Urban haps of a grrrl on a mission to be a better writer, a new music master-blaster and a wonderfully brilliant razor-packing, MAC LipGlass wearing feminista...

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Jam, Rock & Roll

Ooowheeee last week sparked with a couple of unexpected social surprises for theHotness grrrl who is slowly turning into a damn recluse! On Tuesday I attended a men’s clothing line launch. Since I am going to pretty much diss the event I will keep the brand anonymous and just say it kinda sounds like LaCoste. The invitation boasted a champagne open bar starting at 7pm, which is of course the damn reason why most of us media heads went in the first place, never mind the fact that we were there early. Of course once we get there the cute girl at the door (who was wearing Bebe-- now why wouldn’t you have a cute guy greeting folks wearing the celebrated brand is beyond me, but I’m there as a writer and not as a marketing consultant so...) informs us that the open bar would not begin until 8 and would promptly end at 9pm. Now that’s what I call a classic party hustler maneuver. So I order a pretty unspectacular cosmo and get my nibble on. No one there seemed to care about the clothing line and the people coordinating the event didn’t do anything to even peek our curiosity. No runway models, no catalogues and I won’t even get into the fact that the goodie bags were being grabbed up in the middle of the party so there were some people with like 3 bags and a number of heads like me and my girl, Aissata, who ended up with nada. Whatever happened to giving gift bags out at the end of the party-- now that would have been classy? But alas, at least the venue--Earth, was beautiful and the monstrous candle laden wall gave everyone something to talk about. DJ MOS was on the ones and his old school mixes were off the meat hooks!

Walking back to the train station and feeling disappointed, if not a wee bit buzzed from the sparkly, I called my boy Jamahl and asked him what was popping. He says he just left his boys--The Marley Boys and that they were having some kind of fashion party on 17th Street. ‘Damn that’s right around the corner,’ I holler. “Well go and use my name,” he says groggily. “You’ll have fun. I’m too tired to go.” I figure something must be up with all the fashion ish happenings in Chelsea and decide it must be destiny for me to try and swerve my way into this fete. Again, and I swear I could write the guide on industry event blather, bullshit and hype, I get to the door of what I discover is a Tuff Gong/ Fader Mag event and use the name I am given and in classic bouncer-wannabe patron convo he politely but sternly says, “No I can’t help you. You’re not on the list.” So in an even more polite tone I responded, ‘Let me make a call. Someone will come out for me.’ And then the clincher, ‘I’ll just get out of your way and step over here.” So I step aside, call my friend back and ask that he call his boy to let me in. I keep my cool and continue to make eye contact with the bouncer. Before I know it, he motions for Aissata and I to come over-- “You ladies can go in, but don’t tell anyone I let you in.” We graciously say thank-you like three times and ask for his name and then say his name and thank him again. Now that's what I call hustle and flow.

When we walk inside Drive-In Studios the music is bumping hard, the drinks are flowing from an open bar and the smell of La is thick and sweet. Next thing we know, a bunch of cute natty dreads are storming the stage and the crowd, which was probably a couple hundred thick, started applauding and shouting. I look up and hot damn I’m bout to bear witness to a once in a lifetime musical moment featuring Stephen, Ziggy, Damian, Rohan and Julian Marley. Now I’ve gone from being buzzed to just bliss. It was an irie gathering to celebrate Tuff Gong-- the record label and now clothing line launched by Bob’s seed. Yo, these boys proceeded to straight rip the set playing songs like Is This Love, Jamming, I Shot The Sheriff, Get Up Stand Up and whoa, when the band dived into Welcome To Jam Rock the entire crowd went bananzas! The live band even simulated a rewind that was followed by the kind of breaks you used to hear at block parties in the Bronx circa ’85 when deejays would play their Marley Marl mixtapes on sound systems the size of Maybachs. We were all amped and sweaty by the time the set closed, but I can tell you the air was ablaze with this undercurrent of militancy and everyone there knew we had just experienced something so special. See for yourself.

On Thursday night thanks to a last minute gesture of appreciation and some homegrrrl luv, Laurie-- the publisher of BUST Magazine got me on the list for Esthero’s show at Irving Plaza. Before I can even get into Esthero’s pyrotechics on the mic I gotta give props to her opening act—Leela James. Girlfriend’s vocals are countrified like grits and red eye gravy country thick. I really loved her flavor. Unfortunately she spent almost half her set doing funk covers which were really good, no doubt. But I’m always checking for originality and the songs she finally sang from her album were pretty memorable albeit a bit too mellow especially after doing Give It To Me Baby and especially since most of us had been there standing for atleast 45 minutes waiting for the show to start and at 9:45pm needed some uptempos and some edge.

