Name: Ron, aka "Ronald Grant"
Web Site: http://muzikrevyze.com
Bio: Ron Grant is a freelance journalist and blogger originally from Detroit and currently residing in Orlando. He is a contributor at HipHopDX.com, is the lead writer for Orlando-based indie music label Conscious Mind Records and runs his own independent music blog, The Music Nerdvocate. Follow him on Twitter @RonGreezy.
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Having remained relatively quiet since his nuptials to Kim Kardashian, Kanye West has broken his silence in a recent GQ Magazine interview on everything from the reception of 2013’s Yeezus album to his desire to be a top designer in the fashion world to the tabloid wedding of the decade. But for Hip-Hop fans, the most important piece of information divulged by Yeezy probably had to be him seemingly conceding the top spot in Hip Hop to none other than October’s Very Own, Drake. Interviewed for the July issue of GQ by Zach Baron, said exchange reportedly went as follows:
It was stated by former Mayor of New Orleans Marc Morial during his introduction of the Rev. Al Sharpton on the third day of the 2014 Essence Music Festival Empowerment Experience Expo that the intention of the first Essence Fest was to merely be a one day, one year event that would help to revitalize and reinvigorate New Orleans in 1995. Morial then went on to say that New Orleans didn’t simply want a one-night stand with Essence, but a long, trusting and lucrative relationship (paraphrased, of course). It would be an understatement to say that Essence Fest and New Orleans have exceeded that original idea by leaps and bounds. They’ve obliterated the original thought and turned the Essence Music Festival into one of the most coveted brands in annual music and family entertainment during the Fourth of July weekend. It’s been said before, but the Essence Music Festival is about far more than just music. It’s a time for people of all walks of life to come together and enjoy in some of the most classic and amazing creativity, artistry, civic engagement and empowerment they’ve ever been exposed to. Although, we can never get it twisted: people come out to see their favorite artists perform some of their most classic R&B songs, along with getting some exposure to newer artists on the rise (Somi, Daley, George Tandy Jr., KING, and Elle Varner to name a few). This year didn’t get any more classic than with Prince headlining the entire festival with a stunning and unforgettable performance on Friday, July 4. Coinciding perfectly with the 30th Anniversary of his masterpiece album Purple Rain, Prince treated the capacity crowd to some of his most beloved ballads, dance tunes and funk rock hybrid classics. It was a performance that won’t soon be forgotten and had many a fan questioning how Essence will top such a feat in 2015, if that’s at all possible. But Prince wasn’t the only one that came to the Superdome with a vengeance. Essence Fest mainstays like Mary J. Blige, Jill Scott, Charlie Wilson and Ledisi, along with additional big names in R&B and Hip Hop like Erykah Badu, Michelle Williams, Janelle Monae, Nile Rodgers, Marsha Ambrosious, Tank, Estelle, Nas, The Roots, Trey Songz, K. Michelle and a whole host veterans and up-and-comers gave the crowds that packed the main stage and Super lounge sections the most for their money well spent. One of the greatest things that the 20th Annual Essence Music Festival helped to do was to solidify the preservation of R&B music. In 2014, there has been lots of talk about the dire and desperate state of R&B artists and music. But you wouldn’t know it from being at Essence Fest in 2014. Judging from all of the amazing artists and astounding performances, it’s clear that R&B is alive and well, and isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Now that the 20th Annual Essence Fest is in the books, we can be almost certain that the entertainment entity that is Essence is already in the works of meticulously planning the 2015 edition to a tee. Judging from the way the 2014 went, they have a lot to live up to. Then again, that’s probably just the way they like it.
As soon as he uttered the famous words, “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to get through this thing called life…” you knew this show was going to be a special one.
Never known as an artist that would do much in the way of looking back at the past or being too nostalgic, Prince nevertheless gave a stirring, memorable performance of some of his biggest songs at the 20th Essence Music Festival at the New Orleans Superdome on Friday, July 4. Beginning with a heavy funk-laden, Hendrix-influenced version of “Let’s Go Crazy”, Prince closed out the second night of the festival with an epic, transcendent stage show after being perfectly set up by performances from one artist he’s greatly influence, R&B electric lady and futurist Janelle Monae, and another that clearly influenced him with disco/dance music legend and hit maker extraordinaire Nile Rodgers and Chic. Previous to his set, Prince came out on both Janelle and Nile’s sets to play back up guitar momentarily, with the entire Superdome crowd going bananas both times and getting a glimpse of what the show would entail.
