Category Archives: Music Articles

Good Vibes: A Premiere with A Tribe…

 It’s not often that a kat like me (ahem…starving artist) gets to attend a movie premiere. Red carpets…flashing lights…impromptu interviews…photo ops…just doesn’t happen.

…until…

Grabbed from contactmusic.com

…I had the pleasure of attending the premiere of “Beats Rhymes and Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” with one of my best friends, last week. We initially planned on going to see the documentary when it hit one of those small, art house theaters in DC, in mid-July. Then she sent me a note…AFI Silverdocs would be premiering the film at its annual film festival in Silver Spring in mid-June.

You think I didn’t buy the tickets that very night!?! There’s no way a film of this nature…of this magnitude, highlighting the career of one of Hiphop’s most cherished and beloved groups, would not be sold out.

And part one of our plan worked perfectly. When we arrived at the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center, in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring’s Arts District…two and a half hours early mind you, the line was half way down the block…for another film festival premiere. But “Beats…” was sold out, too!

After gettin’ it in at Fuddruckers, we returned to the theater about an hour before the movie was to begin. We were second in line, which meant we were going to have the best seats in the house…or so we thought. There were two lines…one for regular ticket holders like us…and another for the elite.

Nonetheless, we were there…at the premiere.

Ahh…the red carpet. No, we didn’t get to walk it. But it was near by!

As we stood there, watching the line fill up next to us and behind us, guess who walks in through the backdoor of the building?! None other than the film’s director, Michael Rapaport, and a member of the band at the core of the movie, The Five Foot Assassin himself, Phife Dawg!

Yo…we’re at a REAL PREMIERE!! All of my true-Hiphop fans will understand my excitement.

Lights started flashing, video cameras started rolling. The energy in the building shot through the plates in the glass roof! We tried, unsuccessfully, to snap our own pictures with our camera phones, but someone’s head always got in the way. Oh well, at least we can say we shared the same air for a moment.

The doors for the theater opened and the “elites” were ushered in first. There weren’t many of them. But they looked like movie going professionals. We knew they were going to take the seats that we arrived an hour early to obtain. All we could do was sigh. And then, our line was allowed to enter. Fortune continued to smile on us because all of those elites chose the wrong seats! Our seats…center row, center aisle…were there waiting for us, unencumbered by the heavy bottoms of those folks with the heavy pockets!!!

The theater filled up quickly. As a matter of fact, AFI over-sold their tickets. They created a row of seats by placing plastic chairs in front of the first row of second tier seats. I would have been mad if I were them…but I wasn’t. We had the perfect seats. Movie bootleggers would have been jealous!

After a brief welcome, Michael Rapaport was brought up to introduce the movie. The lights went down. The screen lit up. And…

…the documentary was absolutely AMAZING!!! It only lasted about an hour and a half. But it didn’t leave you wanting at all. As a fan of ATCQ and a fan of movies, you got exactly what you wanted. Having seen the group perform in 1996, the energy they displayed on stage came across perfectly on film. (In other words…GO SEE THIS FILM!!!)

At the conclusion of the film, Mr. Rapaport and Phife-Diggy graced us with a question and answer segment. (I had hoped to add some video footage, but my video had no sound…yeah, that sucks!)

Of course I didn’t think of any good questions to ask until I awoke the next morning…you know I can’t resist a microphone and a chance in the spotlight…I coulda kicked myself!! Nonetheless, the two were great and Phife was surprisingly funny.

It was a great night. Even some of the “Elites“, who weren’t Hiphop fans and never heard of A Tribe Called Quest said they loved the film! At a time when legislators are continuing to ax funding for the arts, we should all do a better job of supporting documentaries and independent films. There are so many stories to be told and so much to learn through mediums outside of the Hollywood factory system. Help give artists the opportunity to share their talents and voices.

And help give us a chance at more photo ops!

Thema, Phife, and Alison

 

 

Good Vibes: Where is the Soul-Inspired Music Pt.II

I had quite an adventurous night in the Historic U Street Corridor, yesterday evening. To avoid accumulating anymore parking tickets in front of poorly labeled and misleading meters, I took the subway into town. I love taking the train. I never felt more inspired than when I would travel the 2-train from White Plains and East Gun Hill Roads in the north Bronx to Downtown Brooklyn. Witnessing the changing demographics of the riders as you humped through Manhattan put you into a certain frame of mind. It connected you to the soul of the City.

And I often get a taste of that when I ride through DC’s own, much more limited yet cleaner, metro system. I never wear headphones on the short trip to U St. from College Park or Hyattsville. I want to soak in the urban ambiance (wow…I don’t think I’ve ever sounded more suburban in my life!!!), unfettered by technology blocking my senses. I’m in search of a new perspective and to be put into a certain frame of mind. I want my spirit lead by DC’s soul!

