American-born journalist and photographer Matilda Egere-Cooper has been a regular contributor to The Independent since 2005. A fierce lover of hip-hop culture, soul music and the underdog, her features have also appeared in i-D and Dazed & Confused, and she picked up an award for her writing in 2007. Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys and Al Green are her top three interviewees of all time, but if she had a choice, she wouldn't mind sharing cupcakes with Michelle Obama. Follow on Twitter: www.twitter.com/megerecooper
You've got to hand it to Ty - just when UK hip-hop music looks like it's been compromised by the allure of mainstream success, the south London rapper has managed to produce a fourth album that not only maintains its integrity, but has proven to be his strongest work to date - a clear sign that you don't need to be commercial to be acclaimed. So it's no wonder that all roads led to the Jazz Cafe last night for the launch of his latest album Special Kind of Fool. Shown live on Ustream.tv, the jam-packed crowd (including fellow UK hip-hoppers Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Charlie Sloth, Mystro, Boogie Bunch and producer Mr Thing) enjoyed an electric night of live music and great songs, fuelled by the witty rapper's genuine passion for a genre many have been quick to write off. At one point during the night - which featured guest spots from Roses Gabor, Erik Rico, Eska, Obenewa and the legendary Carroll Thompson - the rapper announced: "It's really important you understand something...UK hip-hop is not dead!", and judging by the roaring response, it was clear no one dared to disagree.
Last night kicks off Ty's European tour, and he'll be back in the UK for a Q&A and album showcase at the British Music Experience (The O2) on June 10th. For more details, visit www.tymusic.co.uk
You've got to hand it to Ty - just when UK hip-hop music looks like it's been compromised by the allure of mainstream success, the south London rapper has managed to produce a fourth album that not only maintains its integrity, but has proven to be his strongest work to date - a clear sign that you don't need to be commercial to be acclaimed. So it's no wonder that all roads led to the Jazz Cafe last night for the launch of his latest album Special Kind of Fool. Broadcasted live on Ustream.tv, the jam-packed crowd (including fellow UK hip-hoppers Roots Manuva, Rodney P, Charlie Sloth, Mystro, Boogie Bunch and producer Mr Thing) enjoyed an electric night of live music and great songs, fuelled by the witty rapper's genuine passion for a genre many have been quick to write off. At one point during the night - which featured guest spots from Roses Gabor, Erik Rico, Eska, Obenewa and the legendary Carroll Thompson - the rapper announced: "It's really important you understand something...UK hip-hop is not dead!", and judging by the roaring response, it was clear no one dared to disagree.
Last night kicks off Ty's European tour, and he'll be back in the UK for a Q&A and album showcase and the British Music Experience (The O2) on June 10th. For more details, visit www.tymusic.co.uk
I've been an Erykah Badu fan for some time now. The first album, Baduizm, was my rite of passage into college and gave me every reason to declare black power and rock headwraps because if Badu could, then a precocious teen like me was one step ahead of the game (I even wanted to try the whole new-age, vegetarian, mystical thing, but thought 'nah, too wacky' - children get beaten up for less, really). Second album Mama's Gun was singlehandedly one of the best albums of 2000 (and I dare anyone to suggest otherwise), and 2003's WorldWide Underground got its due props - ar the very least - for being an impressive homage to hip-hop; Love of My Life Worldwide, Danger, 'nough said. I wasn't particularly keen on New Amerykah Part 1 (Fourth World War) because I just didn't get it, but after listening to her forthcoming album New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) today, I'm completely and utterly certain this will be my album of 2010.
Miss Badu hosted the playback herself, and briefly explained her new album represented the emotional part of her psyche, and was therefore more melodic in its approach (compared to the "logical, political, analytical" Part 1). She said the album made her feel the way she did when she first recorded Baduizm, and that sentiment is pretty evident - leaked single Window Seat sounds like it'd been dwelling on the B-Side of Otherside of the Game all this time, and other standout tracks like Umm Hmm, Out My Mind Just In Time and 20 Feet Tall are some of the most sincere songs I've heard for a while.
Though, I'm surprised she went for some obvious samples on the album - she more or less imitates Sylvia Striplin's Can't Turn Me Away, and had Alicia Keys and Common not sampled Eddie Kenricks Intimate Friends, Badu's version wouldn't have seemed like it was jumping on the hype. Don't Be Long also takes a chunk out of Paul McCartney's Arrow Threw Me - and I know this because she asked for Sir McCartney to clear it via Twitter lol - but I'm nit-picking really. As a whole, it's a strong comeback and shows Erykah Badu still reigns supreme when it comes to soul music - maximum big-ups.
