Category: Pop/R&B/Dance

Pharrell Williams Announces Yellow Ball Gala, Talks Protecting Artists & Taking a ‘People’s Stance’ on Federal Arts Funding

Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.
Courtesy Photo: Artwork by Daniel Arsham, a member of the American Express Platinum Collective.

by  via billboard.com

Since becoming the creative director for American Express Platinum in December 2016, Pharrell Williams has worked closely with the financial services company to bring awareness to the importance of arts education and advocacy. Nearly two years later, the “Happy” singer is taking his efforts one step further with the inaugural Yellow Ball gala.

The event will take place on Monday, Sept. 10 at the Brooklyn Museum and will benefit the Young Audiences Arts for Learning, the nation’s largest arts-in-education network. The Yellow Ball title was chosen by Pharrell himself, as the color has many meanings — and ties in with the purpose of the event.

“Pharrell views the color and event as helping to shine a light on the need for arts education and its ability to pave the way for a brighter future,” Elizabeth Rutledge, chief marketing officer of American Express, says. Pharrell adds, “That’s what this is about — bringing light to this cause.”

The Yellow Ball will feature musical performances, including a special set from Missy Elliott. Along with music, the event will also include multi-room art experiences from American Express Platinum Collective member Daniel Arsham, and a multi-course dinner experience by American Express Global Dining Collection Chef Dominique Crenn.

Ahead of the announcement, Billboard chatted with Pharrell about his latest initiative, his thoughts on today’s young generation of artists, and why the arts (and the color yellow) are so important for all ages.

When you were named creative director of AmEx Platinum, what were your goals and where does the yellow ball kind of fit into all of that?

My goals were to work with a company that I felt like had the means to make a difference, but just maybe needed a nudging, or maybe needed some direction. But then when I started working with them and got an education on all the things that they’ve done — from the Tribeca Film Festival to the sales program they have for small businesses on Saturdays — I realized that they had been doing this the entire time. When we talked about doing the Yellow Ball and I told them I wanted it to be about arts and education, they didn’t blink. What I wanted to do with them was just going to be just yet another great thing that they do in the world.

Why did you decide on the name the Yellow Ball, and what does the color yellow mean to you?

Not to get all esoteric, but yellow is like the color of the solar plexus. Yellow is the color for creativity, yellow is the color for curiosity. Art is largely diminishing throughout the curriculum throughout this country, and we need to protect the creative mind.

Everything around you right now versus everything you’re using, it’s just not organic, it was someone’s epiphany. That’s creativity, that needs to be protected. If we don’t have that, I don’t know what kind of future we have. We have to protect the artist community at all costs, across all artistic disciplines.

Why do you think it’s so important for people to be exposed to the arts and learn from it at a young age?

On a more paramount level, everyone is a creative. Everyone that makes a move or does anything in life is a co-creator, but the ones who actually create things that we use and things that we need, that needs to be protected. There is a future that will have corporations that will have more say. You see all the things happening with lobbyists now, you just can never doubt that. In the artistic community, it’s the educational portion of it is eroding, what kind of future is that for us? So we need to talk to all the corporations that we can — that care — now.

Did the controversy surrounding the funding cuts for the NEA change the course of action for you in your involvement with AmEx platinum in any way?

A lot of decisions that are being made are having a domino effect on programs like the [NEA]. And while we might not like that, the powers that be are the powers that be, but we are still the people and we can do things to help the people with the resources that we have access to. That’s literally all we’re doing, there’s no political stance, it’s more of a people’s stance.

Has becoming a father had an impact on the way you think about how art can affect lives?

I want all children to have access to that kind of creative growth, access and support. All kids, not just my own. There’s a lot of variables in a situation as to why something falls apart, but there’s only one scenario where it holds together, and that’s when all the variables are there. The environment, the family, the school, the system — there’s so many things. We just want to do what we can to balance the odds so that as many kids as we can afford, or help and assist in whatever ways, get this access and support.

