Print is dead. That’s only partly true. Niche publications that cater to readers with particular interests – and good taste in music – are very much alive.
The release party for the latest edition of Slo*Mo magazine on Sunday, July 31, proved it.
Along with editor in chief / co-publisher Carlton Hargro, the people who create and support soul music culture got together for sounds by Slo*Mo creative director / co-publisher and DJ Larmarrous Shirley, wine, and worthwhile conversation at Condesa Coffee in Atlanta.
As content director for Slo*Mo magazine, it’s a joy to see good people gathered in honor of great music.
Getting a sneak peek into cover stories such as this edition’s features on Tori Alamaze and Khari Cabral Simmons is a rewarding perk of the job.
Copies are limited. Find one at Moods Music or Stockyards, or order one at SloMoAtl.com, where you can keep up with the latest in Atlanta’s soul music scene between editions.
After so many years “behind the scenes,” it wasn’t exactly a direct route to publishing By Way of Detours.
Now, if you’d known me in Chapel Hill, N.C., where I helped kick-start the hip-hop and spoken word scenes as a college student, playing the back may seem like the real departure. I loved testing out new material at the Durham coffee shop where I hosted a regular poetry event, or on the North Carolina Central University campus where I was a frequent open mic’er.
While most of my journalism-school peers were angling for bylines and photo credits, I leaned into the editing side of things. Copy editing, to be specific. Not only did the field come with its own reference manual – the Associated Press Stylebook – that you were expected to use on the job, I’d been an ace speller since my pre-K through sixth grade Montessori days. And at Percy Julian Junior High in Oak Park, Ill., I could diagram my way out of the longest sentences my teachers threw up on the chalkboard.
I liked being good at things. I learned early that I was good at spelling. Before long, I was good at writing.
Somewhere in between, I discovered voice recording. Me and my sister Cheronda would sing songs and talk into one of those flat cassette players with a single speaker at the top, recording over what I’m sure were some of my dad’s favorite music tapes.
Maybe Dad was being a good sport. Maybe Mom knew that it was the start of something.
Fast-forward decades later, and settling in front a microphone is still one of my favorite things to do. My rap career probably peaked when I opened up for The Roots at Cat’s Cradle near Chapel Hill, but the Mo*Audio podcast I co-hosted with Carlton Hargro and Larmarrous Shirley gave me the same thrill.
J-school paid off with an internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I got the gig partly because of my love for hip-hop – me and the friends I MC’d with started a hip-hop newspaper. I’ve been in Atlanta ever since.
Thankfully I still get to work with words. And also thankfully, it’s at a Fortune 50 company that allows me to put all of my coaching, encouraging and building-people-up tendencies to work.
I hope you see a theme here. While one thing may have led to another, it’s not always been the direct route, let alone the expected one.
I guess you could call it strategy. Because strategy is about deciding where you’re going to “play” and how you’re going to win when you get there.
If you have even an inkling of what you like to do, or what you’re naturally good at, you’re halfway there. My aim is to offer you a little guidance on the way, and help you trust that you will get there.
The how to win part? Well, you just have to get behind the scenes and let the detours lead the way.
As white supremacists prepared to outwardly display hatred and prejudice in Charlottesville, Va., a standing-room-only crowd collected inside Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue Research Library on Friday, Aug. 11, to discuss the much more subversive and powerful forces that lead to the persecution of black men.
Davis made clear that while outrage over police officers who kill black men is justified, prosecutors and plea bargains play an equally powerful role in their mistreatment.
The book aims to address all elements of policing, from arrest to sentencing, Davis said. At the same time, it “in no way trivializes” the unequal treatment experienced by black women, Latinos, Native Americans and LGBTs.
The black man’s situation is unique.
Forty-nine percent of black men can expect to be arrested by age 23.
Black men are killed by police at 21 times the rate of their white counterparts.
One in three black men will be jailed at least once in their life if trends continue.
