Hip-hop, jazz, blues, gospel, R&B and funk are all members of the Black music family. Like its older brother blues, hip-hop comes directly from the experiences and perspective of the singer or rapper. In West Africa before slavery, these men were called “griots,” storytellers of history, who elaborated on current events and made political comments.
Ironically, hip-hop, being the youngest child of Black music, is often reckless and has little regard for its Black cultural history. This arrogant attitude or ignorance recently expanded to the international fashion scene when Kanye West gave French A.P.C. clothing line founder Jean Touitou his blessing to name part of his 2015 fall-winter line “N*ggas in Paris” after the title of West and Jay Z’s 2011 single (Roc-A-Fella Records).
At the collection’s presentation, according to Style.com, Touitou explained, “I call this one look ‘Last N*ggas in Paris.’ Why? Because it’s the sweet spot when the hood meets Bertolucci’s movie ‘Last Tango in Paris.’ So that’s ‘Nggas in Paris’ and ‘Last Nggas in Paris.’ Oh, I am glad some people laughed with me. I am friends with Kanye, and this thing is only a homage to our friendship.”
So Touitou’s friendship with West allows him not only to use the N-word but also to make money off the derogatory name as well.
It seems West and his partner Jay Z were never informed that Southern racists, with their accents, created the word “nigga” since they couldn’t pronounce n*gger. It was the “er” that tongue-tied them. No, using the “a” or “ar” doesn’t make it any less offensive.
Obviously, the two rappers aren’t the first to use the N-word, and it has been an ongoing debate between rappers and the Black community for years, but they will be the first to profit from a fashion label using the word. As Touitou states, the name of the clothing line is a tribute to their hit song.
The performance video on YouTube has received 89,231,532 hits. If one combined all the jazz videos appearing on YouTube ever, it would never come near that crazy total. It is clear West is wearing a minstrel mask to promote his ignorance of Black history while empowering others to share this disrespect as they shuffle along to his music, drowning in artificial values of materialism.
When discussing the African Diaspora and its relation to the ring of drum, dance and song, the composer and trombonist Craig S. Harris is automatically a part of that conversation.
Harris will be performing his tribute to Muhammad Ali with music from the award-winning multimedia work “Brown Butterfly” Feb. 15 at Mount Morris Ascension Presbyterian Church, located at 122nd Street and Mt. Morris Park West.
Harris’ abled ensemble will include saxophonist Jay Rodriguez, trumpeter Franz Hackl, keyboardist Adam Klipple and drummer Kahlil Kwame Bell. Composed by Harris, the music was inspired by the legendary Ali, who, as heavyweight champion of the world, stood for justice in and out of the ring.
Harris celebrates the spirit of Ali through his contemporary musical composition that transposes the boxer’s physical language into a hard-hitting, vibrant score. The music’s flowing rhythms shadow Ali’s footwork, melodies sing the song of his jab and harmonies display the power of his combinations. Harris’ composition is just as significant and powerful as Miles Davis’ “Tribute to Jack Johnson” (Columbia Records 1970).
Harris originally performed “Brown Butterfly” 10 years ago to rave reviews and a packed house at the City University of New York’s Aaron Davis Hall in Harlem. This multimedia performance included a full band, dancers and a video. Like Ali, the composition swings from every angle.
Harris, an improvisationalist, constantly explores new musical terrain for his creativity. As a conceptualist, he refuses to be categorized, playing everything from avant-garde to funked up soul. He is a jazz musician inspired by world music and is swept up in his musical expressions.
“Brown Butterfly” is an ongoing series of “Three On 3 Presents.” It is the brainchild of neighbors Harris and choral conductor Patricia Pates Eaton, who combined forces to bring live music to the Mount Morris Historic District and the surrounding Harlem community.
Concerts are held on the third Sunday of each month at 3 p.m. Tickets for “Brown Butterfly” are $10 and can be purchased at the door.
Kirk Whalum has more in his saxophone than just a puff of smooth jazz. During his recent engagement at the Blue Note Jazz Club in the West Village, one would wonder how he ever got caught up in that smooth jazz category.
Whalum’s quintet included guitarist Kevin Turner, pianist John Stoddart, bassist Braylon Lacy and drummer Marcus Finnie. This group was jumping with more passion and vigor than the average smooth jazz group. Being a native of Memphis, Tenn., Whalum knows something about the blues, and he shared it with the audience.
They were testifying out loud, waving their arms, rocking to the soul. His saxophone sounded like a sweating Baptist preacher on Sunday morning as the band played blues deacons with mesmerizing call-and-response solos, amen.
The set opened with “Foot Soldiers” a dedication to the known and unknown who played a role in the Civil Rights Movement. As he noted, “Now is the time to stand up in America and let everyone know that Black Lives Matter.”
His original dedication to Grover Washington Jr., titled “Grover Worked and Under Paid,” was another smoker. The band is an intuitive force rolling at full steam. His ballad “Nanet,” which he played on flute, was so soulful it brought tears to his eyes.
Whalum is an all-around musician, a funk man who preaches the blues, ignites a spirited gospel and takes his sax through the crowd like a New Orleans bandleader.