AAMAM: When The Glory Comes! Part 29 of 30

gloryGlory, the theme song to the 2014 film Selma, about the march for voting rights that began in Selma, Alabama and ended in the state capital of Montgomery. The song, written by rapper Common and singer John Legend, which garnered and Oscar, recalled images of the march and reminded the listener of the struggles that happened not too long ago. Glory also, sadly, sent a message that those struggles long ago still exist today as it made reference to Ferguson, Missouri.

Moreover, Glory continues to speak to the struggles of our time. New verses that include Baltimore and Charleston can easily find their place in between the choruses of this song.

The struggle continues.

Remember. Step up. Press on.

“Now the war is not over

Victory isn’t won

But we’ll fight on to the finish

Then when it’s all done

We’ll cry Glory!

We’ll cry Glory!”

AAMAM is glorious!

 

 

AAMAM: Public Enemy’s Rhetoric! Part 27 of 30

pe“1989 the number another summer

Sound of the funky drummer . . . ”

If you know the rest of these lyrics to this song then you are the an esteemed hip hop head or you were there when legendary rap group Public Enemy dropped the song that summer of ’89 on the soundtrack to director Spike Lee’s controversial film Do The Right Thing (also released almost a year later on the album Fear Of A Black Planet).

Public Enemy wrote the song to unify Black urban youth and to encourage them to speak out against oppression and the injustices that mirrored the inequities of the Civil Rights Movement, a little more than 20 years earlier.  Rapper Chuck D’s voice is hard to ignore—it demanded attention as he enlightened his listening audience on then current cultural and political situation of Black urban youth while he also encouraged them to resist oppressive powers in the summer of 1989.

To a certain extent Fight The Power is apropos in its message of encouragement today. Constant encouragement to fight an oppressive power structure is a good thing and required not just for Black urban youth but for all Americans.

AAMAM fights the power!

AAMAM: The Fugees! Part 24 of 30

fugeesFugees! Straight up, no filter, one of the baddest hip hop groups on the planet. Yeah, I said it!

The Fugees (Wyclef Jean, Lauryn Hill, and Pras Michel) exploded on onto the hip hop scene in the early ‘90s. They gave us two albums Blunted On Reality and The Score and hit after hit after hit! Their lyrical style infused intelligently packed and quick witted word play with streams of sung vocals all set to music with Caribbean undertones, which spoke volumes in terms of empowerment to youth culture like no other. And just like (snap) they were gone! The group disbanded in ’97. They left a welcomed stain on hip hop culture.

It’s a good thing there is Youtube so we all can be reminded of the how great the Fugees were

Check out one of their early supper hits “Nappy Heads.”

AAMAM has a date for Friday!

AAMAM: Do You Know “Rappers Delight?” Part 17 of 30.

sugar

L to R: Big Bank Hank (1956-2014), Master Gee, and Wonder Mike

In 1979, “Rappers Delight” was released by the rap group Sugar Hill Gang. The song was an instant success, which opened the door for rap music and hip hop culture to enter the main stream. Prior to its release, rap music was commonly created in the moment with DJs spinning records and providing musical spaces and back beats for budding MCs to rap over. It was rarely recorded and truly an underground genre.

“Rappers Delight” was the first rap song to top multiple music charts around the world.  It was also the first rap song recorded that extensively used samples to create a back beat and as such made the Sugar Hill Gang the first rap group to face a law suit for illegally sampling songs (The group sampled the band Chic’s song “Good Times” without permission–they ultimately gave credit to Chic). Furthermore, they were the first rap group to be bilked out of millions by their management. (See I Want My Name Back documentary)

Historically, the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” utilized the African oral tradition of rhythmic storytelling over drum beats, which is the defining element of hip hop.

Take a listen to “Rappers Delight!” Some of you may remember all the lyrics and the rest of you can learn the lyrics for the first time here.

Enjoy AAMAM!

AAMAM: Queen Latifah Aint No Bitch! Part 16 of 30

queenBoldly confronting the misogynistic behavior of young men, Queen Latifah’s song “U.N.I.T.Y.”, in no certain terms demanded respect. Through her song, she became the once-and-for-all spokesperson for women weary of abuse, hurtful offensive behavior, violence, objectification, and slander.

