Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 7

Photo of Little Jackie at SXSW BMI Showcase © Randall Michelson

By Mawuse Ziegbe

Hey boys and girls, today’s theme is friendship. Last week I was able to support some chums as they made their dreams come true – all while being comped and whisked into places like I was special (Maybe a more apt theme is nepotism).

On Monday night, I hit up Southpaw to catch friend-in-my-head, Imani Coppola and her group, Little Jackie. I’ve been an Imani fan since way back in the ‘90s when she logged MTV-time with that nutty video and song “Legend Of A Cowgirl.” Her work with Little Jackie is no less kicky (and loopy) as she sauntered on stage and muttered pleasantries to her two stuffed bunnies. The band bubbled through a lot of new stuff which combines the breezy doo-wop riffs of The Supremes with the biting, self-aware lyrics of well, Imani Coppola. My favorite was the swingy “Black Barbie” that takes the piss out of daffy celebutantes. Throughout the night she tossed bubblegum to the crowd and took her top off, because, well, why not. It was like watching Amy Winehouse if her eccentricities were triggered by a sugar high and not a crack binge.

Tuesday, a good friend hooked up me up with list space for Dizzee Rascal’s performance at my new Slope haunt, Southpaw. Dizzee pounced on stage with his incredibly chill hype man and pummeled through his three-album deep catalogue of punchy rhymes and steely beats. The crowd went batty on ditties like “G.H.E.T.T.O.,” “Paranoid” and “Flex” from his upcoming U.S. release, Maths & English. Backstage, a bouncy Aaron LaCrate discussed 2Pac while a sleepy-eyed Dizzee recounted slap-happy times as a rowdy East End teen and dropped sage ruminations about his Nigerian and Ghanaian heritage. It was a time.

Wednesday night, another buddy put on an acoustic showcase at The Cutting Room. Real talk, I hate acoustic music. I was there simply to send some sublime head-nods of support. However, I was not prepared for the billowy-haired songstress with the mega-dimples, Stephanie Michelle, and her sharp-edged version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Her voice was this rich cocktail of feathery tones and bold melisma. With her vulnerable and generous voice, the lyrics were that much more emotive. By the end I was down right dewy-eyed and I took my behind home to blubber in private.

Finally, I caught religion at a Saturday night performance of the Broadway hit Passing Strange. I first heard about Passing Strange about this time last year through this black rock blog, and how it was about identity and colored people strummin’ git-boxes. I’m pissed that I waited for it to blow up on Broadway (everyone from Toni Morrison to Barbara Walters have checked it out. We sat behind Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz). I have never seen an artistic narrative that spoke to my experience as a surly, arty, black girl constructing her identity in a too-postmodern world. The writing, the music, the performances were literally the best things I’ve ever seen – I was pelting out giggles in one beat and nodding in tearful empathy the next. Maybe I was just having an emotional week. The friend I saw it with gave me a hug.