Ladies First

For its first original music documentary, BET decided to put women center stage in My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth about Women in Hip-Hop.  The film discussed the idea what it is like to be a female in the male dominated realm of hip-hop from industry vets like MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliot, Trina, Eve, Medusa, Lady Bug Mecca and more.  My Mic Sounds Nice also featured commentary by Kevin Liles, Swizz Beatz, Chuck D, Quest Love, Russell Simmons, Jermaine Dupri, as well as members of the media such as Big Lez, journalist Smokey D. Fontaine and others.

The documentary begins with the start of hip-hop creating its buzz on the streets of New York City during the late 70’s, early 80’s and placed a much need spotlight on the female pioneers such as Angie Stone, Sha-Rock, Roxanne Shante and others.  It progressed into what is considered by most hip-hop heads and aficionados as the “golden age of hip-hop” during the mid ‘80s to early ‘90s as female MCs like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa and others cemented their place in hip-hop history.  The foundation these ladies paved ushered in what I call the “Hailey’s Comet “of female hip-hop artists – a flash of ladies that shimmered during the mid ‘90s and eventually faded into the horizon as the new millennium evolved.

My Mic Sounds Nice also explored the concepts of the hypersexualized MC like Foxy Brown, Trina and Little Kim, MCs that exploded based on talent and originality like Missy Elliot and Lauren Hill, as well as the pressure of being a female MC, a pressure Nicky Minaj is surely feeling now as she is attempting to resurrect the idea of a female MC back into the industry’s collective consciousness.

After the first 20 minutes, I was well on my way to giving this documentary a D+, and the “D” was not for dope.  I felt like I was watching an over packed suitcase bursting at the seams, bustling on an airport ramp to nowhere.  I contemplated how director/executive producer Ava DuVernay could cram over 30 years worth of history as well as the question of the disappearance of the female MC into an hour-long documentary.  But as the film continued, I began to see the method of her madness.   The film was just as elusive as the notion of a female hip-hop artist in today’s industry.  Slowly my opinion changed from skepticism to optimism.  My Mic Sounds Nice is not a hurried, crash course in being a woman in hip-hop.  Instead, it is a well crafted mosaic of opinions created to provoke thought and evoke change.  Like the peep shows that littered Times Square in the ‘80s, it played with viewers mind –   tantalizing, teasing, forcing the viewer to demand more as the credits rolled.  If Ava DuVernay wanted the streets to percolate with the question of “Where are the female rappers,” then she has certainly sparked the debate with this documentary.  I give My Mic Sounds Nice an A for astonishing and thank Ava DuVernay for tackling a subject that is long overdue.

Female MC’s From NYC

Sita on the Roof with Cocktails

Every Thursday, SPEAKEASY NYC hosts an “invitation-only” cocktail party at the Sky Terrace, located on the 15th floor of the Hudson Hotel.  The awe-inspiring view of Manhattan and the Hudson River coupled with the neatly manicured shrubs, open lounge spaces and hammocks, makes the summer in the city even more enjoyable.

Last Thursday, the exclusive party featured a guest appearance by cartoonist and animator Nina Paley, the writer, director and animator of the 2009, soon to be cult-classic, Sita Sings the Blues.  Sita Sings the Blues is an ingenious animated movie that explores the theme of breaking up.  Cleverly woven are two stories, the first is the Sanskrit epic the Ramayana, which tells the story of Rama and his wife Sita.  The second is Nina’s personal story which starts with her happily married in San Francisco and ends with her in Brooklyn recovering from an email from her husband stating her marriage is over.  

 I was first introduced to this short animated film last year, watching Channel 13 on a lazy Saturday night.  I was enchanted with the idea of turning a classic like the Ramayana into a cartoon and pairing it with 1920’s jazz music (Sita’s musical numbers are tracks by Annette Hanshaw).  I am pleased to say that curiosity did not kill the cat.   Sita Sings the Blues is the most entertaining animated short I have seen.    It is naughty, thought-provoking and fun and reincarnates the wonderful music of the “Jazz Age” in a way that is accessible to a modern audience.  Another aspect of the film I appreciated was parallel journeys of Nina and Sita, two women from different eras and cultures struggling to stay devoted to men that did not appreciate their worth.

After the event I watched the Sita Sings the Blues again.  FAMERS if you have not seen this animated short, I encourage you to download it.  It is definitely one to keep in your archives.

To watch or download Sita Sings the Blues click www.sitasingstheblues.com.