Released in January 1994, on Queen Latifah’s Black Reign album, “U.N.I.T.Y.” was a no holds barred statement for respect. Latifah’s first words: “Who you calling a bitch?” set the tone for the song. With those lyrics, she instantly managed to grab the attention of the listener to forewarn them of the lyrical hostility that was about to ensue. She pointed out the maltreatment by men and in the end demanded respect.

Latifah’s delivery or rather her lyrical flow was rhythmic and relentless, which served to further condemn guilty men. It is one thing to be merely told off, but to be told off with lyrical artistry is another thing.

In terms of her video below, Latifah’s gritty facial frown expression created an indelible image of her anger with the careless disrespect made by men.

Queen Latifah won a Grammy award for best solo performance solidifying the collective sentiment of women in the mid 90s.

That’s hip hop for ya—continuously reporting the current pulse to the masses.

Continue to enjoy your AAMAM!

Your Sunday iPod Add: Soweto Kinch: Jazz, Hip Hop and A Morality Tale

Soweto Kinch

Welcome back (again) to your Sunday iPod add, which will hence forth be called, “Your Sunday Playlist*.”

For those who indulge in and appreciate both hip-hop and post bebop jazz and at times wondered what sounds would emerge if these two genres collided head on; meshed their energies; twisted and tangled their rhythm and rhyme; or collaborate a freestyle from a common theme. Well wonder no more!  Let me introduce you to Soweto Kinch!  Kinch, according to his social media page is an “Award winning alto-saxophonist and MC” and “is one of the most exciting and versatile young musicians in both the British jazz and hip hop scenes.” Yes, Kinch has his feet firmly planted in both genres where he is capable and thriving.

(Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk)

(Photo copyright John Watson/jazzcamera.co.uk)

A few months ago I, Mr. Johnny-come-lately, embarrassingly later than even George Colligan at jazztruth.blogspot.com, stumbled onto Soweto Kinch’s music (as I tend to do happily with plenty of artists) and was blown away by his fluid versatility and dexterity in both the hip-hop and post bebop jazz genres.  Upon hearing his music, I was reminded of other artists who have dabbled in combining hip-hop with jazz, most notably A Tribe Called Quest’s album “Low End Theory,” which featured the iconic bassist Ron Carter amid stripped down jazz samples and certainly Guru’s “Jazzmatazzjazzmatazz Vol. 1,” in particular, genre bending album, which employed heavy post bebop hitters such as saxophonist Brandford Marsalis, pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, vibist Roy Ayers, the late trumpeter Donald Byrd, and the late guitarist Ronny Jordan. While these albums elegantly blended the rhythmic lyrics of hip hop with syncopated drum grooves and bebop chord progressions, Kinch’s music, rather, abuts freestyle post bebop tracks next to freestyle hip hop jams, which allows the listener to hear the similarities in the music’s spontaneity and freedom. Kinch’s movement back and forth between the genres recalls the origins of both jazz and hip hop’s gritty sounds and street attitude. The magic and intention of jazz and hip hop is not lost on Soweto Kinch.

The first track of Kinch I stumbled onto was “Never Ending” from the album The New Emancipation. After this, I began a fever pitch search for more of Kinch’s music. I found all of his brilliant music and surprisingly some videos of his legendary rap battles on the streets of London (check it). Ultimately, I found his most recent album (recent to me) The Legend Of Mike Smith.new eman This is a tightly put together concept album. Kinch described it as “an exploration of the seven deadly sins in the modern context. It also follows the travails of one young character, Mike Smith as he’s attempting to get signed by a major record label and curtail his normal style to see what he thinks they will find successful or appealing.The album contains post bebop burners, spoken word, and heated rap, which all serve to drive a narrative a modern day morality tale. The Legend Of Mike Smith is compelling to listen to as any concept album out there.

So if the idea of Common meets Charlie Parker meets a 90s Greg Osby meets a Mos Def is intriguing, then take a listen and wonder no more!mike smith

Add some Soweto Kinch to your playlist. You will thank me later.

