Levi’s Pioneer Sessions: Nas Covers “Hey Young World” by Slick Rick + MP3

The Levi’s Pioneer Sessions kicked off with Nas covering his “personal favorite MC” Slick Rick’s classic song, “Hey Young World,” and you can get your copy here. The series has some exciting upcoming tracks from artists like The Shins, Raphael SaadiqJohn Legend & The Roots, She & Him, Passion Pit, and more, so stay tuned! For now, check out this bonus footage of Nas laying down his track for Levi’s.


UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival: Ticket Giveaway

The UCLA Jazz Reggae Festival is coming up soon (‘Jam Day’ is May 30th, ‘Reggae Day’ is May 31st) and the line-up is fantastic. Raphael Saadiq, Q-Tip, Georgia Anne Muldrow & Declaime (G&D), The Foreign Exchange, Bilal, Quadron, hosted by Zion-I. And that’s just the first day. ‘Reggae Day’ brings on Nas & Damien Marley, Barrington Levy, and our clear favorite, Nneka. We have a pair of tickets to giveaway to one lucky winner in the area. Enter to win after the jump!

We can’t all make it there, but remember that Giant Step’s Summerstage 2010 (NYC) will feature the incredible Raphael Saadiq, with more great artists to be announced soon!

Raphael Saadiq – “Oh Girl”
 

Nneka – “Heartbeat”
 

Nas & Damien Marley – “As We Enter”
 

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Photos of Raphael Saadiq and Special Guest Anjulie at Terminal 5

From the first second to the last downbeat, the band played nonstop. There were no pauses, there was no break. Raphael Saadiq was flying a fully packed time machine to the ’60s, and it was a smooth ride. If you missed it here are a few pictures that captured the feeling.

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.