Giant Step’s Resident 40: Lykke Li, Alaska In Winter and Friends We Love Festival

By Mawuse Ziegbe

So many rising stars sell out shows, sing along to a DAT, bask in their blogosphere buzz and call it a day. But congregates, believe wholly and fully in the hype of
Lykke Li. Rapturous Lykke Li followers enveloped Webster Hall and homegirl brought it. Her album Youth Novels is all feathery textures, pillowy vocals and naked emotion. And while she opened with the ethereal “Melodies & Desires,” she spent the rest of the show busting up the stage with rollicking versions of her dreamy break-up jams. Swathed in black layers she rocked “Dance, Dance, Dance,” banging on her drummer’s cymbals and shaking up the folky number with freewheeling spunk. The crowd drooled when she went into “I’m Good I’m Gone.” The band gave “Little Bit” a downtempo, acoustic revamp that heightened the vulnerability of the original version. During the encore she slipped in a cover of A Tribe Called Quest’s “Can I Kick It” and finished with “Breaking It Up.” For a Swedish pop star, she was mad hip hop. It was kinda like Lil’ Kim Presents Lykke Li. Amazing.

Alaska in Winter is also doing some fun stuff performance-wise. A slight fellow with a penchant for suits and fur hats, the project’s Brandon Bethancourt tinkered with an assortment of homemade key-tars (like, guitars duct-taped to keyboards), ukuleles and synths at Williamsburg’s Monkeytown. The show had all the makings of crappy experimental theater (one guy, too many instruments, a tolerant, touchy-feely audience). But unlike crappy experimental theater it came across as a meticulously planned performance experience. Bethancourt projected video of himself playing each instrument individually on Monkeytown’s four screens. He dressed in layers and disrobed throughout the set to match his virtual doppelgangers. So say before he goes into his pulsing, New Wave jam “Berlin,” he’ll take off his brown slacks to reveal some crisp white skinny pants that match the four celluloid Bethancourts strumming banjoes, slamming key-tars and wearing horsey masks. Ok, my description sounds like I huff glue but I pinky swear it’s a totally great show.

I had a ridiculous time at the Friends We Love Festival. It was all beautiful Brooklyn folk who only come to the city for gritty yet fabulous parties such as this one. DJs like the legendary Bobbito and DJ Moni spun the chunes and Platinum Pied Pipers’ Wajeed made an appearance. And there was the requisite indoor street art and that everybody was too drunk to really notice. The party also had the rowdiest entrance sitchy I’ve ever encountered. You go to the door and there’s a sign saying the party’s moved across the street. Fine. You get to that address and there’s another sign saying it moved around the corner. Um, ok. The next entrance says it’s on the other side of the building. Just when I’m about to give up thinking the party’s in Narnia, I find the entrance. And the elevator isn’t working. Joy. Five flights later, I get to the party. Sarah White and DJ Don Cuco hit the stage and I bop to their snappy number “I Wanna Be With You.” Hopefully this bit of blog buzz doesn’t make them switch to DATs. I think more rising stars need to slam key-tars and channel Lil Kim.

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.