Posts Tagged ‘hip-hop’

10 Things To Know About Sylvia Robinson

September 29, 2011

Sylvia's baby hair was legendary...among other things.

Sylvia Vanderpool Robinson

1936-2011

Sylvia Robinson, born Sylvia Vanderpool in 1936, made her transition today at the age of 75. If anyone in hip-hop served as the embodiment of Handle Your [entertainment] Business, it was Sylvia Robinson, who was as asssertive as she was attractive. The singer-songwriter turned publisher and producer is right up there with Cindy Campbell as a foremother of hip-hop. Cindy had the idea for the jam that her brother DJ Kool Herc threw at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, sparking a culture. But it was Sylvia Robinson who came to prominence as a bona fide rap mogul at that time, turning rap music into a commercial enterprise, sparking an industry.

In her honor, here are 10 Things To Know about a visionary beacon of inspiration for women entrepreneurs everywhere, the multi-talented, multi-platinum boss lady—Sylvia Robinson. If you enjoy or make a living from hip-hop, time to pay her the proper respect. She made hip-hop history and brought it the masses on scale that was previously thought impossible. Hers is a powerful legacy, full of lessons from the victories and failures that mark all true business leaders.

May she rest in peace, and may her family members soon find comfort during this difficult time.

My first 45. The baby blue label? Unmistakeable.

  1. She founded the seminal hip-hop label Sugar Hill Records in 1979 with husband Joe Robinson and Morris Levy. It was actually her second label venture, the first being All Platinum Records, an R&B imprint. Sugar Hill’s roster was home to Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, Spoonie Gee, Treacherous Three, Funky Four Plus One, Sequence (featuring Angie Stone), and…
  2. The Sugar Hill Gang. The group is credited with releasing the first commercial rap smash hit, called “Rapper’s Delight”. Some 14 minutes long with no repeated hook, this song was a watershed moment for hip-hop.
  3. “Rapper’s Delight” used “Good Times” by Chic as its music bed, creating instant familiarity for the song and a perfect delivery system for rhyming over a beat. For better or worse, Sylvia was a pioneer of sampling and all its uncharted legal territory (just ask Nile Rodgers, composer and leader of Chic).
  4. Sylvia Robinson was the woman producer behind two of the genre’s seminal records: “Rapper’s Delight” and “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five. She also produced “Love on a Two Way Street” by The Moments (1970).
  5. Before Sylvia Robinson became one of rap’s first moguls, she was one half of the R&B duo Mickey and Sylvia, whose Top 20 hit “Love Is Strange” pushed over a million copies—in 1957.
  6. Sylvia also enjoyed success as a solo artist with her racy opus “Pillow Talk” (1973), certainly a precursor to songs like “Love To Love You Baby” by Donna Summer and “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross. That heavy breathing and moaning to music? Sylvia started it.
  7. Sylvia’s songs have also been sampled by some unlikely artists: Kate Bush used the drums from “Pillow Talk” on “Running Up That Hill” (1985) as did Fleetwood Mac for “Big Love” (1987).
  8. Sylvia’s voice has been sampled too. Moby sampled her vocals on “Sunday (The Day Before My Birthday)” and master beatmaker J Dilla chose to sample her from “Sweet Stuff” for his song “Crushin’”.
  9. Sylvia understood that publishing was where the big, long dollars were in the music business. A shrewd businesswoman whose practices were not always equitable, she earned a reputation for underpaying and micromanaging that, according to Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback, had “Grandmaster Flash split from the rest of his crew over creative differences and lack of payment.”
  10. 10.  We have Sylvia to thank for discovering multiplatinum crossover rap icons Naughty By Nature. They made a lackluster debut on her Bon Ami label in 1987 as The New Style before moving over to Tommy Boy Records and changing their name.

Sources:

http://www.dancharnas.com/companies/album-1/sugar-hill-records/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sylvia_Robinson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sugar_Hill_Records_(rap)

http://www.s2smagazine.com/stories/2011/09/sylvia-robinson-mother-hip-hop-dead

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BeyonJay: Black Love On Top

August 30, 2011

BET Awards '06: Partners At Every Stage

This post is really a quick congratulations to King B and Young Hov on expecting their first child. I tend not to swerve into gossip blog lanes but I couldn’t help notice how fast the attention came away from Kim Humphries’ recent wedding! When it comes to big news, the biggest entertainer since the incomparable Michael Jackson (yeah, I said it long before her husband did-click here) runs the celebrity media world!

With one embrace of her bump in her gorgeous red gown on their black carpet, Beyoncé turned the VMAs into the BeyMAs.

Who Run The World? This mother to B!

