Tag Archives: hip-hop

Tank and the Bangas @ Haw River Ballroom 5/12/18

I went in blind.  Meaning, the only exposure I had to the New Orleans-based band, Tank and the Bangas, prior to their SOLD OUT show at Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC, was a 20-minute snapshot through the lens of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series.  I was the fish, and I was hooked.

When I found out that a few days after this discovery, Tarriona “Tank” Ball and her Bangas would descend on that utopia along the banks of the Haw River, I made the conscious decision to stay above ground, avoiding the YouTube rabbit holes.  I wanted my virgin live experience to be pure.  I wanted every moment to feel new, which is in itself a lofty desire, but one I was willing to put out into the universe. I was not disappointed.

Tank – They must call her Tank because of the presence she brings when she enters the room–formidable and strong on the outside with intricate, delicate machinery on the inside.  A mix of fury and finesse, Tank shared her tornado of expressions without pause.  Within seconds on stage, the joy in her face and the swing in her hips told the crowd that it was time to have fun, and that while the carnival of emotions might take us from elation to exhaustion, all of it should be embraced. 

 

With close to three decades of life experience under her belt, Tank has stories to tell.  That night, below the glow of the word THRILLS, Tank seamlessly wove these stories together, calling upon childhood fearlessness to emerge again despite the confines of adult responsibilities.  Her authenticity and old-soul wisdom empowered and energized the crowd effortlessly.

The juxtaposition of her strength and fragility was simultaneously conflicting and comforting.  This push-pull generational struggle was embodied by the multiple personalities tucked in the pockets of her limitless vocal range.  From her wide-eyed, bright-pitched, girlish pops and squeals to her salt-of-the-earth, gritty, seasoned tones, Tank covered the spectrum of emotions easily in the first five minutes she was on stage. 

In life, people like to categorize things–place them in tidy, little boxes.  We are all guilty to some degree of this practice.  As I watched and listened, it became harder and harder to put Tank in a box.  She exudes originality, so much so that making direct comparisons to other female artists is futile.  Capturing her style in one or two words is like playing an endless game of whack-a-mole.  Just when you think you can nail her down, she’s gone.

The Bangas – Tank was joined on stage by Anjelika “Jelly” Joseph (background vocals), Norman Spence (keys), Joshua Johnson (drums), Albert Allenback (flute, alto saxophone), Merell Burkett (keys), Danny Abel (guitar) and Jonathan Johnson (bass).  Collectively known as The Bangas, this crew of artists lifted Tank to another level.  The standout element of improvisation across all instruments (voices included) made the whole show feel less like a cookie-cutter production and much more like a jam-band, gospel, funkdified tent revival–paddle fans, praising hands, crowd participation and all!

Worth noting is Ms. Joseph’s contribution to the whole live experience.  While Jelly is labeled a background singer, and has been called Tank’s “fly girl,” my impression after seeing her live is that those labels don’t quite hit the mark.  Sure, she helps keep the crowd hype, but she also shines in her own light–out from Tank’s shadow.  The tightness of her vocals with Tank’s felt genetic, like sisters who spent their lives singing together.  The love and respect between these two was palpable.  To be obvious, she’s the jelly to Tank’s peanut butter–you don’t have one without the other.

The Show – While I expected similar feelings to those I felt watching that Tiny Desk Concert, what I could have never predicted was the myriad of places the band would take me throughout the set.  As a kid growing up with the rise of hip-hop in the 80s and 90s, I was transported back to my days of parachute pants and one-strap overalls.  It felt as if I was witnessing a modern-day resurrection of Native Tongues, but with a new twist–spoken word and smooth, soulful jazz peppered with hip-hop, rock, punk, and Broadway theatrics.  Welcome to Bangaville.

Spoken word erupted in the 1950s in the US, and has evolved over decades of war, oppression and  social injustice, as a means to bring words to life—give them depth and dimension that is often denied in printed poetry.  This art, achieved through an intense and syncopated delivery that demands attention, is the centerpiece of Tank’s brilliance.  And while she certainly can and has commanded a crowd as a solo artist, the richness offered by The Bangas, expands the ripple effect far beyond the confines of a one-woman show.

