::RECAP:: SUMMER SPIRIT FESTIVAL CELEBRATES 10 YEARS

Monday, August 10, 2015
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::RECAP:: SUMMER SPIRIT FESTIVAL CELEBRATES 10 YEARS
by Daniel Harris
Photos by Edith Williams



In its 10 year history, the Summer Spirit Festival has featured an amazing lineup of R&B, Soul and Hip Hop artists. Names like Common, The Roots, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu and Sharon Jones have all taken part in the annual summer festival at Columbia, Maryland's Merriweather Post Pavilion. In years past, the festival has experienced record number attendance and this year's festival was no exception.

The Merriweather Post Pavilion was jammed packed both under the pavilion and on the lawn with concert goers waiting to hear Phony Ppl, Avery Sunshine, Estelle, Junkyard Band, Tony Toni Tone, Floetry, Anthony Hamilton and Erykah Badu. The full day of music was a great experience for the area.

The festival started promptly and the first act, Phony Ppl, was ready to go and give a great show. That they did. The Brooklyn, NY fusion band (jazz, hip hop and R&B) were a great start to the entire day. Their energy and stage presence helped those who decided to come early, prepare for the day's activities.

As up and coming artists, Phony Ppl were tight, polished and engaging. Three things you look for when attending a major concert. As the band wrapped their set and as more people begin to fill Merriweather, it was becoming clearer why this is one of the area's biggest events.

Next to take the stage was Avery Sunshine. In a simple statement, Avery Sunshine is an artist full of life and her energy and presence was literally her namesake, Sunshine. Beginning her set with her hit, "I Got Sunshine," very fitting. Her best quality (besides her amazing voice and wonderful lyrics) was her ability to engage a large festival crowd, at one point, teaching the entire crowd parts to "I Got Sunshine."

As her set progressed, Avery took time to give
thanks with a soul stirring renditions of "The Lord Is Blessing Me" and "Safe In His Arms." Both songs showed her deep appreciation for her faith and the opportunities her gifts and talents have afforded her. The concert crowd was moved and it showed this reviewer that Avery is able to reach and meet her audience on a spiritual level.


As the afternoon began to transition to early evening and the Merriweather began to seemingly reach Estelle took the festival stage. The "American Boy" singer was well received by the crowd as she took the stage. Her blend of Hip Hop, R&B and Soul was the perfect vehicle to bring the audience with her on a journey of love both its triumphs and defeats.
capacity,

As she progressed through her set, which included hits like "Thank You" and "You Are," it became apparent that Estelle prefers a more intimate setting. Frequently pausing her set until the crowd got involved (even calling out a fan for his low energy dance moves) was a hold not only to the crowd's enjoyment but to the overall schedule of the festival. Gradually, she won the crowd over and was able to progress through her set.

Perhaps one of the major highlights of the evening was the performance of Washington, DC legends, Junkyard Band. Go-Go as a music form has its roots in DC which aided JYB in the anticipation of their set. The band didn't disappoint at all. When it came time to hit a Go-Go classic like "Sardines," the festival crowd (already at a fever pitch) pretty much took over delivering the lyrics. JYB's performance was a true testament to the genre's history and roots in the area.


The time came for CD Enterprises to reveal their special guest to the audience. Prior to the festival, people were wondering who this guest could possible be. To much anticipation, legendary R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! hit the stage to a very warm audience reception. Rightfully so, during the late 80s and early 90s, Tony! Toni! Toné! electrified audiences all over the world.

As the group moved through classics like "House Party II," "It Never Rains" and "Feels Good," the
crowd's energy began to change. The novelty and nostalgia began to fade as the group realized that one important Tony! was missing. Lead singer Amar Khalil did his best to carry the burden of front man.

However, the shoes of the group's first front man, Raphael Saddiq, are hard to fill. Maybe one of the most oddest moves during the group's set was having old music videos play in the background as they performed. The music videos only served as a reminder to the crowd that Saddiq was not performing with the group.


As the sun set, the evening progressed and temperature began to drop, the festival stage was just beginning to heat up. Following Tony! Toni! Toné!'s lackluster performance, a group whose reunion has been years in the making was set to take the stage. 8 years ago, Floetry announced that they would no longer perform together. This announcement came as a shock to many fans as the duo was beginning to hit their stride in the industry.

