‘NY Loves Dilla’ at Inaugural Event Hosted by Ma Dukes

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Words by Korby Benoit

Since my earliest experiences listening to acts like Run DMC, The Fat Boys and UTFO the sound of hip-hop always made sense to me.  No one had to explain it to me or tell me that this was the “cool” music to listen to. Hip-hop has provided my musical foundation and my entry into the world of the arts.

In the spring of 1996, I was a high school student attending the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. By that time, I was a hip-hop geek who took great pride in his TDK and Maxell cassette collection of rap radio shows. I used to record Stretch Armstrong & Bobbito, The Underground Railroad with Jay Smooth, and DJ Evil Dee on Hot 97. Nevertheless, it was another Hot 97 show that introduced me to James Dewitt Yancey a.k.a. Jay Dee the artist later known as J Dilla. Future Flavors was the show and it was hosted by two of the genre’s most important and influential producers, Marley Marl and Pete Rock.

As I recall, at some point during their mix, Marley and Pete got on the mic to announce they were about to play a remix by Jay Dee. While I don’t remember if this was a remix for De La Soul, Busta Rhymes or Keith Murray, I do remember the level of excitement in the voices of the two hosts. I remember enjoying the song and like hip-hop itself, the sound just spoke to me. Yet this time in a way that was a little different; The sound was more melodic and the bass groove was simply groovier than anything I’d ever heard. At the time, it sounded like hip-hop from the future. Later I learned that Dilla was also responsible for Pharcyde’s “Runnin,” which was already one of my favorite songs in their catalog. It was evident that the producer had emerged with a new sound that rap luminaries and fans loved and longed for.

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Throwback Thursday: Freestyle Fellowship @ Metropolis – May 6, 1993

 

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For today’s Throwback Thursday, Giant Step President/CEO Maurice Bernstein shares his memories of our May 6, 1993 show with Freestyle Fellowship. And as always, we’d love for you to join us in reminiscing on the night and sharing your favorite Freestyle Fellowship memories!

Out of Los Angeles, California, Freestyle Fellowship were from the same era of LA rap groups like The Pharcyde. They were signed to 4th and Broadway and had a very jazzy hip-hop feel to them – kind of like the west coast juxtaposition to De La and Tribe. Their “Park Bench People” track in particular was a big hit for us down at the club. Jose James actually covered it many years later on The Dreamer.

This show was at Metropolis, which was the classic Giant Step venue. Metropolis was in the basement of what is now Blue Water Grill. It held about 250-300 people but we’d get like 400-500 people, all smoking and drinking. In this day and age, so many people would never be allowed in a club like that – those are times that are totally gone.

Freestyle Fellowship had a young manager named Kedar who was very impressive and also quite pushy, which definitely helped him get my attention quite early.

After managing Freestyle Fellowship, Kedar went on to manage D’Angelo, helped discover Erykah Badu, and eventually became the President of Motown Records where he signed India Arie. He’s also someone who took credit for coining the term “neo soul.” Like I said, a very impressive guy.

Having Daddy-O from Stetsasonic as a guest was a very nice addition to the bill. He was actually introduced to us by Kedar as his brother. For those that are not familiar, Stetsasonic were a hip-hop band from the late 80s/early 90s. One of their most popular tracks was a song called “Talking All That Jazz” that sampled Lonnie Liston Smith’s “Expansions,” which also was a big hit at the club.

It was a very memorable show – a hot, sweaty, sticky late night downtown. Great band to see live.

Throwback Thursday: Digable Planets @ Supper Club – Nov 10, 1993

 

For Throwback Thursday this week, Maurice recounts our first Digable Planets show! Get the scoop below.

I first found out about Digable Planets around 1992. I received a call from Dennis Wheeler, President of Pendulum Records, which was an imprint on Elektra. He knew what we were doing at Giant Step and told me he wanted to send over some demos of a new band they’d signed to hear our response. So, they sent me the demos and I thought it was very Tribe-esque [see: A Tribe Called Quest]. I ended up meeting with the band and the label to explore how Giant Step could help Digable Planets, and this actually became a very early marketing project for us without really realizing it.

Digable Planets finished “Cool Like That” and brought the test press of the track to the Giant Step club, which was then in the basement at Metropolis Café. We tested the song out on the Giant Step crowd – first time that record was ever played in public – and it went down brilliantly; people went crazy. Inspired by the response from the crowd that night, the guys went home and they made The Crashing Giant Step Mix, which was on the original 12” of “Cool Like That.”

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Ancient Astronauts Explore New Territory On We Are To Answer + MP3 Download

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Marking a foray into new frontiers of D.C.’s ESL Music, Ancient Astronauts‘ debut We Are To Answer is a melting pot of funk, dub reggae, and pure unadulterated hip hop. Featuring vocal collaborations with Bootie Brown and Imani of legendary hip hop group the Pharcyde, Azeem, Tippa Irie, Bajka, Phat Old Mamas, Ulf Stricker, Raashan Ahmad and Entropik, it’s a block rockin’, boom-bappin’ sonic tour-de-force.

Their very name, Ancient Astronauts, implies a mash-up of the distant past and the far future; traits exemplified in their melding of genres with forward-thinking flair and production technique. The artists behind Switchstance Recordings, Kabanjak and Dogu hail from Cologne, Germany…via outer space! Coy with their true origins, the duo can only confirm that they returned to planet Earth in 2001 after traveling the musical cosmos for thousands of years.

“I Came Running”

Click here to download “I Came Running” and stream more tracks from the album.