Esthero on the other hand hit the stage running and never looked back until her 75-minute set was over. Even then, she was singing We R In Need from the balcony amongst her fans. With the edge of Blondie, the sexy playfulness of Madonna and the sultry flyness of Gwen Stefani, Esthero sung each of her songs new and old with so much freakin fervor that you couldn’t help but get caught up in her melodic madness. I think she said that this was her first major performance to promote her first record in 6 years! And you can tell from the energy and love she put into songs like Breath From Another, Country Livin’ and a new joint—Gone, that the Toronto native apparently had a lot to get off her chest. I’m feeling her now just because she puts MTV on blast for always playing Ashanti and disses R. Kelly for his alleged sex scandals. Mad folks were in the house too. I saw Rich Nice, Jayson Jackson who is quoted in the current issue of Trace about his relationship with Lauryn Hill, and even Andre 3000 was there kickin it too. Well Leela’s first single is a remake of “A Change Is Gonna Come” and after this night I really feel like music heads are about to switch things up a bit. Don’t you?

Friday, July 15, 2005

iChing While You Bling

I firmly believe in having and maintaining good karma.
"Now don't you understand Universal Law?
What you throw back comes back to you star.
Never underestimate those who you scar.
Cause karma, karma, karma comes back to you hard"
- "Lost Ones", Lauryn Hill

When you are self-employed there will come that time in every entrepreneur's life that you will have to chase a check or two, deal with a non-paying client or compromise your strategy to secure that project, but in the end if you can keep your integrity and grace, you will find success and happiness. Some tips on keeping your karma clean and yourself on point:

1. Always have a contract.
2. Never take things personally (if you do be prepared to walk away from the deal).
3. Although you may be tied to an idea emotionally don't expect anyone else to be. It's all about $$$ out there. So make your idea stick by having a great game plan that includes a stream of revenue. If it's rejected, rework it and try it again... and again.
4. Workout and/ or take up a hobby (this will prevent you from taking out your frustration across the jaw of some unsuspecting but probably well deserved associate).
5. Make an I'm Gon' Kick Your A*S mixtape or playlist and play it every time you feel you are about to lose your cool. Should always be played while working-out and should include the following songs: Mama Said Knock You Out - LL Cool J, Fight The Power- Public Enemy, Survivor- Destiny's Child, We R In Need Of A Musical Revolution - Esthero (props to Couch Sessions), Baby I'm A Star - Prince, Stand - Donnie McClurkin and Fighter - Christina Aguilera.
6. Burn some incense and pray for wisdom, insight and patience for yourself and your adversaries and... then write the name of any hater on a piece of paper, sprinkle it w/ white juju dust and rip it into seven pieces.. okay I'm just kidding. Jokes, man. Jokes.

So I made it to Gracie Mansion on Wednesday, but never made it inside because all festivities were held in Bloomberg's backyard. Ossie Davis was honored and Harry Belafonte accepted on his behalf and Phylicia Rashad was inducted into the Nat'l Black Hall of Fame. She just brims with grace, integrity and sophistication. Too bad folks could not give her or anyone for that matter the respect they deserved. Folks were just too busy eating the barbecued chicken, black-eyed peas and watermelon talking and jabbering throughout the awards presentation. But it was pretty cool to see so many Harlem folks network with each other on such beautiful grounds.

Now that we've iChinged, the latest in iPoding.

Wooden iPods are so beautiful. How can I get one?

iShuffle too big for you minimalists heads... well now there's the iFlea (from Spine Mag)!

Of course, Hustle and Flow gots to pimp the iPod too!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

A Different Brew

It’s a dreary day here in Harlem. I ran out of Domino and had to use brown sugar in my coffee. I’m loving the really ruddy taste of my strong brew. Work is pretty slow. I just completed 5 major interviews/ features in 6 weeks—Tyson Beckford, Damon Dash, Faith Evans, Wendy Williams and an art gallery run down, so I’m enjoying the calm cause I know that as a freelance writer I will have to start hustling like tomorrow for that next check. Anyway today I have to return a few more emails and then I'm off to the Bronx to deal with a family emergency. I’m supposed to head to Gracie Mansion later this afternoon for a Harlem Week kick-off gala. I was so looking forward to going there. I mean who gets invited to Gracie?!? They will be honoring Harry Belafonte and Phylicia Rashad two of my favorites, but depending on what happens in the Bronx I may not make it at all. Just read today’s NY Times and there are quite a few interesting stories about grrrls who are breaking new ground cinematically and Goth grrrls that are doing their thing stylistically, and even a few poker grrrls who are giving guys in Vegas a run for their money… literally. Check it!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Black Grrrls Rule: Part II

