Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 15

Photo of ?uestlove and Black Thought at Sutra © Michael July, Natural Light Studio

By Mawuse Ziegbe

This week, I’m summoning my awesome power as an online columnist and declaring Chin Chin your new favorite band. You kids pouting over the loss of Jamiroquai’s squirrelly baselines, buck up. And those who wish they could understand the cheeky lyrics that pepper the slinky disco of Los Amigos Invisibles, calm down. Chin Chin is here with a boatload of soul as their Tuesday night album release at Union Pool demonstrated. All warbling Rhodes disco featuring support from bubbling soul singer, Jesse Boykins. And the lead singer made it work in a satiny kimono. Genius.

Wednesday evening, Pharoahe Monch touched down at SOBs for some fun and games. He launched right into tracks like “Welcome To The Terrordome” “Let Go” “Got You” and “The Light.” About half-way into the set he stepped back and BK MC Talib Kweli bust out with a couple verses of his rally song “Hostile Gospel.” Of course Monch wrapped it up with the crowd favorites: the velvety “Desire” and the menacing, super hit “Simon Says.” The highlight of the show however, was Pharaohe’s backup singer who turned the stage into a pulpit, lighting up the stage with electric, churchified wails.

And bless jaded co-workers who think Erykah Badu tickets are soooo whatevs. On Friday one such co-worker ambled by, waving a ticket and noted, “you like The Roots, right?” Well, no duh. The concert was stunning for a couple reasons. One, I ain’t ne’er been to no Radio City Music Hall so I got a kick out of the vaudevillian drapery that even made the ginormous flat-screens all pretty-like. Two, I ain’t ne’er been to no Erykah Badu concert. She had a little on stage work station complete with a laptop, synth and thermos where she worked her wizardry. Most Erykah fans are madly in love with her and if “On & On” is like the first kiss then “Otherside of the Game” is like the first time you made love. On stage, the former was sprightly, the latter sensual. She also did extended versions of album cuts like “Orange Moon” and “Green Eyes.” And ooh chile, the performance art on “Green Eyes” is worth the ticket alone. Best $100 my co-worker has ever spent.


Photo of Mos Def and Rich Medina at Sutra © Michael July, Natural Light Studio

Afterwards, I checked out the URB Magazine after party featuring DJ Spinna and ?uestlove on the decks at Sutra. I’m really beginning to think there are multiple ?uestloves because in the 30 minutes it took me to get downtown, homeboy was well into a dizzying set of top shelf mid-90s hip hop (Biggie, Guru et al). ?uest took the top floor, Spinna took the basement and between the two everything from Jade (Don’t Walk Awaaay boy) to Janet pumped through the speakers. And it wouldn’t be Spinna party without the never-ending Prince vs Michael debate on the dance floor. Even Mos Def made an appearance. But I think the week belonged to Louie Vega. People were lined up around 5:45 before the 6pm kick-off at the Hudson and Louie wasn’t afraid of no disco heat. He served up sizzling hits like Jackie Moore’s “This Time Baby” and Cher‘s “Take Me Home.” Overness. People just couldn’t keep their feets still. Like this guy:

Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.

But our Dancers Of The Week were couples who epitomized the decorous yet sassy partner dances of the disco heyday. The Hustle anyone? Lauren
Passion: Artist
Favorite chunes: Samba

Fauzi
Money-Maker: DJ
Favorite Louie-endorsed Jam: “Supernature” by Cerrone
Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.

Herby
Day Gig: Consultant
Jammy Jam: “Time Warp” by Eddie Grant

Lensa
Honest Job: Public Health
Favorite Song: “Any Love” by Rufus and Chaka Khan

Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 10

Photo of DJ Spinna & Jazzy Jeff © Michael July

By Mawuse Ziegbe

Many of you may know that being a proper New York resident means flitting off to warmer locales and scaring the natives with your frenetic pace, ever-present dark sunglasses and debilitating ache for anything caffeinated. It’s even more fun when you infest said locales in groups. Such was the case this March, when all the cool kids left NYC to the office monkeys for the SXSW festival in Austin and the Winter Music Conference in Miami. Sadly, my day gig as a dedicated office monkey doesn’t allow for such indulgences so I tapped some cool kids to regale us with tales of some of the biggest events in independent music. Turns out both events were optimal for networking and raising awareness about rising and established artists. Or, for as you’ll read below, boozing it up and not stopping ’til you’ve got enough. Personal goal for March 2009: Quit office monkey position.

Winter Music Conference – Miami, FL
$mall ¢hange – DJ, B.A. In Snappy Verbosity, PhD in procuring rare and dusty disco rhythms
Even with the silicone and overpriced society of South Beach, it’s hard not to have a good time. Some highlights: dinner at Puerto Sagua with Monk One and Gas Lamp Killer rocking doubles of hip hop instrumentals at Mad Decent vs Turntable Lab, Sinbad destroying Raw Fusion at Jazid with broken beat to B’more soul remixes, myself dropping crackly sevens at the James Brown tribute party, the paparazzi set checking DJ Spinna with Ms. Baduizm at Giant Step, Dam Funk and Stones Throw Illuminati at the Raleigh Sat. afternoon, Subatomic Sound System dropping chilled vibes at Miambient, and ending with sneaking a J with a mud bath at The Standard. It’s not so bad after all, even with the spring break bs and $7 bottled waters.