What do you think the younger generation of today’s musical artists are bringing to the table?

I love what they do and how they express themselves. It’s like these amazing pockets of lyrics or melodies that feel good to them. The music just takes on a direction of its own, it’s not so formatted. I love that this generation is just grabbing the instruments and using them in whatever way feels good to them. That’s just like a sign of how the times have changed.

It’s kind of like the fourth time that I’ve seen music and the spirit of it change — like drastically change. It’s been amazing to see it. You see certain things that feel familiar, then you see things that you’ve never seen or thought of in your entire life. As a musician I can feel connected to it.

Source: https://www.billboard.com/articles/news/8469193/pharrell-williams-interview-yellow-ball-gala-art-education

Spike Lee Gets Rights to Use Unreleased Prince Song in New Film, ‘BlacKkKlansman’

Director Spike Lee attends the after party for the New York premiere of ‘BlacKkKlansman’ (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images) and Prince speaks onstage during The 57th Annual GRAMMY Awards at the at the STAPLES Center on February 8, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

by Kia Morgan-Smith via thegrio.com

While Spike Lee’s upcoming BlacKkKlansman movie has already received critical acclaim ahead of its August 10th release, viewers are in for a treat at the end of the movie when a Prince song plays; something the award-winning director believes was meant to be.

Lee spoke to Rolling Stone about the Prince cover of the Negro spiritual Mary Don’t You Weep” that plays at the end of the movie. Lee said that the song was perhaps a divine sign from the deceased singer.

“I knew that I needed an end-credits song. I’ve become very close with Troy Carter, one of the executives at Spotify [and a Prince estate advisor],” said Lee. “So, I invited Troy to a private screening. And after, he said, ‘Spike, I got the song.’ And that was ‘Mary Don’t You Weep,’ which had been recorded on cassette in the mid-Eighties.”

“Prince wanted me to have that song, I don’t care what nobody says. My brother Prince wanted me to have that song, for this film,” he says emphatically.

“There’s no other explanation to me. This cassette is in the back of the vaults. In Paisley Park. And all of a sudden, out of nowhere, it’s discovered? Nah-ah. That ain’t an accident.”

According to The Hollywood Reporter, during the world premiere of BlacKkKlansman at the  Cannes film festival, the audience broke out in applause about a half-dozen times during the movie. And they were so moved by the end of the film, that they clapped for four minutes during the credits and then stood up for a six-minute standing ovation.

Making this feature even more timely and culturally significant is the fact that Lee has decided to release it on August 10th, the one-year anniversary of the Charlottesville, Va., white nationalist rally. Denzel Washington’s son, John David Washington, portrays the movie’s lead character, Ron Stallworth. The movie is based on a true story.

Here’s part of his Rolling Stone interview.

On Jordan Peele’s initial BlacKkKlansman script and what was missing:

“They acquired Ron Stallworth’s book and felt it needed more flava. And that’s what I brought. I was grateful for the opportunity because I had never heard of Stallworth. I didn’t know his story. People say, “That is too unbelievable to be true.” And that’s what makes it such a great story.”

On deciding to include footage from the Charlottesville riots:

“We started shooting in September. When Charlottesville happened, I knew that was going to be the ending. I first needed to ask Ms. Susan Bro, the mother of Heather Heyer, for permission. This is someone whose daughter has been murdered in an American act of terrorism — homegrown, apple-pie, hot-dog, baseball, cotton-candy Americana. Mrs. Bro no longer has a daughter because an American terrorist drove that car down that crowded street. And even people who know that thing is coming, when they see it, it’s like, very quiet.”

On if he saw any of Denzel Washington in John David Washington:

“John David is amazing in this movie. That phrase ‘the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree’ — there’s a reason people say that. He is Denzel Washington’s first son. That’s a big, big burden. But he’s also his own man. I have a history with him. His first film was Malcolm X. At the end of the movie, when the kids say, “My name is Malcolm X!” He’s one of the kids. He was about six years old.”

