Alycia Keys Top Artist for 2012

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Ms. Keys (or should I say Mrs. Swizz Beatz) career has been sizzling ever since she dropped her first studio album, Songs in A Minor, in 2001.  Eleven years later, her blaze still smolders and now she is declaring that the girl is on fire, literally.  On November 27, 2012 Keys released her fifth studio album Girl on Fire.  The Hell’s Kitchen native is always in an “Empire State of Mind” and is NYC through and through.  Her songs are a source of inspiration for many.  There could’ve been no better choice to close the 12/12/12 concert at The Garden than Alycia Keys.  Philanthropist, mother, wife, actor, composer, musician, ravishing beauty…looks like her star will continue to burn bright in 2013.  Flame on!

Photo: Michelangelo Di Battista

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Dick Clark

Even before I was granted the privilege of staying up late and bringing in the New Year with my parents, Dick Clark was a part of my life.  Every Saturday we would watch American Bandstand, a weekly event which signified the end of the Saturday morning cartoon shows, toggling between it and Soul Train, depending how the channels scheduled the two music shows.  By the time I got hip to Dick Clark, he had already earned the reputation of “America’s oldest teenager”.  His seemingly ageless face and graceful presence provided the soundtrack and memories of my childhood.  Pyramid was one of my favorite game shows as a girl and the American Music Awards, which he also produced, always kept me glued to my TV screen.  I swear if I had sat any closer, my parents would have experienced a Poltergeist-like scenario as I would have been in the television. 

Dick Clark was born in Bronxville, New York, and was raised in Mount Vernon.  After high school he implemented a dream to be in radio by attending Syracuse University, graduating in 1951 with a degree in advertising and a minor in radio.   After stints at different radio stations in New York, California and Pennsylvania, Clark became host of a local show titled Bandstand in 1956.  In 1957, the newly renamed American Bandstand and Dick Clark burst onto the landscape of American pop culture as the show debuted on ABC.  Along with breaking color lines, Clark assisted in transforming rock n’ roll from a musical pariah amongst parents into one of the most popular genres of music.  In 1972, he produced and hosted Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve.  In April 2004, Clark announced he had type 2 diabetes and in December of that year he suffered a minor stroke, which left him with a speech impediment caused by dysarthria.  Because of this, Ryan Seacrest assisted Clark in co-hosting the annual New Year’s Eve celebration.  On April 18, Dick Clark passed away after suffering a heart attack following surgery.  He was 82.  On April 20, he was cremated and his ashes were scattered in the Pacific Ocean. 

Each year, Dick Clark hosted the biggest party in Times Square.  For decades people descended from all parts of the globe to participate.  As far back as I can remember Clark has been a part of me toasting in the New Year – first with eggnog, then with wine – it is unfathomable to believe I will not see his luminous eyes and boyish smile during the last hour of this December 31st.  I guess it is because of New Year’s Rockin’ Eve and American Bandstand  I have always associated Clark with new beginnings and inspiration.  Even his illness couldn’t tarnish his eternal youthful spirit.  He left an indelible impression in music and media, all while being a good person to boot.  I suppose learning that your heroes and people you admire have succumb to their mortal fate is a symptom of getting older yourself.  And while it’s just a fact of life, doesn’t stop it from hurting like hell.  Thank you Dick Clark for all your contributions to media and music, thank you for such an incredible, inspirational legacy – New Year’s Eve won’t be the same without you.

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Whitney Houston

As I sit here to write this, I am still shocked and saddened by the tragedy that happened last weekend that compels me to write this.  Since the untimely passing of Whitney Houston the media has delivered daily coverage of the days and events leading up to her death and details about her funeral.  They have spoken to every celebrity, doctor and spokesperson that is willing and/or authorized to speak about her and the investigation into her death.  They have discussed her meteoric rise to iconic status and are also just as quick to talk about her struggles in an effort to remain fair.  But F.A.M.E NYC won’t spend any time on those topics.

Some stars have the ability to touch your heart and soul more than others, even if you have never met them.  Whitney Houston was one of those stars that touched me.  Anyone that follows F.A.M.E NYC knows that I am from New Jersey and like Whitney Houston I am a native of Newark.  For many reasons I felt close to Whitney Houston.  I was raised in a musical family like she was.  I was raised in the Baptist faith as she was.  I also sang in the youth choir at my church as she did.  I had aspirations to model because I saw models like her and others gracing the covers of magazines breaking down barriers and becoming inspirations.  I also have had to tussle with demons, though I was fortunate that I didn’t have the world weighing in on how I battled mine.  I am born a day before for her and saw so much of my personality in her.