She capped off the night with a sweet, sexy rendition of “Love On Top” in custom D&G maternity trousers. When the last note rang, she dropped the mic, popped open her tuxedo jacket, and rubbed her belly, smiling from ear to ear. In a cynical, star-obsessed world depressed by the global economy, it’s great to see what comes across (to me anyway) as authentic wedded bliss and maternal joy, without the hazy glare of a reality show’s filter. It’s also wonderful to have a model of a woman who excelled in her career, married, and got pregnant (please stop saying “knocked up”–that’s for jumpoffs and accidents) in that order.

Black Love On Top

In the wings, Jay-Z was an exuberant proud papa watching his wife and unborn child, clearly over the moon. He’s ready to be a present, powerful father, ready to break the cycle of fatherlessness he experienced and Decoded for us in his memoir. May all his fans who stay in that deadbeat baby daddy loop be freed by his example and step their game up. May all the good dads out there be encouraged, knowing that a new member is joining their ranks to shine a light on the good they do that goes largely unnoticed simply because they aren’t famous.

Cheers to the parents-to-Bey! Here’s to a happy, healthy baby–and Black Love on top!

For Nate Dogg: Hip-Hop’s Captain Hook

March 17, 2011

T-pain, Akon, Ja, Fif, Drake. All inspired by this man.

 

Nathaniel “Nate Dogg” Hale

1969-2011

On March 15, 2011 Nathaniel D. Hale, professionally known as Nate Dogg, transitioned from a world upon which he left an indelible mark.

Before Ja Rule, before 50 Cent, and long before T-Pain, Akon, or Drake were dabbling in the hook game, there was Tha Homie Nate, co-founding member of 213.

The East Coast and Midwest probably know his crossover hits best: obviously the monster smash “Regulate” performed with Warren G, huge songs from Snoop Dogg’s debut Doggystyle like “It Ain’t No Fun” and classic album cuts like “Lil Ghetto Boy” from The Chronic that Nate Dogg blessed. In 2001, Whitney Houston brought his banger with Tha Eastsidaz into the national consciousness on the BET Awards by singing, “you betta Lay Low” to her detractors from the podium.

Nate made magic for them all...

We on the West heard much more of his repertoire on a daily basis throughout the mid ‘90s. We rode hard to tracks like “It’s All About U” from 2Pac’s All Eyez On Me, “Bitch Please” from Snoop Dogg with Xzibit, and “Big Pimpin’”, his outing with Tha Dogg Pound from the Above The Rim Soundtrack (that predated the song of shared title by Jay-Z) and of course—“The Next Episode” from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001.

Never one to discriminate based on region, the songs Nate did with emcees from the East and the South are also memorable: “Oh No” with Most Def and Pharoahe Monch; “Running Your Mouth”, the cut he did with Biggie, Fab and Busta Rhymes on B.I.G’s posthumous Greatest Hits CD; “Have A Party” with Mobb Deep, “Time’s Up” with Jadakiss, “Area Codes” with Ludacris, and his two most radio friendly collaborations of them all, I Can’t Deny It with Fabolous and “21 Questions” with 50 Cent.

Unifier of the Hip-Hop Sound

That’s part of what made Nate so great; his versatility; his velvety, confident delivery on the mic; his ability to shape hip-hop’s sound and in so doing, remove boundaries. The result is a catalog so diverse within the genre, it will take quite some time for any other vocalist to eclipse it. Nate Dogg is truly an architect of contemporary hip-hop. He elevated the collaboration, and was nominated for four Grammy® Awards over the course of his career.

For some perspective, when gangsta rap ramped up and started receiving more than the “shock value” airplay given to N.W.A., Domino was Nate’s only contemporary on the West Coast, singing hooks as he half-rapped. When Death Row kicked down a new door in gangsta rap, Nate went into warp speed with a barrage of hits, leaving Domino and his gold-selling “Geto Jam” at the starting line. Nate never tried to rap, but he didn’t need to. Nate Dogg kicked game everlasting through his vocals, often anchoring the young, hurried voices of the emcees with measured grown-man sensibility. He made the most misogynist, testosterone-laden, and most triflin’ ‘hood phrases sound like quiet storm dedications, only you almost snapped your neck nodding to them. Nate Dogg was a master of melody, Suge’s heavy-hitter of hooks. And with Jewell and Danny Boy rounding out Suge’s vocal arsenal, Death Row became the arbiter of what Snoop Dogg would later call R&G, Rhythm & Gangsta.