Police only have the power to take black men to the court’s front door, Davis said. The book’s significance is in explaining the forces beyond the badge.
Television shows such as “Law & Order” may portray an abundance trials, but the reality is that 90 percent of all criminal cases are resolved by a guilty plea, Davis said.
The combination of prosecutors who decide which charges to levy and people who are “desperate and afraid” of a fickle jury forces compromise when none should be required, Davis said.
For example, a person is caught with five bags of cocaine. The prosecutor can choose any range of charges, from five counts of possession with intent to distribute — a felony that comes with a mandatory minimum sentence — or a misdemeanor charge of possession.
Add “under resourced and overworked” public defenders (at least one person in the balcony agreed, as Davis’ assessment drew applause), and plea deals that expire at the end of a day, leaving defenders no means to properly research a case and effectively fight for their client, and “This is what passes as justice in courts across America,” Davis said.
Ultimately, Davis and her contributors, such as Bryan Stevenson (“A Presumption of Guilt”) and Jin Hee Lee and Sherrilyn A. Ifill (“Do Black Lives Matter to the Courts?”)want to inform and provide solutions.
A few that Davis suggested during the talk and Q&A afterward:
Get progressive prosecutors elected. Only four states have attorneys that are not elected. Ask about their policies on plea bargaining and charges.
Ask, “Who’s the person in charge of the one messing up?” For example, most police chiefs are appointed by mayors. If the police are acting out, put pressure on the mayor.
Understand that no matter the situation, it’s not the victim’s fault. “One of the things that’s so painful,” Davis said, is that black boys’ and men’s “mere existence causes them to be in danger. … It’s not the kids’ fault that they’re being shot.”
Demand that officers are fully trained. Studies show that police tend to overestimate the size and age of black boys, and underestimate it when the boys are white. “If they can’t be trained to get rid of that implicit bias, they have to go,” Davis said.
All in, the answer is us. “Everybody can’t do everything, but everybody can do something,” Davis said.
Whether you choose to confront racist movements head on, email a city councilperson, or have a real conversation with someone whose looks and beliefs are different than yours, get moving.
Like church when you come for the early service, but the music and message is so good you end up staying for the 11 o’clock, Lalah Hathaway took everyone there on Friday.
The show coincided with the release of her live album. After dreaming of it for more than 25 years, Hathaway said she considers Lalah Hathaway Live a companion to her father’s 1972 release of Donny Hathaway Live.
Just like her voice and her message, it’s every bit in the family.
Thank goodness — or rather thanks to Craig Garrett and Next Level Events — we’re now part of that family, having witnessed Hathaway’s delight in celebrating the album’s release.
We must have made an impression. Atlanta may be the location for her next live album because, she said, “Y’all aren’t playing.”
When it comes to her, clearly not. Two sold-out shows at the not-so-small Center Stage prove it.
A video of “Little Ghetto Boy,” a song first made famous by her father, kicked off the show and her opening notes.
Hashtags #becomeaman and #getbetter made statements almost as strong as the “Racism Sucks” T-shirt Hathaway wore, courtesy of a meet-and-greet turned shopping trip earlier in the week at Darryl Harris’ Moods Music.
It didn’t take the crowd long to settle in and let Lalah do her thing, with “You Were Meant for Me” up next, and her strong supporting cast of background vocalists in tow for “Just Breathe.”
Hathaway shined on the classic “Summertime” with fun runs throughout that she made sound easy. How easy, you ask? Let Lalah whistle the song and show you.
Taking a step away from the mic, and getting a feel for the tune, she continued with “I’m Coming Back,” putting special emphasis on the line “It was a fool’s mistake to run and hide.”
Yes, Lalah, it is a good song — a simple answer for the question she asked the crowd.
As she did throughout the show, Hathaway broke from song and shared a sistergirl sense of humor, this time asking for a show of hands for anyone who remembered buying cassette tapes. “Not off eBay, but what you used to play in your Momma’s Lincoln.”