I am deeply hurt at her passing.  Music provides an aural animation to our lives.  It bears witness to our triumphs and trails.  It sinks into our souls providing salve when we are aching, elation when our hearts palpitates with joy.  It finds the words for feelings we sometimes can’t describe.  Whitney Houston’s voice is the essence of what music is.  With a turn of a phrase, a rise and fall in her voice, she could do all those things and more.  But if you ask me, if you really wanted to know what Whitney Houston was all about, all you had to do was listen to her sing a gospel song.  Whitney was a child of God and her love for the creator was evident when she sang for the lord, which I believe was every time she opened her mouth.  I remember the first time I heard her rendition of “I Love the Lord,” from The Preacher’s Wife soundtrack.  Tears flowed from my eyes before I was cognizant that I was crying.  In that instant, she took me back to time of simplicity when the shadows of life were much farther away than they are now, when agape love was a tangible thing.  She took me back to those times when I sang in the choir and my greatest joy was to lift my voice in service to God.  There was a purity and power in her voice that was unparalleled and will never be duplicated.  At her best, Whitney’s voice was God’s blessing; I wonder if Gabriel’s trumpet sounds any sweeter.

It has bothered me to see how much people, whether in the media or on social media sites, have focused so much on the darker days of her life rather than the light she gave to all of us.  It is an ill of this society that negativity seems to be as easy to accept as the air we breathe.  Opinions are a right of being human, but we are all familiar with the phrase, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.”  None of us are without our own crucible that we must contend with, but we don’t have the added burden by being crucified by the public.  She was a public figure, yes this is very true, but she was also was a mother, daughter, sister, cousin, wife and friend.  There are people that will have to deal with the process of grief long after we have moved on to the next story.

I will end this by saying FAMERS please try to remember Whitney Houston by the pleasure she gave you rather than pain she gave herself.   I will always love Whitney Houston, not just the voice, but woman that she was…the human that she was.  Whitney, my God keep you in his bosom until you are reunited with all those you loved again.

These are my favorite Whitney Houston songs:

Photo courtesy of Whitney Houston.com

Friday Night in El Barrio

My earliest memories of people gathering together to enjoy good vibes and good music was probably the tenement parties I witnessed as a small child.  Now blotchy memories – more sensations than recollections – my brain paints pictures of water colored visions, a grill cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, the smoke rising as high as the project buildings, hip folks passing joints and sipping on drinks in brown paper bags,  elders talking, people playing cards and dancing.  As I think about those images, what resonates the most is the feeling – a feeling that settled into my tiny soul only to be resurrected at certain times.  That was my first taste of going out – a sip if you will.  As I got older the block parties got replaced by house parties.  Small basement settings replaced the open spaces of the courtyard.  Silhouettes of perspiring bodies outlined by blue and red light bulbs created heat and energy while folks tried not to bump the makeshift DJ booth.

And these reflections are the makings of me and countless others who walk under the beam of the moonlight to enter venues where electric pulses blast out of speakers and open the doors to our souls, where baby powder is sprinkled on the floor to transcend.   These reflections are also the makings of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio, the life force behind ¡WEPA! a monthly party held at Bar 13, located at 121 University Place.  Both Joann and Antonio are staples on the underground house scene and are New Yorkers from Afro-Latin descent.  With ¡WEPA! they have orchestrated the quintessential homage to their roots.  They are the pied pipers and we are the children of the night happily following them along their musical and visual journey.

The last Friday of every month people of various ages and backgrounds venture to the third floor of Bar 13 and enter into an entire universe to itself – a time capsule of classic and contemporary.  Flags and myriad articles of clothing hang on a line, cigars are rolled for a quick excursion to smoke on the rooftop, live percussionists, artists and visuals are mixed in with the best in Afro-Latin rhythms to create the spiciest soul session fit for consumption today.

Jimi Hendrix asked the question, “Have you ever been experienced?”  Well, I can now say I have, but what would be more appropriate would be to say that I’ve been re-experienced.  I’m an old dinosaur that vividly remembers the golden era of nightclubbing in New York City.  Nothing like the water-downed, table service driven parties of today, the ¡WEPA! experience evokes the spirit of old NYC nightlife with a vengeance.  Under one roof are elders, circle dancers, prancers and people just enjoying the scenery.  The amalgamation of the intimate party vibe and laid back fun from the block injects ¡WEPA!  with a dose of freedom and community, the likes of which I haven’t felt in ages – it is the very essence of home.

Everyone knows the expression, “Thank God it’s Friday!”  Well, I would like to revise that antiquated sentiment and say, “Thank God for final Fridays!”  ¡WEPA! turns every final Friday into a holiday – a blithe fete that culminates the end of each month.  Without at doubt, it’s the best $15 party in the Big Apple (RSVP to muzikbutrfly@gmail.com to receive the reduced price of $10).

 

 

 

 

But don’t just take my word for it FAMERS take a look for yourself by clicking, www.wepanyc.com or www.youtube.com/wepanyc.

