F.A.M.E NYC Remembers Nick Ashford

“Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” – a 1968 single released by Motown, sung by the incomparable Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.  For me this title is more than just a name to a classic song, it sums up my feelings for Nick Ashford.  On August 22, Nickolas Ashford lost his battle with throat cancer.  News of his death sent tremors throughout the music and dance communities that were stronger than the earthquake that made New York City the day after his death was announced.  Nick Ashford was a recording artist and one half of one of the most dynamic songwriting duos in R&B and pop music history. 

As part of Ashford & Simpson, he and his wife, Valerie Simpson not only recorded some great disco and R&B classics, they also helped to pen the “Motown Sound” and define disco. Together they turned Diana Ross into The Boss, influenced Ray Charles to Go Get Stoned, made Chaka Kahn into Every Woman and created magic for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell that anyone living on a mountain high or valley low could feel.  When they lifted their voices in song, they were as Solid as titanium.

In a sense, New York City was the genesis of Ashford & Simpson; they met at Harlem’s White Rock Baptist Church in 1963.  The Big Apple was their home and along with their singing and songwriting careers, the duo was also DJs for Manhattan’s KISS-FM and opened Sugar Bar, located on 254 West 72nd Street, in 1996.  Their music kept the dance floors of New York City’s most memorable clubs and parties packed with sweaty souls all singing their lyrics word for word, hustling, moving and not missing a beat.

As a music lover, his passing affects me deeply, but I know that when I step on a dance floor and hear my favorite Ashford &Simpson jam, “It Seems to Hang On”, I know I will lose it as I always have.  I will bring my hands to my mouth, kiss the sky, hold my hands up high and give thanks that a star like Nick Ashford was allowed to burn for 70 years and left such luminous memories behind in the form of music and lyrics that will survive until the end of ages.  My deepest condolences go out to his wife Valerie Simpson and their two daughters.   Personally, I cannot fathom the loss of a true life partner – a husband, father and business partner.  I hope she will find solace in the knowledge that she and her husband provided a voice and helped contributed to the soundtrack of an era where music was still about artistry, not branding, and that millions of music lovers mourn with her.  Nick Ashford’s funeral is planned for tomorrow at Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church.  A repast is scheduled at Sugar Bar.

Introducing Mr. Bailey

One thing a recording artist must become used to is talking with the media about themselves.  Press junkets are just as important to the process of getting an album to consumers as being in the booth.  On April 21, R&B artist Antwon Bailey sat down with members of the media to talk about the upcoming release of his mixtape Mr. Bailey.  When Antwon spoke with the press at Selfish Music Group Studios in Brooklyn, this 19-year-old Queens native was realizing a dream.  A dream that was conceived when he was boy, entertaining family and participating in school talent shows.  That dream began to come to fruition when Bailey was signed to famed Power 105.1 FM radio personality DJ Self’s Selfish Music Group.  Now an internet sensation, Antwon’s videos received multiple hits on YouTube and has him being compared to young, sexy R&B crooner Trey Songz. 

Antwon Bailey is ready for the world, literally, and got acclimated to speaking with the press by sharing with F.A.M.E NYC his thoughts about the media, being compared to Trey Songz and the new millennium way of breaking new artists into the mainstream.

April 21, 2011 was your media day.  What did you enjoy most about talking to the press?

I liked the fact that most of the media/press was really down to earth and knew what my music was about and really express their appreciation for my music.

What is the craziest question you have received?

Someone asked if I would sleep with Lisa Raye.

In your bio it stated that as a child you were called upon to entertain your family.  When did you realize that music was something you wanted to pursue as a career?

 Once I started doing talent shows at school and performing for the All Stars, that’s when I knew that I wanted to pursue music as a career.

Describe your feelings when you were first signed to Selfish Music Group.

I was excited that I was starting a new venture with all those affiliated with the record label and waiting to see what the next step was. I was happy to be working with one of the hottest DJ’s in NYC.

How would you describe your sound?

I would describe my sound as unique, fun and geared towards the youth, but you can still feel the late 80s, early 90s sound. Overall, it’s definitely for the people. I like to incorporate punch lines that the ladies can relate to.

I have been viewing your videos on YouTube.  Some viewers have compared you to Trey Songz.  Do you feel that is a fair comparison?  Also, how do you feel about artist comparisons in general?

 I think it’s an ok comparison.  I can see how they would see that being that I’m young and he was young when he started and had braids and I have braids now;  I think I just have a little more of an angle geared toward the youth right now.   It’s not all grown and sexy.  

 I don’t really think about being compared to other artists as I’m focusing on my own music currently, but people always compare new artists to known artist so I expect it.

Tell me about the process of recording, “Mr. Bailey.”  How have you grown from the experience?

 It was a fun experience. I felt like my career is actually growing and I got to see the results of my product, my voice, my music.   I must say, that with me being my toughest critic, I was actually satisfied.

“Mr. Bailey” is a mixtape.  While the mixtape game is widely known for being a launching pad for hip hop artists, do you think the mixtape game has also benefited the world of R&B?

I feel that the mixtape circuit is just a way to promote your music to those [who] haven’t necessarily heard your music whether it be hip hop or R&B. I think it allows people to see my creative side as I prepare for my album.

The music industry has changed drastically in the way new artists break to the public, do you believe that has served to help or hinder a new artist like yourself?  Why or Why not?

 I think that it helps new artists like me because the ways artists are brought to the public now are by way of the internet and online media.  People from all over the world can see who you are and what you do.  It allows artists to communicate with our fans in a way that we wouldn’t have been able to back in the days.

Which track on the mixtape is the most personal for you and why?

“Hotta Hotta” which is number two on the mixtape, is the most personal track on the mixtape for me because it explains my grind in the music industry.   It is also a song [about] me explaining to other artists that although they’re hot now, I’m going to come out being even hotter. My quote for “Hotta Hotta” is, “You can stand out, but I’m outstanding.”

Photo courtesy of  McQueen Media