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The world has lost another jazz icon. Detroit, in particular, has lost its longtime jazz hero Marcus Belgrave. The trumpeter and mentor to many jazz greats, made his transition on Sunday, May 24.

At 78 years young, Belgrave still played superbly and had the same passion and vigor for the music as he did growing up in Chester, PA under the influence of his idol Clifford Brown.

“Belgrave’s A-list resume included a long tenure with Ray Charles in the 1950s and early ’60s and associations with jazz royalty like Max Roach and Charles Mingus. Ultimately, however, Belgrave’s greatest contribution was the remarkable honor roll of his former students who graduated to leading roles on the national scene — including pianist Geri Allen, bassists Whitaker and Robert Hurst, alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett, violinist Regina Carter, and drummers Karriem Riggins, Ali Jackson and Gerald Cleaver.” — courtesy of Detroit Free Press.

Belgrave and his wife Joan were a staple on the Detroit scene as well as nationally. I was lucky enough to see Belgrave perform numerous times over the last few years, most recently at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe in Grosse Pointe Farms. Joan Belgrave was headlining a show there and Marcus came in half-way through her set and jammed a bit with the band. His beautiful solos and deep raspy vocals, mirroring Louis Armstrong set the crowd on fire and it was a memorable performance that I will never forget.

He literally elevated the landscape of Detroit jazz with his skills, his charm, his eye for talent as well as the countless hours he spent teaching musical as well as life skills to countless musicians.

As the old saying goes “he may be gone, but his spirit lives on.” And in Belgrave’s case, his lively spirit will always be heard within jazz clubs and on records all over the world.

To read more about Belgrave, check out Mark Stryker’s article in the Detroit Free Press.

Billie Holiday would have turned 100 today. It’s easy to remember what Ms. Holiday would have become had she lived past 44. But, as the truly great woman she was, she would not have wanted everyone to dwell on all the amazing accomplishments she could have attained had her life gone on longer. Her life was full of wonder, emotion, creativity, and pain. And she lived out all her experiences through her music. Yesterday she was honored by the Apollo Theater with a star on their Walk of Fame. And I’m sure there will be plenty of other accolades to come as fans across the world celebrate Holiday’s life and music.

To honor her music is to honor her, and as part of honoring her music, I wanted to showcase a couple songs that I fell in love with at an early age. These were the first two songs (other than Strange Fruit) of Ms. Holiday’s that I came across while in my Jazz Music History course and they have become two of my all-time favorite songs. On “Stars Fell on Alabama” and “Body and Soul” she is accompanied by Ben Webster (tenor saxophone); Harry “Sweets” Edison (trumpet); Jimmie Rowles (piano); Barney Kessel (guitar); Red Mitchell (bass); Larry Bunker and Alvin Stoller (drums).

March is recognized as Women’s History Month and like my good friend Leah, I couldn’t let the month go by without doing something to celebrate the accomplishments of women of all colors and all they have contributed to society. For the past few years I have attended the Black Women Rock concert, which is a celebration of African American female rock ‘n’ roll singers put on by internationally renowned poet jessica Care moore. This year, I attended the annual Women in Jazz concert at Kerrytown Concert House. The concert explores the contributions of women to the field of jazz and this year it featured seasoned players Marion Hayden and Ellen Rowe along with some new faces in jazz.

The septet performed tunes from some great musicians including trombonist Melba Liston, vocalists Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, pianist Alice Coltrane, as well as some original compositions from the band members. They tore the house down with their swinging melodies and amazing expertise on their instruments, which featured saxophone, trumpet, trombone and drums, all of which are instruments that many people think are deemed “male” only. These ladies are continued proof that jazz has no boundaries when it comes to gender and that female instrumentalists should have more of a voice on the national jazz scene. There always seems to be plenty of opportunities for female jazz vocalists to be featured in jazz bands, but rarely do you see female trumpeters, saxophonists, or even drummers featured in national bands unless they are fronting their own band and even then those are few and far between.