The annual Essence Music Festival held in New Orleans is always a time for great music, great information and great inspiration. And at this year’s Essence Fest, Sosoactive.com had the opportunity to have a one-on-one interview with an up-and-coming artist that embodies all three of those traits. Acclaimed East African vocalist and songwriter Somi was at the 2014 Essence Music Festival to perform and talk about her new album, The Lagos Music Salon being released this summer. Born to immigrants of Rwandan and Ugandan background, Somi was seeking inspiration for her music three years ago and decided to relocate from New York City to Lagos, Nigeria for a year and a half. That inspiration and time in one of Africa’s most well known cities resulted in this new album containing influences from Jazz and R&B to at least a little bit of Afrobeat, yet is a project that stands on its own creative feet. Having been featured in Vogue, Billboard and Jazztimes, Somi continues her musical journey with The Lagos Music Salon and sat down with Sosoactive.com to discuss her new album, her musical influences and what her first Essence Festival experience has been like.
For those that are not yet aware of your music, please give us a glimpse into who Somi is as an artist.
I’m a professional singer with parents originally from east Africa, my parents Rwanda and Uganda, but I grew up in Illinois. I currently live in New York City, in Harlem. I have a new record coming out. It’s my fourth studio record but my first major label record. I feel very excited about it!
Who are some of the artists that have had a direct influence on your music? Are any of the artists performing over the weekend influences on your music?
I’m somebody that loves the classic voices. A lot of Nina Simone, a lot of Sarah Vaughn, a lot of Miriam Makeba, Ella Fitzgerald. More contemporary artists, I love Sade and Bjork. I love all sorts of music! But those are the artists that come to mind that have had a huge influence on my pursuit of freedom and my pursuit of my own sound and voice and approach.
The music of Fela Kuti has begun reaching more fans and generations of fans through the stage musical “Fela!” and the new documentary “Finding Fela”. Has your music been influenced by that of Fela’s at all?
I would say that Fela is one of the greatest African musicians that created his own sound, so in some ways I would say yes. I can appreciate his mash up of musical styles and being authentic with his vision. Am I doing Afrobeat? Not necessarily. But having spent time in Lagos, this record is all about that time and journey there. I had always listened to Fela, but actually being in the place where he is from and where the music is from, I realized that there was a whole other side of his music that I didn’t understand. That particular sound that he created, Lagos is the only place that could have come from. I decided to do one song as a nod to the inspiration and the energy that he gave me. He has a song called “Lady” and so I did a song called “Lady Revisited” and I have Angelique Kidjo on it as well.
What has your first experience with the Essence Festival been like?
It’s been lovely! It’s been great. I’ve only been here for 24 hours but it’s such a beautiful thing to see so many black women in one place for positive energy and experiences. Whether it’s about beauty or self-empowerment or new books or Prince being on stage, it’s such a beautiful and powerful thing. And it’s peaceful! I didn’t expect it to be this huge. But coming here and really seeing the numbers and seeing how people come out and how they come every year with their girlfriend or their man or their family, it’s such a beautiful thing and it’s such an honor to be a part of it and to share my worth in whatever way that I can.
Why was it important to you as an artist to come and perform at the 20th Annual Essence Music Festival in New Orleans?
Well, just what Essence stands for; it’s the preeminent publication for black women. To be a part of that message and voice and platform is a blessing. Also, I just love what it stands for, and I love New Orleans. Mostly I’m just thankful to have a chance for me to reach new audiences and hopefully create a wider community of people that know my music.
Please tell us what music we can expect to hear from The Lagos Music Salon.
Well, I wanted the album to feel like a Salon, a room that gives the listener a sense of travel, a sense of what it is to be in Lagos, Nigeria, to witness the challenges, and also to have a sense of what I was observing as a non-Nigerian, a traveler and an artist. A lot of people talk about my music as if it’s jazz but it’s more than that. There’s the Fela tribute with Angelique Kidjo and the Afrobeat, I have one song with Common. Then there’s some soul stuff, and then there’s stuff that actually is jazz. I just wanted it to feel like a room with conversations between myself with the music, with my fellow artists, with the city, they can expect a lot of different colors and emotions, and really a sense of travel.
On The Lagos Music Salon you have guest performances from the likes of Angelique Kidjo and Common. Can you talk about anyone else on the project and what it was like to work with them?