Source: https://thegrio.com/2018/08/06/spike-lee-nabs-unreleased-prince-song-for-new-movie-blackkklansman/

Rihanna Becomes 1st Black Woman to Land Cover of British Vogue’s September Issue

photos via eveningstandard.com

by Andrea Park via cbsnews.com

Rihanna made history by becoming the first black woman to appear on the cover of British Vogue‘s September issue. Like the publication’s U.S. edition, the September issue is the most prestigious edition of the fashion magazine.

Rihanna shared her cover photo on Instagram. She’s wearing a hot pink Prada dress, Savage x Fenty gloves, a flower headdress and thin, drawn-on eyebrows a la Marlene Dietrich. The “Wild Thoughts” singer also posted photos from inside the issue, in which she dons different oversized floral headpieces.

The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Enninful, styled the cover and photo shoot, and Nick Knight served as photographer. Enninful wrote in his editor’s letter that he knew he wanted the singer on the cover for the magazine’s September issue.

“I always knew it had to be Rihanna,” he wrote. “A fearless music-industry icon and businesswoman, when it comes to that potent mix of fashion and celebrity, nobody does it quite like her. No matter how haute the styling goes, or experimental the mood, you never lose her in the imagery. She is always Rihanna. There’s a lesson for us all in that. Whichever way you choose to dress the new season, take a leaf out of her book and be yourself.”

Enninful wrote that the two talked about diversity and Rihanna’s life as a diva for the accompanying profile.

British Vogue’s September issue hits newsstands today.

Source: https://www-cbsnews-com.cdn.ampproject.org/v/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/rihanna-becomes-first-black-woman-to-cover-british-vogues-september-issue/

Beyoncé Collaborates With Olivier Rousteing to Create Balmain x Beyoncé Collection to Benefit United Negro College Fund

Beyoncé Knowles.(Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images)

via vogue.com

Just before Coachella was rechristened Beychella, Beyoncé Knowles and Balmain creative director Olivier Rousteing had an idea. It happened in a rehearsal, while Beyoncé and her dancers were practicing in their Balmain-made looks inspired by the marching band uniforms of America’s historically black colleges and universities. “When she saw all the dancers loving the outfit—and she was loving her own outfit—she realized that what we were creating on stage for her, for all the dancers, was something really impactful,” says Rousteing. It clicked: Why not make a Beyoncé x Balmain collaboration that could make those poignant graphics available to all of Bey’s fans clamoring for a piece of history?

On Friday, July 13, Balmain will launch a three-piece Balmain x Beyoncé collection in its Paris flagship, with the items going on sale on balmain.com and beyonce.com the following day. Comprised of the yellow and pink sweatshirts Beyoncé wore on stage at Coachella, the collection also includes a black tee with the same sorority-inspired graphic.

“I worked really long with her on the Beychella moments, and the fact that we can release this collaboration that is based on our creativity, Beyoncé and I, is really a big, big step for fashion and music together,” continues the designer. “Beyoncé, she’s such a perfectionist; she’s someone that is so strong and has such a great point of view. She’s about feminism, empowering women, and the idea of bringing that collaboration where we can share the same ideas, the same vision of music, the same vision of fashion, the same vision of what is going on in the world, it’s more than just clothes. It’s a strong message, and I’m really proud to be a part of that.”

He continues: “Sometimes, you create a moment, and it’s just one moment. With the clothes that we are creating now, it’s going to be a moment that keeps going and going and going. This is something really important. Everybody is always telling me about millennials or about the future—this is the future. This is making sure that these iconic moments talk to the young people. This is something important and this collaboration is talking to the new generation and saying you can get that piece, you can be a part of the history.”

