Tag Archives: rap

Celebrate Black Music Month

This month, Black Music Month, is as profound to the African America Diaspora as Black History Month. We are the inventors and creators of sounds that changed world cultures.

If we were to begin way back in the cradle of civilization centuries ago it all began with the drum. When we were captured and brought to the so-called New World we brought with us the rhythms that dictate our souls. It is a fact that African American people are responsible for the great music known as Jazz, Gospel, Blues, Soul, R&B, Rap, Hip Hop, and just about every musical sound we hear that featured and directly speak to the glorious past.

During the despicable era of slavery and segregation prior to the Civil Rights Movement the hallowing sounds of gospel music delivered an in-your-face sound that fed the souls of a people and that outlet produced some of the most timeless music ever created. Before I go further, let’s remember that it was Michael Jackson whose music video was the first black music to air on MTV.

This brings me to historic and game-changing record label – Motown and its founder Mr. Barry Gordy. Let’s be honest, can you imagine a world without The “Motown Sound”. For many who don’t know or have forgotten, prior to Motown Records rarely did you see the face of an African American on the cover of an album or black music heard on white radio. The music we enjoyed was called “race music” and it was segregated in the same way America was prior to 1959, when Motown was founded. Prior to Motown Records few black performers enjoyed anything close to crossover success. By the way, an album is what was used to play music before CD’s.

Motown was the first record label owned by an African American to primarily feature African-American artists and its soul-based subsidiaries were the most successful proponents of what came to be known as The Motown Sound, which was a style of soul music with a distinct influence. From its Hitsville U.S.A building on 2648 West Grand Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan that served as Motown’s headquarters produced the most universally recognized stable of songwriters and performers of our time or anytime.

The music produced by Motown made a nation of people living in this nation without a nationality proud with its awe-inspiring run of hits that spoke to the essence of our souls. Form a tiny little basement studio we were introduced to Michael Jackson, the Supremes, Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, the Miracles, Mary Wells, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, Four Tops, the Commodores, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Jr. Walker and the All Stars, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Rick James, Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, Teena Marie, DeBarge, the Jackson Five, Martha and the Vandellas, the Marvelettes and Motown’s Funk Brothers studio band; just to name a few of the artists that graced our souls and touched our hearts making us proud.

Many of Motown’s best-known hits were written by Smokey Robinson, Barrett Strong, Norman Whitfield and the songwriting trio of Holland-Dozier-Holland who became major forces in the music industry. For example, it’s a known fact in the music industry that in order to get a number one hit song someone would have to write more than thirty songs. Holland-Dozier-Holland had a string of more than fifty hits in a row with some becoming number one with several different artists like the hit “I heard it through the Grapevine”. This is profound and will never happen again. No songwriter will ever achieve this feat – guaranteed.

Although Mr. Gordy sold Motown and it’s now in the hands of others its legacy resides in a very special place in my heart. I’m sure with you and millions around the world as well. So again I say, thank you Motown for the music, the love, the magic, and the many great memories.

Lastly, to the legends who are no longer able to perform for us today – thank you for your contribution – Rest in Peace. My guess is that they are walking around heaven all day singing with gleeful harmony the same way as it touched our souls when they were with us in this earthly realm. It must make haven more glorious and wonderful than I could ever imagine. And that’s my Thought Provoking Perspective…

JUST A SEASON


Remembering Gil Scott-Heron

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The phenomenon of the late Gil Scott-Heron was truly a powerful voice that spoke to the world with profound essence. I’ve often heard that genius is a rare gift and those who have been given “IT” walk a fine line between that which we appreciate and that which they know themselves to be. To me, that was Gil. I will call him that because he was one of us and from the first time I heard him; it felt like he was within me. His astute stature demands respect because he spoke truth and enlightenment when others dared not do. Therefore, Mr. Heron will live forever, and his prose will be eternal.

