Tag: KRS-One

Ice-T Breaks Down Why “Art of Rap” Festival in July is Important to Hip-Hop, Art and Music

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“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is by far one of the most important records known to man.  A “total knock out of the park” as Public Enemy’s Chuck D once told Rolling Stone, the 1982 record marked a pivotal moment for hip-hop.  The first of its kind, at seven-minutes rapper Melle Mel and co-writer Duke Bootee traded clear-cut lines about the everyday struggle and decay in America’s ghettos. From the ubiquitous “broken glass” to the “junkies in the alley” and how the kids that are “born with no state of mind” end up succumbing to the live fast, die young statistic. It’s an monumental piece of recording that perfectly demonstrates the foundation on which hip-hop was founded.

Beyond that though, it’s also the very record that Mickey Bentson, co-founder of The Universal Zulu Nation, and Ice-T brought up during a phone conversation with REVOLT. “Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel made one of the hardest records ever: “The Message” with no cursing. Wow. That’s unbelievable,” Bentson exclaimed.  “Where you gonna get all this stuff at? Nowhere but at the Art of Rap Festival baby.”

In 2012, Ice-T chronicled the rich foundation and importance of the hip-hop into a one hour-and-a-half epic, better known as the critically-acclaimed documentary, “Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap.” An intimate journey that uncovers the layers, elements, and science of hip-hop, the film took it back to the essence, while bringing along famous faces like Dr. Dre, Kanye West, Eminem, Q-Tip, Chuck D and many more for a discussion on the art form. Three years since he opened the conversation, Ice-T,  joined by Bentson, has added another layer (and new meaning) to the “The Art of Rap,” with an inaugural event he is calling “the most prolific and essential hip-hop festival ever.”

The Art of Rap Festival, which will take place over the course of two days in California, features a dream team line-up of emcees that range from Big Daddy Kane to Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, EPMD, Doug E. Fresh, Grandmaster Melle Mel, King T, Kurtis Blow, Biz Markie, and more. Just like the film, the festival, which will feature co-headliners including Game and Ice-T at its July 18th Irvine date and Ice-T at the July 19th Mountain View show, takes it back to the essence.

Speaking about the summer must-attend festival, Ice-T and Mickey Bentson hopped on the phone with REVOLT and discussed just how and why this event came together.

In 2012, Ice-T, you released this film and now it has transformed into a full blown festival. How did you two come together for this?

Ice-T: Well, [The Art of Rap] happened for me, I was sitting around and for a while when you would say you an emcee, people actually had this heavy respect for you. Well the point that when you would say ‘rapper,’ people would kind of look at you like a clown. Rappers were kind of acting up and I didn’t like that, so I said you know what I want to make a film that makes people really respect the art of rap. It’s not a game, it’s real stuff. I worked really hard on my music, I grew up with [Big Daddy] Kane and Rakim and people like that, and I said this is serious business. So we shot the film, it did what it was supposed to do, make people understand that it is an art form and the next obvious move was to take it on the road. The Art of Rap Tour is meant to be about the craft and the culture of hip-hop, so we go all the way from The Soulsonic Force to somebody like The Game.

As you mentioned, this festival is about the craft and culture. Why is this such an important element for this event? 

T: We want people to take pride in what they do. If you take pride in your music, you’re going to do good music. If you look at music as just a way to get paid, then you might throw up any ol’ shit, and you also ain’t gonna represent it right, [because] when you get interviewed you gonna say any ol’ s*** — and that bothers the artists. That’s like me coming into jazz and not knowing who Miles Davis was, and there’s going to be people who’s going to have feelings about that.  Continue reading “Ice-T Breaks Down Why “Art of Rap” Festival in July is Important to Hip-Hop, Art and Music”

THEATER REVIEW: Craig Grant, aka “muMs”, Sets His Life Story to Hip-Hop in “A Sucker Emcee”

“A Sucker Emcee”: Craig Grant, also known as muMs, in his show at the Bank Street Theater. (Credit: Ruby Washington/The New York Times)

Like Jean-Jacques Rousseau set to a hip-hop beat, Craig Grant offers his confessions in “A Sucker Emcee,” produced by the Labyrinth Theater Company. While a D.J. (Rich Medina) moves between two turntables, scratching and spinning, Mr. Grant tells the story of his life in rhymed couplets.

Mr. Grant, also known as muMs, speaks in a gentle growl with just a trace of a native Bronx drawl, though he can send his voice swooping up and down the social register. Dressed in Nikes and a T-shirt proclaiming “The Truth,” he spends most of the show near the front of the bare stage, lips pressed close to a microphone.

Though he’ll occasionally speak as his mother, his father, a friend or a teacher, he spends most of the piece as simply himself, narrating youthful screw-ups with fondness and exasperation.

In some ways his story is standard bullet-point autobiography. He begins with his volatile Bronx childhood, darts through some dissolute college years, chronicles his subsequent ups and down as a rapper and actor (best known for his role in the HBO prison drama “Oz”) and finally returns, with hard-won maturity and grace, to the borough of his birth. So far, so familiar. But what adds urgency and fierce pleasure to the monologue, directed by Jenny Koons, is his debt to music. D.J.’s, it seems, saved Mr. Grant’s life. “Before hip-hop, I couldn’t speak,” Mr. Grant recalls. The music gave him a voice, a place, a future, helping him to “turn all that hate into a dance and a chant.”