Photos and video courtesy of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio

Lady Gaga Top Artist For 2011

Whether she was born that way or is just a brilliant creation – an ingenious splice of Grace Jones, Madonna, Elton John, David Bowie, Donatella Versace, Andy Warhol and a host of other musical, cultural and pop icons of the 70s and 80s, there is no one that can deny that 2011 was the year of Gaga.  She is all those influences, stirred the melting pot of New York City and poured out for the world to admire.  And doesn’t hurt that the girl can truly sing and bang out on those ivories. 

Already becoming an icon in her own right, Lady Gaga cemented her status as the Grand Dame of pop music when she released Born This Way in May 2011.  The album debuted in the top five spots in every major market and sold 1.108 million copies in the first week.  The album’s title track became the fastest selling single in iTunes history.  By year’s end, Born This Way had sold over 8 million copies and received three Grammy Award nominations.   As she stood with Mayor Bloomberg to drop the famous Times Square ball on New Year’s Eve, legions of “Little Monsters” wait on bated breath to see what Mama Monster will do this year.  What ever it will be, I’m sure she won’t disappoint them, her detractors and the rest of the universe.

Here is a look at the best of Lady Gaga’s videos for 2011:

F.A.M.E NYC’s Top 2011

Happy New Year FAMERS!  I hope the first two weeks of 2012 have been marvelous for all of you.  And it is my sincerest wish that all the resolutions and goals you have set for yourself are achieved.  Last year I was the first time I felt the true speed of time.  It seemed as if I had just been toasting the year in when it was time for beach season; I blinked my eye and we were back at the holiday season again.  Whew!  

As I looked at the posts for 2011, I noticed that I lived in the theatre.  Perhaps it was because last year I realized a goal and wrote the first play I intend to put into production (more to come with that little tidbit).  And there is no way I could start the New Year without give you my Top of 2011.  So, let’s take one last look at 2011 shall we?

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Heavy D

Very few rappers contributed to the soundtrack of my tween and teenage years more than Heavy D.  After finding out about his passing, I began to reminisce about days when basement parties and teen nights at clubs were considered nightlife, where I expended boundless energy doing the wop, Cabbage Patch, Smurf and drop of science to “The Overweight Lover’s in the House” and “Mr. Big Stuff.”   Heavy D & the Boyz did not provide tales from the hood like NWA; they did not provide social commentary like Public Enemy or KRSOne nor was Hev a lyrical assassin like Rakim, but he did carve a nice lane for himself in hip-hop with his flow, catchy dance tunes and gregarious personality.  He was a pioneer whose music videos help to give hip-hop of the late 80s to mid 90s, what I consider to be the golden age, a distinct visual aesthetic.  There was always high energy in a Heavy D & the Boyz video – plenty of dancing and Hev was in the thick of it, doing his thing, showing that big boys could rock hard as well.  As the climate of the music scene changed, Heavy D retired from hip-hop – lending his industry expertise behind the scenes as an executive as well as acting in parts on television, film and Off-Broadway.   

Strange where the twists and turns of life can lead you, never did I believe that I would conduct an interview with the man whose music I used to dance to in 501 jeans and flower print shirts.  But there I was, in 2008 taking pictures and holding a conversation with Hev at Daddy’s House Recording Studio.  He was putting the finishing touches on Vibes, his third solo and final studio album. It was also his first reggae album.  At the time, I worked as an editor for a Caribbean magazine.  We spent two hours together talking about music, family and Caribbean culture.  He was the consummate professional – warm, extremely gracious and charming.  I did not feel like a journalist meeting a celebrity with the purpose of retrieving a story nor did I feel like a fan going to meet a childhood idol, instead our time together was very organic.  We had an awesome discourse; more like catching up with an old friend than a typical interview and photo shoot.  And that is why when I heard that Heavy D passed away at age 44, I felt like I had lost a friend.  He was not just a rapper or actor to me, but someone that I had shared a few laughs and stories with.  A person that created a memory that I will carry for the rest of my life, and although it was brief, it is always those brief, little moments that seem so precious when you find out news like this. 

In keeping with F.A.M.E NYC’s tradition, I would like to share with you FAMERS a few of my favorite Heavy D videos.  My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to all his fans.  He was a very sweet human being whose presence will surely be missed.   

 

MOS DEF-initely Not for Long

Last month Mos Def announced at the “Rock the Bells” concert in New York City that he will be retiring his stage name at the end of the year. The actor and rapper whose real name is Dante Smith will soon join the ranks of entertainers such as Nas and Diddy as he takes on a new moniker.  And who will Mos Def become?  Yasin.

Mos explained to MTV’s Sucker Free the purpose of the name change.  “Mos Def is a name that I built and cultivated over the years, it’s a name that the streets taught me, a figure of speech that was given to me by the culture and by my environment, and I feel I’ve done quite a bit with that name and it’s time to expand and move on.”