I’ve also worked with Hugh Masakela, who is one of my dearest mentors. He’s hugely why I went Lagos initially by helping me with my global citizenship. He let me know that If I wanted to go and spend time on the continent that I should do that. He told me that as an artist, I’m a global citizen. So means you can share your art with one part of your audience in one part of this world. I was also a friend with John Legend when he was still John Stephens, who’s still accessible and still supportive.
Who is one artist alive today that would be a dream collaboration for you?
That’s a toss up for me. There are two people in particular. I would love to work with Meshell Ndegeocello; I think she’s a genius. And I would also love to work with B’jork. If I did a record with either or the two of them, it would be awesome.
To find out more about Somi and her upcoming album The Lagos Music Salon, visit www.somimusic.com. She can also be followed on Twitter at @Somimusic.
For 20 years, the Fourth of July weekend in New Orleans has been known for the Essence Music Festival, featuring some of the greatest and most legendary names in R&B and Soul music. Essence Fest has featured performances from Charlie Wilson, Jill Scott, Mary J Blige, Erykah Badu, Maxwell, Alicia Keys, Frankie Beverly and Maze, Keyshia Cole and Beyonce and many more. And in 2014 being the 20th Anniversary, the headliner was none other than Prince. Who brought down the roof on the Superdome in New Orleans with a performance of some of his biggest hits including “Kiss”, “Little Red Corvette”, “Raspberry Beret” and of course, “Purple Rain”.
But in recent years, more up and coming names in independent R&B have been featured on the Main Stage and in the Super Lounges. This is proof positive that the face of R&B is constantly changing and featuring many newer names, many of which have already been in the game for years, but are still now making more waves and having more people take notice. Take a look at a few of the artists you should become familiar with that were featured at Essence Fest 2014.
GEORGE TANDY, JR.
BIG SAM’S FUNKY NATION
Hip Hop artists out of Detroit, MI continue to make waves and ripples throughout the music industry, with some of the most successful independent artists calling Detroit home. Some of the greatest present examples include Danny Brown, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson and Clear Soul Forces. And now another Hip Hop duo out of Detroit, The Regiment, is out to stake a claim as the next Detroit emcees to make their name known in the Hip Hop world. Their latest album, Live From The Coney Island, was released earlier this year and is available now on iTunes and in stores on physical copy. The duo also recently released their latest video for the powerful song “10,000 Strong” featuring El Da Sensei on YouTube. We recently caught up with The Regiment to get a greater take on their music, their mission and the positive yet real message they seek to convey through Hip Hop.
For those that are not familiar, explain the importance of the album title Live From The Coney Island as it relates to Detroit.
The album was dedicated to Detroit life from the struggler and overcomer state of mind. When founders of Coney Island came here from New York they made something out of nothing. One of the many authentic places in Detroit is the Coney Island restaurant. There are literally so many neighborhood staple Coney restaurants in Detroit that anyone from here immediately has one they prefer to another. Food for the soul that represents struggle and advancement.
How did The Regiment come to be? What was it that influenced Osi and IseQold to become a duo?
The original Regiment actually did not include IseQold. OSI was in the group with a different artist as a duo. We met in college playing video games. During this time Ise was a free styling battle rapper who never recorded music. OSI was already seasoned in the original duo. We were both finishing our degrees and were talking one day after an evening class we had together in 2008. After the group disbanded we linked up a few times and hit it off musically. We had some different plans in the works at first but after a lot of praying, conversing and even arguing on what to do, ultimately we reformed the group.
Describe the music of The Regiment for those who may not be familiar. Who would you consider some of your greatest influences in Hip Hop?
Well the first and foremost the important thing to us is God and sharing what Jesus has done in our lives with others. There are elements of other things we incorporate but the positive messages and the outside of the box approach is all God. As far as influences, far too many to name. The entire 90′s era of underground music would sum it up.
OSI: I spent a majority of my childhood on the east coast back when Hip Hop was the wave of the future. I listened to Hip Hop cassette tapes and drew artwork from the booklets of countless albums. You could say I fell in love from there. I would learn other artist patterns and eventually created my own schemes.
Ise: I listened to a lot of different forms of music growing up and actually first got into writing because my mother wrote music during the 90′s. My brother was a music head and I followed after him. I still write every verse hoping to impress him to this day.
In your estimation, what is the Hip Hop scene like in the city of Detroit presently?