Well you can't mention BGR without talking about the wildly popular issue of Trace magazine. This year's issue, which hits newsstands on Thursday, will feature her on the cover with a really long exclusive interview inside. And yeah supposedly she's rocking that Beatles wig, not sure if she’ll be sporting the big bow though. And am I the only one to notice that she was a no-show for her “world premiere” closing performance at the BET Awards? Mad props to J. Period though for wrangling Ms. Hill down long enough to produce this. So what is it about Lauryn that makes our heart still go pitty pat even after this and this? Is it because the music landscape of R&B and hiphop is so dry and bleak? Mark Neal gives an interesting, indepth and analytical dig on that topic. I’m saying, despite current lackluster performances, I’m still so anxious for L Boogie’s sophomore cd, The Khulami Phase. Maybe we’re just fiending for her because she really is just that gifted. On the flip side, Trace’s journalistic coup bumped this mc’s feature totally out of the issue leaving her dissed like that. Talking about being dissed, why wasn’t India.Arie included in this year’s hot grrrls EVENT-- The Sugarwater Tour (with Erykah, Jill, Latifah and Floetry). I haven’t heard too much about the performances either way so I guess we’ll have to come back with comments in part 3 of this post. SOHH.com is really giving us ladies a chance to air-out our feminist laundry with great blogs like this by a number of hiphop vets including Kim Osorio—the former EIC at The Source and former Aftermath executive Tashion Macon. On a different note, last month I was getting my usual soy protein pepper steak and carrot-ginger juice at the Uptown Juice Bar and thought the sister next to me looked familiar. Sure nuff, her name is Somi and she’s a singer from East Africa. I finally had a chance to peep her website. She’s definitely bringing a little Cassandra Wilson and some Miriam Makeba to the table. Very nice! Take a listen for yourself. As usual, some of us Black grrrls are still trying to get our ish together and must deal with some really funky issues in our lives: Lil’ Kim gets a bid, Eve is pissed off about her sex tape and Terry McMillan lost her groove. And folks still have a problem seeing the connection between sex, hiphop, promiscuous girls and misogynist men. And on top of that feminism is still the other F word with folks of color. Dang! Finally, I’ve got a lot to say about this sister, but I will let Mos Def's words and the information on her site inform you. However I will say to the poiticos in New Jersey and New York and to Bush…Assata Shakur is not your problem. Even Castro is hip to the game. Stop trying to use a Black woman as scapegoat fodder (you’ve already got Condoleeza pinned-up) for what is becoming a season of discontent and cover-ups!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

So Amazing

Not only is real life stranger than fiction, but real life can serve up huge doses of stress, frustration, angst and blues when showing out. It’s been straight kicking my ass for a good month now if I have to be honest. I haven’t posted in forever and I actually really like to blog. By now I thought I would be so advanced in my tech-web quest that I’d be pod-casting and having cocktails with Steve Jobs, but it seems that as usual I will be the last one on board for what seems like another great leap toward media democracy and individuality.

Talking about casting...I just got back from a very relaxing weekend in Sag Harbor. I just learned how to fish about a month ago... and yes there is an art to it. I love it and have a natural affinity for spincasting and catching. I caught a large fluke (19 inches long!) my first time out. Wasn’t so lucky this time around though as the most I caught was a cool breeze. I have some great pix that I will post later (lemme get back in the swing of writing first!) On Sunday I went out for the first time at night IN a lake, water came up to my waist and it was one of the most frightening experiences ever. It was pitch black and I kept feeling these crawl over my feet and these kept bumping against my legs. At least I can say I did it and I will probably do it again. Someone back on shore called me an angler and so now I’m hyped and have to make good on my new identity….especially since angler grrrls, at least in the Hamptons, are damn near non-existent. Shopping grrrls, go-to-lunch grrrls, and even surf grrrls, oh yes! Now that I’m back in the city I can tell that I left a lot of the ick that was making me so tired and stressed back in the ocean. Big –up to Ochun and Yemaya, the Yoruban goddesses of lakes, oceans, rivers and seas for the cleansing (today being 07.07.05 it is soooo appropriate!).

Big-Up also to Luther Vandross, he’s in a better place now. There will be a second memorial service for him today. Yesterday hundreds of folks lined up to pay their respects at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel on the upper eastside here in Manhattan.

His music just keeps coming up on my iTunes today even though I have over 1,000 songs and it’s on shuffle. Now that’s the power of Spirit for ya! A musical force like no other—Luther’s music always takes me higher. In terms of his vocals and his arrangements of classics like Anyone Who Had A Heart and If Only For One Night written by the very underrated 80’s soulster Brenda Russell, he was able to capture the emotion of a phrase in a single note. The only other male singers that got it like that are Donny Hathaway, Marvin Gaye and Prince, even though I believe there are more women who have this genius (i.e. Whitney Houston, Minnie Riperton and Roberta Flack), generally there just aren’t too many who summon the spirits and bring the magic when they sing quite like Luther did. May he rest in peace and for the rest of us still here, take it from me, let us try and snag some quiet moments with nature. It’s the only way to take the punches that real life loves to hand out and makes getting through the personal and professional blahs, heartaches, disappointments just a little less frightening.

Today’s iTunes shuffle: The Glow Of Love – Luther Vandross, Hello- Floetry, There’s Nothing Better Than Love – Luther Vandross, For All We Know – Dianne Reeves, Jah Work – Ben Harper