Oh, how I can relate — my stepdad had a baby blue Continental.
That ability to relate, whether through lyrics, banter with the crowd, or a pure appreciation for her talent, is what made this show so mesmerizing.
“Baby Don’t Cry” was the first more uptempo number of the night, but Hathaway didn’t linger there.
No, it was time to serenade Kirsten, a pledge backer from the new album’s fundraising efforts. The song, “Mirror,” tells listeners that “sometimes you have to make the mirror your best friend … love yourself when no one else can.” Another message made that much more personal.
Speaking of personal, you know when you’re in the car, and one of your favorite songs comes on, and you want to be the only one singing it, because it’s your song … but then other people in the car join in?
Those kinds of mixed feelings approached when Hathaway launched into “Angel” by Anita Baker. That song was made for her to cover. For her to sing.
But the crowd couldn’t contain itself. Voices lifted for the next set of true R&B songs, including “Good Love,” “Caught Up in the Rapture,” “Just Because,” and “No One in the World.”
The trip through soul music worth singing continued with Patrice Rushen, the Whispers, and Zapp — because, you know, as Hathaway said, she “could sing in the same register when I was age 12.”
Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Sweet Thing” followed, with that family barbecue favorite “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze giving Hathaway the room to boogie like she really was at a family barbecue.
She stayed for another helping, this time served up by Earth Wind and Fire and “Would You Mind.”
The Gap Band’s “Yearning for Your Love” and all its talk of running in and out ran along beautifully as Hathaway made melodic stylings of the phrase “my heart is yearning.”
By that time, the crowd was also yearning as Hathaway teased out “There was a time …,” the first few words of “Forever, For Always, For Love.” Her reprise of the song made everyone remember Luther Vandross in the best possible way. It was made complete with guitar from Isaiah Sharkey that licked the song clean and smooth, putting the rhythm in blues that he probably got honest hailing from Chicago.
A lovely, spare but fulfilling version of “One Day I’ll Fly Away” put guitar in the place of the late Joe Sample’s piano on the original version. “When will love be through with me?” One only knows but I’m glad Hathaway isn’t through with us yet.
She spoke in tongues to us all night, scatting through the song up until the moment when she did IT. The unmistakable three-notes-in-one miracle made widely known as part of her Grammy-winning update of “It’s Something” with Snarky Puppy. This time she did it for her Aunt Jackie, with her mom and lots of family in the audience in full support.
Sometimes you find family where you least expect it. When I was in Kroger yesterday, I asked a fellow shopper, “How are you?”
“Blessed and obedient,” he replied.
If you attended services on Friday, you were blessed. Now, do like the preacher woman Hathaway says, and go buy the album if you haven’t already. You’ll have the obedient part covered.
After three well-received jazz albums, saxophonist Tia Fuller has landed on stages with Beyonce, Dianne Reeves, Erykah Badu and Janelle Monae.
Tonight, her straight-ahead jazz chops bring Fuller to Atlanta for “A Fuller Sound,” kicking off the Clark Atlanta-Morehouse-Spelman homecoming festivities at 595 North, alongside WERC Crew’s Xavier BLK working the turntables.
As a magna cum laude Spelman graduate, playing for homecoming is a fitting enterprise.
Keep reading for Fuller’s aim when she performs, why Atlanta serves as fertile ground for artists, and what she learned from Bey.
What do you hope your audience walk away with after your performance?
“I always hope that my audience walks away feeling uplifted and inspired after my performances. I want them to feel empowered, self-assured and confident that they can do the unimaginable, that they can pursue their wildest dreams and inspire others to do the same. I also want them to feel connected to the music of the ’90s, as my sound is all-encompassing and nostalgic. It takes you there and back.”
Any other plans for “A Fuller Sound”?
“I hope to take ‘A Fuller Sound’around the country and maybe even around the world, from colleges and universities to jazz festivals and performing arts centers. There are creative people that could use ‘A Fuller Sound’for inspiration.”