While Natalie and Marsha enjoyed some solo success, it was really good to see them back together as Floetry. Truthfully, it didn't seem like they missed one step. They are still as in sync as they were since their debut. While performing hits like "Sunshine," "Getting Late" and the crowd favorite "Say Yes," you got the sense that they've put the past behind them and are moving forward. Hopefully festival performances and concerts will lead to new studio material? One can only hope.


Under the night sky, the heavy traffic of festival goers to support food and merchandise vendors slowed as Summer Spirit welcomed two of music's biggest stars. First, Anthony Hamilton, who seriously knows how to put on a show. The way he commanded the festival stage, his ability to
engage the audience under pavilion as well as on the lawn, showed why Hamilton personifies cool.


The best moments of his set were the moments between he and his background vocalists. Those
moments gave his set a level of depth that hadn't been felt all day. The background vocalists are amazing artists in their own right and their chemistry with Hamilton made for an amazing evening. Anthony Hamilton's set, which included hits like "Charlene" and "Pray For Me," was enough to end the entire evening.







Knowing that Erykah Badu was next and would round out an entire day of great music still filled the festival with as much energy as was present at the beginning of the day. Erykah took the stage to thunderous applause and cheer that pierced the night sky. What else would you expect? Erykah Badu has been a Summer Spirit Festival favorite since the beginning. She is staple, ending the festival with one of her signature shows.

This year was no exception. While her set wasn't perfect (by her own admission), Erykah was real, honest and raw. These are all qualities that fans have come to know, love and respect about the soul star. And don't get it twisted, even on her worst day, Badu is still near flawless.

New arrangements and takes on hits like "My Life," "...And On" and "Cleva" reminding the audience that the nearly 20 year veteran still has what it takes. Right before her performance of "Danger," she reminded the crowd that she is the original 'Trap Queen.' What an amazing way to end a perfect day of music and fun.

Overall, The 2015 Summer Spirit Festival proved why it is the area's favorite and most successful festival. CD Enterprise selects great artists to fill its lineup. With such skill, it is easy to see why the DMV and surrounding areas flock to this festival. The Summer Spirit Festival will be around for a long time, further solidifying its position as a staple event in the area.





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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: TOP 5 MUSIC COLLECTIVES

Wednesday, July 22, 2015
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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: TOP 5 MUSIC COLLECTIVES
by George Kilpatrick


Music Collectives have historically guided and influenced the direction of music. We have seen some of the greatest records in modern history because of the collaboration of artist within a collective. A music collective is a group of musicians who collaborate over time to perform, record, or produce music We will be discussing 5 of the greatest music collectives to ever do it.


Parliament-Funkadelic

Originating in Plainfield, New Jersey, Parliament-Funkadelic is a funk, soul, and rock music collective. The collective began in late 1950s and have been performing ever since.  Parliament under the direction of George Clinton consists of many different permutations and arrangements but consistently produces music that makes you move and groove.  They have consistently produced quality music and one of their most notable songs is “Atomic Dog," one of the most sampled songs in hip-hop. Their over 50 year career as been marked by constant reinvention and radical thought. Parliament was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of fame in 1997 and was the largest group ever inducted; this honor is emblematic of their influence and their contributions to the music industry.

Wu-Tang Clan

Beginning in the early 90s, Wu-Tang Clan is considered one of the greatest rap groups and music collectives of all time. Hailing from New York City Wu-Tang consists of  Ol’ DirtyBastad, RZAGZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Masta Killa and Cappadonna. Wu-Tang is a hardcore hip-hop group whose unique sounds have reached many different generations of music lovers. Wu-Tang’s success it’s marked by their influence on many of rap’s greatest artists and music makers.  The leader of Wu-Tang, RZA pioneered many production technique and sound-scaping styles that would effect generations to come. Kanye West and Nas were both inspired by Wu-Tang’s music and did some collaborative work with them.


