On this episode of The Jam we get reacquainted with Brook D’Leau and Miss Jack Davey aka J*Davey. This duo has been sorely missed from the music scene and gave us one of their first interviews as they prepare to roll out new material. They plan to take their fans back under their wings and guide them on a journey, as they themselves have been through journeys individually and as a group.
I first meet Brook and Miss Jack some years ago as they were preparing their major label debut. Brook and Jack jumped through multiple hoops getting their album done and endured countless fans and friends asking “When is the album coming out?” and each time promising “Soon.” At long last “New Designer Drug” hit the scene and quenched the thirst of their hardcore fan base. And just like that, they seemed to disappear. During that time Brook was working with Miguel helping do music direction for his tour, and Miss Jack became a mother to a baby boy. For a few years they were individuals, and people wondered with bated breath if they had broken up. Well fear not! J*Davey is back!
In this episode we ask a series of questions from getting the history clear on how they formed, being part of the “New West” movement of the late 2000’s, and navigating the music industry with mentorship from the likes of Sa-Ra and Questlove of The Roots. And of course the question, “Where’s the new album?”, as well as how ladies can catch Brook’s attention.
Other topics include: 5 layer dip, meeting J Dilla, if music were the ideal man, sliding in DMs, and events that would be in the Sex Olympics.
It’s been a minute! But we’re back! 2015 it’s no games. And what a way to start the year!
Our first guest is Selwyn Seyfu Hinds. I met this man through a great friend and even though my friend told me he worked at The Source, I didn’t really know that this man was there during my most formative years loving Hip Hop and especially responsible for my opinionated nature! You have to understand that in the 90s, The Source was literally THE source for Hip Hop. It’s coverage was unmatched with epic covers, and seriously critical analysis of albums. You were in good standing to even get a 3.5 out of 5 mics for your album. Anything above that was an honor. And if you got a 5?! Man listen…
But aside from that, Selwyn tells us of his upbringing in Guyana, Brooklyn, to Miami, to New Jersey, to New York again. Through all his travels and culture shocking encounters, he keeps the patience of a saint. His travels and ability to code switch and embrace the unknown allows him to navigate through different territories, including being taken to Park Hill Projects with Wu-Tang Clan, basically being a roadie with them, and then narrowly escaping a beatdown during a time where The Source, Wu Tang, and Junior MAFIA had serious tension. He only touches on a few stories from his first connection with The Wu, to the night Biggie was killed, to getting chewed out from the likes of Dame Dash and Lauryn Hill. He was also one of the people instrumental to Outkast’s Aquemini getting a 5 mic rating, which hadn’t been done since Illmatic. We clearly have to have him again, so stay tuned for his return with more stories.
Other topics include: Beat Street, The Hip Hop generation gap, The Wawa, and ATLiens vs Aquemini.
KC and Chris handle the hosting duties for Merc80 in this episode as they chat with King Killa and E. Green from the Hip Hop Digest. Along with Curt G these three men host one of the most popluar hip hop podcasts out there. We discuss their history as deejays and how they came together to create the Hip Hop Digest. We also get into discovering hip hop, when the genre shifted, and the state of the music today.
Have you ever stumbled upon a YouTube video via social media that made you say, “Wow, I’ve never heard of her or him?” Yeah? Me too! I love the internet for its unfailing ability to drop us all into the rabbit hole of never ending research, funny videos and ubiquitous “10 things you need to know about being the best you” or is it “5 habits of highly successful people” who can keep up? The point is every day is another opportunity to discover something or someone new online and today is no different.
This week on Culture Connection we introduce you to 7 artists and organizations you should be aware of. I promise you, these folks will surely give you Culture Vulture street cred!
Kehinde Wiley- Is an artist whose work must be experienced in person. I’ve seen his colorful, stately portraits of young men of color. Massive in their presentation and yet oh so intimate in your presence, Wiley’s subjects stare at you as if they’ve been purposely enshrined as a reminder that their existence in the world is to never be forgotten.
Shana Tucker- Will change how you categorize a soul singer. In fact she categorizes her uniquely lush warmth of tone and impeccable musicianship as Chamber Soul. Currently the only African American woman in Cirque du Soleil’s Ká, you’ll quickly fall in love with her music like I did!
Universes– On the verge of their 20th anniversary, New Yorkers and Americans alike owe a debt of gratitude to this fearless ensemble for their passion for telling truths of voices that seem to be left out of mainstream conversations. Universes is simply a beacon.