Photo © Phillip Angert

SXSW – Austin, TX
Christie Brown – Video Editor, Derby Hat-and-Mussy Hair Combo Enthusiast
Me and mine snuck into an unofficial iheartcomix/JellyNYC party by haggling security and claiming we were a DJ collective. The party ended up being completely WACK – they were denying droves of people entry and the space was super empty. Their one bar had retarded lines, and while the acts were alright, I wasn’t feeling the music possibly based on the difficult circumstances of getting there. So no booze, can’t get all my friends in, nothin’ to do, no where to go. Well, turns out there was a party on the North Lamar pedestrian bridge so we sauntered over there. Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of the previous 2 hours of my life, but No Age played and it was fucking great. Apparently, NME claimed there was a riot which caused police to come, but I must have missed it; I was talking to random stragglers like a drunken fool ’til the wee hours of the morning.

The weather was nice all week, at every hour of the day people found it personally offensive if you didn’t have a beer in your hand and would place one in your grubby hands. I ran into Brooklyn kids left and right… I was filming for Jay Buim’s Todd P documentary from the time I woke up in the late morning/early afternoon to the time I went to bed, starting by hopping in a van on my birthday and driving pretty much straight through to Austin with assorted hijinks along the way. Didn’t sleep much at all, pleasantly lost my damn mind, saw Jah-Jah [from NYC's Ninjasonik] more times in 4 days than I’ve seen him in the last 6 months. Ate lots of meat ’cause that’s what they do in Texas. Oh, but check this, I got a fucking original Salt ‘n’ Pepa concert t-shirt for 8 dollars. Don’t tell me that isn’t straight flamboastin’ cause I will say “Emphatically No” to that.


Photo of Retro Kids © Michael July

Winter Music Conference – Miami, FL
Michael July – Photographer, Occasional DJ and Frequent Dance Floor Connoisseur
I would definitely say the most eventful moment for me at the WMC was captured in this photo I took. DJ Spinna was killing it on the 1s & 2s. Mixing classic hip hop joints at Jazzy Jeff’s “Nothing But An Old School Party,” which featured performances by Common, Talib Kweli, Biz Markie, King Sun, Skills and DJ Jazzy Jeff. All of a sudden pandemonium broke out…the Retro Kids came out of nowhere and started taking it back with all the old school dances as Spinna did his thing. The young lady in the photo, obviously a true head, suddenly paused from her torrid dancing, turned and looked up at Spinna and Jeff and shouted “that’s my jaaammm!” The intensity in her face says it all.


Photo © Michael July

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 1

February 4th, 2008: MLK Weekend
By Mawuse Ziegbe

This column is kicking off at the top of Black History Month and what better way to usher in February than with a bunch of celebrations in honor of that great orator and organizer, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. As a student, MLK weekend often means a wave of essays, lectures, symposia and even pageants commemorating his legacy. As an about-town 20-something in NYC it often means spending Sunday night shearing rugs at crowded venues throughout the city.

Dante’s Fried Chicken is a celebration with a very simple premise: sizzle up sumptuous eats and dish them out to the too-cool Scenester / Afro-punk / Post-Black / Neo-New Wave community. I was brazenly underdressed, what with my lack of designer leggings in eye-searing colors and baroque approach to accessorizing, but it is always encouraging to the see the cool kids do their thing. At Supreme Trading in Williamsburg, a much hyped fashion show took a few hours to materialize but not before some unforgettable performances hit the stage. One lanky crooner took the stage in a waxy patent leather overcoat, mumbling some curious couplets about tea. There were some spot-on acts like J. Zilla who hit hard with attitude-laced electro and booty-shakin’ prodigy, Rye Rye, fresh off well-received appearances with M.I.A., who brought the crowd to its hype apex. After struggling through the dense mob that enveloped the food table, I finally got to taste Dante’s famed chicken which was most satisfying indeed.

Next I dropped by Meatpacking’s dance haven Cielo to check out Norman Jay and DJ Spinna at Giant Step’s MLK Weekend bash. DJ Spinna dropped soulful house throughout the night, blending left-field remixes with classic foot-stompers. I got there a bit early while worldly power broker-types calmly milled about while a few downtown dance heads unleashed their footwork on the sparsely populated dance floor. But about 20 minutes later, the momentum bubbled up during the raucous ebb and flow of Fela Kuti’s “Zombie” which was woven into some sweaty James Brown funk. Ultimately the blithe energy of tracks like “Another Star” by Stevie Wonder really made the night.

Later at B.B. King’s, The 5-year anniversary of the Friday night weekly, The Freedom Party, with DJ Herbert and DJ Cosi sharing deck duties, was all about Black (music) history. Like some interactive hip hop lesson, a parade of Golden Era-hip hop stars burst out of the wings and showered the crowd with dizzying energy and memorable melodies. After Chubb Rock warmed up the crowd, Bronx duo Nice & Smooth got heads a-noddin’ with well-worn hits like “Sometimes I Rhyme Slow” and their verses from Gangstarr’s 1992 classic “DWYCK.” And in a moment straight out of 1992, Positive K bumrushed the stage and bounded through a verse of his hit “I Got A Man.” Then one of the demigoddesses of freestyle music, Lisa Lisa, took to the mic. She brought back school dance memories with flirty numbers like, “I Wonder If I Take You Home” and “Let The Beat Him ‘Em.” She also brought back break-up memories as the crowd swayed to her epic power ballad, “All Cried Out.”

At 3AM, just as I was ready to pack up my heels and wander back home, hip hop icon Slick Rick majestically sauntered on stage, weighed down under a gargantuan amount of gold rope chains. With his laidback cadence, he casually launched into “La Di Da Di” until another figure lumbered on stage and a roar erupted from the audience. I tried to keep from fainting as Biz Markie started beatboxing with Slick Rick.

I woke up on Martin Luther King Day more tired than in previous years but also with a bit more perspective. Yes, of course, the parties are thrown because most kids don’t have school or work the following day. Still, if one figure can have Black artists from punk to house to hip hop music, pulling out all the stops, it’s a freedom that we all should be grateful for.