What brings you back to ATL to perform?
“My hometown is Aurora, Colo., and Atlanta is my second home. I have a lot of ties to the city. I have great friends in town. Atlanta is also the fertile ground that serves as a strong foundation for me spiritually and musically.
“During my time at Spelman, I practiced on the saxophone eight hours a day and completed a spiritual rites of passage, which allowed me to exercise and expound my personal relationship with God. So many of my spiritual brothers and sisters have exceeded their goals here, and I’m happy and amazed to have witnessed that.
“I appreciate sowing into Atlanta’s fertile ground, a place where many plant their seeds of life, fertilize them and watch them grow.”
You have worked alongside notable artists and musicians over the years. What have you learned from those experiences?
“I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with some of the biggest, baddest musicians of our time. As you can imagine, I’ve learned a lot and have grown professionally over the years. A lesson that’s near and dear to me comes from Beyonce, who taught me to never accept ‘no’ for an answer. There’s always a ‘yes.’ You just have to work for it. She also taught me to maintain a crystallized vision when multitasking as band leader, businesswoman and musician.”
What differentiates the music scene in ATL from the rest of the world?
“Atlanta is a city with blended sounds. People have migrated here from all over the world. There are opportunities to become exposed to multiple genres of music and work with other talented performers. It’s what makes the city so unique. Atlanta is influential in that it allows artists to step outside of their comfort zone and try something new. You just have to be open to it. And that’s what ‘A Fuller Sound’ is all about.”
— Big thanks to Aikeem Hunter for his contribution to this article.
You’ve got a few days, but Father’s Day will be here before we know it. I was asked to write a couple of paragraphs about fathers recently, and it was tough to keep it brief considering how much I love and appreciate my dad.
Before we get to that, here’s a rule that applies to dads (and moms).
If “Dad” is his name, capitalize it all the same.
My father’s name is Ronald. That’s a proper noun. My mom’s name is Cynthia. Same deal — since their names are proper nouns, they’re capitalized.
And in the example above, because you’re using “Dad” as his name, it’s capitalized.
Try this: Replace “mom” or “dad” with their real names. If it fits, capitalize it.
I went to my dad’s house for breakfast — his pancakes are the best!
My mom and I talk at least once a week — when I can get her to answer her phone!
If there’s one thing Dad believes in, it is learning.
I thought I was good at putting together a quick dinner, but Mom is the master chef.
Growing up listening to Billie Holiday can have quite an impact on a man. Nearly 35 years after first hearing her unmistakeable voice, and in the year that would have seen Holiday’s 100th birthday, Jose James brought a few of her classics to the Variety Playhouse on Saturday, April 4.
The strength of the show was James’ ability to channel and connect with Holiday without being encumbered by the responsibility of trying to sound just like her. That, and his tendency to incorporate elements of his more present-day techniques to brighten — and familiarize — the experience.
And that’s perfectly OK. As James’ ode to the unequivocal jazz vocalist, it’s necessarily personal, and at the start, unpredictable.
While the mixed crowd of jazz devotees, newbies, young, old and various races likely signed up to see James, they were treated to a strong opening set by Detroit drummer Brandon Williams. Of the guest vocalists, the strongest by far was Anesha Birchett, who’s featured on Williams’ new album, XII. She had just enough depth in her vocals to make them soulful, but her skillful, varied stylings made it all the way jazz.
As entertaining as Williams and the crew were, I found myself impatient for James. Before long, host Jamal Ahmad of the Dangerfeel Newbies was proclaiming the honor of breaking James on his WCLK-FM show, “The S.O.U.L. of Jazz,” seven years ago.
Out steps James, all cool, in a soft brown leather jacket, a darker hat, and even darker shades.
The first song on the album was also the first of the set: “Morning Heartache.” He drew every bit of sorrowful resignation on the “can’t shake you no how” phrasing, an indication of things to come. It was all ears on the beautifully ribboned keys solo by Leo Genovese, a contrast to James’ repeated “morning” riff, a la a record scratch from your favorite turntabilist.
