Giant Step’s Resident 37: The Roots, Q-Tip, Estelle and More

By Mawuse Ziegbe

The holiday season is always a sickening deluge of parties, stiff “holiday cheer” (which I temper with stiff drinks) and a glut of obligations. In a year of highs (getting my own column, fluffing an increasingly enviable Afro) and lows (finally ending that relationship, trying not to strangle yokels at the day job) I needed the festive distractions of the silly season more than ever. I spent Thanksgiving in the ER grappling with my mother’s decaying health taking breaks only to try to coax her into retiring and to bitch about the lack of beer in the hospital gift shop. At dinner, I looked after my mother during one of those large family gatherings attended by old African aunties and uncles who think “my writing career in New York” is a euphemism for “hooking on Hunts Point.” I returned to New York only to field calls from relatives who dropped clumsy hints (“why don’t you move back to Boston and take of your mother?”) about how I should handle the situation. Hello stress-related acne.

Managing her health crisis from another state, doctors regarded me like a crackpot with reverse-Munchausen syndrome. After rattling off a list of concerns M.D.s would respond “well she looks just dandy! We sent her off with some Halls and a smile. To do any conclusive tests we’ll need her consent and $20,000 for a new vending machine in the break room. Where are you calling from again?” Doctors would announce to colleagues that I was her daughter from New York as if I wasn’t interested in her well-being but instead looking for the right moment to steal her wallet. Between witnessing my ever-fabulous mother (we used to get mistaken for sisters until, well, I moved away) fade into a shadow of her former self and dealing with residents who act like they got their book-learnin’ from the Fisher Price School of My First Malpractice Suit, I needed some cot-damn holiday cheer.

The only fete I could drag myself to was the Okayplayer and Frank 151 bash at B.B. Kings. The lineup was like The Roots Present Everyone They’ve Ever Met – EVER. Melle Mel milled about in a white suit that can only be described as “pimpalicious.” After a tepid set by Tanya Morgan featuring 88 Keys and a jazzy appearance from Alice Smith, Res and Talib Kweli satisfied fans with “Get By” and “We Got The Beat.” When The Roots began rocking the frenetic thump of “You Got Me,” we knew it was time for an extra special female guest. Out came Estelle with a completely uncalled-for bowl cut. Despite the “Family Ties” hair, she delivered a dubby version of the classic Roots joint and segued into her dubby single, “Come Over.”

After The Roots performed Fela Kuti’s “Beasts Of No Nation,” Bilal, looking and sounding like the bastard love child of Melvin Van Peebles and Prince, howled his way through an epic rendition “Soul Sista.” Q-Tip performed “Manwomanboogie,” “Gettin’ Up” and a few gnarly freestyle bars. Pharoahe Monch and Black Thought joined in and then, smooth as pie, Q-Tip swapped drumming duties with ?uestlove. So then, it’s ‘Tip on drums, Thought on the mic and my jaw on the floor. I left around 2 AM with the plucky tones of The Roots’ “Next Movement” as my traveling music.

I dread it every year but in 2008, I learned that the holidays can always be worse. So bless The Roots, a band that has given me countless memories that don’t involve congested shopping malls and tense family moments. Bless the friends who have been able to slip in a festive distraction here and there. And bless my ma, whose wallet I hope to make off with come Christmas morn.

Giant Step’s Resident: The City, The Sounds, The Soul Part 15

Photo of ?uestlove and Black Thought at Sutra © Michael July, Natural Light Studio

By Mawuse Ziegbe

This week, I’m summoning my awesome power as an online columnist and declaring Chin Chin your new favorite band. You kids pouting over the loss of Jamiroquai’s squirrelly baselines, buck up. And those who wish they could understand the cheeky lyrics that pepper the slinky disco of Los Amigos Invisibles, calm down. Chin Chin is here with a boatload of soul as their Tuesday night album release at Union Pool demonstrated. All warbling Rhodes disco featuring support from bubbling soul singer, Jesse Boykins. And the lead singer made it work in a satiny kimono. Genius.

Wednesday evening, Pharoahe Monch touched down at SOBs for some fun and games. He launched right into tracks like “Welcome To The Terrordome” “Let Go” “Got You” and “The Light.” About half-way into the set he stepped back and BK MC Talib Kweli bust out with a couple verses of his rally song “Hostile Gospel.” Of course Monch wrapped it up with the crowd favorites: the velvety “Desire” and the menacing, super hit “Simon Says.” The highlight of the show however, was Pharaohe’s backup singer who turned the stage into a pulpit, lighting up the stage with electric, churchified wails.

And bless jaded co-workers who think Erykah Badu tickets are soooo whatevs. On Friday one such co-worker ambled by, waving a ticket and noted, “you like The Roots, right?” Well, no duh. The concert was stunning for a couple reasons. One, I ain’t ne’er been to no Radio City Music Hall so I got a kick out of the vaudevillian drapery that even made the ginormous flat-screens all pretty-like. Two, I ain’t ne’er been to no Erykah Badu concert. She had a little on stage work station complete with a laptop, synth and thermos where she worked her wizardry. Most Erykah fans are madly in love with her and if “On & On” is like the first kiss then “Otherside of the Game” is like the first time you made love. On stage, the former was sprightly, the latter sensual. She also did extended versions of album cuts like “Orange Moon” and “Green Eyes.” And ooh chile, the performance art on “Green Eyes” is worth the ticket alone. Best $100 my co-worker has ever spent.


Photo of Mos Def and Rich Medina at Sutra © Michael July, Natural Light Studio

Afterwards, I checked out the URB Magazine after party featuring DJ Spinna and ?uestlove on the decks at Sutra. I’m really beginning to think there are multiple ?uestloves because in the 30 minutes it took me to get downtown, homeboy was well into a dizzying set of top shelf mid-90s hip hop (Biggie, Guru et al). ?uest took the top floor, Spinna took the basement and between the two everything from Jade (Don’t Walk Awaaay boy) to Janet pumped through the speakers. And it wouldn’t be Spinna party without the never-ending Prince vs Michael debate on the dance floor. Even Mos Def made an appearance. But I think the week belonged to Louie Vega. People were lined up around 5:45 before the 6pm kick-off at the Hudson and Louie wasn’t afraid of no disco heat. He served up sizzling hits like Jackie Moore’s “This Time Baby” and Cher‘s “Take Me Home.” Overness. People just couldn’t keep their feets still. Like this guy:

Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.

But our Dancers Of The Week were couples who epitomized the decorous yet sassy partner dances of the disco heyday. The Hustle anyone? Lauren
Passion: Artist
Favorite chunes: Samba

Fauzi
Money-Maker: DJ
Favorite Louie-endorsed Jam: “Supernature” by Cerrone
Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.

Herby
Day Gig: Consultant
Jammy Jam: “Time Warp” by Eddie Grant

Lensa
Honest Job: Public Health
Favorite Song: “Any Love” by Rufus and Chaka Khan

Photo © Phillip Angert. View more photos.