The Green Album and Stay True

Check out this album which features remixes of Al Green’s classics with artists such as Jay Z, Common, Fugees, Method Man, MF Doom, Busta Rhymes, The Pharcyde, Notorious B.I.G., De La Soul, AZ, Nas, Pharaohe Monch and Mos Def.

The Green Album is a free download! But if you love the album as much as I do, please donate to Stay True. Stay True is a Philadelphia based non-profit organization dedicated to offering under-privileged, at-risk youth the opportunity to develop the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to become powerful agents of social/political change in their communities.

Giant Step’s Resident 26: Giant Step’s SummerStage and Rock The Bells

Photo of Jamie Lidell © Phillip Angert
View photos here. Archive link here.

By Mawuse Ziegbe

When you miss things, your good friends will fill you in on the highlights and assure you that no matter the pyrotechnics, special guests or bales of free money thrown in the air, you didn’t miss much. Well. If you missed Giant Step’s 2008 Summerstage show, your friends probably fed you a barrel full of fibs. The vibe was laid-back with adorable chubby-cheeked kids and their still-hip parents splayed on blankets. In between sets, Gilles Peterson spun everything from “Creator” to “California Soul.” José James was all midsummery goodness, showing off both his bold, round vocals and his brain-liquefying scatting skills. Little Jackie pumped the crowd with “The Stoop,” “LOL,” “The World Should Revolve Around Me” and probably scared the chubby-cheeked kids with rebellious directives like “put your middle fingers in the air!” But throwing up the potty-finger wasn’t the most jaw-dropping antic by far.

Jamie Lidell turned out an epic performance looking like a crazy person in a dark shirtless blazer and darker tapered pants. He began his hour-long set with syrupy soul jams like “Green Light” and “Figured Me Out,” and soon switched into talkbox scatting. Most of the band was dressed in snappy man-onesies and the sax man even blew two horns at once. After the solos, Jamie was left to his own devices and sampled his own vocals to make a beat onstage. I mean, can humans do that? Even still both Jamie and Little Jackie began their sets with, “whoa! Did you guys see Janelle Monae??”

Monae took to the stage after her android-inspired introduction and unleashed her frenzied footwork and fiery energy that perked up the crowd. She rocked “Happy Hunting/Violent Stars!” “Smile” and “Sincerely Jane” where she kicked over the mic stand (much to the chagrin of the Summerstage audio guy) and crowd surfed. She rode the crest of concertgoers with enviable abandon, as husky security guards lumbered after her and weary label people in the photo pit began punching away on Blackberrys. In a moment of cartoony chaos, a pair of shoes flew through the air. She ended with “Lettin’ Go,” a track that’s good a ratio of The Neptunes’ spacey clinks to Miami Sound Machine’s calypso funk. Just before running off and leaving a park full of slack-jawed, sweaty, newly-converted fans in her wake, she crashed the mic stand against the stage more violently than before.

After the Summerstage show I ran off to Long Island to check out the Rock The Bells tour. 7 PM I leave Central Park. 10:30 PM I arrive at Jones Beach Theater. It took subway, rail, foot and gypsy cab to finally arrive in the amphitheatre in the middle of Nas’ set. I’ve never seen him live and he was…simple. A white T-shirt and a rope of bling completed his ensemble and only a spare N-A-S lit up the screen in the background. He played a ton of songs including, “It Ain’t Hard To Tell,” “One Love,” “Hate Me Now,” “Nastradamus,” and his current single “Hero.” The hip hop heads nearly exploded when he brought Jay-Z out for their two duets, “Success” and “Black Republicans.” But I personally believe that bringing out your erstwhile rival on wax to perform your mediocre collabos is not so crescent fresh. Overall, it was very…whatever.

The show closed with the legendary A Tribe Called Quest reunion I’ve been waiting on for, oh, ten years. At first Q-Tip came out alone performing “Higher,” “Let’s Ride” and other selections from his painfully jiggy solo debut that no real ATCQ fan gives a hoot about. Tip is out there shakin’ his tailfeather and I’m truly getting angry. Where is the group, the collective, the Queens trio that has never been the same since they disbanded? Making the show all about him was appalling. He didn’t come off like the Wyclef or the Lauryn – he was the Pras. Delusional, self-important and wasting the audience’s time. The show really started when finally, about 20 minutes in, Ali Shaheed descends upon the wheels of steel and Phife Dawg gallops out. And then they bring it. “Award Tour,” “Electric Relaxation,” “Find A Way,” “Bonita Applebum.” A fiery Busta Rhymes rumbles out for the posse cut of the ages, “Scenario.” Then we all, about 10,000 of us, put one finger in the air for hip hop – and for the 3-hour sojourn back to NYC.

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 14

Photo © Collin LaFleche

By Mawuse Ziegbe

You know that part in The Wiz when Evelline dies and all the workers unzip their fug suits and reveal themselves to be finely crafted specimens of muscular excellence swathed in cherubic linen? That’s how I felt this weekend. The sun finally dropped its deadbeat ways and while picking out miniskirts on Sunday, I felt like a liberated Oz worker.

The journey to freedom started with an acoustic set featuring Van Hunt at soul haven, S.O.Bs. Van is one of my favorite artists ever. Take a whole mess of grunting, sweaty Prince, mix in the panty-droppin’ falsetto of Maxwell and toss on stage. With no band and just his guitar and piano, he strummed and hummed through songs like “Hot Stage Lights,” “Dust,” “Being A Girl,” “Character,” and “Down Here In Hell.” All the while, he regaled the army of Van nuts with tales about everything from his penniless musician days to getting his dranky drank on. Sadly, he didn’t play his last Blue Note single, “The Lowest 1 Of My Desires” but he did take it back to the Dionne Farris slow jam “Hopeless” from the Love Jones soundtrack.

Friday night, I hit up Madison Square Garden to take in a performance from some rapper named Jay-Z and this rhythm and blues singer, Mary J. Blige. I think they’re big on the internet or something. But for serious, I’d never seen Mary in concert and only one word can describe her performance: Wooo!! Homegirl was squatting and bellowing hits like “Real Love,” “Be Happy,” and “Work That.” She shouted out celeb pals in the audience (Oprah, Jodie Foster) and ended the set with “Just Fine,” replete with hair-singeing pyro. “Lil’ Project Mary J. Blige” – as she charmingly referred to herself – put the “hot damn!!” in the Heart Of The City Tour. Sadly, Jigga was packing more “ho-hum” than heat. His set, although peppered with hits like “Can I Get A…” “H to the Izzo” and “Give It To Me,” withered into tedium. I genuinely screamed when Beyonce swished on stage for a 10-second booty wiggle but that’s only because I was really bored.


Photo © Collin LaFleche

The summer continued to blossom anew as Studio B unveiled its spiffy new rooftop with a par-tay featuring NuBlu stalwarts Brazilian Girls. Getting to the venue was on some ‘ol MacGyver foolery (Dear G Train: Get it together!) but I slid into the B’girls set just as they were in mid-song and the crowd was in mid-rapture. This night had a gang of potential. But, Spank Rock , who always brings sunny, good-natured debauchery, had to bow out due to illness (Curses!). The rooftop we were feting became too crowded (Rats!) and the music was almost amazing. However tinny, crowd-thinning tracks were not mixed out quickly enough (Foiled Again!).

I wrapped up the week with a beer at Habana Outpost, which is basically day camp for Brooklynites. Swiggin’ my draft in the cool night air, I knew that summer, in all its blockbuster tour and rooftop splendor, was finally rolling in. I felt like I could unzip my face and toast to a brand new day. Bring on the flying monkeys.