Soulquarians

The roster of this music collective reads like a who’s who among iconic soul music  and hip-hop artists. Consisting of Bilal, James Posyer, D’Angelo, Common, J Dilla, ?uestlove, Erykah Badu, Talib Kweli, and Q-tip the Soulquarians are a history making group who for 6 years got together to make some of the greatest soul music we’ve heard. Timeless albums like D’Angelo’s “Voodoo,” Erykah Badu’s "Mama’s Gun," Common’s “Electric Circus” and The Roots’ “Phrenology” were all products of their time together. What we saw with the Soulquarians was a return to the old school as they studied greats like Prince and Stevie Wonder and worked to capture the same musical magic that is captured on their iconic records. They studied for months before releasing any music and the outcome was legendary. The Soulquarian’s recorded their projects at the historic Electric Lady studios and truly channeled the innovative spirit of the late Jimi Hendrix.

Black Hippy

The first set of modern day juggernauts to grace our list, black hippy is a collective based out of the West Coast consisting of Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Jay Rock. Black hippy formed when each of these artists was signed to Top Dawg Entertainment in 2009 and they have been making good music ever since.  They have yet to release a collaborative project but each artist respectively has released solo projects to critical acclaim. As a collective they support each other and often feature on each other’s tracks. The exciting thing about Black Hippy is that they are just getting started and have taken the industry by storm.  Kendrick just won a Grammy for his hit single "i," Ab Soul will soon be releasing an album, Jay Rock is working on his sophomore album and Schoolboy Q is working on his next album. We are looking forward to the music that they will be releasing.

A$AP Mob

 A$AP Mob is a collective of rappers, producers, video directors, visual artists and fashion designers who share a similar interest in music. Founded by the late A$AP Yams in 2006, this New York based collective is highlighted by rappers A$ap Rocky, A$AP Ferg, and producer A$AP Ty Beats. A$AP Mob first made waves in the music scene when their video for A$AP Rocky’s single “Pe$o” earned them millions of views on YouTube. They continued to produce hits and were marked by their unique sound and iconic fashion choices. In  2011 A$AP Rocky signed a deal with Sony Music Entertainment which provided a provision to help fund the growing work of A$AP Mob. Since that deal A$AP Mob has consistently been touring and in 2015 A$AP Rocky released a #1 album. However January of 2015 the founder and leader of A$AP Mob, A$AP Yams passed away of a suspected drug overdose.



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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN HIP HOP

Monday, July 20, 2015
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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN HIP HOP
by Dereck Rodriguez




Music serves as a catalyst of experience and awareness. Each piece of music is the cultural, spiritual, shadow of the people. This intimate marriage of sound and sentence presents the identity and soul of the people. Hip Hop not only serves as a medium to communicate the complexities of black life but also to reconcile relationship between blacks and white supremacy. 

Unlike other contemporary form of music, Hip Hop is a culture of its own. Hip Hop was a primary mode of deciphering and expressing the crippling state of black communities due to the crack epidemic, depleted neighborhoods and a severe lack of employment opportunities. In its early years, Hip Hop engaged topics relevant to the complexities of black life along with party music expressing a joy and zeal for life itself. There was freedom in content and execution. It is this passion of life and love that informed the culture of Hip Hop.

Women within Hip Hop serve the same role women have served in all movements concerning the welfare of black people. Women serve as the guiding force to establish clarity and direction of the movement as a whole. Acts such as The Sequence and MC Sha Rock offered innovative funk rhythms coupled with dynamic singing and catchy wordplay that helped guide the sound of Hip Hop. Founder of Sugar Hill Records, Sylvia Robinson, aided in progressing the music with finding the band Sugar Hill Gang.   

During the 70s and late 80s there was variety of artistic and lyrical approach to rap music. Ranging from themes concerning black nationalism,  inner city life, dancing, and partying. There were no limits on what the music could sound like. Artists such as Salt N’ Pepa appealed to the party scene with their sexually empowering approach to the music. "Push It" was a defining song of the dance music scene. 

On the other hand Queen Latifah focused on discussing black empowerment. "U.N.I.T.Y" addressed the lack of unity within the black community and its crippling affects on black people. Rappers during Hip Hop's "Golden Era" seldom used derogatory words such as “Bitch” because of the presence of rappers like Queen Latifah. 

