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Dee Alexander's new record includes reinvented versions of 11 classic songs.

Chicago jazz singer Dee Alexander is internationally recognized as one of the most gifted and versatile vocal stylists alive. Ben Ratliff at the New York Times named her 2013 Newport Jazz Festival performance one of his ten favorite live-music experiences of the year, calling it "both low key and extraordinary, with well-worn standards and risky originals, earthiness and high-flown mysticism." Her 2009 album Wild Is the Wind (Blujazz) met with nearly universal acclaim, earning a rare five-star review in DownBeat magazine and a place on the cover of a special issue devoted to the best CDs of the new millennium. Even before that album—the first under her own name to be released by an established stateside label—Alexander was hardly a well-kept secret. In 2007 the Tribune named her one of its Chicagoans of the Year, and at that point she was already widely praised for her expansive, even audacious palette. Her range includes the classic melodic style of beloved singers such as Ella Fitzgerald (honored in Alexander's 2012 Chicago Jazz Festival appearance), the aggressive funk fusion she polished during her 80s and 90s tenure with the Ken Chaney Xperience, and the iconoclastic free jazz she learned in the late 70s and early 80s from percussionist Baba Eli Hoenai and woodwind virtuoso "Light" Henry Huff. Her onstage flamboyance, personal warmth, fearless virtuosity, and impeccable taste in material and sidemen have earned her a reputation as one of the most satisfying and challenging live acts in contemporary jazz. Read more...

Wednesday, 23 July 2014 21:20

Playground Basketball Is Dying


Once an American staple, playground hoops across the country is dying. Read more...

Basketball has done far more for Alhaji Mohammed than allowing him to escape the projects of Uptown. The sport also has helped him cope with the murder of his father — and the unrelenting feeling that he could have prevented it — as well as the death of his mother. Basketball enabled the 32-year-old guard to earn a bachelor's degree in sociology from the University of Louisville and has been his way of making a living as a professional overseas player for more than a decade. Justin says his "haunting" interview with Alhaji is one he'll never forget: Read more...

Run-D.M.C. in Paris on the Together Forever tour | Photo: Ricky Powell

Few images capture the 1980s quite as representatively as that of Run-D.M.C. crouching in front of the Eiffel Tower. Group members Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell are dressed in unison. Each wears a three-striped Adidas tracksuit emblazoned with its three-leafed motif. Gold ‘dookie rope’ chains swing from their necks and black fedoras crown their heads. On their feet are unlaced white Adidas shell toe ‘Superstars’ with the tongues pushed up, allegedly in impersonation of the ‘prison style’ worn by inmates. The photo, taken for the band’s 1987 Together Forever tour, encapsulates the paradigm shift in rap and fashion culture brought about by the band’s now iconic hit song “My Adidas”, released the year before. Read more...

Notorious B.I.G. 1995

I was driving around blasting The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Gimme The Loot” the other day when I realized what was missing from that song, and from most commercial rap today. “Gimme The Loot” is – as the title suggests – solely devoted to tales of theft and robbery. There’s little backstory or explanation as to why Biggie and his unnamed sidekick – also voiced by Biggie – are so motivated to rob and steal. There’s no mention of the conditions that have prompted Big to assault people for cash, to run up on females and shoot strangers for some jewelry, other than stress, tight pockets and the fact that “mom dukes ain’t givin’ me sh*t.” Someone could listen to that song and reasonably conclude that Biggie and his young partner are sociopathic criminals, not people who have been driven to desperate measures by structural racism and lack of access to educational, economic and employment opportunities. And that’s dangerous. Because if you don’t understand the conditions that push normal people to engage in criminal behavior, then talk of ‘leaving n*ggas in the gutter for the bread and butter’ just reinforces stereotypes about the criminalblackman that racist whites have been trying to perpetuate since slavery to justify their own crimes. So I realized that what’s going on in “Gimme The Loot” is what’s happened to mainstream rap as a whole – the disappearance of any discussion of oppression, and the total emphasis on the dysfunctional behavior oppression has produced. Read more...

