According to huffingtonpost.com, Grammy-nominated rapper Craig Mack, who performed the 1994 hit “Flava in Ya Ear” for Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy label, has died at age 46. The New York Daily News confirmed his death with Alvin Toney, the producer of Mack’s breakout album, “Project: Funk Da World.”
Mack succumbed Monday to heart failure at a hospital near his home in Walterboro, South Carolina, the producer said. He had been ill for some time. “It was a pleasure to know you & rock with you,” tweeted LL Cool J, who performed on Mack’s remix for “Flava in Ya Ear” with Notorious B.I.G., Busta Rhymes and Rampage.
The New York City-born rapper hit it big in his debut album for Bad Boy, “Project: Funk Da World,” which also generated a second single, “Get Down,” Billboard noted.
To read more about Craig Mack’s life and music, click here.
The life of Dapper Dan — the godfather of hip-hop fashion, who dressed everyone from LL Cool J to Jay Z — is coming to the big screen.
Sony is developing a biopic based on Dapper Dan’s upcoming memoir (due out in 2019 via Random House), which will be adapted by Jerrod Carmichael. Set in Harlem, the feature is described as a “high-stakes coming-of-age story.”
Carmichael, who is best known as the creator and star of the NBC critical darling The Carmichael Show, will also produce alongside Josh Bratman of Immersive Pictures. Dapper Dan and Jelani Day, his son and brand manager, are set to executive produce.
Daniel “Dapper Dan” Day is a streetwear pioneer that outfitted some of the biggest New York City-based stars of the ’80s and ’90s out of his iconic store on 125th Street in Harlem. His clientele included Eric B. & Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, P. Diddy, Mike Tyson, Aaliyah and Floyd Mayweather.
His style of remixing high-end logos from the likes of Gucci and Louis Vuitton into his designs led to litigation that eventually prompted the closure of his store. Over two decades later, in September of last year, Dapper Dan struck a partnership with Gucci to relaunch his exclusive Harlem atelier that includes a Dapper Dan x Gucci capsule that will be available along with the fall 2018 collection.
Thirty years after becoming rap’s first sex symbol, LL Cool J will be the first hip-hop artist to receive Kennedy Center Honors in its 40-year history.
The rapper-turned-actor born James Todd Smith will be inducted with a prestigious 2017 class — including pop stars Lionel Richie, Gloria Estefan, television icon Norman Lear and choreographer Carmen de Lavallade – on Sunday, Dec. 3 at the Kennedy Center Opera House in Washington, D.C.
The honorees will be saluted by performers while seated alongside President Trump and First Lady Melania Trump. While Kennedy Center Honors acknowledge the lifetime achievements of contributors to American culture, the list has traditionally been limited in scope. But the inclusion of LL, born James Todd Smith, in this year’s honoree list further expands the center’s growing embrace of hip-hop culture.
Earlier this year the center appointed Simone Eccleston as its first director of Hip-Hop Culture after naming A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip as artistic director of Hip-Hop Culture in 2016. Historic performances by Kendrick Lamar and Commonhave also underlined the center’s investment, and more programming for the 2017-18 season is expected to be announced in the coming months.
At 49, LL will be the Kennedy Center’s youngest honoree since Stevie Wonder. It’s a long way from home for the St. Albans, Queens native who made his first record, “I Need A Beat,” at 16, after his demo tape made it to the ears of producer and Def Jam founder Rick Rubin. As rap’s first bona fide solo star, LL was larger than life in the 1980s, the first to embody the street-corner swagger and sex appeal that would become a blueprint for future hip-hop icons ranging from Big Daddy Kane to Biggie.
Before an artist like Drake could legitimately mix hip-hop lyricism with R&B vulnerability, LL turned out the first hit rap ballad with 1987’s “I Need Love.” And the ladies loved him for it. Best known today for his starring roles in TV and film, he received his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame last year. But after a career spanning 30-plus years and 13 albums, he’s yet to leave rap alone — he’s rumored to be in the studio recording with Dr. Dre.