New Amerykah Part 2 (Return of the Ankh) is released March 30th and the tracklisting is as follows:
1. 20 Feet Tall
2. Window Seat
4. Get Money
5. Don't Be Long
6. Umm Hmm
8. Loving Me
9. Fall in Love
10. Strawberry Incense
11. Out My Mind Just In Time
Bonus Web-Only Track: Jump In The Air feat. Lil Wayne and Bilal
I've paid very little attention to Jay Electronica, the man rapidly shaping up to become the much adulated, and I suppose, long-awaited saviour of hip-hop, who would become the shining light to lead the genre out of the recesses of it's sickly commercial existence and spawn the rebirth of credibility. (Sidenote: this isn't so much my sentiment but the Hype, evidenced by the way some hip-hop fans can quickly latch on to anyone nowadays who's got a nice flow and back story, because the genre as a whole pretty much sucks right now - unless you're seeking solace in the basement of the "underground scene" and refuse to come out in fear you might be infected by Soulja Boy)
I only knew him as the guy who had a kid with Erykah Badu, hailed from New Orleans, and had developed a mythical existence on the virtues of his internet-only releases, dating back to '04, where he'd hooked up with the late legendary J Dilla for his Style Wars EP and would, years later, collaborate with Nas and earn a loyal fan in King of Music Eclecticism Gilles Peterson by 2008.
Hand ups - I was completely oblivious to some of this until recently, having spent the last four years holding onto the last shreds of neo-soul (neo-what? Yea, I know), watching the demise of all the discerning music mags ( RIP Blues & Soul, RIP Straight No Chaser and reluctant RIP Touch Magazine) and subsequently accepting the sad fact that music just wasn't that great anymore.
Yet I'd heard Jay's phenomenal single Exhibit C, did a bit of research and was suddenly was taken in by Exhibit A, I Feel Good and Eternal Sunshine. So I joined the masses to witness his UK debut last week at the Jazz Cafe. It was an interesting show - not so much because his showmanship could rival Kanye West (who, by the way, I think is one of the the best hip-hop performers EVER) but his casual style was very, very charming. I went on the 2nd night, and within his short set he'd passed his bottle of Jack Daniels around, swapped his jacket for a fan's J Dilla shirt (which was clearly 2 sizes to small for him) , talked a heap, and had the smoothest, most articulate rhyme schemes I've heard for a long time.
Personally, I think it's early days to determine the greater impact Mr Electronica will have on the scene - and I always fear once these types start courting the attention of major labels, things go sort of downhill once they sign on that dotted line. But at least he's a glimmer of hope.
The PR blurb about the new Chris Ofili exhibition at Tate Britain mentioned 'hip-hop culture' so I didn't need much convincing to head up to the press view to see what the whole fuss about.
Nonetheless, it's something of an accomplishment for the 41-year-old artist to dominate a space at Tate; his many works, most of which creatively incorporate cow dung (at one point, it's even used as a protruding breast on his infamous The Holy Virgin Mary) are engaging commentaries on the politics, folklore, culture and sensuality of blackness. The hip-hop references are notably embedded in multi-media pieces such as Afrodizzia, sprinkled with cut-out, afro-topped heads of Tupac, Busta Rhymes and LL Cool J. There's also 1997's Pimpin' Aint Easy, presumably named after either the Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane or Snoop Dogg classic, which features the image of a penis, and arguably a prophetic image of Tiger Woods, among the well-known faces dotted around the canvas.
The exhibition, which features over 40 paintings, as well as sketches, testifies to Ofili's unrepentant talent which stays true to his African roots and his love for music - and if I could, I'd love to sneak in a boombox with A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory on repeat, just to pay homage to the brilliantly psychadelic The Adoration of Captain Shit and The Legend of the Black Star (1998). One word? Dope.
Opens January 27 until May 16.
It’d seem everyone and their auntie was out last night for the exclusive launch of Alicia Keys’ fourth album The Element of Freedom. Held in conjunction with W Hotels, a random mix of industry heads, competition winners and celebrities (for the sake of specifics, Dizzee Rascal, The Saturdays, Will Young, et. Al were in the house) packed out Aqua in the West End, making the whole event one of those rare spectacles made even more exciting by a free bar and constant canapés.