Nate Dogg was so prolific, he had G-Funk Classics Vol 1 & 2, a two-disc compilation come out before his own solo debut dropped. While not well received upon its release, Music & Me (2001) had a jam I kept on repeat as its opening song called “I Got Love” for that melody and those horns beneath Nate’s signature vocal styling. And he had love, from every corner of the hip-hop map, boasting Snoop, Fabo, Pharoahe, Lil’ Mo, Xzibit, and JD on the project. He had certainly given more than his share as a bonafide hitmaker for other artists, to the tune of over 100 million albums sold with him featured.

I got to meet him over the phone on a Tech.nitions DJ conference call—he and I were the featured guests that week. I gave him his props and called him Captain Hook; he laughed long and strong at that moniker. Me personally, I would have loved to have gotten “One More Day” to thank and acknowledge Nate for crafting a significant part of my life’s hip-hop soundtrack. This post will have to suffice.

Rest in Power, Nate Dogg.

In Honor of Notorious B.I.G

May 21, 2009
Breakfast of champions of rap

Breakfast of champions of rap

Pulling out some of my photos from the ’90s, from a time I am so blessed to have lived and worked in; a decade that gave us hip-hop’s golden era. I found the photos of BIG in this note, and reconnected to a time when hip-hop had purpose; had a sense of humor; had much more respect for its women (and indeed a chorus of female voices to boot); had a hunger for innovation that eclipsed its need for shine. Hip-hop’s commitment to being dope is what turned the spotlight on her in the first place. BIG represents that for me. An inrcedible lyricist and magnetic personality who could not be denied, who brought the shine to him.

He visited me with Cease at GAVIN four days before his last. Our interview didn’t feel like one at all. We all laughed as the two of them played the dozens over salmon croquettes, eggs, and yes-Welch’s grape. I ordered in because of the tension that BIG being in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area, Tupac’s first Cali home, meant back then. He had so much security; traveled in an unmarked van. So many times I think back on that day, wishing security had been as tight in LA as it was in the Bay. He loved the energy of the Bay, too, because the Bay was always more inclined toward hip-hop unity in diversity than its SoCal counterpart. When Ricky Leigh called me at 4am on March 9, 1997, none of the competition, none of the beef, none of the parties, none of the bullshit mattered. Hip-hop’s collective heart was broken for the second time in six months.

including Michelle S., Foxy Brown, Joey Arbagey, Franzen Wong, Latin Prince, Sway

KMEL Dream Team: including Michelle S., Foxy Brown, Joey Arbagey, Franzen Wong, Latin Prince, Sway

He rose from the table, grabbed his cane (he was recovering from a car accident), snapped some pictures with me, bear hugged me and went on to KMEL and WILD, where he gave the infamous final radio interview caught on video. We saw each other again at the album listening event held by BMG distribution. And listening to that album was like hearing greatness pour through speakers.

One thing I have yet to find is the “Life After Death” buyway he autographed for me at the BMG mixer. I remember what it said though: “To Thembisa, thank you for being different.”

Biggie, thank you for being you.

Doin' it BIG

Doin' it BIG

President-Elect Obama and The NeXt Factor

November 5, 2008

 

by Thembisa S. Mshaka

 

Congratulations to our new First Family, the Obamas, and to all of America. YES WE DID!!!

Talk about hope?!

 

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America was not ready to elect John McCain, a member of the Savings and Loan scandal’s Keating Five, a volatile 72 year-old cancer survivor, whose campaign staff was riddled with the lobbyists who represent the interests of and took money from some of the very organizations seeking or receiving historic government bailouts using our tax dollars; who voted against health care for children and with Dubya over 90% of the time; and has repeatedly, proudly stated that he will ask America’s young people to fight more wars (“Bomb-bomb-bomb, bomb-bomb-Iran”) all because the opponent has an African name and the skin tone to match. Hope has been restored. As McCain intoned in his concession speech, “the people have spoken, and they have spoken clearly.” That’s the sound of land sliding.


Along with Dr. King’s dream, hope was fulfilled last night—hope that the illogic of racism would not send America totally over the cliff into Third World status after an eight-year Dukes Of Hazard-on-steriods joyride driven by Bush-Cheney was restored.

 

The 24-hour news cycle beat the superficial to death with its coverage; among other inane newsbytes: Palin’s eyewear maker got flooded with orders after the RNC. Meanwhile, when Alaska held its biggest rally of any kind in history, because it was a Women Against Palin rally, it gets ZERO mainstream coverage. Obama got his share of slanted coverage too; remember the much publicized ‘love affair’ The Media had with him after he spoke so courageously on race and denounced his former pastor? While it is my opinion that he received far fewer passes than McCain, who finagled much mileage with his tattered POW card. The media’s Obama-rama was real, if for no other reason because it was absolutely astounding that he had actually beaten Hillary Clinton in a brutal primary and won the respect of the world while Black.

