On a late night in New York City this week, Nas introduced his Mass Appeal Records signee, Ezri at a listening event for the young emcee’s new EP ‘Be right back’.
In an already packed room (with a line of fans outside) the twenty one year-old Cleveland native played his new EP and told us a little bit about himself.
A few years ago, Ezri’s mom really wanted him to go to college. He didn’t want to – but he went anyway. It was better than running the streets of Cleveland, a city Ezri described as dangerous place to step out your front door.
He enrolled in Kent State University for fashion design but came back sooner than expected. Fashion studies surprised him. He thought he would draw some fly shit, get it made and rock it.
“It turned out I was sewing skirts at 4am, and waking up at 7am to listen to lectures about FABRIC,” Ezri says, laughing. “I respect anybody who goes to school for fashion because it takes dedication.”
Ezri complained extensively to his mother, who agreed he could withdraw. He returned home inspired to solely pursue his music career.
“I decided I’m gonna treat this like school,” Ezri told the packed crowd at his Mass Appeal Records event. “Instead of essays I’m gonna write lyrics.”
Ezri’s mom was with it because she saw how seriously he was taking the work of developing himself as a hip hop artist.
“Hold up, let’s get moms on FaceTime, someone yelled out.
Just like that, one of Ezri’s crew members raised a cell phone high in the air, yelling that’s right clap it up for moms! As he panned the phone’s camera around the room, the applauding crowd caught a glimpse of Ezri’s mother; a cancer survivor whose endless support for her son is clearly one of his inspirations.
“I do plan on finishing my degree because I only have 2 years left he says.
Every track he played had production that caught the ear. Some tracks made you feel like you could rise to any challenge. Others made heads nod as they tipped the contents of 1800 tequila cups down their throats.
The music has a message. The message comes enveloped in a flow that seems mature for a 21 year old who directs his own videos, but boasts the musicality that makes for a singable song. The metaphors come quick and they aren’t obvious, so listen carefully the second time (because like the roomful of people, you’ll likely purely vibe to it the first time).
So why’s the album called Be Right Back? As Ezri explains it: Leaving for college when he didn’t want to prompted a “be right back” to all the homies he had to temporarily leave behind. Withdrawal from college meant another be right back (because Ezri intends to return and finish a degree in the future).
Finally, leaving Cleveland to sign with Mass Appeal Records and live in New York precipitated yet another farewell, this time to his mom, his dad (who made it to New York for the listening), and his siblings.
Wherever young Ezri may roam, his friends and loved ones are never forgotten. In fact at times it seems he’s chasing this dream for their success as much as his own.
When it comes to Rockness and myself there are a lot of things that don’t need to be said to be understood. But here is something that needs to be said.
When I listen to Rock’s new single ‘Shine Down,’ I hear GROWTH.
Growth is a keyword in life. Growth is what I want for myself. It’s what I want for people I love. It’s what I want for our communities. Rock and I have sat down and discussed many things before, from life, love, motivation, pain, success, family, you name it. But music is always a consistent topic.
Rock can rap his ass off.
Of course he can.
Yet I yearned for this brother to make a song. And not just any song but an honest song. Something with vulnerability that allows us to reconnect with musical soul of the artist we know and love. Something with a beat that complemented his gravel toned voice but didn’t overpower it. Something that displayed rap skills but prioritized the artful elocution of a rapper who knows how to cast a spell with laid back lyricism that leaves room for every bar to breathe and every word to settle on your mind.
I took the photo above over a year ago at 5am after a tribute set when we ended up at one of the most peaceful places in life if you know me–the park. “Stand still a sec,” I told Rock. In that moment, him in front of a tree with its branches stretching to the sky, struck me. I thought the composition of the photo looked like the mind of an artist. A living, growing thing. I saved the photo not knowing what to use it for. But today I know it belongs in this post. To symbolize growth.
I remember hearing raw cuts off Rock’s album earlier in its progression. I was impressed and optimistic about him focusing up. Bernadette was impressed also. But now here we are. The album is out and when I say Rock has given us a song? I mean this is motherfuckin song.
I’ve cried a few tears to it,and smiled to it for quite a few days and couldn’t (or wouldn’t) bring myself to really post about it until sharing my feelings with Bernadette the other night. So. Now that I’ve spilled half my guts, admitted my avoidance in trying not to get emotional by avoiding writing about Rock’s release sooner– I’ll end by saying: If you haven’t yet heard it, click below or head to youtube and search #ShineDown by #Rock. Then lay back and let the music, and the shining eyes of Rock’s baby girl lift your spirit. Just be sure to keep some tissues close by. You might get misty eyed.
Well done, Rock.
Rest in peace Sean P.
Rock (Heltah Skeltah): Shine Down ft. Kofi Black, was produced by Pascal Zumaque, with video direction by The Last American B-Boy, off Rock’s first ever solo studio album ‘Rockness A.P. (After Price)’ out now on iTunes, and in physical formatted CDs at Fatbeats.
The album is executive produced by Phil Anastasia (Blood Before Pride). Learn more in this interview Rock did with Jerry Barrowover at Vibe.
What do you get when you mix champagne, green juice and good people? The Juices For Life Brooklyn Anniversary event. For many years I’ve imagined the perfect celebration. It would involve refreshments that delight plant eaters, alcohol imbibers alike. Sometimes I want to sip veggie juice and a glass of bubbly in the same place. Last night, Adjua, Styles P., Angela Yee and DJ Envy made it happen at their Juices For Life Brooklyn Anniversary event.