A few years ago I did a series on Women in Jazz for Black History Month where I featured some past and present female jazz artists. I explored their music and what their life was or is like being a female in the male dominated jazz world. Covering females in jazz is a subject very dear to my heart and my goal is to continue to learn their stories in the hopes of sharing their accomplishments with those who may not be familiar with them. I’m in the process of finishing up the biography of Mary Lou Williams, who was a pianist during the 1920s through the 1970s.

She was an innovative composer and wrote hit tunes for Duke Ellington, Andy Kirk and His Twelve Clouds of Joy, Benny Goodman and a slew of other top musicians. Later in life, she began helping to rehabilitate jazz musicians who were struggling with various addictions and she opened up her home to anyone in need. Williams is one of the few well known female jazz musicians during the early 20th century whose legacy has been acknowledged on a national scale. Yet, for every Mary Lou Williams there is a Terry Pollard or Dorothy Dodgion who unfortunately did not make it into the jazz history books, but who deserve just as much recognition as any musician in the field who has paved the way for future artists.

R&B princess Aaliyah would have been 36 years old today.

Here are a few songs to check out in remembrance of the musical icon.

2014 Musical Recap

As 2014 draws to a close, now is as good a time as any to recap a few musical events that took place throughout the year. There were tons of ups and downs when it came to albums, concerts, trends, and songs. Here are just a few musicians who stood out to me this year and who, I think, made an impact on music, for the better.

The Year of Pharrell

If anyone had a great year musically, it was Pharrell Williams. The Grammy award winning artist/producer has the number one Hot 100 song of 2014, which of course is “Happy.” The song, originally written for the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, had people all over the world creating YouTube versions of the song, and it even crossed secular realms becoming quite a popular tune for church choirs to perform. Pharrell has been on a musical high since 2013 when he took over radio with his two big hits “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” He hasn’t stopped cranking out good music yet, especially since he dropped his highly anticipated album Girl in March. The album has sold 6.4 million records so far.

CLICK HERE TO READ A REVIEW OF GIRL

 


Detroit rapper Dej Loaf Tries the world

Dej Loaf proved that there is no shortage of rap talent in the Motor City. The 23 year-old rap phenom had radios bumping her smash hit “Try Me” all summer and the momentum has not slowed down yet. The hardcore lyrics and threatening hook had many thinking this song could not have come from a small-framed, soft-spoken, young woman from Detroit. But, everyone quickly caught on to her smooth sound and in-your-face rap style and she has been riding high off the track ever since, attracting attention from rappers like Drake, Wiz Kalifa, and The Lox, who hopped on the remix to the song.          Read more about Dej Loaf here.

 

 

 

 

 


Jhene Aiko shines light on alternative R&B

In listening to Jhene Aiko’s music, it’s hard to classify her as just R&B, or just neo-soul. She is all that and more. Many critics have classified her as PBR&B, which is a new term that’s used to describe a stylistic, alternative to contemporary R&B. But, needless to say, Jhene is in the business of making good music that captures the true essence of what its like to go through heartbreak, pain, and overcoming serious issues, as a young woman in the 21st century. “The Worst,” the latest song from her EP Sail Out garnered a ton of buzz and earned her a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song. She recently dropped her debut album Souled Out in September, which received great reviews. And after seeing her perform recently in Detroit, it’s clear that she is on her way to becoming one of the great, female singers of our generation.

 

 


Chris Brown reclaims R&B Loyalty

I think it’s safe to finally put Chris Brown back into the positive front when it comes to music. He’s managed to get himself into a lot of trouble, even ending up in jail earlier this year for getting kicked out of rehab. But, there is one thing you can’t charge him with, and that is making bad music. His single “Loyal” was one of the hottest songs of the year, and even with its somewhat taboo subject line about women, it still had both genders rocking to the tune in the clubs. His new album X is full of great songs and collaborations. Chris is another artist who had a great year, at least on the Billboard charts.

