For almost a decade, it’s been called ‘The Other Black Experience’, the meeting of the minds, the Black Woodstock and even the greatest music movement of the new millennia, but most just call it AfroPunk! And for the second year in a row, I had the pleasure of connecting with other lovers of culture, fashion and music (Alice Smith’s vocals were amazing…Erykah Badu and the home grown surprise that was Mos Def tore the house down, the fans loved intensity of the Memorials and Janelle Monae’s crowd dive…EPIC! lol) This year’s lineup was just as insane!
From her songwriting talents to her melodic voice, this award winning singer/songwriter, whose credits include Michael Jackson’s “Butterflies”, Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” and Jazmin Sullivan’s “Music (All I Need)”, never ceases to give her all to her fans and this was proof positive last night as Marsha Ambrosius debuted her single “Friends & Lovers” on the Gramercy stage from her upcoming sophomore solo album of the same name. This hour long show gave a snippet into her life, from the remnants of really bad breakup (“Hope She Cheats On You (With A Basketball Player)”) to the loss of a friend (“Far Away”).
Now, admittedly I was a bit skeptical of her showmanship as my last encounter with the songstress at S.O.B’s last year had her at her keyboard bashfully singing and seeming to give her voice to her band instead of her fans. But she more than redeemed herself with this show by engaging with her audience with stories, jokes and even a thank you in the form of the Golden Girls theme song “Thank You For Being A Friend”!
And although photographing shows is always an amazing experience for me, I truly was excited and pleased to soak all of this in as a fan…no fancy camera angles and lighting flares. It was just me, my cell phone camera and my love of music! Be on the look out for the Marsha Ambrosius’ release soon!
With what some have called the largest impact on the music scene since rock and roll, the genre of Neo-Soul is leaving an indelible mark not soon to be smeared, erased or forgotten! And I was invited to contribute to the list of talent that will evolve as our appreciation for the musical tapestry grows! 🙂
You can check out the images here!
It’s been almost 18 years since New York’s own hometown girl, Mary J. Blige dropped her progressive sophomore album “My Life” and revolutionized the music scene. It was her innovative mix of soul and hip-hop, (which at this time in music was unheard of) that earned her the moniker the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. Released when she was only 23 years old, “My Life” was her journal of pain and struggle. She became synonymous for sharing her truth with every new declaration, at one point asking us to share her world (“Love Is All We Need”) while at another, adamantly proclaiming that there would be no more drama (“Family Affair”). Her growth has been evident, both as an entertainer and as a woman. She is known as one of the few people in the industry who has made herself both relatable to women and desirable to men (Sorry Mariah!!) And on Wednesday night at New York’s Terminal 5, she stood proudly and let her fans know that in spite of all of life’s ups and downs, her progression continues. Her 10th studio album, “My Life II…The Journey Continues, Act I” was released to solid reviews by various music outlets including Rolling Stone and Spin magazine.
But this huge crowd of her most devoted fans had little interest in what some anonymous music critic had to say; words couldn’t describe who she is to them or her impact on their lives, they just wanted to see “Mary! Mary! Mary!!” As the crowd clamored together and the chants quieted down, she appeared out of the shadows, almost as if on cue. With the crowd’s feverish acknowledgement came the intro…a phone call with Diddy (aka Sean Combs, aka Puff Daddy aka P. Diddy aka Diddy Dirty Money aka…you get the picture!!), a reference to the first “My Life” album’s intro and Combs’ executive producer credits. She then swaggered her way down memory lane with songs like “Mary Jane (All Night Long)”, the title track “My Life”, “You Bring Me Joy”, “You Gotta Believe” and “I’m Goin’ Down”.
In continuing to pour her heart out, she sang an impromptu happy birthday to her percussionist Rex and to fellow Sagittarius in the room and dedicated “I Love You” and a moment of silence to her long time friend and fallen comrade Heavy D, calling him a driving force in her career and a big brother to so many. She then spoke directly to the fans thanking them for their long standing support, saying that her hope is to keep blessing and uplifting the masses with her music. “We’re not gonna be perfect until we’re gone, but until then, guess what I wanna be?” This lead to an explosive rendition of “Be Happy”. In acknowledging the past, she now looks towards the future. With that came some of her latest material, namely “Mr. Wrong” and “25/8”.
It’s been said that growth takes place when a person has dared to become involved with experimenting with his own life. As Mary’s incredible life goes on, thank goodness that the journey continues. We can’t wait for ‘Act II’.
It felt like I was stepping into another world… A “secret society” of sorts, where cell phones were confiscated and every media outlet in the room (including Spin magazine and the music/pop culture icon known as Rolling Stone Magazine!) had their equipment checked, scoped out and inspected for the slightest possibility of a video leak. (Actually I may have been the only one and I have to admit to still kinda sorta feelin’ a way about that!)
The location was Santos Party House, downtown New York’s latest and greatest performance space. And the artist who appealed to his fans to step away from their connections in social media and networking (No tweeting, Facebooking, texting or video was allowed during the show!! I actually heard a few gasps as young people, who’ve grown up in the age of MySpace and instant gratification sent out those last few texts and tweets before falling into the abyss of music.) was none other than Jermaine Lamarr Cole, known to the music masses simply as J. Cole.
The Fayetteville, North Carolina native and Roc Nation newcomer let the fans know that, in spite of a broken ankle, he came as he wanted no pity. To him, this session was about nothing but the music. “If you came to listen, thank you for coming,” he said graciously. “But if you came to drink and talk and all that, please step to the back. This is ’bout to be some real shit.” ‘Nuff said! Look out for the release of his debut album, Cole World: The Sideline Story on September 27th.
Eric Roberson — the soulful effervescent crooner and Rahway’s Native Son is back with music that will not only move you, it will make you smile…big! The album, Mr. Nice Guy, which is slated for an October 11 release leaves no emotional stone unturned. All of life’s inventory is examined, from love to heartache to laughter — it’s all here! And just recently, I again had the great pleasure of watching the magic happen. Firstly, with his salute to summer with the song, aptly named “Summertime Anthem”, featuring hip hop’s Grand Marshall, Chubb Rock! (Images can be seen here!) And now with his latest single, “Picture Perfect”, featuring Foreign Exchange frontman, Phonte with the video’s leading lady being played by model/singer/actress Sepsenahki. It was, in a word, crazy! But all that hard work will most definitely pay off…be on the look out for the video soon!
Big ups to directors, Derrick “D. Black” Savage and Jay Espinal (who was also the cinematographer), gaffer Ari Schaeffer, BlueErroSoul team, Tiffany “Sweetlocs” Taylor, Anshia Tull and everyone who participated in the magic! It was an awesome time and I’m happy to have been a part of it!