Well as Dante prepares to move on, we at F.A.M.E NYC would like to pay homage to music that was created under the name Mos Def by sharing with you FAMERS our favorite Mos Def track.  Happy trails Mos…

 

The Reemergence of The Night Queen

If Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary featured a photo for the colloquialism “Renaissance Woman,” then Yejide The Night Queen’s picture would prominently be placed underneath showing the indie hip-hop empress in the stoic stance she is known for.  This Brooklyn-born and bred artist is not only famous for dropping conscious rhymes on the frontal lobes of those thirsty for creativity, she is also a dancer, photographer, paralegal, mother and grandmother.  In the underground house music scene, she is a living legend.  A fixture at clubs such as Sound Factory Bar, Afterlife and Club Shelter, Yejide has been an active member of the New York City house scene for over 20 years chronicling its evolution through photos and gaining respect on the dance floor for her mastery of multiple dance styles.

In 2001, Yejide released Seventh, her first full length CD.  In 2006, she released The Smokey Chronicles, a collaboration of unreleased tunes, in-studio bloopers and seven-inch dub plates dating from 1997 to 1999. The Night Queen has also been a featured vocalist on several projects from 2002 to 2009.  Currently, this Lyricist Lounge and Knitting Factory all-star is in the studio completing her second full length CD; the release date is tentatively set for winter 2011/2012.  To give fans an early treat, The Night Queen has released a video for the single “Half,” a potent diatribe about self-empowerment and manifesting one’s own destiny in an industry known for being shady.

Discovering Yejide’s insightful, informative and expressive lyrics is a hip-hop head’s equivalent to unearthing rare gems.  The force that is The Night Queen harkens back to an era where being an individual, having a flow and ability to spit comprehensive bars were more important than following the hip-hop industry’s “How To” guide on building a rap brand.

And without further ado FAMERS, here is Yejide’s video for “Half,” enjoy!

To follow and learn more about Yejide The Night Queen, click the following links,

http://www.facebook.com/yejide7

http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/yejide

http://www.myspace.com/yejidethenightqueen

http://www.soundcloud.com/UmYejide

Photos courtesy of Yejide

 

 

 

F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Aaliyah 10 Years Later

Generally people only remember a day when a significant event happens.  I cannot recall what I was doing on August 25, 1985 or August 25, 1992, but I can recollect exactly what I was doing on the morning of August 26, 2001 when I found out that Aaliyah had died in a plane crash the night before.  I was preparing to celebrate my boyfriend’s (at the time) birthday.  I had recently arrived back from a vacation/pre-birthday trip with my boyfriend to the Bahamas and decided to pay my mom a visit.  Her distressed face instantly wiped the smile from mine.  She asked if I had heard what happened; I said no.  When she told me that Aaliyah had perished in a plane crash in the Bahamas, a place I had just returned from three days ago, I was devastated.  I fell into a depression that only ceased when the events of 9/11 occurred. 

I was 27 at the time and refused to believe that someone so endearing could be gone in such a flash.  I had been rocked by the deaths of artists of my generation before – the deaths of Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.  and the suicide of Kurt Cobain were all sudden.  But their deaths were all violent and one could assert that the lives they led somehow contributed in their demise.  Aaliyah’s death was an accident – something that should never had been and could only be attributed to fate.  At that time, Aaliyah’s death symbolized the extinction of a promise.  Aaliyah’s was just starting to break out – with roles in Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned her star was just starting shoot into the stratosphere.  The trio of Aaliyah, Missy Elliot and Timbaland was undeniable.  The futuristic production of Missy and Timbaland mixed with Aaliyah’s melodic soprano vocals added a much needed layer to R&B in the 90s.  Her music reminded me of the songs created by Donna Summer and Giorgio Moroder –progressive yet timeless.  Her style was sexy but not slutty.  She exuded a sweetness that was palpable through television screens and radio speakers.  Her sincerity was commendable.  There was no one that was not in love with Aaliyah; her death almost seemed like a cruel joke.  Only there was no punch-line. Her catalog, albeit small, left an impression on R&B that can never be erased.  Dying young, beautiful and full of promise places her in the pantheon of artisans like James Dean, Richie Valens and Buddy Holly. 

It hard to believe that 10 years have passed since Aaliyah’s death – life has served many changes, but since her passing there has remained one constant when it comes to the Princess of R& B, the public’s love for her is everlasting.  Yesterday celebrities and fans alike took to Twitter, Facebook, etc. to express their love and remembrance for Aaliyah and I shall do the same.  Aaliyah, your presence in music is still missed.  Thank you for the music you gave us before you were so abruptly taken away.  May your sweet soprano tone continue to brighten the skies of heaven.

FAMERS here are my Top 3 Aaliyah videos: