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.
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.
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.
With a career spanning more than 20 years, the album’s title is tongue in cheek. “I’ve been doing this for a while,” Sommerville joked after his opening song. “It’s so good to see a room full of people who came to hear your songs,” he said.
Count good observation among Sommerville’s skills. The room was packed with people seated in the main room and the adjacent lounge enjoying dinner and cocktails for the weekly Suite Jazz Series.
The mixed crowd of mature adults and a handful of below-fortysomethings included “King of Strings” violinist Ken Ford and How Big Is Your Dream drummer J. Fly, as well as WCLK-FM morning show host Morris Baxter.
Sommerville and the band played tunes from the new album, which dropped Oct. 28, and a few selections from previous releases.
Paul Preyer stood in for guitarist Earl Klugh on “Desire,” track No. 2 from the new album, and sax man Ryan Whitehead added some heat to a hip, heavy mashup of Duke Ellington’s “Caravan.” Its stealthy bassline made the timeless song thoroughly modern.
After heavy applause and a few fist pumps from the crowd, Sommerville slowed things down with “Rebecca of Birmingham,” an ode to his grandmother and the city she called home.
The bluesy, sweet number is reminiscent of Ray Charles’ “Georgia on My Mind” at moments, with something special in the pauses and end notes.
Sommerville popped off his jacket just in time for “Make the Spot Hot,” making his way through the crowd and past a few ladies line dancing to the groove from his 2011 album, The Get Down Club.
“I didn’t plan to get out of hand,” Sommerville said with a knowing smile. The crowd didn’t seem to mind as dancing picked up table side and in the back near his merch table.
After introducing the band — Al Smith on keys, Louis “Styx” Newsom on drums, music director Tres Glibert and Derek Scott both on guitar — the guys played “Forever.” It was first recorded in 1993, but released on Overnight Sensation.
Billy Ocean boogie comes to mind with a lovely bridge and guitar solo. Even though the trumpet is prominent, it blends particularly well in this song.
Like the red cups on each table that signify a real house party, Sommerville and the crew showed the room a real good time. He had the entire crowd responding to his demand to “Put your red cups up!”
While his sing-song rap wasn’t the stuff of true hip-hop MCs, the go-go feel of “Red Cups Up” and its party vibe made it all just fine.
Sommerville’s horn added a perfect accompaniment to a B.B. King blues number. “Look out baby,” goes the chorus, “You might have made your move too soon.” Not so, if the folks who couldn’t stop dancing were any indication, especially one man up front who followed Sommerville’s trumpet note for note, step for step.
“We’re going to take you south of the border now,” Sommerville said before leading into my favorite, “Like You Mean It.” The Latin-styled song that encourages listeners to “shake your hips” is off the 2007 album of the same name, and gets regular rotation on WCLK.
For his encore, the band funked things up with Funkadelic’s “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Sommerville had a couple of “taking you to church” moments with his vocals, pushing the funk deeper.
Fans of live music can check out the Suite Jazz Series every Thursday. It’s a nice change of pace. Complimentary parking is a plus, as is the decent sound and redesigned space.
Be prepared for spotty service at the bar, but full-on fun with quality musicians. If the show Sommerville and his friends put on is any measure, it’s going to be a long, hot winter.
If you’re a hip-hop head and missed Diamond D’s listening party for his new album, The Diam Piece, you may have to wait until April or May to hear the acclaimed producer’s latest addition to his unmistakable raw-with-finesse style.
But for those who made it to the Basement on Friday courtesy of the Boom Bap, it was a reminder of good hip-hop music’s relevance and reach.
“Y’all are the first to hear the album I’ve been working on for the last two years,” Diamond said. And true to the Diggin’ in the Crates crew sound, all the tracks kept heads nodding hard.
A few highlights:
A track featuring Pharoahe Monch kicks things off with a bang — the rumble of bass over a touch of smooth that Diamond is known for.
Next up: The unmistakable voice of Pete Rock, putting up verses between a crazy guitar lick and D’s ever-present knock.
Fat Joe and Chi Ali team up on a track Diamond said was “that fighting music right there.” Understandably so. I could see how this track would get you live for the night.
On the dopest track yet, Hi-Tek and Diamond himself rip over a stealthy sick beat, grimy in all the right ways. The horn break is ill.
Ladies love a production worthy of their skills. That’s why Rapsody, and Atlanta’s own Boog Brown and Stacy Epps shine on this next one. Pump your brakes, indeed!
J-Live’s flow is his best friend, and they reward each other well on this next track. Good stuff.
That Diamond had to remind folks that Sadat X is from Brand Nubian makes me SMH. The Kill Bill “Bang Bang” sample is doing just that.
Ras Kass is still doing his thing. This track has a West Coast funk feel to it, which makes sense.
“Where’s The Love?” with Talib Kweli is the perfect combination of this self-proclaimed geek’s high pitch and guitar soul. The details — particularly an “I ’oun know” answer to the track’s title — make this song.
DJ Gee Supreme held down the decks for most of the night, while special guests Big Rec and J-Live kicked off the show, which was hosted by the ever-present, always amped Fort Knox.
If it’s mostly the voice that gets you up, then Big Rec had people jumping. Three tracks in, he rounded out his set with an a cappella rhyme worthy of everyone’s attention.
But J-Live felt the need to check the crowd like the school teacher he used to be after his first rhyme. “If you don’t shut the fuck up right now, I’m gonna start singing. And I’m a rapper, so y’all don’t want me singing.”
It worked. As he launched into his next track, the crowd made sure to “Start Listening.”
J-Live commanded the mic much like he did the crowd, the true definition of an MC — master of ceremonies — as he explained at the opening of his set.
That said, I wonder if demanding attention is better than getting it freely. The crowd was obviously there in a show of support.
If only the crowd had shown more support by staying through the entire TheDiam Piece album.
Regardless, there’s truly nothing like good hip-hop music, and I’m encouraged to see legends like Diamond continue to make moves and bring comparatively new artists along for the ride.
The official reason hundreds of hip-hop artists, adorers and advocates packed into Atlanta’s Landmark Theater on Thursday was to see Phife’s new “Dear Dilla” video, a tribute to the late James Dewitt Yancey, aka J Dilla.
But the event’s significance was much greater — much like the acclaimed hip-hop producer’s catalog.
Rasta Root, a highly regarded DJ and producer in his own right, created the track. Sadly, he was also the one to tell Phife of J Dilla’s untimely death due to lupus complications in February 2006.
“Ever since then, I knew I had to do a dedication for him,” Phife said. “This was the right time.”
The video officially drops Feb. 11. It took about 10 months to make, and kicks off with Phife laid up in a hospital, frustrated with the Chicago vs. New York score, among other things.
Rasta Root and Ali Shaheed Muhammad make cameos, mostly to discourage Phife from packing on the pounds and pushing him to stay healthy. It’s a humorous flip on Phife’s serious battle with diabetes.
After the screening, hip-hop radio powerhouse Jayforce hosted a panel that included Phife, Rasta Root, director Konee Rok of Chicago, and Atlanta-based Chicago native MC 4-Ize.
4-Ize made it clear that in addition to Phife’s triumphant return to the mic after 14 years since his last single, and on the eve of Dilla Day, the timing couldn’t have been more appropriate.
“I was supposed to be an extra [in the video],” 4-Ize said. But he was there when Rasta Root was making the beat, and he just happened to be in Chicago when Rok and the crew were filming.
Now, here sat 4-Ize on the panel, with his brother visiting from Chicago to witness what he insisted was the universe at work.
It came full circle, he said. “Nothing is a coincidence.”
Rok could say the same, as his original love for breaking brought him to filmmaking — music videos in particular. “If I didn’t do what I love,” Rok said, “I wouldn’t have been led here.”
Rasta Root had a different, but related take. His tendency is to do things organically, to just let things line up in any given situation, he said. And working with Rok just fit.
The same could be said of Phife’s new album, Muddy Morphosis, to be released later this year on Rasta Root’s Smokin Needles label. Phife treated the audience to a verse toward the end of the event, a well-received sample of what’s to come.
As for that long-awaited, always debated next ATCQ album, Phife said, “I wouldn’t mind doing it, but I’m only one fourth of A Tribe Called Quest.” Then again, “I can really do this solo stuff,” he said — to cheers and claps.
There was an afterparty at El Bar where Rasta Root would take to the tables, and Friday, the crew headed to Detroit, J Dilla’s hometown, for Dilla Day.
Along with a plethora of hip-hop luminaries including Dilla’s group Slum Village, Pete Rock, DJ Premier and De La Soul, a very special guest would be on hand to see “Dear Dilla” for the first time: Dilla’s mom, Mrs. Yancey.
Like the family members and loved ones who held framed photos of Dilla in front of Detroit landmarks throughout the video, and like the music Dilla made and the hip-hop we love, it’s authentic and everlasting.
As Rok said, “It’s not old, it’s just a certain style of music. It’s present, just like anything else.”
If the comments from panelists at the Where Did Our Love Go book signing and open discussion are any indication, love among African-Americans can thrive. But like anything, it takes effort, honest self-reflection and proper priorities.
The book’s editor, media critic and veteran journalist Gil Robertson, said, “What I discovered was, we want love. We value it. But a lot of us have fallen off on how to find it,” Robertson said.
Five panelists, including Robertson, gathered at the Hammonds House on Tuesday to celebrate the book’s release with a signing and discussion, partly courtesy of Written magazine‘s Wine and Words series.
Each of the panelists was a contributor to the book: radio personality and ordained minister Twanda Black; From Afros to Shelltoes founder and Spelman College educator Ed Garnes Jr.; publisher and architecture and construction consultant David Horton; and psychiatrist Dr. Cassandra Wanzo.
Big talent comes in small packages. And big names come out to support it.
Parents do, too, of course. Along with band directors representing a few of the 14 schools whose students played and sang their hearts out at the Unity Concert presented by the How Big Is Your Dream Foundation and the Ken Ford Foundation on Saturday, March 23, at the Porter Sanford III Performing Arts Center.
The foundations were founded by Jorel “JFly” Flynn and Ken Ford, respectively.
The second annual concert is a fundraiser that supports the two foundations. The groups aim to help kids explore their musical talents, and guide the kids on how to navigate careers in music and maximize their life’s potential.
Clearly, these young folks are on their way. They showered the standing-room-only crowd of about 500 with a variety of performances, from Booker T. Washington’s drum line to a trombone trio to a flute player named Summer.
Before the Video Blankets hit the stage, the evening’s host, Sasha The Diva from KISS 104.1 and B98.5, said they were reminiscent of the Jackson 5. True to her claim, the trio didn’t skip a beat when the mics wouldn’t work. It was almost as if the crowd wasn’t sure if a technical difficulty had occurred because frontman JT sang so strong and confidently. He kept his composure like a pro — as did his sister Lexie with her perfectly coordinated rockin’ out dance moves, and baby brother DJ on the drums.