To top it off, Alicia put on a mini-concert of her hits and new songs, including Empire State Of Mind Part 2, Doesn’t Mean Anything, Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart, You Don’t Know My Name and No One, giving everyone a taster of what will hopefully be a fantastic tour in 2010.
The album itself is currently previewing on Spotify, ahead of it’s release on December 14th, and it’s so weighty on the love front, there’s been many occasions I’ve wanted to pick up to phone and cuss someone out with the lyrics of Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart. At the same time, the album’s got guts; it’s experimental, noble, and most of all, a beautiful example of why J Records really have a star on their hands.
It was with great displeasure last week that I watched the latest video from Beyonce, and once I finally managed to block out the semi-pornographic images revolving around my head (nope, nope - they're back again...) I had to really think if there was any reason to keep my fellow Texan on that pedestal of musical greatness I've planted her since she debuted as that talented member of Destiny's Child back in the 90s.
Beyonce has always tried to sell herself on her angelic virtues established from her Christian upbringing, as well as the many years she's been able to avoid scandal - thus, here was a good girl who didn't appear to drink, smoke, attempted to empower women and even went and got herself a ring. A ring!!! Marriage to a millionaire rapper, a great career and L'Oreal looks seemed only destined for someone who probably could count her sins on one hand. Good role model? Yea sure, why not?
Then came the Sasha Fierce persona aka my-excuse-to-be-bad-without-losing-my-fa
But sadly, I think she's coming for our kids; namely our daughters/cousins/nieces/sisters who'll now be singing along to Video Phone and no doubt be tempted to flaunt their pre-mature sexuality because "Sasha/Beyonce does it" and makes it look and sound so good. It's no wonder teenage pregnancy's gone sky-high - the likes of Sasha/Beyonce are resurrecting that brazen salaciousness that had many conscientious women ready to beat up the likes of Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and Trina because of their negative influence, and when you look at the evidence, there really isn't much difference between the facade of those rappers of yesteryears and Lady Knowles today, is there? Then there's the lyrical content, which blogger A Belle In Brooklyn analyses so conscisely. "What - you want me naked? If you're liking this position you can take it?" purrs Beyonce on VP, and I'm really hoping she can explain herself, because that's just raw.
I'll present the evidence and you can judge for yourself (And I'm not going to even get started on Lady Gaga aka its-okay-to-act-stupid-give-it-a-whirl-w
Great, great, great show last night from one of jazz's premier pianists with the ability to captivate the stiff followers and the hip-hop heads with his eclecticism and respect for rap's forefathers. And the inclusion of the quirky singer Bilal was the icing - the cream cheese variety if you need a more pertinent metaphor.
Jazz is still a strange genre though. Before Glasper took to the stage, I felt I was being punished by the contrived experimentalism of Stonephace and while the crowd sat politely in awe (or shock), I really felt like messing up the proceedings and running to the front of the stage and screaming: "Is this for REAL????" That's what awful jazz can do to you sometimes; get you fantasising or looking for the closest implement around to dig out your eardrums. Yea, it was that bad.
Thankfully, Glasper was one of the good guys - witty, talented and engaging - and his album Double Booked is simply wonderful. Favourite track: All Matter feat. Bilal
I'm recovering from minimal sleep, but I have to say, last night's Ladies Unplugged at the Stratford Circus was phenomenal; I still feel all warm and gooey inside, and I hate to gush, but if you're into your music with no frills or fakery, you would have wanted to be there. I'm not being hyperbolic either (well, maybe just a little) but really, it was a good night. Hosted by Fusion (a buddy and colleague I will always adore for his 2002 hit The Groundbreaker), the likes of Shezar, Katy B, Yolanda Brown, Ms Dynamite and Shola Ama offered up a largely acoustic, laidback show which I'd rate as another success for those guys down at Urban Development. I won't lie though, the exhaustion had me fading a bit when Yolanda Brown took the stage - and that's not a diss towards the gorgeous saxaphonist's talents - but I guess good jazz has a way with lulling people into a statement of sheer contentment (or in my case, a mini nap lol ).
It's good to know there are venues in London still backing quality, underground talent that, while they might not be getting the radio playlists, are still making an impact. Personal faves of the night were Katy B (a cross between Teedra Moses and Joss Stone without the latter's occasional sillyness) and Ms Dynamite, who I suspect is looking to make 2010 the year of her comeback; so she should - single Bad Gyal is FIRE!
- Mood: tired