African American Violinists: Old Presence New Genres

Afro-Cuban violinist

José White Afro-Cuban violinist (1856)

The African-American musician has occupied a crucial space in American history.  The African-American violinist is but one of these musicians.  Since bondage, they have with their music, shown a preponderance of excellent artistry.  The African-American violinist has navigated huge challenges in pursuit to education and training on a particular instrument that embodied the elite in European society.  These violinists have over time, masterfully incorporated overwhelming ancient African rhythms and minor tones into European music theory.  As such, the violinist has improvised a musical genre where one did not exist.  They used music to carve out spaces of privilege and have certainly tasted tiny bits of liberty in an era of enslavement.  Solomon Northup notes his peculiar status as a violinist while held captive in his 1853 narrative:

Alas! Had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarcely can conceive how I could have endured the long years of bondage. It introduced me to great houses–relieved me of many days’ of labor in the field–supplied me with conveniences for my cabin with pipes and tobacco and extra pairs of shoes, and oftentimes led me away from the presence of a hard master . . .(p.217)

With the drag of the bow across the vibrating string, the African-American violinist sonically opened a path that led Black bodies out of the perceived state of the primitive and into enlightening agents of sophisticated art.

African-American violinists and their musicianship have been present in the various epochs of African-American history from Black bodied violinist whom were present as slave ships traversed the Atlantic en rout to a new world with the likes of ship fiddler Joseph Antonio Emidy, who due to his grand musicianship suffered the same fate as Solomon Northup albeit more than 50 years earlier.  (Emidy went on to teach and conduct chamber music in Brittan) to Jacques Constantin Deburque, who organized the Negro Philharmonic Society of New Orleans in the 1830s to Joseph Douglass, a herald virtuoso and grandson of the late great orator Frederick Douglass (who played some violin himself), toured the U.S. and Europe for over 30 years and became the “first violinist ever to record for Victor Talking Machine Company” to Stuff Smith, who is known for swinging his violin in the pop music genre in the first half of the 20th century.  Collectively these African-American violinists have contributed to a continuum of violin music, which still rolls on today.

Dworkin

Dworkin

Black violinist such as Aaron Paul Dworkin; carry on the excellent artistry that has always accompanied them.  Classically trained, Dworkin is one of the top violinists in the country.  He was awarded the MacArthur Fellowship a.k.a. the “Genius Award” in 2005.  His passion to pass on the art of classical music has led him to lend his talents to teaching the urban underprivileged, to serving on the National Arts Policy Commission, and mentoring youth in his own program the Sphinx Organization.

Beyond the classical, contemporary African-American violinists are found in all genres of music further expanding and redefining the musical capabilities of the violin.  Artists such as Obed Shelton, shares his musical praises in gospel, Ken Ford, Karen Briggs, and Regina Carter (she is a Genius Award winner, too [2006]) all smoothly bow in the jazz genre.

Regina Carter

Regina Carter

Will B and Kev Marcus of Black Violin

Will B and Kev Marcus of Black Violin

Meanwhile several ‘Young Gifted and Black’ violinist are actively involved in a cultural and generational call and response as

they incorporate elements of R&B, soul, and hip-hop in their music.  Musical groups such as Nothing But Strings and Stuff Smith inspired Black Violin as well as soloist Seth G, innovate genres of music by recalling overwhelming ancient African rhythms intertwined with classical delivery, which harkens back to the work of early African-American violinists.  One soloist who has separated himself from the rest in terms of his use of minor tones and incorporating vocals is Marques Toliver.  Toliver is able to ebb and flow through out all genres of music.  Critics have lauded him as too big and broad to fit into any one box.”  Again improvising a new musical genre where one did not exist.

Marques Toliver

Marques Toliver

As a signpost of a sophisticated musician, the African-American violinist has traveled through time, bow in hand, continuously creating musical spaces to witness and musically recount the presence of Black bodies in America.  Today they retain classic elements of music as well as rhythmically bow and pluck their strings in new genres of music demonstrating excellent artistry.

Please search the web for more African-American violinists. The above are just a few and they’re a are plenty.

Check these sources for more info:

http://www.oldhatrecords.com/cd1002.html

http://pragmaticobotsunite.com/?s=violinist

http://www.jazzbows.com/blackviolinlinks.html

JSYK