2012: The Hip Hop Experiment

20121Tomorrow, Saturday September 26th, at 6:00 pm at The Gatehouse, Harlem Stage is hosting an all-encompassing hip hop event with conversation and performances; an overall multi-sensory virtual experience. Oh yeah, and open bar.

The experiment will be conducted by Marc Cary and Shon “Chance” Miller with artists like George Lewis, Phonte, DJ Jazzy Jay and Prodigal Sunn.

6:00 Conversation
7:30 Open Bar
8:30 Main Event
11:00 DJ set

Check here for tickets, more info and line-up

Interview with The Foreign Exchange

2_thefe_by_tobiasrose_komplekscreativeinc1

By Seher Sikandar

The Foreign Exchange (Nicolay and Phonte of Little Brother) play Yoshi’s SF with a full band at midnight on Saturday, September 12th.  Wait, what?  Yeah – midnight, y’all – for a special “Beyond Jazz Music Series.”  You can get tickets for $25 at Yoshi’s website.

In preparation for the show, I got the guys to sit down with me for about half an hour to answer some of my favorite questions.  Phonte talks about how he wishes he was Theo from The Cosby show, why he is the boss of himself, and spying on his kids.  Nicolay shares college dropout fantasies, stories of his mama’s records, and simple kidnapping best practices.  More on that in un momento.

Their debut, Connected, was a uniquely melodic hip-hop record.  It introduced me to one of my favorite female vocalists, Yahzarah (former background singer for Erykah Badu) – homegirl gets it in.  She will stomp yo ass out with those pipes, forreal forreal.

Judging from their sophomore release, Leave It All Behind, being formulaic clearly isn’t part of the plan, though.  The follow-up work steps away a bit from the group’s hip-hop roots and trades it in for a haunting soul sound sprinkled with ambient and house vibes where Phonte decided to sing more than rap. Electro-soul space cadet and DC-based songstress, Muhsinah, was the first lady for this album.  Tingles up and down your spine type isht right there.

[Read more...]

Giant Step’s Resident 34: Q-Tip, Jazzanova, K’NAAN and Miriam Makeba

margin-left:10pxBy Mawuse Ziegbe

So, I have this crush. He’s this mannish, dude-ly, male person. He builds things. He smokes things. He skies down things. It’s awesome. He’s also wicked different from me. When he tells me about his time on a ranch in Wyoming, all I can think is, “what the fuck is Wyoming?” When he invites me over for Scrabble I desperately hope it’s a euphemism for something involving latex and candle wax. Sadly, the earnest, good-guy gleam in his eye tells me it’s not. But in the interest of new horizons and all that, I accompanied him to a Reggie Watts show at Joe’s Pub. Reggie Watts looks like a cross between Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz and a down-on-his-luck Sideshow Bob. He beat-boxes and does all this nonsensical yet still politically biting scatting business that sounds like a cross between Doug E. Fresh and a manic Sideshow Bob. I mean, parts of it were cool – he made beats onstage by sampling his own voice – but lots of it was just…foolish.

When I’m not faking an interest in live music to get in a guy’s pants, I’m drooling over Q-Tip’s new album, The Renaissance. I was initially very apprehensive about this project (the internet singles like “Work It Out” were making my brain barf). But for serious, The Renaissance is gorgeous. Q-Tip has reined in his penchant for the stuttering, monotonous beats and stiff, shallow rhymes that sank 1999′s Amplified. The Renaissance is replete with dusty soul samples punched up by ‘Tip’s melodic flow and conscious yet not overly preachy messages. I literally gawked at my iPod when I heard Raphael Saadiq’s androgynous, syrupy vocals on “We Fight/We Love.” I’m all over the bendy Boogaloo beat of “Manwomanboogie” with a surprisingly sassy Amanda Diva. “Believe” is glossed with the sublime glow of D’Angelo’s trademark falsetto.

Jazzanova’s latest album, Of All The Things is also unexpectedly addictive. The German collective has handily produced one of the best albums of the year. There’s frisky nu-jazz and buttery soul that pulses with vibrant basslines and some of the most diverse voices in music. My favorite rapper Phonté tries his hand at singing “Look What You’re Doin’ To Me” and absolutely floored me with a papery falsetto that is identical to Dwele’s soft crooning. Detroit artist Paul Randolph flexes his dapper vocals throughout the album, including the sunny, inspirational number “Let Me Show Ya.” And Ben Westbeech, who’s moving feets with Kraak and Smaak’s recent hit, “Squeeze Me,” wields some UK soul on the groovy, “I Can See.” Of All The Things is like a mixtape packed with your absolute favorite songs by Mark Ronson, Solange, Coldplay, Al Jarreau, and Donnie. This is a good album to kick off any Jazzanova obsession.

African hip hop star K’Naan is kicking off his latest project with the lead single, “ABCs.” K’naan doesn’t really have a reason to make dance tracks, what with being a Somali refugee and the lack of body-rockin’ fodder that experience provides. So it’s good to see he found a way to make a party jam by spitting about the ills of street life over a souped-up version of Chubb Rock’s “Treat ‘Em Right.” Activists need to get down too.

And I’m lucky the first time I ever got down in concert was with the legendary African singer and activist, Miriam Makeba. I was about three and my parents took me to see her at Boston’s Symphony Hall. I was just barely able to see over the seats but I remember jamming to the horns for what seemed like hours. Miriam looked far away but she was washed in bright lights, commanding the sprawling band and just moving! That concert is one of my best family memories to this day; my parents were still together and Miriam’s fierceness was one of the few things they agreed on. There may not be many more Reggie Watts concerts in my future but when your first live performance is from an artist who can inspire nations, quell feuding spouses and sing until the last very last breath, you understand the rarity of greatness.