It took only 20 seconds for Clyde Stubblefield to drum his way to immortality. They came near the end of James Brown’s “Funky Drummer,” recorded in a Cincinnati studio in late 1969. Brown counts him in — “1, 2, 3, 4. Hit it!” — and Mr. Stubblefield eases into a cool pattern, part bendy funk and part hard march. It’s calm, slick and precise, and atop it, Brown asks over and over, “Ain’t it funky?”
It was. That brief snippet of percussion excellence became the platonic ideal of a breakbeat, the foundation of hip-hop’s sampling era and a direct through line from the ferocious soul music of the civil rights era to the golden age of history-minded hip-hop of the 1980s and 1990s.
Though Mr. Stubblefield wasn’t enamored of the song — “I didn’t like the song. I still don’t really get off on it,” he told Paste magazine in 2014— its mark became indelible. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power,” LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out,” Boogie Down Productions’ “South Bronx,” Sinead O’Connor’s “I Am Stretched on Your Grave,” George Michael’s “Freedom! ’90” and Kenny G’s “G-Bop”: Mr. Stubblefield’s “Funky Drummer” break appeared as a sample in all of those songs, and over a thousand more, from the 1980s to the present day. It made Mr. Stubblefield, who died on Saturday in Madison, Wis., at 73, perhaps the most sampled drummer in history.
The cause was kidney failure, said his manager, Kathie Williams.
Mr. Stubblefield was born on April 18, 1943, and grew up in Chattanooga, Tenn., where he was drawn to the rhythms of local industrial sounds, from factories to trains. “There was a factory there that puffed out air — pop-BOOM, pop-BOOM — hit the mountains and came back as an echo,” he told Isthmus in 2015. “And train tracks — click-clack, click-clack. I listened to all that for six years, playing my drums against it.”
By his late teenage years, he was already playing drums professionally, and he moved to Macon, Ga., after playing with Otis Redding, who hailed from there. There, he performed with local soul acts, and was introduced to Brown by a club owner. Soon, he was flying to join Brown on the road, and became a permanent band member.
He performed with him on and off for about six years, one of two key drummers — the other was John Starks, who was also known as Jabo — playing on the essential James Brown albums of the civil rights era: “Cold Sweat,” “I Got the Feelin’,” “It’s a Mother,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” and “Sex Machine.” He performed at some of Brown’s most important concerts, including at the Boston Garden after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and for United States service members in Vietnam.
His sharp funk provided the anchor on anthems like “Cold Sweat,” “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “I Got The Feelin’.” Always, his playing was complex but collected — his flourishes between beats were as essential as the beat itself. Brown demanded a lot of his band, and Mr. Stubblefield, with playing that had punch, nimbleness and wet texture, never appeared to be breaking a sweat.
Prince will be immortalized at the Apollo Theater’s Walk of Fame.
Theater officials announced Wednesday they will add the Purple One to their walk under the theater’s iconic marquee on 125th Street during its annual spring gala and fundraiser next month, honoring the music legend’s contributions over 40 years.
Prince’s plaque will be in the company of previously inducted Walk of Fame music icons such as Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald.
“The Apollo family was, of course, devastated to hear about the loss of Prince. He is, hands down, one of the greatest artists of all time — an absolute genius — and his relationship with the Apollo dates back to 1993,” said Jonelle Procope, the Appollo’s president and CEO.
“Over the years, we’ve been honored to host him, whether for a seminal New York performance or as a guest in our audience, so we are beyond thrilled to kick off this year’s Spring Gala by inducting him into the Apollo Walk of Fame.”
The gala, scheduled for June 13th at 7 p.m., will also feature a star-studded line up with performances from legendary R&B group The O’Jays and newer artists such as Leon Bridges and Andra Day.
