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...]

Giant Step’s Resident 35: Revelations 35:1–35:6 – Milk, TK Wonder and Alice Russell

Photo of Alice Russell

By Mawuse Ziegbe

This week is all about revelations. Firstly, TK Wonder is the greatest rapper alive. She rocked the When Boy Meets Girl IV show at Southpaw which featured acts like Sarah White who pumped out sweet, punky soul that is a pain to classify but easy to shimmy to. With her psychedelic leggings and a feather in her hair, TK looked like Gem playing a game of Cowboys and Indians. But then she spits over Taylor McFerrin‘s mouth-made beats with the rapid fire diction of Busta Rhymes and the mellow, gravelly tone of Digable Planets’ Ladybug Mecca. And the random, robotic dance breaks? She had me at the first hip-thrust.

Revelation #2: I hate spoken word. Hate it from the bottom of my Dolce Vita heels to the tips of my Ms. Jessie’s-lacquered afro. I’ve hated spoken word for years now (I nearly rioted the last time I went to Bowery Poetry Club) but I kind of thought I’d grow out of it. Even the quick-tongued observations of spoken word collective Ill-literacy at Crash Mansion couldn’t snap me out of it. They were definitely entertaining; calling out celebrity hypocrites and dropping the f-bomb to the glee of the crowd. But I just felt like I was in a freshman dorm.

Revelation #3: History is repeating itself. I checked out a screening of Milk about the first openly gay US politician Harvey Milk who was gunned down in the late 1970s. Sean Penn plays the affable Milk as the epicenter of the gay rights movement in San Francisco. Director Gus Van Sant authenticates the film with actual broadcast footage that echoes the current clash between proponents and critics of California’s Proposition 8. Milk’s rhetoric of hope is especially eerie in light of our incoming presidential administration.

Revelation #4: Rappers have no business anywhere near Broadway. Jim Jones, who has been building his indie cred by remixing MGMT and Kid Cudi, recently staged an off-Broadway two-night run of the autobiographical play, “Hip Hop Monologues: Inside the Life and Mind of Jim Jones.” The play follows Jim Jones as he completes community service after being caught up in a shoot-out. “Monologues” finishes with the goofiest non-ending ever: After Jones’ girlfriend gives birth, he sprays the stage with bubbly and launches into his latest single “Pop Champagne.” Like, what?

Revelation #5: I need to spend more time above 14th street. Friday night, Alice Russell lit up Hiro Ballroom with her snarly versions of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” and Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” After two encores, I moseyed over to APT where Jeannie Hopper was spinning. She dropped lots of twinkly electro-soul as her friend schooled me on how to fake my way into a prescription for medical marijuana. Later, I checked out Fedde Le Grand at Pacha. The place was brimming with bridge-and-tunnel charm and I spent a lot of the time dodging dry-humping couples (Fun fact: the columns at Pacha are padded to facilitate comfortable dry-humping). As Fedde dropped intense, bottom-heavy hard house, chalky fake smoke descended from the ceiling and a blitz of strobe lights shot through the club. My downtown posturing melted away and I raised my hands and gave into the amazingness. Show me someone who can resist flashing lights, growling bass and store-bought fog and I’ll show you a brazen lie-teller.

Revelation #6: Never underestimate the magic of nightlife.