Definitely alive and well. A lot of artists paved the way and get less recognition than deserved at times. Obviously J Dilla, Phat Kat, Elzhi, Apollo Brown, Black Milk, Danny Brown, Nick Speed, Guilty Simpson, Eminem, Royce da 5’9”, Slum Village and the list could continue. Every place has talent but we are slept on for breeding amazing Producers and Top 10 dead or alive MC’s.
The bio on your website pulls no punches when it comes to the state of Hip Hop. What are some of the things you both think need to be done to bring Hip Hop back to its former glory?
To be real, we believe it is a fan thing. Artists make music fans and the industry respond to. If more people supported the original sound of Hip Hop it would thrive more. Once there are more people buying albums and supporting artists who can rap well, we will see Golden Era music return. Until then if people support something different you get that different outcome.
How were you able to connect with such a storied and accomplished producer in Nick Speed to produce your entire album?
Nick is good people. At the time he worked with the same management company we used to work under. During a meeting we were just in the right place at the right time. It was a blessing.
What are some of the greatest challenges that The Regiment faces as artists that are completely independent?
Awesome question. To be real, time. As men with families and using other outlets to support the dream of music, it gets difficult to manage the clock. Father time has been generous to us but we still struggle like anyone else. Putting things in perspective and having support internally is key.
With your new video for the song “10,000 Strong” from the album, how important was it for you to feature regular, every day people from Detroit?
It was very important to feature the blue collar Michigander. Everyone in the video was not from Detroit in the video but everyone from here is blue collar. Strength and support in numbers and unity: That’s something that’s always worth showcasing.
Who are some artists and producers that you would like to work with or connect with in Hip Hop?
Wow, good question, for the sake of time let’s limit this to just a few: DJ Premier, Araab Muzic, Black Milk, Lupe Fiasco, Andre 3000, Timbaland, Phonte and Oddisee.
Can you talk about some of the upcoming projects that The Regiment has coming up that we need to be checking for and some of the artists you’ll be working with?
We have some things in the works with Hip Hop artists like Random aka Mega Ran, El da Sensei, Sadat X, Phat Kat just to name a few. But we will most definitely keep Sosoactive.com updated.
This past weekend 22 Jump Street starring Channing Tatum, Jonah Hill and Ice Cube, beat out How To Train Your Dragon 2 for top spot at the box office and earned the movie the title of second highest grossing R-Rated Comedy in history. We’re all well aware that Cube has more than a few notches in his belt as a star in Hollywood, from the Friday series to All About The Benjamins to Anaconda to Are We There Yet to his first role on Boyz N The Hood. It got us to thinking about some movies featuring some of Hip Hop’s greatest emcees that everyone should watch at least once. Here’s a list of 10: by no means definitive, but a few of the best.
Recently, the news of the new N.W.A. biopic hit the net with a new release date and first photos. Straight Outta Compton will tell the story of N.W.A. (Dr. Dre, Eazy E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, DJ Yella) as they rose to music and pop culture fame in the 1980s with their debut album of the same name, and beyond. In past years, we’ve seen more than a few Hip Hop biopics hit theatres, from Notorious, telling the story of Christopher “Notorious B.I.G.” Wallace, and 8 Mile, a semi-autobiographical account of part of Eminem’s story. And of course, the Tupac Shakur biopic is reportedly beginning to take shape as well. But the truth is that there are tons of towering Hip Hop figures that deserve their own major motion picture treatment on the silver screen. Here are a few Hip Hop legends we’d like to see have their biographies told on the big screen.
The Hip Hop documentary film has grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It has essentially become an important and indispensable way to document the culture for future generations of fans. Recently, cable channels VH1 and BET have tried their hand at making memorable Hip Hop docs with VH1’s “The Tanning Of America” and BET’s “The Message”, which will air on Wednesday June 4. But it’s also important to remember and commend past Hip Hop docs that have done a great job of bringing different parts of the culture to light for the masses. Here are 10 such documentaries that have done just that.
Earlier this year, VH1’s “The Tanning of America”, a Hip Hop-centered documentary based on the popular book of the same name from music industry veteran and advertising executive Steve Stoute, aired in a four-part docu-series. “Tanning” essentially took a very historical yet business-like and celebratory view of Hip Hop and how it has changed America socially, culturally and economically in a four-part series that aired on VH1.
Focusing on the birth and growth of Hip Hop, how it brought many socioeconomic issues to the forefront that were once swept under the rug, and how it came to invade spaces within corporate America once thought untouchable by a genre of it’s ilk, Stoute used “Tanning” presenting Hip Hop as a formidable pop culture movement that has grown to change more about American than we once thought.