Detroit has been at the center of controversy and financial distress for many years. Between its impending bankruptcy, rebirth and the constant criticism it receives, it’s safe to say there is no more room left for error on the city’s part.

But one thing that never seems to fail is the musical allegiance and talent that its residents naturally encompass. From Diana Ross to Eminem, from the Winans to Jack White, from Aretha Franklin to Juan Atkins, this city boasts a long list of musical icons from multiple genres who rep the D to the fullest.

In terms of hip hop specifically, Detroit has continuously churned out hit makers (Eminem, Big Sean, Royce da 5’9, Danny Brown, etc.) and now add to that list two new hot rap artists who are destined to enhance the city’s reputation for producing amazing musicians. Detroit Che and DeJ Loaf are seriously making some noise on the local and national scene right now.

Both artists were raised in the D and have been on their grind to get their music out to the masses. Che and DeJ have mad skills and they don’t let their femininity or small stature interfere with their hardcore rhymes, intense appeal and unique lyrical flow. Detroit Che was recently selected as one of the Hot 16 contest winners for the BET Cypher, where up and coming rappers get to freestyle at the BET Hip Hop Awards. She is the first female winner of the annual BET Cypher challenge. DeJ Loaf’s new single “Try Me” is blowing up all over the country and has gotten the MC co-signs from some of the hottest artists in the game including Drake and Wiz Khalifa. Dej’s sing-rap-along style in the song may sound sweet, but she goes straight ham on anyone who dare step to her in a negative way. If you are new to DeJ Loaf and Detroit Che, you won’t be for long. Here are a few facts about the artists:


DETROIT CHE

The lowdown:

Detroit Che, whose real name is Cherrish, started rapping at seven-years old. She played basketball in high school, and put down the pen for a bit, but picked up rhyming again in 12th grade.

She won the Imported from Detroit contest at the underground hip hop venue The Shelter and got to perform at the Hot 107.5 Summer Jamz event this past June.

Music:

She dropped her debut mixtape NOAH in early 2014 and it includes her lead single “Talk My “s&%$”, a fierce, in your face tune that gives listeners a taste of Che’s rough poetic style. Some of her musical influences include Kendrick Lamar, Missy Elliott, and Eminem. She is currently working on her followup project NOAH 2, which is scheduled to drop in 2015.

Catch her on the BET Hip Hop Awards on Tuesday, October 14 at 8pm. Check out her BET Cypher feature here.

SOUNDCLOUD


DEJ LOAF

The Lowdown:

Deja, more popularly known as DeJ Loaf, 23, hails from the east side of Detroit and has been jotting down lyrics since she was nine-years old. She attended Saginaw State University after high school, but dropped out after three semesters to focus more on her music.

Music

She released her debut mixtape Just Do It in 2012 and is currently affiliated with the the music movement IGBM (I’ve Been Gettin Money) which includes Detroit artists/producers   SAYITAINTTONE, Oba Rowland, DJ Limelightz, and DDS. Her latest single “Try Me”, produced by DDS, was released in July and has quickly gained a ton of buzz. The song has been remixed by a lot of artists, including Wiz Khalifa. Some of her musical influences include E-40 and Jay-Z.

DeJ Loaf is currently working on a new album.

SOUNDCLOUD


With the immense popularity of Australian rapper Iggy Azalea’s hit record “Fancy” I decided to revisit a blog post I wrote a couple years ago about a few up and coming rappers, one of which was Azalea. Although it may seem as if Azalea just popped up from out of nowhere, she’s actually been tugging for the crown for a few years ever since dropping her raunchy mixtape Ignorant Art in 2011. Now the 24-year old is on her way to rap royalty and has one of the hottest songs of the summer. 