Tuesday, 10 June 2014 11:57

The Reinvention Of Chris Bosh

Bosh cares. Sometimes too much. He has spent much of his career trying to prove his doubters wrong, but it often only made things worse. Bosh rose to stardom in his third year with the Toronto Raptors, putting up gaudy scoring and rebounding totals that young players strive for, the kind that made him a permanent fixture on the Eastern Conference's All-Star roster. But playing for teams that hovered around the .500 mark left the big man without LeBron-level flair to his game in relative obscurity north of the border. To appease critics ahead of a contract year in 2010, he bulked up and became the only NBA player that season to average 24 points and 10 rebounds. "Nobody cared," Bosh says. "Even when I lived in the paint. I put up 24 and 10 in Toronto and lost and people complained. I put up 18 and 8 here and win and people still complain." The pain from the 2010-11 season forced Bosh to come to grips with a sober realization: He was never going to be a fan favorite. No matter what he did, he was never going to win the adoration of the average NBA viewer. So he opted for a more fulfilling lifestyle, one in which he could revel in his differences. Read more...

Tracy Morgan

Soon as I heard there was a Wal-Mart Truck involved in that horrific crash that critically injured comedian Tracy Morgan and killed his friend, writer/ comedian James McNair, the first thing I thought of was driver fatigue… Now we know that the man behind the wheel Kevin Roper was awake for 24 hours… Wal-Mart has vowed to take full responsibility and as noted on local news Fox 5 in NY, Wal-Mart says they believe the driver was operating within federal/ company guidelines. Folks need to sit back and think about that for a minute.. First, lets note that driver fatigue is major cause of accidents with big trucks. Drivers are under pressure to deliver goods on time at all costs or risk losing their jobs and payment..Thats real. There have been number of ‘special reports’ about this over the years and thus far very little has been done to reign things in..And before folks start blaming the driver, let’s think about that for a minute.. Who the hell wants to stay up 24 hours driving anything? I know the times I been on the road and ready to pass out I would pull over and rest unless I was under pressure to be at work the next day and couldn’t afford to be late.. Key word AFFORD… So what sort of pressure was this driver under? Read more...


If there’s a cooler dude on the planet than Mr. Fred Brathwaite, better known to the world as the one and only Fab 5 Freddy, it’s news to us. OG graf artist and celebrated painter, name-checked man about downtown in Blondie’s “Rapture,” co-star and co-creative force behind seminal hip-hop film Wild Style, style icon, and Brooklyn representer – Freddy’s resume was already the definition of ill even before being tapped to host a little music video show for a little basic cable channel called Yo! MTV Raps in 1988. In fact, instrumental in landing Freddy the landmark gig was his first music video as director (one that set off an esteemed career calling shots): Boogie Down Productions’ “My Philosophy” – the first national showcase for a charismatic young rapper known as KRS-One. We recently caught up with Fab to discuss how this classic and most uncompromising and artful of visual pieces became one of the cornerstones of a hip-hop music video explosion. Read more...

Grammy-winning producer Don Davis, a Detroit native who started as a session guitarist at Motown but became an influential producer, studio owner and business executive, died Thursday after a brief illness. He was 75. Mr. Davis began his music career playing guitar on some of Motown’s earliest sessions, including Barrett Strong’s “Money (That’s What I Want)” for Berry Gordy’s Tamla label in 1960. Mr. Davis often said how much he admired Gordy’s famous “quality control,” watching as he rehearsed his artists endlessly, when he was getting Motown off the ground. “Don was a classy man, such grace and poise,” said Motown star Martha Reeves, who was “second cousins twice removed” with Mr. Davis. “I was overwhelmed by his accomplishments. He really could play the guitar, too, but he set it aside to run the studio and record other musicians.” “I was deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Don Davis, one of Detroit’s great icons,” said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan in a statement. “Don was the epitome of Detroit’s can-do spirit, having founded Michigan’s only minority-owned bank, First Independence, which he used as a vehicle to uplift countless residents of our city throughout the years. His presence will be sorely missed, but his legacy will endure and should be celebrated all Detroiters. My prayers go out to the Davis family.” Read more...