The plan for the evening was to attend a mini-concert by a local, independent artist, Jsoul. I was perplexed by what I saw when I entered the establishment a half hour after the show was to begin. People were dining and enjoying the conversation of others. You wouldn’t be able to hear each other speak if there was a concert going on! I pulled a waiter aside and asked him what was up. Apparently, the concert was held Tuesday night. It was now Wednesday!

Well, one thing DC does not lack is live music venues. I remembered that a wonderful artist performed every Wednesday night at a restaurant a few blocks away. So, I tightened my shoe laces and strolled down to my sure thing.

I could hear the muffled sound of her voice and the band rocking before I even got to the door. The singer’s name was Colie Williams, and she was backed by a father and son on bass and keys, in that order, and another brutha on the drums. A good friend hipped me to Ms. Williams when I first got back to the DMV. I was warned that Colie’s vocal style was a cross between Teena Marie, Billie Holiday, and Jill Scott, depending on what brand of music she was belting out. My friend hadn’t lied!

 

As I sat there sipping on a tall glass of Ginger Ale, nodding my head to some of Colie’s original tunes, I was struck by the answer to what perplexed me just last week…”Where is the Soul-Inspired Music?”

The music I sought to give me chills was right here! Yes, I found it in the lyrics and the composition of the music. But more than anything, it was the sound…the feeling…the intimacy of the live performance.

From my experience, there’s nothing like live music, especially in intimate settings. There’s something I find “Soul-Less” about watching a singer perform to a pre-recorded track. For one, there’s so little room for improvisation. But most of all, it lacks the interplay between the singer and the musicians that elevates the quality of the performance. The vibe they develop often leaps from the stage and engulfs the entire audience.

Records and radio stations have their place. For thousands of years, the only way you could hear music was to witness it live. But recorded music made its enjoyment more convenient and accessible. Now, though, most of us only get to experience music that is recorded.

But if you want to feel chills (I still feel mine), then you need to get a little live music in your life…

…just make sure you know the train schedule, so that you don’t find yourself standing in front of locked gates at your station, having missed the last train home. Then, you won’t have to be bothered by heroine addicts trying to sell you bootleg, Nigerian DVDs in the middle of their drug-induced nodding, snacking on a fresh fruit cup bought at the corner bodega at two in the morning, while you wait for your mommy to come pick you up!!!

 

 

Good Vibes: Where is the Soul-Inspired Music?

As I suffered through yesterday’s heatwave, with no a/c, I spent some time putting together a musical playlist simply called “Beauty”…partly because I needed to hear something inspiring…and partly because I was trying not to move around too much. With over eleven thousand songs on my hard drive to choose from, I knew I could stay put for a good couple of hours.

I kicked off the set with an old favorite, Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free“. There are certain songs that send chills through you, and this is one them. Another such ditty is “As“, by Stevie Wonder, and these were just a few of the songs I already had in mind when I thought about creating the playlist. I quickly added a few  more classics from legends like Aretha Franklin, Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Rufus feat. Chaka Khan, The Isley Brothers, Al Green, The Spinners, Norman Connors, and so on…

(please click on the highlighted song or the artist to hear my actual musical selections)

As my playlist quickly filled up with soul singers from way back in the day, I turned my attention to some of the contemporary artists who have continued in the tradition of spirit moving music. Of course I selected songs from some of the more popular members of the group like Jill Scott, Anthony Hamilton, India.Arie, and Maxwell. But I also had to dig through my “crates” of indie artists  and lesser known singers to pull out some wonderful pieces from Anthony David, Fertile Ground, Eric Roberson, Adriana Evans, Julie Dexter, and more.

Building my playlist even inspired me to do something that, in itself, use to get my blood pumping, but because of my Starving Artist wages, I had abandoned for quite a while. I went online to seek out new music from some of my favorite soul artists and search for rising artists on the indie soul scene. I will admit that I have a lot more digging to do. But from the few items I came across, I was  unable to find anything that stirred my spirit! A lot of what I heard, in my opinion, was canned, uninspired, and lacked innovation. One of my most cherished artists, to my initial delight, put out two albums last year, and both records sounded just like the work she created over a decade ago! She had lost the innovative spirit that she’d displayed on her less well-received sophomore album, that came out about six years prior to her latest recordings.

Have we finally reached a tipping point, again, where soul music has lost it’s soul? That was a major complaint about the music scene of the 80’s and early 90’s when everything went electric, and records were no longer being made to drive fans to live performances. Instead, musicians only seemed to tour to promote their albums. You could feel the soul of the artist being poured out on stage and those emotions were reflected in what they produced in the studio. Part of that died in the era of Reganomics and MTV. Luckily, for my generation, there was a resurgence of that feel and focus of the music in the mid-90’s.

Unfortunately, much like the 80’s clothing that has been brought back to life in contemporary fashion, I’m afraid so shall our contemporary soul music go. There will be plenty of “good” music, I’m sure. But will any of it give me chills?