Artist, Ja Poet. I’m not done with the album, but I’m looking to release singles by the end of August. Ja Poet’s mixtape is one song from finished. We’re gonna release his mixtape in a month and then start recording his album.

GS: How about your production work?  Who have you been working with and how is that all coming along? 

Ali Shaheed: Doc Martin and I produced two songs for John Legend’s upcoming album. One of the songs is the title track. We had a good time putting that together. John, what can I say, he is an amazing singer and a wizard in the studio. I have great respect for his approach. I only wish more artist were as focused. Doc & I also worked on Alice Smith’s album. She’s flawless! I hate/love the way that she makes singing look so effortless (kids don’t try that at home unless you rehearse all day). In additions to Alice, we worked with The Weeknd. He’s a phenomenal singer, his voice and persona is it’s own atmosphere. He has made a huge impact already, and he’s just getting started. I’m looking forward to his next release. I  also co-produced a song for a new artist signed to Boardwalk; her name is ZZ Ward. ZZ has a great voice and is an incredible singer/songwriter and performer. Her music is deeply rooted in blues. I had fun working with her and her team. I look forward to seeing her artistry come to life. 

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Read the rest of the interview & get details on the party after the jump