The message, as Rousteing tells it, is to never stop dreaming. He relates Beyoncé’s global success, her message of standing against racism and standing for women, as something he wishes he had growing up in France. “This to me feels really emotional because, as you know, I’m of mixed race. I’m black and my parents are white. I grew up in France without having a real identification of being black and being an adult. I couldn’t see myself in the future, in a way, because there were not so many people in the ’80s or early ’90s that could show me a direction,” he says. “For me, working with Beyoncé, it’s more than only music. It’s about history, working with a woman that’s going to be part of the history and has made her own revolution, not only in music, not only in fashion. She is an icon to an entire generation and so many more generations can follow the steps of Beyoncé and say, ‘You give us hope, you make us dream.’ ”

Proceeds from the collaboration will benefit the United Negro College Fund, following Beyoncé’s $100,000 donation to four historically black colleges after her Coachella set. “The donation was the main goal of this collaboration,” says Rousteing. “We don’t forget where we come from. This is really, really important—I come from an orphanage, you know. I think there is something really emotional about our collaboration.”

Balmain x Beyoncé will be available on July 13 at Balmain’s Paris flagship and from July 14 online and at select retailers; tee, $290; sweatshirts, $550–$1,790

Read more: https://www.vogue.com/article/beyonce-x-balmain-coachella-collaboration

MUSIC: New Artists The Shindellas Bring Retro ’60s Feel to Self-Empowerment with “Reconsider” (VIDEO)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Next week, new female group The Shindellas from the Nashville-based collective Weirdo Workshop, will be performing on Sunday, July 8 in New Orleans at the 2018 ESSENCE Festival and featured with Louis York at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Band members Stacy Johnson, Tamara Williams, and Kasi Jones describe themselves as “Three women who have come together in sisterhood to sing songs about self-love, self-worth and self-respect,” and they have just released their debut single “Reconsider.”

Written and produced by multi-Grammy nominated songwriting-production team Louis York a.k.a. Chuck Harmony and Claude Kelly (Janet Jackson, Rihanna, Bruno Mars, Fantasia), “Reconsider” is catchy mid-tempo, old-school-meets-new-school song with contemporary lyrics such as “Don’t let anyone tell you who you should love / baby this is your life / it’s okay to like / the whole rainbow / I don’t care who you love / as long as / he or she fills you up / and never drags your heart /  through the mud / so if you don’t feel like a winner / reconsider” packed in retro doo-wop, Motown-style beats.

Watch them perform the single on Today In Nashville below to get a taste of their considerable chemistry and style:

“Reconsider” is available on all digital platforms (click here) and you can purchase Essense Festival tickets to see them at www.essencefestival.com.

National Portrait Gallery in London Debuts Michael Jackson-Inspired Art Exhibition “On The Wall”

Detail from Thriller (Black and White), 2017, by Graham Dolphin. Photo: Courtesy of the artist

by Adrian Searle via theguardian.com

‘Ariel of the ghetto,” the writer Hilton Als called him. He has been compared to Baudelaire and Frankenstein’s monster; he played the Scarecrow in the Wiz, and transformed himself into a zombie in the Thriller video. He was both a global superstar and an enigma, almost universally feted, then prosecuted and vilified. Michael Jackson, now the subject of a large and surprising exhibition at London’s National Portrait Gallery, proves to be an enormously fertile figure for artists to have got their heads, as well as their art around, and often their hearts too.

Largely, Jackson passed me by, except as a kind of background music. The videos came and went on the screen and, as the news stories and TV footage became ever more puzzling and alarming, what interest I might have had in him became increasingly voyeuristic.

Equestrian Portrait of King Philip II (Michael Jackson), 2010, by Kehinde Wiley. Photograph: Jeurg Iseler/Kehinde Wiley, courtesy of Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and Sean Kelly Gallery, New York

And all the while Jackson kept cropping up in places I didn’t expect to find him. My dry cleaner on the Hackney Road dressed like him. Jeff Koons made a giant porcelain sculpture of Jackson and his pet chimp, Bubbles. And here he is in Andy Warhol portraits, and in a huge equestrian portrait by Kehinde Wiley, based on Rubens’ Philip II on Horseback. Jackson is on the cover of Rolling Stone and Ebony and, in a Catherine Opie photograph, framed and smiling on Elizabeth Taylor’s bedside table. He’s a pieta, the Archangel Michael defeating the devil and, in a Mark Flood collage, a four-eyed alien standing next to ET. There are gigantic Michaels, tiny Michaels, badly drawn Michaels. Here he is in a horrible painting by Maggie Hambling that makes you squirm and want to run away. It is the worst thing here.