I will say with certainty that he was real, and although troubled nearing the end of his life, I felt his pain and I admired him for living life on life’s terms. His political commentary was raw and on point, which is what really impressed me. He had the ability to rebuke bygone bogeymen such as Nixon, Reagan, and Agnew. Darts were also flung at contemporary targets, notably Barack Obama. “My president’s black / But the plan remains the same,’’ rapped Enoch 7th Prophet and who can forget the classics “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised’’, “Winter in America’’, “Beginnings (First Minute of a Brand New Day)”, and “Whitey on the Moon.’’

This man was the precursor to rap with some saying he was the “Godfather of Rap” although he often bristled at the suggestion. “I don’t know if I can take the blame for it,” he said in an interview with the music Web site The Daily Swarm. He preferred to call himself a “Bluesologist,” drawing on the traditions of blues, jazz, and Harlem Renaissance poetics. For sure, he was a poet and recording artist whose syncopated spoken style, and mordant critiques of politics, racism, and mass media made him a notable voice of black protest culture in the 1970s.

He did establish much of the attitude and the stylistic vocabulary that would characterize the socially conscious work of early rap groups like Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions. He also remained part of the DNA of hip-hop by being sampled by many hip hop stars. Chuck D, the leader of Public Enemy, told The New Yorker in 2010 that Gil Scott-Heron is the manifestation of the modern word… He and the Last Poets set the stage for everyone else.”

He was born in Chicago on April 1, 1949, and reared in Tennessee and later moved to New York. His mother was a librarian and an English teacher; his estranged father was a Jamaican soccer player. In his early teens, Gil wrote detective stories, and his work as a writer won him a scholarship to the Fieldston School in the Bronx. There he was only one of 5 black students in a class of 100. Following in the footsteps of Langston Hughes, he went to the historically black Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, and he wrote his first novel at 19, a murder mystery called “The Vulture.” A book of verse, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” and a second novel, “The Nigger Factory,” soon followed.

He lived most of his adult life in New York, yet also spent some years in Washington, including a stint in the 1970s. He taught English at Federal City College (a predecessor of the University of the District of Columbia). Gil once described “Washington, DC as both capital and hometown: “Symbols of democracy, pinned up against the coast / Outhouse of bureaucracy, surrounded by a moat / Citizens of poverty are barely out of sight / Overlords escape in the evening with people of the night.”

After meeting and working with a college friend Brian Jackson. Gil turned to music in search of a wider audience. His first album, “Small Talk at 125th and Lenox,” was released in 1970 on Flying Dutchman, a small label, and included a live recitation of “Revolution” accompanied by conga and bongo drums. Another version of that piece, recorded with a full band including the jazz bassist Ron Carter, was released on Mr. Scott-Heron’s second album, “Pieces of a Man,” in 1971.

“Revolution” established Mr. Scott-Heron as a rising star of the black cultural left, and it’s cool, biting ridicule of a nation anesthetized by mass media has resonated with the socially disaffected of various stripes — campus activists, media theorists, coffeehouse poets — for four decades.

During the 1970s, Gil was seen as a prodigy with significant potential, although he never achieved more than cult popularity. He recorded 13 albums from 1970 to 1982 and was one of the first acts that music executive Clive Davis signed after starting Arista Records in 1974. In 1979, he performed at Musicians United for Safe Energy’s “No Nukes” benefit concerts at Madison Square Garden, and in 1985, he appeared on the all-star anti-apartheid album “Sun City.” But by the mid-1980s, Mr. Scott-Heron had begun to fade, and his recording output slowed to a trickle. In later years, he struggled publicly with addiction.

Some of the content for this article appeared in print on May 29, 2011, on page A26 of the New York edition with the headline: Gil Scott-Heron, a Voice of Protest And a Music Pioneer, Dies at 62. This spoken word genius created a genre for himself and all his own. He empowered and for that brother Gil – thank you! And that’s my thought provoking perspective…

THE BOTTLE

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED


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