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...

Friday, May 30, 2008

His Hustle, My Flow

I recently traveled to South Beach for a lil fun in the sun with my homeslice from Chicago. This was actually my first time back in Miami in four years and I was totally outta touch with what was poppin. Ingenious me decided not to get recommendations from trusted well-traveled friends or from online info ciphers like Traveling Diva or Club Planet. Oh no, I was going to be spontaneous and just ask folks once I got to Miami. As soon as I got off the plane I spotted a brother waiting to board that was dressed in this fly outfit and just looked like someone I would want to roll with. When I asked him what was poppin in MIA he just responded with a laugh and then said he's from NYC and was catching a connecting flight back home from St. Croix and all he knew about Miami was that the Heat had a sucky season. Figures! So I make my way over to the Starbucks that's located at the end of the terminal and as I get on line I see a very attractive man. He's got that swagger and I catch his eye. As he walks by he doubles back and gets on line right behind me. Immediately I asked him with his chocolaty tanned skin what was hot in Miami. He looked at me and smiled and said he wasn't really sure what was up, that he had been there for business and was now headed to New York City.

Him: I come to Miami all the time for meetings and business and just get drinks at various hotels. You should try the lounge at the Shore Club or Delano.

Me: Well I already know about those places. I'm from NYC. Hotel lounges are a given.

Him: Well I don't really do the club thing. You know I have bricks everywhere-- South Beach, NYC, Malibu, Beverly Hills.

Me: Bricks?

Him: Yeah, homes. What part of New York are you from?

Me: Oh so now Mr. Beverly Hills is spitting hiphop lyrics at me? I'm from the Bronx originally and I now live Uptown-- Harlem, and I've never heard bricks used in that manner.

Him: I may live in Beverly Hills, but I'm from the PJ's. I know Harlem-- the Pink Houses. Marcy in Brooklyn. I may work in "the industry," but I'm from the hood.

Me: Okay Biggie Smalls with your mansions and Benz's giving ends to your friends. I get it.

Him: (falls back laughing) Yo, you have jokes!

Me: So now you live in Beverly Hills? The whitest, most xenophobic, most plastic place to live in this country? I don't get it. Even if you work in the industry, you don't have to live smack dab in it unless you are looking for validation.

Him: Nah it's not even like that. I genuinely like Beverly Hills. I can make any city my home because home is wherever I am.

Me: Oh, so you I- Ching too and can spit 100 Laws of Power? Fascinating! So what do you do in the industry, Dr. Phil?

Him: You're killin me with the snaps. I work in film. I make movies.

Me: Really? Which ones?

Him: Too many to name.

Me: Uh ha, right. Well tell me "Mr. I Got Bricks" from coast to coast and too many movies to name, do you have a card?

Him: No, I don't carry cards.

Me: No business cards! I see. Well do you at least have a name?

Him: Antoine. What's yours?

Me: Nicole.

Him: Well it was a pleasure speaking with you and when I get to New York I will talk to my friends and find out what's poppin this weekend in South Beach and will reach out and let you know. (he takes my card) Okay, Ms. Hotness?

Me: Cool. Have a good flight.

I walk away thinking I've just wasted 20-minutes talking to some wannabe producer, hustling me with his jive flow. Thirty minutes later I'm retelling the story to my girl back at the hotel and it's apparent that I'm still hot about losing much needed beach time by talking to some dude who didn't even give up the digits! Finally at the end of my story I say to her, "and if things weren't shady enough with this no business card having, can't name a single film I've made poser, homey's got the nerve to have some crazy, fake sounding Hollywoodesque last name. He couldn't be Antoine Johnson or Thomas. Oh no this fool's last name had to be exotic. Brace yourself now-- "Fuqua". Yep, Antoine Fuqua. Have you heard of any crazier shiz before? My friend's mouth just dropped. Did you say Antoine Fuqua? Oh my god! Do you know who you were putting on blast? She then IMDB'd his name and well, all I have to say is I loved Training Day... ooops!

For more about my trip to South Beach check here where I also blog.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Tanqueray Style Sessions

Last night Tanqueray got the green bottles out and did it big for their Tanqueray Style Sessions-- some crazy synergistic, cross-marketing mash-up of booze, music, fashion and art all taking place under one roof in the name of brand development. The roof in question was that of The Metropolitan Pavilion in Chelsea, NYC. When I arrived it was a mob scene outside and immediately I was ready to head home, but comrade Larry Ossei let me slide to the front of the VIP line and I was able to ease in rather quickly. I honestly forgot how frickin loony people get when the call of "Open Bar" is made. Tanqueray, not even really a hot brand in terms of what’s poppin, had folks standing at least 50 deep in three different lines waiting to get their gin and tonic on or some other concoction. The whole experience reminded me of back in the day how folks in my hood would line up for our free cheese and butter. I saw author Trey Ellis who said to me in astonishment these lines are ridiculous. "Yeah, but how ridiculous does that make me for actually waiting on the line," I responded. After being on line for 15 minutes I started wondering if I had lush life issues, but then just contended that these types of industry affairs—fraudulent attempts at being supa cutting-edge necessitated a drink. Keeping it real, the music and art takes a back seat to cocktail sipping. There was a fashion show featuring a few lines including Marc Ecko and throughout the space were cute lil "branded" lounge areas created by Crate & Barrel and live art displays by graffiti artist STASH. It was a 3-ring circus with the main attraction being the concession stands.

There were however two thrilling moments. The first happened 30-minutes before the fashion show started when a vent fell from the ceiling, hitting a woman. She was knocked down to the floor but looked like she would be okay after medical attention. Clearly she's got a good case for a lawsuit. How's that for brand development Tanqueray?

The second thrilling moment was a "surprise performance" by Ryan Leslie. I had heard so much about him-- heard his jawn "Diamond Girl," but never saw him live. He danced, twirled and generally sang his behind off. It took him a minute to gain the attention (and respect) of the crowd, but by the third song he had won over the audience with his charm and enthusiasm and folks had gathered around the stage to show dude in the shiny jacket some love. His band was tight. I just wish he would lay off of the Usher routine and give us more edge-- more James Brown if you will.

I saw Sylvia Rhone standing next to DJ’s Steve Aoki & Mos cheering her artist on and looking fierce as ever. Damon Dash, who I interviewed a couple of years ago was there with his son chatting with Angela Yee from Sirius, and speaking of Diamond Girl, I met Jenn Tsang who creates fresh gold rings and other bombastic bling rocking the flyest denim jumpsuit. Also in the house Charles of Hustlemode with Mary Phanmaha from Rocawear and Slim Pickens.

I had an aight time. Will I check for Ryan's record? Yep. Will I start ordering Tanqueray when I go out? Nope. Will I make sure not to stand under any open vents? You damn skippy I will!

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Sixth Ave Street Fair & Uptown Designers Market

Weekends just seem to zip by, but then what else is new. Time flies warp speeds when you are having fun or, at the very least, when you're trying to chill. So it was for me this weekend. On Saturday I ran some errands and (literally) stumbled across the massive 6th Avenue street festival. And ooh wheee, I can’t tell you how much I love street fairs. The intoxicating smell of Italian sausages, peppers and onions on the grill and just popped hot kettle corn. It’s funny because I find in my travels there are two types of people. You got your amusement park aficionados and your street fair fanatics. The former loves the rides, the thrill of the rollercoasters and the exhilarating drenchings of water rides. I, on the other hand, fall into the latter category. I love walking from vendor to vendor looking for some unique rare find. Unfortunately the fairs in NYC have become more of the same mass produced trinket hodgepodgery-- sheet sets, wool sweaters, I love NY t-shirts, and hoop earrings galore. But the one thing that sucks me in every time is the fair's food fare. I'ma sucka for the chicken kebobs, funnel cake and kettle corn. And so I spent a good chunk of my Saturday afternoon munching my yum-yum off walking around midtown.

On Sunday the ominous clouds kept me at bay and so I stayed close to home, which worked out cause once the sun came out around 6pm I went to the Uptown Emerging Designers Market and caught the last bit of what was clearly a very hot affair. Unlike my 6th Ave experience the previous day, the vendors at this market, which was located in Harlem at the Hip Hop Culture Center (who knew?), featured vendors hawking all kinds of unique and stylish goods-- many handmade. I loved the wit of homey selling the Puerto Rican for a Weekend tees to celebrate NYC's annual Puerto Rican Day Parade-- a day where not only Jessica Alba is Latino but dang near all of Gotham.

My absolute fave though were the sisters behind Cut It Out apparel-- a line of tees that have all these cool, positive messages for women and girls like "Destroy Stereotypes" and "Dope Enough To Make You Holla & Scream" from Latifah and Monie Love's Ladies First. CIO co-founders Noricia Anderson and Tirinda McNeil (in photo: 2nd from right & right) believe "that women should assert their inner strengths and explore their individuality." About the Harlem Market, Tirinda says "there's more love here and the people get us immediately.” Well I sure did. I bought two tees and am waiting for them to do a white and gold version of their iconic tee-- the one that features the ladies bathroom symbol emblazoned boldly in front. theHotness no doubt!

I had a great time talking to the artists and vendors who all seemed to genuinely enjoy one another and the idea of growing their business in Harlem. The Market co-founder Michelle Gittens, who has Heidi Klum's charisma and Michael Kors' no nonsense all-American business sense and more designers under her uptown roof than any one season of Project Runway is excited about the future of the market. Here she is talking about the Market and what’s next:

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Funk, Feathers & Fire: Joi, Tamar-kali, & blaKbushe

I tell you no lie, back in '94, Sunshine & The Rain was the frickin soundtrack to my life. I thought I had just landed the job of my dreams working at a major music publishing company only to discover on day two that the job totally sucked. And on top of that I had turned down a cool gig at Essence for it too. So I would go to work, happy to have a job, and one in the music biz no less, but miserable to be working for total lunatic haters (save for my homegirl--go Homeschool Records!) Anyway a total digression I know, but that song like the mystical music maven that breathes life into it every time she sings the lyrics encapsulates the disillusioned heartbreak and blissful joy that's a part of everyday life for everyday folk who dream big, work hard, and love deep. Joi is that artist. Shid, she's that woman! Crazy critical acclaim from fans and critics for her first two records that got no real support from her label and fickle music industry; A freaky deaky awe inspiring romance and subsequent marriage to Big Gipp that dissolved like sand into divorce, lost love and baby-daddydom. So needless to say I could not wait to see Joi Gillium do her crazy sexy cool thing at Saturday night's Queen's Daughters event.

Unfortunately the Ballroom was half packed, but that didn’t stop the three headliners from giving us stadium-packed-to-capacity worthy performances. The Labelle tribute, which I thought was going to feature all three singers jamming together, opened with Shelley Nicole’s blacKbushe giving the audience, as producer Kim Knox described it-- a baptism of fire. I especially loved her song that she wrote in response to the cutting down of the noose-strewn tree in Jena, LA. It was my first time seeing her and she definitely lived up to all the hype I had been hearing about her over the years.

Next up was Tamar-kali who was giving us Burlesque Ringmistress love. She twirled a cane, played guitar, bellydanced, did this amazing interpretation of Labelle’s funky Space Children that featured an accordionist, all while maintaining the illest décolletage. Now that's a real woman for ya! Here she is before the show talking about her personal style, Labelle, and bellydancing:

(and if you want to know the answer to the last question of this interview stay tuned for the relaunch of theHotness.com)

And last but certainly not least, Joi strutted out on stage to what has now become her literal cat-call. With every meow moaned by her two backup singers, the excitement in the room intensified. I think the last time Joi performed in NYC was in 2002 so this was a long-awaited homecoming of sorts. And she wasted no time giving her peeps a taste of what they had been yearning for all night, if not a half a decade. She jump-started her seductive prowl tease with Tennessee Slim-- a fun, yet smoldering ditty that showcases the Star Kitty's country cat persona-- a brown liquor drinking, hammocked collards cookin, no mess taking single mama. From there she served up Ameoeba Cleansing Syndrome classics like "You Turn Me On" and "If I'm in Luck I Might Just Get Picked Up," which were both initially rooted in the deep murky back waters of Labelle, Betty Davis and Bootsy Collins. Clearly this was more than a tribute for Joi as her set list and indeed her professional discography prove. She’s got Patti's in your face machisma and flamboyance and for kicks she's got Funkadelic all up under her skin just to show off her knowledge of the music and the movement. When she sang You Turn Me On, which she used to sing with her recently deceased sista-friend and mentor Whyld Peach, it was apparent this "wings and feathers" jawn was more than a gig for Joi. She respects and misses her musical roots. Nina Simone is as much family for her as Whyld Peach. There is a palpable connection to the ancestors when she performs and she acknowledges the angels around her by donning her own wings. I couldn't help but get totally misty eyed. Fo sho' Ms. Gillium gives multiple meanings to the notion of getting moist. Holla and Aché to dat!

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Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Queen's Daughters

I can't wait for Saturday! Joi (aka Star Kitty, aka Tennessee Slim aka the grrrl that gave us "Sunshine & The Rain"), Tamar-kali (who I've raved about at least a zillion times in the past), and Shelley Nicole's blaKbushe all on one bill?!? All under under one roof?!? Yep, bananas, mangos... whut? It's going to be nuts! This Saturday marks the debut of The Queen's Daughters: Celebrating Women Who Rock with a Touch of Soul: Honoring the Musical Legacy of Labelle. Thanks to Kim Knox and the folks at Ubiquita we can spend Mother's Day weekend celebrating LaBelle-- some of the funkiest, most exciting and groundbreaking muthas in music. Check the show details below and get your tix in advance b/c they will be double the price at the door:
You are cordially invited to be part of a historic evening bridging past, present and future for women of color in music. THE QUEEN’S DAUGHTERS will feature stellar performances by 3 of the hottest women in independent music today as they pay tribute to the musical legacy of the incomparable LABELLE. Mother's Day Weekend will never be the same. Featuring live performances by Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe, Tamar-Kali, and JOI. Sounds provided by THE LADIES OF UBIQUITA DJ’s Reborn, Selly & shErOck. Tickets available through Ticketmaster or by calling the Manhattan Center: 212-279-7740. Ask to speak to Mia, Lena, or DeVasha. Use the ticket codes below for discount.

Doors open @ 6:45pm for VIP pre-show reception
7:45pm for General Admission
Show starts @ 8:30pm
$30 VIP Ticket Code: VQD777 | $20 GA Ticket Code: QD777
The Grand Ballroom at The Manhattan Center
311 West 34th Street, Corner of 8th Avenue

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