At one point in the show, Tank asked, “Did you think I went through all that I went through to stay the same?”  Profound statements like this were sprinkled throughout the set, making it almost impossible not to stop and reflect.  In between the fun, silly moments, a message of hope and the importance of self-acceptance embraced the audience without warning or apology.

The set itself was solid, including fan-favorites Walmart, Boxes and Squares, Oh Heart, and their newest hit Smoke Netflix Chill.  The band took us all back in time with a rambunctious cover of Nirvana’s 1991 hit Smells Like Teen Spirit and a slowed-down soulful rendition of Outkast’s 2003 jam Roses

Following the set, and a brief moment off-stage, Tank and the Bangas reemerged to encore with Rollercoaster–a perfect way to end what was in itself an evening of ups, downs, twists, turns, and as my three-year old son would describe it, “tummy tickles.”  As the house lights came up, I looked back on the sold out crowd– a sea of faces lit up like the 4th of July, ready to get back in line and take another ride.

 

To learn more about Tank and the Bangas visit: http://www.tankandthebangas.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tank and the Bangas – Tiny Desk Concert

You know the feeling of being stopped in your tracks, frozen by an image hitting your retina or vibrations banging against your tympanic membrane?  The input–visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, whatever–is so striking, and so overwhelming that your nervous system can function only to process it and nothing else, hence your inability to move.  THAT is how it feels when you get your first taste of Tank and the Bangas–a mix of old school hip hop, spoken word, jazz, funk and spunk served up on a bomb ass platter for EVERYONE to enjoy.  You are going to want seconds.

Help yourself…  http://www.tankandthebangas.com

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Super Bowl Mixtape – Richard Sherman Edition

2014-super-bowl-logo-SNOWFLAKEIn light of the most recent post-game interview heard round the world, EOAF presents to its readers, the 1st Annual Super Bowl Mixtape: Richard Sherman Edition. Let the games begin…

Roc Boys (And the Winner is)… – Jay Z

Me, Myself, & I – De La Soul

Catch a Bad One – Del tha Funkee Homosapien

Down With The King – RUN-DMC

Superstar (ft. Matt Santos) – Lupe Fiasco

Buggin’ Out – A Tribe Called Quest

Mass Appeal – Gang Starr

Breathe – Fabulous

Hustlin’ – Rick Ross

Close Edge – Mos Def

So Fresh, So Clean – Outkast

Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A

Time 4 Sum Aksion – Redman

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A-E-I-O-U and sometimes Y

October 4, 1996

October 4, 1996

I was born in the late 70’s and grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC and Hartford, CT.  I knew nothing of the “streets” or city life, although I was drawn to it.  I wanted to understand the world that was so different from mine. So, like any curious little suburban girl, I grasped for things that I thought would bring me closer to that understanding. I watched “Breakin’,” wore my pink and gray parachute pants and practiced my head spins as often as I could.  At the time, it seemed logical–I was 6 years old.

Despite my desire and incessant practicing, I quickly learned that breakdancing was not my calling.  Soon thereafter, I found a new obsession–hip-hop–lurking closely behind the breakdancing culture that exploded in the 80s.  In 1985, I stood in a family friend’s bedroom with my older brother and listened to Run DMC’s “King of Rock” album.  I had never heard anything like it, but I wanted more. Soon thereafter, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy and Big Daddy Kane found their way to our boom box and we were hooked.

Fast-forward to our family trip to San Diego in 1990. On a hot summer day, my brother and I roamed through a flea market before heading to a Padres game with our parents. I spotted the stand that sold cassette singles and started scanning the titles.  At that time, cassette singles were where it was at.  You’d get the original track along with maybe 2-3 remixes without having to buy the whole album.  It was at this flea market stand where I purchased the small chunk of hip-hop history that would forever shape how I measure hip-hop from that point on–“I Left My Wallet in El Segundo” by A Tribe Called Quest.

