Giant Step’s Resident 23: Little Jackie, Brazilian Girls, Platinum Pied Pipers, Wale and Blu

Photo of Wale at SOB’s © Antwan Duncan

By Mawuse Ziegbe

On Thursday, I learned something: Steve Madden is a real person. I just never saw that coming. But he is real and showed up to the Giant Step Little Jackie party at the Steve Madden store in the L.E.S. He and other non-imaginary people came to see Little Jackie perform acoustic renditions of their playful repertoire from their new album, The Stoop. Little Jackie’s wily frontwoman Imani Coppola, who often misbehaves in concert (much to my personal glee), played a restrained yet enjoyable set, including songs “Guys Like When Girls Kiss” and “28 Butts.” She seemed like she wanted get into some trouble (maybe knock over a sandal display or throw a bag of peds in the air) but she played the good girl role quite well.

On Friday, a girl I know, let’s just call her Bawuse, had a horrible time at the Brazilian Girls show at Prospect Park. She went out with a nice enough fella whose friends deployed one of the most effective cock-block campaigns in modern history. He introduced Bawuse to one friend who gave her the side-eye. Bawuse learns later, that she’s the friend of an ex-girlfriend which made Bawuse an enemy most foul. Another friend took creepy pose pictures and grilled her on reasons why she and her date weren’t going home together. You know those great, successful people who are chronically single? Bawuse learned there is no easy way of saying, “if you ever want to get some, throw your friends off a bridge.” As far the Brazilian Girls’ actual show, Bawuse thought the cavernous annals of Prospect Park engulfed the ambient rhythms and frontwoman Sabina Sciubba’s subtle and cozy vocals. But Sciubba was all types of fierce in a dress that looked like an angular cream-puff and the pillars of smoke that flared up from the crowd when Sciubba sang “pussy, pussy, pussy marijuana” made Bawuse giggle.

I spent most of Saturday getting my sloth on. I blew a couple hours gossiping in the park and then I got some cake. Cake with frosting. But for serious, I really got going when I saw Platinum Pied Pipers at Southpaw. They were dressed in pimpalicious shades of Dover like they just left a white party thrown by Sly Stone. And they brought the partaaay with three live-ass singers and bucket loads of joy. They rounded out the half-hour performance with their clangy cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover.” Mostly, I had fun because they had fun. So snaps in a circle to artists with job satisfaction.

Sunday, I hit the Afropunk block party featuring The Ceasarz, J*Davey and Kudu (Oh, and am I the only one starting to feel out of place at summer shindigs because I don’t have an Afro and a toddler?).One of my favorite underrated bands, The Carps brought their crazy Canadian ways to Clinton Hill. They had this weird robbery interlude that they reenacted live which made my head hurt. They sang their Bel Biv Devoe-meets-Poison track “Compton To Scarboro” and some new ish I didn’t recognize. They bounced between instruments with Jahmal singing and drumming and Neil strumming and tinkling. Snaps in a circle to the duo for embodying the colloquialism “hold it down.”

Later, Wale and Blu tore up S.O.B.s. Blu had the audience swooning over his snappy rhymes and Exile flashed his turntabling skills. Skillz threw down with a surprise performance and Talib Kweli jumped in the last song. But Kweli didn’t like, rap or anything. He just yelled a few “yeahs” and left the stage like nothing happened. Awk-ward. Then Wale came out. For someone whose image is so swaggerific, he was refreshingly democratic with his stage show. He kicked his rhymes, including his verse from his Roots collabo “Rising Up” but he was mostly recounting the history of go-go and letting his band and DC group UCB shine. At one point he stopped to answer a text but I didn’t mind, because he set up a machine of musicians who kept it jumpin.’ I’ve been to many shows where I’ve stared at some rap music singer pacing about and have wanted to shoot a crossbow in my eye. So, snaps to artists with the confidence to let the music take center stage.

Giant Step’s Resident 22: Afropunk Festival, Ronnie Spector and Afrika Bambaataa

Photo of Afrika Bambaataa and crew © Phillip Angert
View photos here. Archive link here.

By Mawuse Ziegbe

Hear ye, hear ye! The negroes are coming! 2008 Afropunk Festival is in town! This year at BAM, there’s a skate ramp (courtesy of some hefty corporate might) and performances from artists like Kudu and Proton. But as luck would have it, I missed most of the festival’s kickoff because I was in Boston for July 4th hanging out with my mother. We watched the fireworks peel off into the sky above The Charles River as Rascal Flatts saluted Old Glory. Them pretty sparkle lights sure soothed any qualms I have about the holiday’s dubious celebratory overtones. When I got back to New York I went to Franklin Park, the bestest new bar ever. Tucked away on a sleepy residential street in Crown Heights, Park houses an outcrop of beautiful people enjoying the formidable selection of beers and grooving to D’Angelo, Fela Kuti and remixes of Fela Kuti featuring D’Angelo. Afterwards, I went to the West Village to dispense some birthday knocks to Lucas of DJ duo Sweatshop Labor at Love. Fun most foul was had by all.

While I missed most of the Afropunk kick-off, on Sunday I caught neo-negro-rock Svengali James Spooner’s latest film, White Lies, Black Sheep. Personally, I was a fan of the proliferation of male crotch shots; I mean the film was packed with celluloid man ass that you just don’t see these days. Yes, of course there is the storyline about negotiating blackness and personal identity in this mockumentary set in the heady downtown NYC rock scene. However, that storyline is weakened by the film’s desperate lunges at messages that were touched on in Afropunk, Spooner’s excellent 2003 documentary on coloreds in the rock and scene. In a admirable attempt to drive home the idea that tokens should own their otherness, stereotypes skew the film’s impact as a monotonous pattern arises: white girls = airheads, black girls = depressed, white guys = dickheads, black guys = slutty and depressed. But crotch shots aren’t the movie’s sole redeeming factor as the soundtrack kicks fuckin’ ass, the actors grapple valiantly with the script and cameos from real club lords like Michael T. and Queen Majesty lend authenticity.

The same day at McCarren Park Pool, girl group queen Ronnie Spector hit the stage. The black rocktress ambled on stage in a saucy all black bustier number but she was soon felled by the oppressive heat and performed most of the set perched on an amplifier. Sadly, she was pitchy and sounded like she was passing a melon. And not to compare female Rock and Roll Hall of Famers but maybe that lack of energy is why Tina Turner is Tinaaaah: The Legendary Survivor and Ronnie comes off as a legend of beehived kitsch.

But if you wanna talk legends, the conversation has to turn to Afrika Bambaataa. The father of hip hop packed the Hudson HotelGiant Step’s latest DJ event last Monday and demonstrated his many levels of, as VH1 would say, totally awesomeness. When you’re credited with creating a genre as culturally significant as hip hop, all you are ever required to do at a gig is show up and enjoy the sweet, sweet ass-kisses. But Bambaataa turned the joint out spinning everything from comfort disco (Cheryl Lynn, Sugarhill Gang) to whippersnapper jams like Reggaeton from Tego Calderón, Baltimore Club remixes of Kelis and speaker-shattering Trance. Bambaataa has every right to curmudgeonly cling to the hip hop of yesteryear but his nimble curiosity means he’ll evolve not only as a selector but an artist. And that’s legendary status, honey.