But just because Azelea is on top now, doesn’t mean there are not tons of female MC’s looking to take her spot, and/or add their name to the growing list of dominating women hip hop artists. The new Oxygen reality show “Sisterhood of Hip Hop” follows the daily lives of five aspiring female rappers who are all trying to make it to the top. It seems that T.I., who executive produces the show is all for female empowerment in hip hop, especially since he is a major force behind Azalea’s success. The five women of the Sisterhood are Pharrell signee Bia, former Crime Mob member Diamond, Miami-bred rapper Brianna Perry, Timbaland mentee Nyemiah Supreme and the openly gay Siya, according to USA Today

Based on the previews, the rappers seem to be all about the business and are more concerned about making sure their skills are superior and focusing on career longevity rather than just trying to get a hit single and get rich. 

The show debuts tonight at 9p.m. ET/PT on the Oxygen network.

From left: Nyemiah, Bia, Brianna, Diamond and Siya.

Over the last few months, it seems that record labels and concert promoters have really been busy trying to duplicate Michael Jackson’s music and appearance. His posthumous album Xscape was recently released to overwhelming success and he appeared as a hologram at last month’s Billboard Music Awards.

It’s all good and dandy that MJ admirers want to keep his music and spirit alive, but trying to duplicate a legend cannot be done. Trying to release what “they think” Jackson would have approved of is not right. And continuing to make a big fuss over his “alleged” love affairs and lawsuits is just plain disrespectful.

The five year anniversary of Jackson’s death can be very hard to fathom, especially since his death was so unexpected and tragic. But, instead of doing what record execs and the entertainment masses all think he may have wanted, they should do like the rest of MJ fans, and just let him rest in peace and continue to honor his immense musical legacy.

So today, as his music is played in rotation,  articles are written about him, and tributes are held, let’s focus on and remember all the music Jackson created while he was with us. And remember the incredible influence he had and continues to have on artists.

“People ask me how I make music. I tell them I just step into it. It’s like stepping into a river and joining the flow. Every moment in the river has its song.”
― Michael Jackson

The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.

Check out previous MJ tributes on Roots Rhythm and Ryhme:

Celebrating the life and legacy of Michael Jackson

Never can say goodbye: Memories of Michael

 

 

E. Azalia Hackley (1867-1922)

Every year since 1979, the music of African Americans has been celebrated during June in what is known as African-American Music Appreciation Month or Black Music Month.

Some of the most popular African American musicians are recognized on magazine covers, in exhibits, on television shows and in documentaries. While it is totally cool to acknowledge the achievements of singers and musicians, we must not forget to also pay tribute to the composers, teachers, archivists, and educators who have kept this music alive and have continued to preserve its legacy so that everyone has the opportunity to learn more about and be inspired by Black music’s power and impact.

A good example of African American music appreciation is the E. Azalia Hackley Collection of African Americans in the Performing Arts. The Hackley Collection is an archive located  inside the Detroit Public Library that houses materials such as books, manuscripts, and concert sheet music of African American performing artists and many of the items date back to the mid-19th century. The collection was named after Emma Azalia Smith Hackley, an African American singer, political activist and teacher from Detroit. Hackley was an extremely gifted musician who trained some of the most prominent African American classical music artists such as Marion Anderson, tenor Roland Hayes and composer Nathaniel Dett.

The collection was established in 1943 and named after Hackley in honor of her contributions to music both in Detroit and nationally. This collection was the first archive dedicated solely to African American music in the world.

This collection has been often been called a well-kept gem in Detroit and has not gotten the world-wide recognition it deserves. It is easy to just pick up a book or watch a documentary about a well-known artist. But nothing compares to truly visualizing  materials that have such historical significance and have helped to trace the legacy of legendary artists.

I encourage everyone, if they have not already done so, to visit an archive like The Hackley Collection and learn more about the history of African American music.

Here are a few places where archives of African American music can be found.

Archives of African American Music and Culture at Indiana University

The Center for Black Music Research at Columbia Collecge Chicago

Center for Southern African-American Music at University of South Carolina

To learn more about the Hackley Collection, visit the Detroit Public Library website and The Hackley website.