Interview magazine, September 2009 by KAWS. Photograph: Courtesy of KAWS

In Jordan Wolfson’s “Neverland,” Jackson is reduced to a tiny pair of hand-drawn eyes, blinking and swaying in a blank sea of emptiness on a big screen, to a gurgling sound reminiscent of a fish-tank aerator. Globbloboblob goes the sound, replacing whatever music Jackson might be swaying to. In Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom’s PYT, Jackson is reduced to an overlarge pair of penny loafers, held on tiptoe (like his dance move “the freeze”) by a bunch of balloons. David Hammons has Jackson as one of a trio of microphone stands, the others standing for boxer Mike Tyson and basketball player Michael Jordan, in Which Mike Do You Want to Be Like…? The mic stands are too high for anyone to use, an image of unattainable ambitions and public expectations.
Continue reading “National Portrait Gallery in London Debuts Michael Jackson-Inspired Art Exhibition “On The Wall””

R.I.P. Joe Jackson, 89, Patriarch of Musical, Legendary Jackson Family

Joe Jackson (photo via latimes.com)

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Joseph Walter Jackson aka Joe Jackson, the patriarch of one of the most famous singing family acts of all time, has died, according to the Los Angeles Times. He was 89. Jackson died at 2:55 a.m. Wednesday at Nathan Adelson Hospice in Las Vegas, Clark County coroner John Fudenberg told the Associated Press.

Jackson was born in the tiny town of Fountain Hill in southeast Arkansas on July 26, 1929, to Samuel and Chrystal Lee Jackson. His father was a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse; she was one of his students. After the parents separated, Jackson went with his father to Oakland and later joined his mother in Indiana. An early marriage was annulled. He married Katherine Scruse in 1949.

A onetime amateur boxer, Jackson was working as a steelworker in Gary, Ind., when he began relentlessly coaching his children to be singers, plotting a record deal even before it grew clear that Michael, at the time four years old, wasn’t just another voice in the crowd, but would soon become the lead singer of the Jackson 5 on the Motown label and eventually a world-reknowned superstar solo act.

Motown founder Berry Gordy recalled seeing 9-year-old Michael try out in 1968. The boy singer crooned Smokey Robinson’s “Who’s Loving You” like “a man who had been living with the blues and heartbreak his whole life,” Gordy recalled. “I couldn’t believe it.” It was a prelude to future breakout performances.

Who could have imagined what it was like to grow up a poor black man in the South, robbed of dignity, bereft of hope … working long hours in the steel mills? Is it any wonder why he pushed his sons so hard to succeed as performers? – Michael Jackson

The Jackson 5’s first three singles sold millions of copies, and their national television debut in 1969 was a sensation. As time went on, other family members, such as Jermaine and  baby sister Janet, had solo musical success. But Michael Jackson’s fame would prove stratospheric. Jackson managed his childrens’ careers until the 1980s.

Joe Jackson is survived by his wife, Katherine, and their children: Janet, Jermaine, La Toya, Rebbie, Randy, Jackie, Marlon and Tito Jackson, as well as several grandchildren. He is also survived by daughter Joh’Vonnie Jackson, his child with longtime girlfriend Cheryl Terrell.

Alicia Keys Announces Music Industry Initiative for Female Advancement

Alicia Keys (photo via variety.com)

by Cherie Saunders via eurweb.com

Alicia Keys announced on Wednesday the formation of a music-industry group for female advancement called She Is the Music.

The singer broke the news during her acceptance speech for the Icon Songwriter honor at the National Music Publishers Association’s annual meeting in New York.