During the late 1990s, rap began to transform and become less socially aware and empowering.   Rappers such as Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and Trina willfully projected a sexualized image of women. Male chauvinistic validation along with female MC approval created a further desire to sexualized black women. The sexual objectification of women became ingrained in the culture of Hip-Hop thus, the music we hear today.

Black Women have always been the guiding force of the black community. There needs to be unity and cohesion among the black family unit in order to sustain progression among the black race.    When this intimate connection is compromised only confusion and estrangement from the self can exist. Black women and men must exist as proponents of each other’s success and spiritual welfare.  


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::GET FAMILIAR:: PRO ERA

Saturday, July 18, 2015
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::GET FAMILIAR:: PRO ERA
by Nicole Queen




I guess you can agree when I say “all the greats come from Brooklyn?” Yes or no? Either way you cannot deny the noise being made by the collective Pro Era. Founded in 2011 by Capital STEEZ (RIP), Pro Era consist of a group of young, talented individuals who seek to challenge how people think about modern Hip Hop.

During the 1900s, the United States saw widespread social and political reform. It was during this "Progressive Era" that many of the more traditional and socially accepted ideals of the country were questioned by groups brave enough to challenge the system. The members focus on progression and growing in everyday life. For four years now, Pro Era has been a breakthrough voice for the up and coming youth in not only the borough of Brooklyn but all over the world.
Malia Obama was pictured wearing a Pro Era T-shirt early January. Now, why should this be a topic of discussion? Well, every teenager wears a t-shirt, right? However, because of Malia Obama's status and the somewhat controversial nature of Pro Era, many conservatives took it as, "support for a very 'shady' group." 
Very far from a shady group, Pro Era is a group that embraces all of the creative arts. Within the group you will find graphic designers, clothing designers, visual artists, and comedians. In total, there are 47 members of Pro Era with Joey Bada$$ being thought of as the group's "de facto leader."

Joey Bada$$, who recently released his album B4.DA.$$, is known for keeping his music raw and original while other rappers may take more subtle approaches. His album sold an impressive 56,000 units opening week making it the #1 Rap and #1 independent album in the country at that time. Once again, this is a major stepping stool for not only Pro Era but Joey Bada$$, who is gaining praise from some of Hip Hop elites.
There is an awakening happening in Hip Hop. Fans all over are beginning to understand its roots. Many artists are beginning to understand the full power and potential of Hip Hop as a tool for change. Among them, Pro Era is a collective that is doing their part to draw more and more people to conscious levels of awareness and causing them to think beyond 808s and traps.

Get even more familiar with Pro Era by following them on Twitter and Facebook.
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::OPINION:: THE ROLE OF MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS IN SOCIAL/POLITICAL ISSUES

Wednesday, July 8, 2015
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::OPINION:: THE ROLE OF MUSICIANS AND ARTISTS IN SOCIAL/POLITICAL ISSUES
by Nicole Queen



"Strange Fruit," "To Be Young, Gifted and Black," "Say it Loud, I’m black and I’m Proud," "Fight The Power" all the way down to the revolutionary "King Kunta" contributes to an artist's role in social and political issues hovering around the world. Throughout the years, artists have used their musical platforms to weigh in heavily on these matters. I do not want to make this topic a history lesson but music has been used as a tool for healing situations across the nations for decades. 

People like myself look toward artists, musicians and poets to display social/political conditions via their creations or lyrics. Although, thoughts arise of covering these issues can be sometimes made taboo. “It is not so much a question of should artists address social issues like race and class in their work. For some, it is unavoidable. But we must also be flexible enough-compassionate enough- to permit artist to imagine and suggest worlds and ideas where these concrete issues aren’t applicable. They must be exonerated from pursuing a perhaps higher call”. –Ken Burns ( La Times)

In this moment, it is important for artist to stand an in organic element. This technique is how people connect and feel the truth of which an artist is trying to convey. Take for example: 1968 when James Brown calmedthe city of Boston after the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The 1990 release of "Fight the Power" by Public Enemy, Wattstax celebrating the 7th anniversary of Los Angeles Watts riots or, Marvin Gaye’s monumental album What’s Going On. All of these moments in history are still prevalent to today’s social and political standpoint.

