By: R. Kayeen Thomas
Let me begin by saying that I appreciate any mainstream rap song that can convince me it’s more than a massive collision of overused genitalia, black urban corpses, and Ciroc. The sad reality is that after I realized Mos Def and Talib Kweli weren’t starting their own labels and tagging protégés, I intentionally began dumbing myself down. Now, give me 6-8 bars without mentioning a blown out back and I might look you up on iTunes. Seriously…that’s where I am right now. Every blue moon I’m pleasantly surprised by a Kendrick Lamar or Macklemore, and I run around shouting their praises from the rooftops and playing their albums so frequently that my four year old daughter feels comfortable telling her mother not to kill her vibe and her classmate that he smells like R. Kelly’s sheets. But music is a perishable commodity. Eventually, no matter how ripe it was when you brought it, it gets old and stale, and you’re inclined to go and shop for something fresh again.
So I was excited when, in my search for fresh fruit from the hip-hop tree, I came across Kanye West’s “New Slaves”. It took me back to the old College Dropout and Late Registration Kanye. You remember him, right? The thoughtful, wet behind the ears producer-turned-rapper and faithful boyfriend with his jaw newly wired? How many times in the last decade have I thought to myself “Man, I miss the old Kanye?” And boom, there he was, projected onto the side of an apartment building! God had surely heard my cries.
By Natasha T. Brown
This week we continue Sophisticated Sunday’s Black Music Month series. Many people are unaware of the various talented and accomplished artists that started on stage right here in D.C. It’s my pleasure to spotlight a homegrown musician, Antone “Chooky” Caldwell for the 2nd Black Music Month installment. “Chooky” just released a new album, Subject 2 Change, which he discusses in detail below.
World–renowned Bassist Antone “Chooky” Caldwell was born and raised in Washington, D.C. and bred to be a musician since birth. Members of both sides of his family were involved in music and his parents brought him a different instrument each year for Christmas. The multi-talented musician now plays seven instruments – bass and lead guitars, piano, drums, sousaphone, trombone and organ.
“With each instrument, I take on a different character, all with the same personality – me. It’s like having seven best friends, and one just presents a different facet than the others do,” he explained.
Twenty years into his successful music career as a multi-instrumentalist, respected bassist, Billboard charting and Grammy-nominated producer and engineer, anyone can tell that Chooky was born for a life of music. His live sets captivate audiences with a 17-piece instrumental and vocal arrangement. His albums place the artist in various musical roles, and he’s collaborated with a long-list of legendary artists including Macy Gray, Sisqo of the group Dru Hill, Snoop Dogg, Mariah Carey, The Pussycat Dolls, Rahsaan Patterson, London based recording artist, Ali, and Gospel recording artists Andrae’ Crouch, and Shirley Caesar. Most notably, Chooky engineered and produced Jazz Saxophonist Ski Johnson's album New Beginnings, which topped at #1 on the Billboard charts in the Contemporary Jazz category for three solid weeks. In addition to music chartings and positive reviews, Chooky received two Grammy nominations in 2009 for his work as producer and engineer on New Beginnings.
Chooky just released his latest album, Subject 2 Change, which debuted last week with two sold-out shows at Blues Alley in Washington, DC. On the day that we spoke, Chooky had also just graduated from Seminary and was preparing for a show that same evening with Mint Condition at Ram’s Head Live in Baltimore. Below Chooky discusses his work and the strong influence other black music greats have had on his career.
Welcome new #FashionFridays readers, and it’s always a pleasure, returning readers. After interviewing the Soul Garage Band Black Alley in the previous Fashion Fridays, it inspired the Fashion Fridays lesson of the week.
“… Man, I love my team, man, I love my team”-- Drake
Every stylist in the fashion industry has a team. For Fashion Fridays sake, the stylist (you) has a client (your destiny). Although you have the vision, you have to assemble a team to assist you during certain points so that the final product is immaculate. There is no person on this planet that can accomplish any major goal without a team. Not saying you have to depend on people, but there are people in your life such as family, friends, co-workers and associates that assist you along the way.
Now the fashion industry is very cut throat, so there are some people on the team initially who won’t be on the team to see the final product (people in your life for a season). As time progresses, the team will be polished and established. Everyone knows their role on your team and executes accordingly.
by Khari Gzifa
A die hard music fan like me spends a lot of time listening to and talking about, what else...music. I was in a conversation the other day and we spoke about what most people would call the "Motown Sound" and some of the other outgrowths of its success like Stax and Philadelphia International. What Berry Gordy and all of those incredible artists and musicians created, was and is, absolutely phenominal! I mean we are talking about the children of slavery, creating -from scratch- a musical art form that would change the art and cultural landscape of the world, forever. That’s powerful stuff. The fact that you can go almost anywhere on this planet and start singing a song like, "My Girl" and have people be able to join in with you, is a testament to the incredible Against All Odds story behind their glorious feat. With that in mind I was immediately reminded of what has to rate as one of the most mind blowing listening experiences I have had in quite some time, a project that is able to harness some of that power that I just described and package it in a way that is palatable to the masses of today.
If you haven’t already, do yourself a favor and rush to the brick and mortar of your choice or your laptop and purchase the following: "Back To The Future" by Las Supper. This release by the all-star team of Hip-Hop legend Big Daddy Kane, R&B/Soul Singer extraordinaire Showtyme, and Hip-Hop Fusion Band Lifted Crew is so jammed packed with the power of those earlier releases that it demands that you hear it, and quickly.
Let me start by saying this, I don’t know whose original idea this was to put all of those parts together (I believe it was Kane though), but whoever, is a certified musical genius. The way they seamlessly blend the different styles to create something that is actually greater than the sum of its parts, is absolutely breath-taking. The secret sauce in this recipe is the combination of flavors, much like a classic mirepoix is the basis of many tasty dishes, any one of those flavors without the others might not achieve this but when the flavors are combined they create something special.
by Khari Gzifa
Let me begin by saying that I personally love hip-hop and a lot of rap as well and, as a side note, this is your cue to stop reading if you didn’t know there was a difference. Trust me it will only get more confusing for you without an appreciation for the distinction. So when I received the assignment of reviewing Triple Beam Dreams, the new release from Kingpen Slim, a relatively well known rapper in the DMV, I was excited. I had heard good things about his music and I also loved the video for his song Dead, which is featured right here in the OnStage Video Showcase.
I listened to the whole project while in the middle of conversation with a group of brothers, so it wasn’t the focal point but it provided a nice backdrop for what we were doing. The first impression I got was from someone else, who asked, “Who is that playing on the stereo, I like that track”. So before I really even took a serious listen I had already been given cues to expect good things.
One might think that with a title like Triple Beam Dreams, this album would fit squarely in the “Been there done that” model, but you would be wrong for a couple of reasons. First, let there be no mistaking; Kingpen Slim is a talented lyricist. Most of what goes under the moniker of Trap Rap or the more generic term Gangsta Rap, is not really notable for the quality of the writing. That does not apply to this album though. Kingpen Slim obviously put some thought and effort into crafting the rhymes and will make you take note of a few couplets. Second, there is a thread running through this project that suggest KPS made a real effort to stand out by doing a couple of things that not every independent artist can do, i.e. secure features from artists with international followings and use samples that do not immediately lend themselves to rap music.
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