“I’ve joined forces with a group of really powerful female executives, songwriters, artists, engineers, producers and publishers to help reshape the industry that we all love by creating real opportunities and a pipeline of talent for other women,” she said. “We’re calling our initiative She Is the Music. We want to create a model for change that effects women across all industries. We deserve the utmost respect, and so many of these women across industries are telling our culture that time is up on double standards, and it is it’s over for pay inequity and colleagues who are at best disrespectful and at the worst unsafe — so it’s over for that.”

Approached by Variety for more details following the ceremony, Keys would only say, “You’ll be hearing about it” and “We just want it to permeate right now.”She spoke at length about the issue in her 10-minute acceptance speech. After thanking the family members, collaborators and executives closest to her, she continued:

“It’s especially meaningful to receive this award right now as a woman in the music industry. (applause) My mama taught me that every year is the year of the woman so I never thought (inaudible), but this year is definitely something else. It’s a powerful year, it’s an empowering year, and it’s the beginning of so many things. And many of us in the music world are working more diligently than ever to showcase and support the work of female songwriters, musicians, engineers, and producers.

“We have to do something because the statistics are brutal,” she continued, citing statistics from a University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism study of Grammy nominees earlier this year. “Of almost 3,000 pop songwriters credited last year only 12% were female, only 3% of the engineers were female, and one of them is Ann [Mincieli, Keys’ regular engineer]. Only 2% of producers are female and one of them is me! Our world is 50-50, and it’s time for our industry to reflect that.

“So this reminds us all to continue to be conscious and present of the diversity we want to see in the workplace, and how we can make it better. So the next time that you get a chance to hire someone, whether it’s the biggest producer or the newest intern, look for a woman — especially a woman of color, a fresh voice, who brings something new to the spectrum. She is the music so give her a shot!

“Songwriters tell our stories, they sing who we are as people — don’t we all want to hear from all of us? My ancestors’ spiritual songs told their stories and gave them strength, and we’re all stronger because of it. And today’s battle for civil rights still draws on the power of protest songs written decades ago by Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Bob Dylan, Bob Marley, Joan Baez, Nina Simone, Buffy St. Marie, Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Aretha, Tina, Dolly Parton — picking up that powerful torch and speaking the truth of women and our inner lives. And there are so many people carrying that forward: Mary J., Sia, SZA, Kacey [Musgraves], Solange, Janelle [Monae], H.E.R., and so many more talented female writers are running with that torch today and lifting all of us up.

“And I hope that when we look back on the first part of the 21st century that we as songwriters continue to capture the passions and problems and possibilities of this moment we’re in, so that future generations will know who we are and what really stand for.

“The songwriter is more powerful than any politician and any government because she reaches directly to the people and she uses her talent and skill and puts time in a capsule —ideally a capsule that holds about four minutes of material (laughter) — or if you’re Isaac Hayes about 20 minutes! God bless him too. And if she’s lucky as I’m blessed to be, her words will forever be sealed in our memories and our history and our hearts.

“So I thank you and I’m so grateful for this honor and for your work to continue, so we can all get what we deserve and to be a creative force that makes our hearts sing and makes love the forefront, and shows the world that magic and alchemy is possible every day.”

It’s a topic that Keys also spoke about at Variety’s Power of Women event in April. “We are more on fire than we’ve ever been,” she said, referencing her 2012 hit “Girl on Fire.” “Look at all the action that’s around us: women running for office in record numbers, women banding together in the entertainment industry, women demanding an end to disparity in the music industry like equal representation on the Grammy stage,” she said, referencing the low number of women performers during this year’s show and Recording Academy chief’s comment that women need to “step up” in order to get ahead in the music industry.

“We were told we need to step up. Well, you feel that step up now?”

Source: https://www.eurweb.com/2018/06/alicia-keys-launches-she-is-the-song-music-industry-initiative-for-female-advancement/

Chance The Rapper to Produce Concert For 50th Special Olympics

Chance the Rapper has some major news. The rapper and his new production company, Social Function Productions have reportedly signed on to produce a concert in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics. The concert will reportedly include performances by the legendary Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, O.A.R., and more.

