Tag: Rakim

Born On This Day in 1928: Ruth Brown, Grammy and Tony Award-Winning “Queen of R&B” and Musicians’ Rights Activist

by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (@lakinhutcherson)

Ruth Alston Brown (born Ruth Weston), singer-songwriter and actress known for hit songs such as “So Long,” “Teardrops from My Eyes,” “5-10-15 Hours,” “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean” and “Oh What A Dream” which earned her the nicknames “Miss Rhythm” and “Queen of R&B,” was born January 12, 1928 in Portsmouth, VA. She would have been 91 years old today.

In 1945 when she was just 17, Brown ran away from her home in Portsmouth along with trumpeter Jimmy Brown, whom she married, to sing in bars and clubs.  According to biography.com, Brown would later discover that Jimmy was already married and their marriage was legally void.

By the time Brown learned of Jimmy Brown’s bigamy, she had already developed a reputation under his surname, so she kept the name Ruth Brown as a stage name for the rest of her life.

Brown soon spent a month with singing with Lucky Millinder‘s orchestra. Famous bandleader Cab Calloway‘s sister Blanche Calloway, owner of the Crystal Caverns nightclub in Washington D.C., became Brown’s manager and offered Brown a regular gig performing at her club. Willis Conover, the future Voice of America disc jockey, caught Brown’s act and recommended her to Atlantic Records bosses Ahmet Ertegün and Herb Abramson.

Brown was unable to audition for Atlantic as planned because of a car crash, which resulted in an almost year-long stay in the hospital. Regardless, she signed with Atlantic Records and Brown’s series of hits for Atlantic Records in the 1950s had many referring to the record label as “the house that Ruth built.”

Nevertheless, Brown’s popularity and R&B charts success did not translate into personal financial wealth. Due to a practice known as “whitewashing,” in which white singers covered black artists’ songs without permission, Brown’s records never sold nearly their full potential. Furthermore, Atlantic Records made Brown pay her recording and touring expenses out of pocket—costs that nearly equaled her cut of the sales.

According to wikipedia.org, during the 1960s, Brown faded from public view, moved to Long Island, New York, where she worked various part-time jobs as a teacher’s aide, school bus driver and maid just to make ends meet.

Brown returned to music in 1975 with the help of comedian Redd Foxx, and a series of comedic acting jobs followed. These included roles in the 1988 John Waters film Hairspray, and the Broadway productions of Amen Corner and Black and Blue. The latter earned her a Tony Award in 1989 as Best Actress in a Musical. She also won a Grammy Award for her album Blues on Broadway that same year.

Bonnie Raitt and Ruth Brown during 8th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, 1993 in Century City, CA, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc)

Brown’s fight for musicians’ rights and royalties in 1987 led to the founding of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation to help emerging as well as aging R&B musicians. The nonprofit was financed by a settlement with Atlantic Records. Brown, who is also aunt to legendary Hip-Hop artist Rakim, was inducted into the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame in 1992 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Brown died in a Las Vegas–area hospital on November 17, 2006, from complications following a heart attack and stroke she suffered after surgery the previous month. She was 78 years old. Brown is buried at Roosevelt Memorial Park in Chesapeake City, Virginia.

One of the first great divas of modern American popular music, Brown’s songs provided a blueprint for much of the rock ‘n’ roll that soon came after her. In addition to the musical legacy she left, Brown also left future artists a more artist-friendly environment, thanks to her tireless work to reform the royalty system. To get a glimpse of Brown, and hear her legendary voice and style, click below:

ART: Now You Can Take a Virtual Tour of the Metropolitan Museum of Art with Nas & Rakim

Nas and Rakim are part of the NY Met's Hip Hop Project (photo via ambrosiaforheads.com)
Nas and Rakim are part of the NY Met’s Hip Hop Project (photo via ambrosiaforheads.com)

Hip-Hop and art have once again merged in an exciting way, thanks to the inventive mind of a graduate student. Regina Flores Mir is the brains behind the Hip-Hop Project, a program being implemented at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that allows visitors to navigate the various collections with guiding narration from MCs. Lyrics from songs by artist including Missy Elliott, Notorious B.I.G., Eric B. & Rakim, Kendrick Lamar, Nas, Queen Latifah, and more are used as keywords and then cross-referenced with the Met’s massive archive of art, providing listeners with a Hip-Hop-centric blueprint by which to examine and understand the museum’s collections.

hip hop project

According to the Hip-Hop Project’s website, “although the rap lyric may not be directly correlated to the art work in meaning, it allows visitors to see work that they may not have otherwise known existed,” allowing for the kind of accidental discovery that could inspire Heads to establish bridges between music and art in uniquely individualized ways.

As Kari Paul wrote for Vice’s Motherboard channel, the relationship between the lyrics and pieces of art in question aren’t necessarily straightforward, but are nevertheless engaging. “For example, in ‘Juicy’ when the Notorious B.I.G. says ‘fuck all y’all hoes,’ the Hip-Hop Project pulls up an ancient hoe artifact. Users can click on it and explore this work and others,” she explains. The Hip-Hop Project’s site allows users to experience the museum tour without a trip to the Met, simply by picking a rapper and delving into the lyrical matches to items available for viewing. Heads will also appreciate the website’s domain (www.rappersdelight.nyc).

article by Bonita via ambrosiaforheads.com

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

Screen Shot 2015-05-02 at 1.14.35 PM

“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”

Ice-T Announces Art of Rap Music Festival Kicking off July 18 in Irvine, CA

Ice T

According to bet.com, Ice-T has announced his very own music festival for this summer. The first-ever Art of Rap Music Festival kicks off July 18 at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheater in Irvine, Calif., followed by another show July 19 in Northern California at the Shoreline Amphitheater.

Keeping in line with his critically acclaimed Art of Rap documentary from a few years ago, the festival lineup is jam packed with influential rap artists including Ice-T himself, Afrika Bambaataa, Melle Mel, Rakim, Kool Moe Dee, The Game, Bone Thugs ‘N’ Harmony, Doug E. Fresh, Warren GKurtis Blow, EPMDXzibit,  Biz Markie, DJ Quik and Slick Rick.

Art of Rap FestivalThe Art of Rap Music Festival will feature two stages with more than 25 different artists, as well as break-dancers, graffiti artists and vendors. Tickets go on sale Friday, April 24 at 10 AM PST.

Visit www.ArtofRapFest.com for more information.

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow@lakinhutcherson)

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.