 

But the news said that in battleground states, the candidates are in a dead heat. The polls said that for worse or worst, Palin gave a lukewarm GOP a B-12 shot in the arm, especially among ‘Wal-Mart moms’, a very real demographic during the summer of $5.00/gallon gas and a time of behind-the-counter pharmacists acting as over-the-counter doctors, in lieu of comprehensive health care. The Clintons, still smarting from Hillary’s primary loss, were slow to come around and ride for the team by stumping for Obama. We get it, Billary. And yes, times were better with Bill in office. But this? Y’all never saw it coming. That white-knuckle, buzzer-beating superdelegate beatdown hurt. Hurt bad.

 

But another 4 years of the GOP in the Oval office would have hurt a LOT more, and the Clintons knew this. So after licking their wounds, they started making the rounds and making their loyalty known.

 

Still and all, there were so many darts aimed at busting the nation’s bubble of hope. I donated repeatedly and wrote post cards to suburban Pennsylvania women. I heard our next preisdent’s nomination acceptance speech in person at Invesco Field.

 

Can you feel it now?

Can you feel it now?

 

 

And I almost drank the Kool-Aid of doubt. Admittedly, with full knowledge of the Change We Need, I found myself faltering, thinking negative thoughts, and entertaining the hype about him being too Black for Middle America to vote for, even though Barack is white too. They love Slash and Lenny Kravitz. They’ve already made the leap of embracing a Black man who broke barriers. I know, they didn’t run for President—but you feel me.

 

As President-elect, it’s time for Barack to flip the ‘divide and conquer’ script like he has flipped all the other scripts written by the Old Boys’ Network designed to not only exclude him, but work against him. Joe Biden is a big gun, and he will complement Barack in ways that Sarah Palin had neither had the intention nor ability to do for Senator McCain.

 

Barack Obama has come this far because he had every intention of going all the way. And his campaign leveraged all the poise, grace, grit and grasp of the issues to catapult the momentum he has created across the finish line to the 2009 Inaguration. And there’s more…

 

In addition to that  email list of three million strong, Barack has another secret weapon that The Media isn’t talking about. It’s not their fault; they only talk about what they can see on paper or on tape. Until this election, this Secret Weapon was off the grid, and unable to be counted. We’ll be hearing all about them in the days to come. This weapon is so powerful, so strong in number we won’t even begin to know how deep they roll until Barack takes offcie. They are what I call The NeXt Factor.

 

In 1993, I coined the phrase Generation NeXt, complete with the capital X. It appeared as the cover headline for a Gavin special issue of the same name that I edited about rap music.

 

My calling card, 1993-98

My calling card, 1993-98

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catchy as hell, the phrase was snapped up by Rap Pages, then Rolling Stone. Then the moniker for a new generation went pop-literally. Pepsi got wind of it and the Spice Girls sang a song about it for their commercial. I was flattered; I couldn’t trademark it anyway because I coined it for the magazine, then a Miller Freeman company.

 

Well, guess what? Generation NeXt is now old enough—and bold enough–to vote. Barack won their votes by 32% vs. the 9% that voted for Bush. They love hip-hop. They hate racism. Need a visual?

 

Gen NeXt Emeritus

Gen NeXt Emeritus

 

Okay. They are Rihanna and Eminem, Shia LeBoeuf and Nick Cannon, John Legend and Scarlett Johanson. They come in every imaginable multi-racial and multicultural swatch of our nation’s patchwork quilt. And they have no problem with accomplished Black men. In fact, they grew up on ‘em: Tupac to Biggie, Jay-Z to John Singleton, Shaquille O’Neal to Jesse Jackson Jr., Everybody Hates Chris to Chapelle’s Show, FUBU to Sean John. Big or tall, be their skin light or dark, thugged out or clean-cut, brothers don’t faze Generation NeXt. On the contrary, they look to brothers for leadership, for examples of greatness against the odds, for swagger to emulate. Obama for America found them online and on the ground, offered them an official DNC CD with donations of $30, and registered over a million of them for that 6 million-plus popular vote victory.

 

Generation NeXt is still pissed that Al Gore lost when the numbers showed that he was elected in 2000, even though most of them were not 18 yet. The GOP election-stealing jig is up. The NeXt factor is real. The Civil Rights generation has been vindicated. And the bigoted racist sector of America’s electorate is officially outnumbered.

 

Bridging History w/Chuck

Bridging History w/Chuck

To the tune of 349-163.

 

This is what community organizing looks like. This is how things can turn when you register, verify, and handle your [policial] business.

 

In addition to being the inventor of the phrase ‘Generation NeXt’, Thembisa S. Mshaka is the author of Put Your Dreams First: Handle Your [entertainment] Business, out April 2009 (Grand Central Publishing).