“I’ve been looking forward to this night for a long time,” James said after the song. “I promised I would come back … and I’m back.”
He mentioned how both Holiday and Frank Sinatra would have celebrated their centennial in 2015, and with “Body and Soul” next, he said with a smile, “We had a Sinatra ending on that one.”
A tune Holiday wrote, “Fine and Mellow,” followed, with a fine bass solo by Solomon Dorsey, and more “do, do, do” riffing by James that went on a tad too long.
“Tenderly,” James’ “favorite standard of all time,” came next, and behind it, “Lover Man,” with elements of Mingus and Al Green. Like the best hip-hop samples, it worked seamlessly.
“They talk about jazz like it’s real academic and safe. I’m pretty sure Miles Davis did more drugs than any hip-hop artist,” he said, to chuckles and applause from the crowd, before referencing “Please Don’t Talk About Me When I’m Gone,” a standard that Holiday recorded. “If that’s not hip-hop, I don’t know what is,” he said.
Moments later, James fans are treated to a familiar track from his 2013 No Beginning, No End album, “Come to My Door,” segueing into the Al Green classic “Simply Beautiful” and its “I’d expect a whole lot of love out of you” challenge. From there, he and the band smooth into a first-fime-for-them cover of D’Angelo’s “One Mo’ Gin,” and then “Red Clay” by Jack Wilson — familiar to ATCQ fans via “Sucka Nigga.”
James’ hip-hop influence becomes tactile with a freestyle, telling listeners that he’ll never sell his soul to the devil and is on another level.
He anticipates the crowd’s question — “How in the world are we going to get back to Billie Holiday?” — and answers with one of her definitive songs, “God Bless the Child.”
For the encore, James returns to the stage alone and without his jacket, signaling the stripped down sounds to come. Using single tracks of his voice and handclaps, looped and layered against the backdrop of his acoustic guitar and perfect spaces of silence, “Strange Fruit” becomes the haunting, heart-wrenching symphony of cotton fields.
In that moment, James’ impact is a worthy addition to Holiday’s legacy. Yesterday we may have had the blues, but by James’ musical might, and by her spirit, it’s a new day.
One week ago today, Mo Audio celebrated its first birthday. Our guest was soul and R&B singer Donnie, whose critically acclaimed album The Colored Section broke the mold for what modern soul should sound like.
Donnie’s an amazing artist. And he’s just one of the amazing artists we’ve had the pleasure of talking to on our show over the past year.
I am so thankful for the opportunity to work with my co-hosts, Carlton Hargro and Larmarrous Shirley. We had a podcast together years ago when Carlton and I were colleagues at Creative Loafing. Here’s a throwback shot from one of our sessions. We used to record at Harlem Bar, now BQE Lounge, off Edgewood Avenue.
It’s really something how things come full circle. Now, instead of being underwritten by our local newsweekly, Carlton and Larmarrous have Slo Mo, a publication dedicated to all things soul music, to support our weekly broadcast.
I frequent Edgewood Avenue — including what I think will be a fun summer with DJ Tabone‘s Kool School Sundays at BQE.
Then there’s the connection with Jabari Graham, with whom I first crossed paths via Art Beats & Lyrics. Plus, he was friends with Dubelyoo, and we had North Carolina in common.
I am truly blessed to have such talented, striving, inspiring visionaries in my life. They make my life substantial. They make me feel like I’m a part of something special. Because they all certainly are. I love you guys. Thank you for everything.
“Awaken your senses,” proclaims the flier for ArOus, an event designed to connect Atlanta to a variety of visual art and music — in a sexy way for the inaugural event Friday, Feb. 21, at Spring 4th Center.
With Sky Hy, Madam CJ and Rahbi Raw performing, along with a set from DJ Tabone, the event is off to a solid start. Exhibitions from local artists that play up the sensual theme will stiffen the vibe for sure.