I wore that cassette single out to the point where it literally would not play anymore.  I bought the album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” and watched Yo! MTV Raps as much as I could, just to get a glimpse of Tribe videos and interviews.  My catalog of hip-hop grew, but I always fell back on Tribe as the best.  I thrived off of the beats, the samples, the flow, the lyrics, the intellect, and the fact that they celebrated their uniqueness without a care in the world.

The next two albums, “Low End Theory” and “Midnight Marauders,” solidified Tribe’ place at the top. I was supposed to go see them perform at Lollapallooza in 1994 but was sidelined by a yearly physical that somehow couldn’t be rescheduled (Note to self:  if my future child has a doctor’s appointment on the same day as a concert where he/she will get to experience his/her favorite band for the first time live, I will let the child go to the show).  I was devastated, and had to wait another 2 years until they came through and played at the college I was attending.  It was my freshman year and the only time I’ve ever seen them live.  I rode the rail, rapped along with them like I was the 5th member, and even got a wave and smile from Q-Tip after the show.

To this day, I continue to find surprises in Tribe’s songs–a witty lyric I somehow missed or a sample that now jumps out and makes listening to Tribe a new experience.  I think something in hip-hop died when Tribe dissolved.  Even though there are a handful of musicians that still try to carry Tribe’s torch and light that path of hip-hop, there still feels like something is missing.

I spent most of my teens and twenties immersed in hip-hop.  Once Tribe called it quits, I turned to groups like Outkast, The Roots, Del the Funky Homosapein and Mos Def.  These musicians excited me in the same way Tribe did, but never enough to knock Q-Tip, Phife, Ali, and Jarobi off of their pedestal.  While it is true that all good things come to an end, from a fan’s point of view it is never easy to watch.  Fans are greedy and sometimes forget that musicians are real people with real problems.

Recently, I was turned on to “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” a 2011 documentary directed by actor Michael Rapaport. This documentary speaks to the highest of highs and the lowest of lows of my favorite hip-hop group.  It was sad to watch, but joyful at the same time because it transported me back to those years when Tribe’s albums dropped and gave us some of the best music that the world has ever heard.  Even for those readers who never got into A Tribe Called Quest, this documentary is worth your time and attention.  Enjoy!

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Album Review – Long.Live.A$AP by A$AP Rocky

ASAProcky1

In 1986, hip-hop legends Eric B & Rakim recorded their first track, and manifested into NYC’s most beloved DJ/MC duo overnight. Eric B supplied the beats, while Rakim displayed his metaphoric lyrical mastery with ease. Two years later, NYC welcomed a fresh set of lungs and wide eyes to its gritty streets — a baby boy aptly named after the city’s poetic genius himself, Rakim — destined to break free of the concrete jungle confines one day.

Rakim Mayers, aka A$AP Rocky, grew up wanting — dreaming — for more. As a teenager, he watched his drug-selling father get sent to jail, only to have his older brother murdered a year later. In 2007, he fell into a band of brothers known as the A$AP Mob, from which he was given his A$AP Rocky moniker. This crew became his support system — a rap project that allowed Rocky to perfect his craft with high hopes of returning hip-hop honors back to NYC.

aap-rocky-featuring-trey-songz-same-bh-0In 2011, Rocky quickly gained attention for his eclectic style — both in delivery and fashion. In the blink of an eye, he was signed to a multimillion-dollar deal and thrown into recording his debut album, “Long.Live.A$AP.” On this album, Rocky pulls inspiration from every corner of the hip-hop nation, and blends styles into a collection of tracks that places him above the competition.

Claps of thunder open the album and set the tone, as Rocky spits the perfect storm of lyrics drenched in sex, drugs and violence — made acceptable only by the promise of eternal life in the halls of hip-hop. This theme finds a home on most tracks, which are overloaded with imagery of a luxe life, with endless supplies of money, drugs and women. While Rocky’s spectrum of story seems limited, he raps effortlessly overtop a diverse stream of beats and samples laid by some of the industry’s best producers like Hit-Boy, Clams Casino, Drake and Dangermouse.