AMIVECTIO Sample Sale

This weekend venture out to 259 Elizabeth Street and become a child of the revolution!  AMIVECTIO is having a sample sale with prices ranging 50 – 70% off limited edition wovens, tees, fleeces and more.  Patrons will receive a complimentary beer with a minimum purchase of $25.  Shopping on a Saturday afternoon with a brewski in hand, that is what F.A.M.E NYC calls a productive afternoon.

Marc Jacobs to Create a Plus Size Line

Maybe it is his Aries ego that spurs him to boldly go where no one has gone before or boredom with the status quo, but fashion’s rumor mill has been working overtime with reports that Marc Jacobs is planning to create a plus size line early next year.  No official announcement has been made yet.

Scuttlebutt began swirling after a tweet from Robert Duffy, president of the Marc Jacobs label, stating: 

“We are in talks now. For plus sizes,” Duffy tweeted. “Listen, we are in the very beginning stages of talking to a partner about plus sizes.” He also revealed the problems he has buying clothes. “I’m a big guy 6ft 4in, 210 lbs. [It's] not easy for me to find clothes,” he wrote. “Of course I can have them made. I know how everyone feels. I try to diet but… I don’t like the phrase plus-sizes. Any suggestions?

“We gotta do larger sizes,” he added. “I’m with you. As soon as I get back to NY. I’m on it! It will take me about a year. But stay with us.”

The fashion industry is known for changing muses, creating gods and goddesses of the runway and reincarnating trends, but the attitude of promoting double digit sizes is a change that is slow to be embraced.  Sample sizes do not run bigger than an 8, but one fact fashion’s elite seem to forget is plus size women love labels and shopping too.  If Marc Jacobs’ plus size line does come into fruition, it would be a welcome change to the fashion industry and might spur other designers to do the same. 

Hov to Tour with U2 Down Under

FAMERS, ready to have some Vegemite with your turkey?  If not, then you probably do not want to spend your Thanksgiving with Jay-Z and Bono.  In recent Jigga news, Live Nation.com announced that the rap mogul will be joining the rockers from Ireland as a special guest when U2 brings their 360 tour to Australia and New Zealand. 

The Aussie leg of the tour is set to begin at Auckland’s Mount Smart Stadium on November 25 with stops in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney and makes a final stop at Perth’s Subiaco Oval.  Tickets go on sale September 3 with almost 45% of the tickets priced under $100.

U2 just recently resurrected the 360 tour in Turin, Italy this month after taking a brief hiatus to allow frontman and humanitarian Bono to recover from back surgery.  Along with sharing the stage, Jay-Z and U2 also share the dubious distinction of being some the richest entertainers in a sagging music industry.  F.A.M.E NYC told you that Mr. Carter topped the list of hip-hop’s cash cows in Forbes Magazine, but Forbes also reported U2 was the top grossing band for 2009, earning $300 million with their tour.  The 360 tour is also poised become the top-grossing tour in history, outselling the Rolling Stones’ “Bigger Bang” tour, which grossed $558 million in 2005-2007, according to Billboard Boxscore.

Along with giving fans a “best of both worlds” tour bill, these entertainers are solidifying their claim to remain number one next year.

Jay Z Heads The Rap Pack

 

Back in the day when I was rocking my Lee jeans and shell toe Adidas and spinning windmills at house parties, my mind could never fathom that the genre of music that I thought belonged to my generation exclusively would grow to dominate and influence the world, much less be mentioned in Forbes.    But it has done just that; despite Gulf Coast oil spills, an on-going war, a wretched global economy and changes within the music industry that have permanently altered the way business is done and new artists are handled, hip-hop is a juggernaut that can not be stopped. 

On August 17, Forbes.com released its annual “Hip-Hop’s Cash Kings” list.  Brooklyn-born rap mogul Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) was ranked number one raking in $63 million over the past year.  Well, it seems that the foundation of “The Roc” was built on moola.  But despite having the bragging rights of being hip-hop’s top earner, Mr. Carter is still not the bread winner in his household.  That honor goes to his wife Beyonce who pulled in a hefty $87 million, now that is bringing home the bacon.  Harlem native Diddy came in at second earning $30 million. 

The secret to their earning ability does not just lie in their lyrical savvy.  Creating a brand that has several streams of revenue is what keeps these artists from being one-note.    For instance, Jigga co-owns the 40/40 nightclub chain and is part owner of the New Jersey Nets franchise.  He is also serves as co-brand director for Budweiser Select and is one of the producers for the Tony award- winning Broadway musical Fela!

Rounding out the top five were Akon with $21 million, Lil Wayne with $20 million and Dr. Dre with $17 million.  Hip-hop beef maker 50 Cent also appeared on the list at number fourteen grossing $8 million. View the complete list at Forbes.com.