Chano announced the news on social media on Thursday (June 14). “I’m happy to announce that my new production company SFP and I are producing the 50th anniversary of the Special Olympics here in Chicago,” he wrote, along with an official concert poster.

Chance reportedly announced the launch of his Social Functions Productions company only a few days before the concert news was revealed. It’s unclear of what other projects the company has in the works, but it will likely fuse Chance’s interests in music and philanthropy.

The Special Olympics will officially be held in Seattle on July 1, but the concert will kick off in Chance’s hometown of Chicago on July 21. You can purchase tickets to the concert here.

Source: https://www.vibe.com/2018/06/chance-the-rapper-to-produce-concert-special-olympics-50th-anniversary/

“Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY

The trailblazing funk singer, bandleader and producer Betty Davis dropped out of public for decades. A new documentary, “Betty: They Say I’m Different,” tells her story. (Credit: Robert Brenner)

For a few short years in the 1970s, no one made funk as raw as Betty Davis did. She sang bluntly about sex on her own terms, demanding satisfaction with feral yowls and rasps, her voice slicing across the grooves that she wrote and honed as her own bandleader and producer. Her stage clothes were shiny, skimpy, futuristic fantasies; her Afro was formidable.

A major label, Island, geared up a big national push for her third album, “Nasty Gal,” in 1975. But mainstream radio didn’t embrace her, and Island rejected her follow-up recordings. Not long afterward, she completely dropped out of public view for decades.

Ms. Davis’s voice now — speaking, not singing — resurfaces in Betty: They Say I’m Different,” an impressionistic documentary that will have its United States theatrical premiere on Wednesday at the Billie Holiday Theater in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, as part of the Red Bull Music Festival. The film includes glimpses of virtually the only known concert footage of Ms. Davis in her lascivious, head-turning prime, performing at a 1976 French rock festival. The present-day Ms. Davis is shown mostly from behind and heard in voice-over, though there is one poignant close-up of her face.

This month Ms. Davis, 72, gave a rare interview by telephone from her home near Pittsburgh to talk about the film and her music. After years of entreaties from and conversations with its director, Phil Cox, and producer, Damon Smith, she agreed to cooperate on “Betty: They Say I’m Different” because, she said, “I figured it would be better to have them cover me when I was alive than when I was dead.”

Mr. Cox said, via Skype from England, “Betty doesn’t want sympathy, and she’s found her own space now. To me, that is just as interesting as that woman she was in the 1970s. It’s the antithesis of the age we live in, where everybody wants to be on social media all the time.”

Ms. Davis has longtime fans from the ’70s and newer ones who have discovered her in reissues and through hip-hop samples. They have clung to a catalog and a persona that were musically bold, verbally shocking and entirely self-created. Long before the current era of explicit lyrics, Ms. Davis was cackling through songs like “Nasty Gal” — “You said I love you every way but your way/And my way was too dirty for you” — and “He Was a Big Freak,” which boasts, “I used to whip him/I used to beat him/Oh, he used to dig it.” She still won’t reveal who was, or whether there was, a real-life model for songs like those.

“I wrote about love, really, and all the levels of love,” she said. That emphatically included sexuality. “When I was writing about it, nobody was writing about it. But now everybody’s writing about it. It’s like a cliché.”

Ms. Davis was born Betty Mabry in Durham, North Carolina, in 1945, and she grew up there and in Pittsburgh. She headed to New York City in the early 1960s, when she was 17, and enrolled at the Fashion Institute of Technology. She supported herself as a model and a club manager; she reveled in the city’s night life, meeting figures like Andy Warhol, Sly Stone, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

Continue reading ““Betty: They Say I’m Different” Documentary About Funk Music Pioneer Betty Davis to Premiere at Red Bull Music Festival in NY”