Born in the Wild: Lifetime has announced they'll air a show that follows parents who decide to give birth in nature with no doctors

A new reality show announced by Lifetime on Wednesday will follow young parents who forego not only hospitals during the birthing process, but also any shelter at all. Born in the Wild will portray the men and women who decide that giving birth surrounded by only the beauty and serenity of nature and away from any doctors or modern interventions is the way to go. Inspired by the huge popularity of a YouTube video that shows a woman giving birth in a tropical creek, some critics say such a show could kick off a dangerous trend that will endanger mothers and their babies alike. Read more...

Wednesday, 04 June 2014 13:20

Hip-Hop Church Opens In North Carolina

A small crowd attends mass. (credit: Stephen Chernin/Getty Images)

A hip-hop church opened Saturday night in Huntersville, N.C. Pastor Quinn Rodgers of Generation One says his church is targeting a younger audience. “We’re trying to reach the un-churched, the de-churched, the folks who have given up on church and are looking for something different, “Rodgers told WBTV. Traditional religions hymns will not be sung, instead the congregation will hear a DJ scratching hip-hop beats. Read more...

Michael Jackson's Career Earnings, 1979-2009

Once every few months during the mid-1980s, a handful of America’s savviest businessmen gathered to plot financial strategy for a billion-dollar entertainment conglomerate. This informal investment committee included David Geffen, who’d launched multiple record labels and would go on to become one of Hollywood’s richest men after founding DreamWorks Studios; John Johnson, who started Ebony magazine and would become the first black man to appear in the Forbes 400 list of wealthiest Americans; John Branca, who has since handled finances for dozens of Rock and Roll Hall of Famers including the Beach Boys and the Rolling Stones; and Michael Jackson, the King of Pop and chairman of the board, inscrutable in his customary sunglasses. Shares of the entertainment company in question were never traded on the New York Stock Exchange or the NASDAQ. Though few would even consider it to actually be a company, this multinational’s products have been consumed by billions of people over the past few decades. Had the organization been officially incorporated, it might have been called Michael Jackson, Inc. Read more...

Saturday, 31 May 2014 08:59

Maya Angelou Is Not A Saint


Don’t be fooled by these obituaries, flat articles, and impassive tweets that illustrate Maya Angelou as a goddess, a saint, saint-like, or some idol. Maya Angelou is not a saint. Immodest as she was, though, I believe she would scoff at the notion of being called a warrior or a goddess. Any illustration of her as a perfect woman destroys her legacy and everything she stood for. Read more...

Nas Announces Scholarship Fund to Help Students Transition From College to Work

Queensbridge rap legend Nasir “Nas” Jones has been rocking stages for over 20 years and is widely acknowledged as a true “thinker” and advocate for education.  Six months ago, the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship was founded at Harvard University to be awarded in his name to two musicians or hip-hop scholars every year.  Now, according to the New York Times,  Nas has been thinking about how to get scholars to the next level – putting their degrees to use in the real world. Nas announced on May 28, 2014 that he is now a partner with Koru, a year-old Seattle-based company that has partnerships with universities and employers, and runs a four-week training program meant to “bridge the gap” in the transition from earning your diploma to becoming gainfully employed. Read more...

Thursday, 29 May 2014 16:13

Jason Moran builds a bigger bandwagon

Jason Moran

The blue-collar DIY spirit of Chicagoans' artistic practice is one of the city's calling cards. Away from the oppressive glare of the art business on the coasts, artists of all stripes—musicians, playwrights, painters, writers—can take time to develop and solidify their practice. That's why so much of the greatest work to emerge from Chicago seems to bubble up from the underground fully formed. On May 30 at Symphony Center, New York-based jazz pianist, composer, and MacArthur fellow Jason Moran will lead his trio the Bandwagon (with drummer Nasheet Waits and bassist Tarus Mateen) in the premiere of an ambitious new multimedia project called Looks of a Lot. It's hardly an underground enterprise—it's been commissioned and facilitated by the same venerable institution that runs the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Moran's collaborators include internationally established artists such as Chicago sculptor and activist Theaster Gates and reedist and composer Ken Vandermark (also a Mac­Arthur fellow). In its extended gestation, though, Looks of a Lot has something important in common with no-frills Chicago art. Read more...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 15:11