Azure Antoinette- When you’re referred to as the “Maya Angelou of the millennial generation” what more is there to say. Ladies and gentlemen I introduce to some and present to others a poet for our time.
Imani Winds- Considered to be the premier wind quintet in North America, this ensemble of all hues of black, brown – genders, female and male- boasting a quality of sound only described in one word, exquisite!
Jeffrey Page- A name you should remember and never forget. One of the most gifted dance artists in the performing arts and commercial dance world, Mr. Page has a resume that is impressive to put it lightly. Fela! The Musical, Beyoncé’s go-to choreographer, “So You Think You Can Dance” Emmy Nominee and recently choreographer for Tony-nominated Violet starring Sutton Foster. Like I said never forget!
Sphinx- When your tag line is “Transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts” you had me at “hello!” The Sphinx Organization is the truest of American organizations. Founded by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin “to help overcome the cultural stereotype of classical music, and to encourage the participation of Blacks and Latinos in the field,” I dare you to not be impressed by the indelible impression being left by this awe-inspiring institution.
That’s it for this week! Please remember to “Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country and a finer world to live in.” – Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
On Episode #2 we have the dynamic duo Jaq and Alex, better known as Nola Darling. They are a singing/rapping combo who have been doing their thing for some years now. They met at NYU and created a serious buzz with their Pretty Gritty Mini Mixtape. They’ve consistently been recording, traveling, and even topped the charts in Australia on a track with the EDM duo Yolanda Be Cool.
In this episode we talk with Nola D about how they got into music, how they met, and how they go about making their own jams. Then, we chatted about a jam that Chris picked to discuss. Jaq and Alex painstakingly went through a lot of songs to pick their jam, so we had to be sure to have a good discussion on their choice. We definitely took it back to some childhood memories with both song selections.
Other topics include: sex with Oprah, Hatian relatives, ordering music videos off The Box, The Source Magazine, Babyface, Al B Sure, and cool older cousins.
Welcome to The Jam! A show where we discuss nothin but the most jammin-est songs, what makes them the jam, and all the other great things associated with them.
Our first guest is Desmond Marzette, Global Director of Advertising for Jordan. Yes, THAT Jordan. Dez and I talk about how we first met and became homies, his work in the advertising world, and how he became the inspiration behind Lil Dez in Nike’s Kobe VS Lebron campaign.
Some the other topics include: handclaps, twerking, freaking, maxi-singles, dance routines at parties, recording music off the radio to cassettes, and the Black version of “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”.
The Mezz Bar
501 S. Spring Street
LA, CA. 90013
**located on the 2nd floor of the Alexandria Hotel**
Doors @ 9PM // 21+
$12 cover // $8 Pre-sale or
at door w/ donation of art supplies to Viva La Art! for children’s art workshops. (Donation could include a brand new pack of pencils, crayons, makers, sketchpads, paint etc.)
The current state of black music is dismal. That is not an exaggeration. In fact, the current state of American music, by and large, is pretty bad as well. In the past, American popular music and certainly black American music has always been a force for social progress; a continuous and melodic illustration of our truest values and our deepest yearnings. Never before has our music, or America’s music generally, held back social progress. Never before has our music, to any significant degree, served as a vehicle for the celebration of the worst instincts and realities of black America and the black experience. This is a reality of, roughly, the last twenty years in particular. Our great gift to America has become a cancer within ourselves. This needs to change.
The front cover of this April’s edition of The Atlantic Magazine features an article with the headline reading American Mozart: The Genius of Kanye West. I have to admit, seeing this gave me a somewhat depressed feeling. It’s not that Kanye West’s music is, in my opinion, at the heart of our ethnic and national cultural problem (though some of it is). I’ve liked some of his stuff in the past, particularly his earlier things with Twister; Through the Wire (which was uplifting, and like-ably silly) and so forth. But a great deal of it is emblematic of the vacuousness and the mediocrity of our musical culture, if not something quite a bit worse. Take for example one of Kanye West’s breakout hits from way back in 2004, a song called Diamonds from Sierra Leone…
Diamonds from Sierra Leone is sort of a cool song to listen to, minus the fact that, if you chance to pay attention to the lyrics, it has nothing to do with the diamond mines of Sierra Leone. Nothing, no reference to it at all in the original. If you think about it, that alone is astonishing. The imagery of the music video does deal directly with that however, and the video is (again excepting the actual lyrics of the song) poignant because of it. But it’s reflective of the moral confusion of our times that an artist would borrow the name of a subject of such wrenching human tragedy only to use it as the entrance to a song that is in reality both irrelevant to the subject for which it is named, and a self-troubled glorification of the artist himself. In the latter sense then, and it’s coldly ironic, there is some relevance to the matter of the diamond mines of Sierra Leone that Kanye West did not intend. The music video begins with a quote from Mr. West, saying “Little is known of Sierra Leone, and how it connects to the diamonds we own.” Cliche sounding, but very sad, and very true. The song, as noted, then proceeds to do nothing to remedy that sadness, but rather launches into a collage of vanities that I don’t have time to go through here. But in the video a short bit of narration plays before the song, presumably from the voice of one of the slaves from the mines, testifying to the fact that they are forced to slave day in and day out for the icy stone “under the eye of watchful soldiers.” He tells us as we stare at the shirtless figure of a Leonean Rebel as he berates us through the camera, making us, for a moment, the slaves of the mines, that they slaves were forced to kill their own families for the diamonds. Then comes the chilling high-point of the tension, the moment when you see the face of a slave child, and you’re horrified to see the pupils of his eyes wide as saucers because he’s toiled in the mines for so long that his eyes are starved for sunlight. The boys eyes have become something that looks as alien as it does human because that is how his eyes have had to adjust to the unending darkness of the mines.