Rocky is at home on the microphone no matter the style, which lends to the album’s success. “Goldie,” “Pain” and “Wild for the Night,” pay tribute to pitch-down style of Houston’s late DJ Screw and Memphis natives Three 6 Mafia, leaving listeners feeling like they’ve been sippin’ on the sizzurp. “Hell” features M.I.A-esque vocals with new wave reggae undertones from Santigold, while “1 Train” is a freestyle throwback to days of Wu-Tang Clan, when rap crews reigned supreme. The continuum of sound is vast, but Rocky finds his sweet spot on each track.

On the platinum single, “F***kin’ Problems,” Rocky calls on Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar to up the ante over a tight drumASAProcky beat laced with bass drops. The ear-catching audio gains even more mass appeal with a sexed-up video reminiscent of Craig Mack’s “Flava in Ya Ear-Remix.”  Rocky ends the album with “Suddenly” — a slow-motion chronicle of everyday happenings on the block from childhood struggles to present-day fame. “Suddenly” rises to the top as the best track, because it highlights Rocky’s storytelling ability. Beneath explicit lyrics like “You my brother/You my kin/F**k the color of your skin” lies an important message — Rocky is making music to bring people together.

Overall, “Long.Live.A$AP” succeeds by introducing a new wrinkle in the current era of hip-hop — one that feeds off the strengths and intricacies of collaboration. The meat of the album is sandwiched between its two best tracks, where Rocky shines as a storyteller — much like his namesake. Whether he lives on in the hip-hop history books alongside his predecessor has yet to be determined.

To learn more about A$AP Rocky, visit his website.  “Long.Live.A$AP” is available in regular and deluxe versions on iTunes.

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July’s Music Mindblower

Beach Blanket Boom Box

Remember when you loaded your sweet boom-box up with 8 D batteries and lugged it down to the beach so that you could listen to your favorite jams while getting your Hawaiian Tropic SPF 4 tanning oil covered body just one more shade darker?  Ah, those were the days.  With Summer now in full swing, I can’t help but look back on those beach days when all you needed was a towel and some tunes.  In honor of those lazy days in the sand, sun, and surf, I have put together a few playlists with some of my old and new favorites.  Enjoy and share some of your favorites, too!

Bypass Backspin (songs of my youth)

Summertime: DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

Scenario: A Tribe Called Quest

Hip-hop Junkies: Nice and Smooth

Saturday: De La Soul

Rebirth of Slick (Cool like Dat): Digable Planets

Passin’ me by: Pharcyde

Vivrant Thing: Q-Tip

Here Come the Lords: Lords of the Underground

Born to Roll: Master Ace

Posse on Broadway: Sir-Mix-A-Lot

Get it Together: Beastie Boys

Country Grammar: Nelly

Around the Way Girl: LL Cool J

Party Up: DMX

Deja Vu: Lord Tariq & Peter Gunz

Everyday People: Arrested Development

Misterdobalina: Del Tha Funky Homosapien

Breathe: Fabulous

Where the Road Ends (songs of my no-so-youth)

Awake my Body: Alexander

Windows are Rolled Down: Amos Lee

Daydreaming: Middle Brother

Sydney (I’ll Come Running): Brett Dennen

Once and Future Carpenter: The Avett Brothers

Old Before Your Time: Ray Lamontagne

Cornbread and Butterbeans: Carolina Chocolate Drops

Rebel Side of Heaven: Langhorne Slim

Getting Over Your Love: Holy Ghost Tent Revival

Raise a Rukus: Old Crow Medicine Show

Time Spent in Los Angeles: Dawes

Little Silver Ring: The Samples (an oldie but a goodie)

Lost in my Mind: The Head and the Heart

My Baby Don’t Lie: Nicole Atkins

Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa: Vampire Weekend

Marlene: Lightspeed Champion

Breath of Love: David Mayfield Parade

At the Beach: The Avett Brothers

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