Jazz Enigma of the ’60s Has an Encore

In the jazz of the 1960s, Eric Dolphy was an original: a hero to some, but also a mystery, a virtuosic improviser searching for ways of expression outside of common practice. He died of an undiagnosed diabetic condition in Berlin in June 1964, at 36, old enough to consolidate his experience and wisdom but perhaps too young to settle his reputation, which had by then taken some knocks from those who found his music abstract or abrasive. Though he had recorded a fair amount, especially in his last four years, culminating in the 1964 album “Out to Lunch!” and a Dutch performance recorded 27 days before his death and released as “Last Date,” there is still more to be known about what produced and drove him. Right now, a half-century after his death, might be a significant turning point. His musical papers have just been acquired by the Music Division of the Library of Congress, and his music, including pieces never performed before, will be played at a two-day festival in his honor, called Eric Dolphy: Freedom of Sound, this weekend in Montclair, N.J. Read more...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 14:48

Only The Scars Remain

Justin Edmonds for The MMQB

The scar spreads down the outside of Rahim Moore’s left calf, scaly and black. It’s never narrow, but oh, is the middle part wide. It’s a messy scar, jagged in some places, bulging in others, working its way down 13 inches of his leg before thinning again and tapering to smooth flesh. Moore rubs ointment over its ridges. He wants it to fade. He wants the memories to recede, too, because if that wasn’t the worst pain he’ll ever feel, well, he’d prefer not to explore other possibilities. As the Broncos’ starting safety tried to settle into bed in the wee hours on Nov. 18, he’d never felt anything so horrible as the burning, searing, throbbing pain that reduced him to tears. He didn’t know pressure was building to dangerous levels within a compartment of muscles, nerves and blood vessels in his lower left leg. But he knew it was bad. He woke up his girlfriend, who drove him to Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo. Doing so saved Moore’s leg—and possibly his life. Read more...

Wednesday, 28 May 2014 12:40

Why You Should Be Reading African Books

African Books photo

As the child of academics growing up in Nigeria, I was introduced to books at a young age. My first book was a paper-thin story about a corn princess and ants. As I grew older I read more books, mostly European and American; Judy Blume’s novels “The Babysitters Club”, Enid Blyton’s mysteries, stories in which curly-haired little girls yelped “Golly!” and sucked on lollies in the summer (in Nigeria, we had Fan-Ice. I testify it was just as good). However, the stories I remember most were those set in other parts of Africa. Books such as “The Boy Slave (African Readers’ Library) photo” by Kola Onadipe, “An African Night’s Entertainment” by Cyprain Ekwensi, “Without a Silver Spoon photo” by Eddie Iroh, and many other books within the African Readers Series. They taught me about other aspects of different Nigerian ethnicities and the African world at my doorstep, stories from Kenya, Cotonou, Sierra Leone, etc, full of houseboys who retained their integrity in the face of poverty, slaves who became kings, queens who defended their kingdoms in lieu of kings, greedy waziris’ whose greed led to their downfall, cryptic stories about the crafty tortoise, and so on. These were the stories in which I encountered my first notions of Africa. Literature is how we document our lives, fictionalised stories often reveal truths and subjective experiences that other sources cannot. Read more...

Tupac Shakur has always been regarded as an urban prophet. The Cali rapper was known for his prolific bars, and when he died in 1996, his presence was still so powerful that no one believed he was gone. His Makaveli project The Don Killuminati: 7 Day Theory fanned those rumor mill flames, as Pac assumed the role of Italian philosopher Machiavelli before passing; Machiavelli suggested one faking one's own death as a way to trick one's enemies. But despite any theories we have about Tupac's passing, his rhymes reflected some cryptic points. Read more...


Reports are spreading that activist-rapper Yasiin Bey, widely known as Mos Def, has been denied re-entry into the United States. Bey was scheduled to appear May 15 in Boston at a concert but it has been reported by the show organizers that a statement was released noting he would be unable to perform and the remainder of his American music tour is now canceled. Read more...

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