LL Cool J will host. The evening will also include special tributes to other trailblazing artists who died in 2016, as well as a dance tribute to Prince.
A+E Networks and iHeartMedia are simultaneously airing “Shining a Light: A Concert for Progress on Race in America” on Friday, November 20 at 8PM ET/PT. The sold-out concert was recorded at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, CA on Wednesday, November 18th, and the two-hour special event will air across the entire A+E Networks portfolio in more than 130 territories globally, including A&E, HISTORY, Lifetime, H2, LMN and FYI, as well as on more than 130 iHeartMedia broadcast radio stations nationwide and the iHeartRadio digital platform. Additionally, AOL has joined in the simulcast making the historic special event available to anyone with internet access across the globe on AOL.com.
Artists Aloe Blacc, Andra Day, Nick Jonas, Tom Morello, Smokey Robinson and Big Sean join the previously announced performers including Zac Brown Band, Eric Church, Jamie Foxx, Rhiannon Giddens, Tori Kelly, John Legend, Miguel, Pink, Jill Scott, Ed Sheeran, Sia, Bruce Springsteen, Sting and Pharrell Williams. LL Cool J, Marshall Faulk, Morgan Freeman, George Lopez, Mario Lopez, Nicki Minaj, Kurt Warner and Nick Young are among the presenters joining the telecast.
Alicia Keys has joined John Legend and Pharrell on extraordinary journeys to Baltimore, Ferguson and Charleston, where they met with a diverse group of residents in communities at the center of the national conversation on racial inequality and violence. Joined by NPR’s Michele Norris with John Legend in Ferguson, award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien with Pharrell Williams in Charleston and ABC News’ Byron Pitts in Baltimore, these visits included intimate discussions and special private performances by each for those most effected. These incredibly moving, heart wrenching and eye-opening moments will be featured throughout the two-hour concert, as well as in the one-hour special, “Shining a Light: Conversations on Race in America,” airing immediately following the concert on A&E Network and AOL.com at 10pm ET/PT.
To see Alicia Keys perform Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We Will All Be Free”, watch below:
The concert will kick off A+E Networks’ campaign to confront issues of race, and promote unity and progress on racial equity, inspired by the response of the Mother Emanuel family members in Charleston and others working for reconciliation and change around the country.
The concert and the ancillary programming will help raise money for the Fund for Progress on Race in America powered by United Way Worldwide (ShiningALightConcert.com). The fund will provide grant funding to individuals and organizations fostering understanding, eliminating bias, as well as provide support to Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church and the broader A.M.E. denomination. The fund will support efforts to address racism and bias through public policy change, individual innovation, and community mobilization.
Tickets for the concert on November 18 sold out within 3 hours of the on-sale date raising more than $150,000 to benefit the Fund for Progress on Race in America powered by The United Way Worldwide.
To see a clip of John Legend’s performance of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” from the event, watch below:
After flipping through the September fall fashion issues of my favorite magazines with black “It Girls” such as Beyoncé, Kerry Washington, Serenaand Misty Copeland on their covers, I’m unusually interested in clothes. All that paging through magazines got me wondering: Where are all the black-owned fashion brands? Yes, of course well-known black brands still exist. Tracy Reese and Byron Lars are two of my favorites.
Digging into the rabbit hole of black designers led me to Fresh Dressed, a fascinating documentary from 2014 directed by Sacha Jenkins about the foundations of urban fashion that features some of the biggest names in fashion (Dapper Dan, Andre Leon Talley) and hip-hop (Kanye West, Nas). And it conveniently airs on Vimeo on Demand. One late-night click on my PayPal account and I was immersed in the world of pre-gentrified New York and hip-hop’s early years, which started the urban fashion apparel market. Sweet! Check out the trailer below:
Ready to take a walk down memory lane or learn the secret to how the brands so many of us wore in the ‘90s became hot (then not)? Check out Fresh Dressed. Here are 10 reasons the doc is worthwhile:
1. Unique fashion inspirations.
Customized leather jackets underneath denim vests—a fashion staple that was worn by street gang members who wanted to identify their affiliation—were inspired by 1969’s Easy Rider, a film about two bikers.