The tragedy is real, but the poignancy of it is manipulated in the context of the video into a perverse glorification of Kanye West himself. Explicitly, as the video displays him as some kind of hero of the Leonean slaves, but implicitly just by the odd juxtaposition of this type of imagery to the self-indulgent lyrics of the song, (“You know you can call, you gotta best believe it, the Roc stand tall and you would never believe it”). But though the video shows white westerners obliviously wearing and sharing these ill gotten jewels (and then horrified when the blood from the “blood” diamonds crawls upon their skin before the witness of slave children) so uncaring or unaware are they of the human price of their privilege and their luxury, the truth is that the self-absorption exemplified in Kanye’s lyrics is wholly reflective of the mindset that makes such moral detachment possible. Yes the video at it’s end makes a token request of us to buy non-conflict diamonds, and yes Kanye did make a remix that made an effort at dealing with the substance of this issue directly (an effort that fails entirely at being serious or profound. Jay-Z is on the remix, and his entire verse which comprises half the song is again about “The Roc” and irrelevant to the blood diamonds and the slave children of Sierra Leone. Lupe Fiasco, to his credit at least, made a much more conscientious attempt at dealing with this issue in his song “Conflict Diamonds,” inspired by the Kanye tracks). But while the video shows the children of the mines pulling Kanye from the ground as he leaps out of his European sports car, sending it crashing through what I presume was a Jewelers shop. Though the children run to him and hail him as he play pianos in a cathedral before stone figures of Christ and the angels of God, spitting his irrelevant flows as if they were either poignant or profound, Kanye West (whether he realizes it or not) exploits these children and this travesty more insidiously than the people he portrays. Most people buy and wear these diamonds out of ignorance, reveling in the stones themselves, but Kanye revels in the blood diamonds ability to make him look like something he is not: that is a man using music to fight for a higher cause, as opposed to a man using the suffering of others to glorify himself.
Why make this article about Kanye West? To put a microscope on our cultural problem, one general to America and particular to black America. I agree with President Obama that West is (or frequently can be) a “Jack Ass,” but I also agree with him that West is talented, if not to the extent that he seems to suggest (see the Atlantic article). Kanye West is not a composer. He is not a musician, at least not one of any consequence (neither of course are Jay-Z and P-Diddy). I’m not being insulting, those are just facts. He is a producer; one who cleverly takes music by talented musicians and composers of the past, dissects them, and simply applies his oft vain and otherwise meaningless lyrics to them, albeit to great effect as far as his many fans are concerned. But he’s no Bob Dylan, using art to poignantly decry the injustices of our times. He’s no Mozart of any kind. Duke Ellington was an American Mozart, a composer and musician par excellence like Mozart himself. Neither has anything in common with Kanye West. But you don’t have to be a Mozart to make meaningful music, and you don’t even have to be a great musician. Kanye West’s biggest failing, particular with Diamonds from Sierra Leone (as I said before he has made better songs lyrically at other times) is the failing of our modern music generally and that is the fact that it’s orientation begins and ends with glorification of egoism, of materialism, of image and of the self. The thing that makes Kanye West’s Diamonds from Sierra Leone so galling is the fact that it takes an issue that would call upon us to reject these values to truly acknowledge it and, in the guise of calling us to do so, uses it as a vehicle to celebrate some of the very sins of our nature that causes the world to be such a cruel place to begin with.