The Hackley collection also has an organization called The Friends of the E. Azalia Hackley Collection (FAH) and they are committed to increasing awareness and financial resources for the Hackley Collection. To learn more about this organization, click here.

big tez

We’re at a time in hip hop where plenty of rappers are called, but few are chosen. There are always a ton of artists who feel that they are changing the game and influencing other MC’s, but to really change or impact someone, their lyrics have to be authentic and speak genuine truth.

In Detroit, there are some great underground artists who are striving to make good, lyrically creative music that inspires and elevates others to greatness. Cortez Martin, also known as “Big Tez” is one rapper who is going against the odds of hip hop and promoting positive messages all wrapped within a serious flow. The Detroit native is set to release his third mixtape Boiling Point on May 17. His style has been compared to hip hop heavyweights J. Cole, Wale and Dizzy Wright.

Roots, Rhythm, and Rhyme recently spoke with Big Tez about his new mixtape, his goals as a rapper, and going down a different path in hip hop.

Upcoming Shows

  • Thursday May 1, 2014. “TASTE Talent Showcase” The UntitledBottega 314 E. Baltimore Ave  Detroit, MI 48202
  • Saturday, May 24 2014.  The Bullfrog 15414 Telegraph Rd  Redford Charter Township, MI 48223

                                                                                                                                                        

How long have you been rapping?

I have been rapping since I was in the eighth grade. I did a school project for Black History Month and I was in marching band and my teacher asked me to rap. I didn’t think nothing of it at the time but it spread around the school and we became popular so I had to keep with it. I chose a topic of Harriet Tubman and the feedback I got from the audience was great. I started to see how words can control a crowd and sometimes I just want to walk into a room and have power without doing anything, I want my words to do the moving.

Your new mixtape is called Boiling Point. What can people expect from this new mixtape?

This mixtape is a little different than the other mixtapes I have done. It wasn’t rushed. I consider it to be one hundred percent authentic. I’m not a dope dealer, I’m not the average rapper you are going to hear coming out of Detroit. It’s rejuvenating hip hop, bringing hip hop back in a sense in Detroit.

Where did the title of the mixtape come from?

I was angry when I came up with the name so I figured why not name it boiling point because its a lot of things that I’m tired of. I’m tired of the fabricated music that’s being let loose on the airwaves. There are also some fun songs on there as well, its mainly just me revealing my true thoughts and me saying things that I might not be able to say in terms of talking and song form was the only way to do it.

I put my all into it. It’s all about the content. “‘Don’t Let Go” featuring Maria is probably one of my favorite songs on the mixtape because I’m talking about my mom and its all a true story. I believe its a song a lot of people will be able to relate to.

Tell me about Lyrically Injected Music Group and your involvement with the company?

I created Lyrically Injected Music Group in 2012. I didn’t have anybody in terms of production or management, it was just me. I met my current business partner Jerel Jones through some people, and within the last year we decided to team up.  He invited me onto his radio show a couple times. It was something about him and we were equally determined. We are in the final stages of launching the company. The company is mainly a group of talented minded individuals who use words as art form.

Who are some of your musical influences?

I’m really influenced by the new generation, J Cole, Kendrick Lamar, Dizzy Wright, Chance The Rapper. I like when people step outside of the box and do something different.

What are some of your goals as an artist?

I want to make music that everybody can listen to.  I do use profane language from time to time, but it deals in the context where its being used in a respectful way. I played some sample songs for people over 50 and I got positive feedback from them, which is good because we can’t reach out to the older generation if they feel like everybody is a thug and its about a particular lifestyle that they may not be a part of. For me, its mainly about trying to educate yourself. I had a positive upbringing. I was fortunate to have both my parents and that has a lot to do with my writing process.

Its not about the money, I just want people to appreciate the music, and if I can make an honest living by helping people appreciate music, that’s where I want to be.

You can check out Big Tez’s mixtapes at Dat Piff.

You can check him out on Twitter, Facebok and Instagram  @TeamBigTez 

Big Tez

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