2. Jamel Shabazz photographs.
Brooklyn-born Shabazz spent the ‘80s taking iconic pictures of black street style and capturing the culture. His driving force? “[Black style] is interpreted around the world as just being fly,” Shabazz says in the documentary. “What I see is pride and dignity. I wanted the world to see [us] as something unlike they had seen before. That despite people’s condition, they were able to maintain a great deal of integrity and it is shown in the way people dress and the pride they take in having clean sneakers on.”
3. Random hip-hop fun facts.
Before Play of the rap duo Kid ‘n Play was a rapper, he was a graffiti artist who used denim jackets as his canvas. “People would pay me to paint their names on their jeans,” says Christopher “Play” Reid.
4. Dapper Dan was more popular than Louis Vuitton (among black people).
The (in)famous Harlem designer and boutique owner was best known for merging hip-hop fashion sensibilities with the logos of European fashion houses, such as Louis Vuitton and Gucci. Think tricking out the upholstery of Big Daddy Kane’s car with a red and black Gucci monogram print or maybe a red leather Gucci sweatsuit for Bobby Brown. “I blacken-ized [luxury] fashion” Dan boasts in Fresh Dressed. “I made it so it would look good on us.”
Nas, a producer of the documentary, takes the boasting a step further:
“Dapper Dan was Tom Ford before Tom Ford,” says the rapper. “He had the foresight to do what they [luxury brands] started doing five years, 10 years after him.”
5. The genesis of fat laces in sneakers.
Before wide laces were sold ready-made in stores, sneaker aficionados had to create their own by taking the laces out of the shoe, stretching them, starching them and then ironing them.
6. Mayor’s closet.
I’m not so into sneakers, but even I gasped looking at the walk-in closet of sneaker aficionado Mayor, who boasts of going 7.5 years without wearing the same pair of shoes twice. (That’s 2,737 pairs). He keeps his collection, which includes a significant number of Jordans, in a row of plastic containers that are as tall he is and estimates his collection is worth more than half a million dollars.
7. Rediscovering the Lo-Lifes.
This was a well-known “gang” in Brooklyn, N.Y., that didn’t identify itself by colors but by fashion logos, one in particular: Polo. Its criminal activity was mainly shoplifting Ralph Lauren clothing from department stores, and status in the group was determined by who wore the most exclusive wares best. For some, such as Lo-Life leader Thirstin Howl the 3rd (yes, like the millionaire from Gilligan’s Island), fashion is really that serious.
8. Learning how Tommy Hilfiger became so popular among black people.
Instead of offering endorsement deals to famous rappers, Hilfiger offered free clothes to the MCs—and in the neighborhoods where they came from. “Tommy Hilfiger would show up in the ‘hood and open up a trunk with clothes,” recalls Ralph McDaniels, who hosted the popular hip-hop TV show Video Music Box. “It was the drug dealer giving you a free hit. It was smart. He knew exactly what he was doing.”
9. That time GAP unwittingly spent $30 million on a FUBU commercial.
LL Cool J signed on to do a GAP commercial, but didn’t really believe the brand respected hip-hop culture, according to FUBU executive Daymond John. The rapper insisted on wearing a FUBU baseball cap in the commercial and even dropped a line that included FUBUs tagline, “For Us By Us.” “It basically became a FUBU commercial,” adds John. FUBU eventually became a $350 million business.
10. Learning that Tupac didn’t charge black people.
At the height of his fame, Tupac took a meeting with Karl Kani in which Kani pitched him to star in an upcoming ad campaign. “I ain’t gonna charge you; you black,” Pac told Kani. “I don’t charge my people for nothing.” Two weeks later, they did a photoshoot … free. Kani credits Pac with introducing him to a global market.