Many of the artists of the past, present and future continue to shed light and be the people’s broken voice to the nation who sees half-truths and whole lies in today’s society. Many of these artists continue to give us a joyous feeling to say “Damn right, I am somebody!

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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: FREEDOM AIN'T FREE

Saturday, July 4, 2015
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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: FREEDOM AIN'T FREE
by Dereck Rodriguez and Gypsy Soul




Independence Day is a holiday commemorating the separation of the Thirteen colonies from Britian.  This independence translated into the genocide of African people and the subsequent invasive approach to foreign affairs. Freedom was never intended for the black race. It would be another 92 years before all Africans in America would be independent of chattel slavery but not the searing blade of American democracy.

We must understand, these supposed “humanitarian” principals, in which our founding fathers bestowed upon this country, propagates a distorted imagination of humanity exclusive to Europeans. This freedom and equality they speak of would never exist without the economic and global influence of slavery. While heavy footed on their pursuit of equality , their feet rang happily on our necks.

 In black communities there is a myriad of shindigs, cookouts, parties, and block parties coupled on such occasions, such as the Forth of July. Seldom do you not hear fireworks or something of the lot glowing at night along with community activity. So why do we celebrate a freedom assigned only for white Americans?

As a people of love countless times in history, to maintain our humanity, we had to maintain  our love for ourselves and life to combat the belief of African inferiority. On many occasions African people have repurposed what would otherwise be reminders of enslavement. For instance, Soul Food has become a celebrated and ritualized aspect of Black American culture despite its origin as a poor quality of food exclusive to enslaved Africans. What would otherwise be a symbol of dehumanization and oppression has been elevated to a cultural staple.  



The need to repurpose traumatic experiences validates the humanity of the oppressed and in turn perpetuates this humanity through the medium of love. This explains the emphasis on events centered on community such as cookouts and block parties. These activities embody the spirit of African customs and traditions. Love and communalism is the foundation of how most African communities engage reality. African culture roots itself in the need to exist in tandem with all that lives to promote balance and harmony in life.


This playlist arises out of the need to remember what freedom is all about. Today, as many Americans celebrate the separation from British rule, lets us not forget that even in the "Land of the Free" many Black and Brown people are not subject to those proclaimed freedoms. In 2015 the need to assert #BlackLivesMatter only speaks to the absence of freedom, justice, and equality. Yes, you can make this your Independence Day soundtrack and hopefully the music will evoke conversation, action, and ideas on how to move forward, how to effectively fight and win the freedoms people are lacking right now. Art, true art should reflect the times, so enjoy these songs as the hot summer continues on and hopefully this playlist will be the foundation for the soundtrack of this modern day revolution.





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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: "COMING HOME" BY LEON BRIDGES

Wednesday, July 1, 2015
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::HEADPHONE JUNKIE:: COMING HOME BY LEON BRIDGES
"Style, technique, retro grooves- nobody's making soul like Leon."
by Nicole Queen



25 year old, Leon Bridges has managed to bring the sounds of the legendary Chess Records to 2015. The Fort-Worth, TX native is not shy about embracing the roots of sweet soul revival in his new album Coming Home, released under Columbia Records.

Bridges, who has no problem displaying his love for the past exhibited it effortlessly on every track. If you close your eyes and listen you can feel yourself being taken thru the emotions of this album; happiness, sadness, love and gratitude, to name a few.

A story is told from the first track "Coming Home" (which was top 10 most viral tracks on Spotify) to the last record "River." "River," which happens to be my favorite track on the album, gives the feeling of a Sunday morning gospel song equipped with a fresh start and forgiveness. Now, it’s not to say that everyone will appreciate the authenticity of the real R&B blues on this album. One thing is certain; you cannot turn a deaf ear to real instruments, real musical arrangements, real vocals and lastly real music.

Filled with much talent, I am expecting much more from Leon Bridges. Although, he is just starting out with Coming Home, he leaves enough evidence in this album that he will only get better.

Coming Home is available now on iTunes and Amazon.
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