Mr. Medina provides backing beats to Mr. Grant’s chants and sometimes helps him pay more direct homage to the heroes of his youth — KRS-One, Rakim, the Sugarhill Gang. Even when the show threatens to turn into some sort of lecture demonstration, it’s still pretty good fun, with Mr. Medina illustrating each style and technique while Mr. Grant narrates and occasionally threatens some B-boy moves.

Even when the story ends with Mr. Grant’s returning to the Bronx and caring compassionately for his aging mother, the beat and the applause don’t stop.

FILM REVIEW: Nas’ Essential Contribution to Hip Hop Highlighted in Documentary “Time Is Illmatic”

Nas Time is Illmatic

It’s unlikely that hip-hop documentary “Time Is Illmatic” will have many showings as thrilling as its opening-night slot at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it preceded an impassioned live performance by its subject, the artist born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones and better known by his stage name: Nas. Still, this brisk, stylish and extremely heartfelt portrait of Nas’ rise from the housing projects of Queensbridge to the heights of hip-hop royalty ably stands on its own, marked by an admirable focus on the man and his music rather than hype and hagiography. Sure to be embraced by fans (but also a fine primer for neophytes), “Time” should have a long home-viewing shelf life following additional fest and select theatrical bookings.

In his feature directing debut, the former graffiti artist and graphic designer One9 smartly avoids trying for a comprehensive career portrait of Nas, instead centering on the rapper’s humble origins and the making of his landmark 1994 debut album, “Illmatic.” Comparable in its impact on hip-hop to that of Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings on the art world, “Illmatic” seemed a prodigal work, constructed of airtight rhythms and intricate rhymes, steeped in the violent realities of ghetto life yet far-reaching in its lyric and musical allusions (including “samples” that ran the gamut from jazz to Michael Jackson), as intimate as a diary while also serving as a very public statement of artistic intent. Nas was all of 20 at the time, and best known for his electrifying guest rapping on popular singles by Main Source and MC Serch.

Two decades later, Nas is close to an eminence grise, but the figure who appears onscreen for much of “Time Is Illmatic” appears humbled by his massive success and is quick to acknowledge those who helped pave the way (like the pioneering female rapper Roxanne Shante, who gave the teenage Nas an early break as part of her crew), as well as those (like childhood friend Willie “Ill Will” Graham) who were less lucky at surviving the Queensbridge mean streets. To this, the film adds a carefully selected mix of testimonials from friends, family members, artistic collaborators and assorted lions of old-school hip-hop. But save for a couple of fleeting appearances by Cornel West and Henry Louis Gates, “Time” eschews third-party critical analysis in favor of keeping the focus on neighborhood and personal experience, a cinematic “trip down memory lane” to complement the one Nas rapped about on “Illmatic” itself.

The pic’s first half devotes much of its energy to anatomizing Nas’ childhood and early performance career, with particular attention to his parents — the jazz sideman Olu Dara and his wife, Ann Jones — who raised their two sons (Nas and younger brother Jabari, aka “Jungle”) in a bohemian cocoon of art, books and music very different from the Queensbridge norm. After a brief childhood flirtation with the trumpet, Nas had already begun writing rhymes by age 8. Curiously, it was Dara himself, by then divorced from Ann, who persuaded both boys to drop out of New York’s public school system (where he believed they were receiving an inferior, resource-starved education) after completing the eighth grade. He wanted them to follow their entrepreneurial dreams, which was easier said than done in the New York of the pre-Giuliani, crack-besieged late ’80s and early ’90s.

Fans of old-school hip-hop will take particular delight in the docu’s evocation of the neighborhood rivalries and MC battles that played out in the form of tracks like Marly Marl and MC Shan’s “The Bridge” and KRS-One’s “South Bronx,” and helped to stoke the young Nas’ creative fires. (The opening cut of “Illmatic” featured a prominent sample of the seminal 1983 hip-hop feature “Wild Style,” also excerpted here.) Returning today to the old neighborhood, Nas reflects emotionally on the devastation wrought by drugs and gang violence and how, but for a few strokes of luck, he too might have become another victim.

In its second half, “Time” shifts gears to the recording of “Illmatic,” with Nas and his quintet of illustrious producers (Nas, Large Professor, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, L.E.S. and DJ Premier) offering insightful, track-by-track deconstructions of the album’s most enduring cuts: “Life’s a Bitch,” “One Love,” “The World Is Yours” and “It Ain’t Hard to Tell,” with its inspired sampling of Michael Jackson’s “Human Nature.”

The documentary occasionally reveals its multiyear gestation period in the variable range of video formats used to capture the interviews, but otherwise sports a polished, professional sheen.

review by Scott Foundas via Variety.com

 

R.I.P. Ms. Melodie Of Boogie Down Productions

Ms. Melodie

Ms. Melodie, ex-wife of KRS-ONE and a prominent member of the Boogie Down Productions crew, passed away today according to numerous news sources.  Ms. Melodie, born Ramona Parker, was a member of the influential Boogie Down Productions crew and released her first album, Diva, in 1989 on Jive Records. She is best known for her hit video, “Live On Stage” and her hit single “Hype According to Ms. Melodie.” Her most memorable performance was on the 1989 single “Self Destruction” and she also has a cameo in Queen Latifah’s video “Ladies First.”

Ms. Melodie was a native of Brooklyn, NY and is survived by two sons. At this time, her cause of death is unknown.

via Ms. Melodie, Ramona Parker, Of Boogie Down Productions Is Dead (DETAILS) | Global Grind.