For me, some of the highlights of the carefully curated evening included, the bubbly, the building, the positive energy from the crew and guests, the dancing, the selfies, the spicy vegan empanadas, and of course, the green juices. I saw people sharing wellness advice with each other. I even discovered a juicing newbie in the crowd, and got him all hype to make drinkin juices a habit.
I’ve given advice to friends, family and some of our favorite emcees on how to eat well. I know how much our collective saying: “each one teach one” matters. I know how fast good info can spread if we take care to share it with our friends, families and people with influence. Good info can save a life.
Similar to the climate during some of Hip Hop’s golden years, it seems there’s a renaissance happening that aims to rekindle the popularity of the edutainment and community-minded spirit of our beloved culture. From Styles and Adjua’s healthy juice talks and candid interview about their daughter’s sexuality, suicide, emotional health, and more–to Envy and Angela holding court on the breakfast club with finance gurus and mental health advocates–it’s clear that this collective crew wants to broaden the minds, hearts and health of hip hoppers, low income earners and other groups of people who could stand to learn more about how food functions as fuel for the body and mind.
There are many reasons why I’m moved by the celebration of this Juices For Life anniversary. Since a young age, I’ve been on a quest to listen to my body and reconnect with whatever my ancestral DNA tells me my body wants to eat. Plants became one of the staples for me. Being raised to give back, and to “tell a friend,” I make it a point to share info on wellness whether it be Byron Hurt’s Soul Food Junkie film, the Hood Health Handbook, my own juice recipes, or more personal essays, like the hip-hop community health reflection I penned after Sean Price was laid to rest.
I had a juice habit already but the first time Lord Finesse took me to the Bronx Juices For Life location, I knew The Lox were onto something special. They were running their business in a tradition I recognized. A tradition similar to the Rastafarian style of serving healthy food while educating the community and providing a place to convene and talk that multiracial, racial justice, solidarity talk on any given afternoon.
They say real recognize real and love is love. Looks like the Juices For Life owners are trying to show us exactly what real love, and good business sense look like when they are combined.
In honor of the 15th anniversary of The True Meaning album, Cormega teamed up with Brian Kayser to deliver a book that takes an in-depth look at Mega’s critically-acclaimed sophomore effort.
‘Understanding The True Meaning‘ features lyrical breakdowns as well as commentary from various producers and behind-the-scenes team members who were involved with the making of the score. Contributors include Alchemist, Buckwild, D/R Period, Hi-Tek, J Waxx Garfield, and of course J-Love, among others. Purchase the book online at Fatbeats, or Amazon.
Lyricism is the foundation of hip hop music. Word is Bond explores the nature of lyricism via a number of artists who live the culture and practice the art form. From up-and-coming artists, to some of the most legendary figures the game has ever known, Jenkins and his editor Mariah deliver a film that takes you across the country and back — in an ode to the art of rhyming and its connection to community.
It was my pleasure to attend a screening of the film, and I encourage you to listen to some raw snippets of the Q&A with the director via my Youtube audio clip below. The film expected to be released in 2018 on showtime.
I never know what I’ll hear when I leave YouTube on autoplay. Yesterday, while completing some work, I left a playlist running in a background tab. The first interview I heard was rapper and label owner Rick Ross on The Breakfast Club. He told DJ Envy, Charlemagne and Angela Yee about his role in a new VH1 television show ‘Signed,’ in which recording artists can compete for a chance to have their careers further developed. Before you read on, let me admit to a struggle in reckoning with my love of rap music versus some of the harmful ideas some of the music perpetuates.
When Angela asked Ross about the general prospect of him signing women to his own label or working with women to develop their rap careers, Ross’ response indicated that he hasn’t signed many women rappers because he thinks he’d need to have sex with them after spending money to develop them. My mouth dropped open.
Angela Yee posing a question to Rick Ross. (Photo: screenshot from Breakfast Club Power 105.1 FM YouTube)
Ross’ comments reminded me of a lyric in which he rapped about the idea of putting molly in a woman’s champagne without her knowledge. That lyric resulted in writer and organizer dream hampton advocating for Reebok to drop Ross from his endorsement deal (which they eventually did) saying:
While we do not believe that Rick Ross condones sexual assault, we are very disappointed he has yet to display an understanding of the seriousness of this issue.
I was glad to see dream hampton confront Ross’ lyrics then, but I think Ross has a certain level of ignorance about sexism and rape culture that might only improve with intervention from his own friends and much more education. Rick Ross’ comments made my stomach turn, but I found inspiration in the next interview that autoplayed — it was was Queen Latifah on Sway in the Morning.
Latifah speaking on Sway in the Morning. (Photo: screenshot from SwaysUniverse YouTube channel)
Latifah stars in the Will Packer and Universal Studios film ‘Girls Trip,’ which earned an estimated $30+ million during its opening weekend this July. Colorlines’ Sameer Rao reports that the raunchy comedy is headlined by four Black actresses and was crafted by a Black creative team. That team included multiple women.
When asked by Tracy G about her thoughts on how to succeed despite sexism in the entertainment industry, Latifah said she knows many men who have contributed to her life, but that you’ll “face obstacles no matter what you do.” Part of the problem, Latifah said, is people try to limit what they think women can do in certain fields. She encouraged women to be prepared for what may come, but to identify, and stay close to people who respect you:
“What I don’t think we should do is limit ourselves in any shape or form. When you find people that you can connect to, who will support you […] those are the people you need to keep in your life.”
Latifah went on to describe her relationship with her business partner Shakim Compere as one of mutual, intellectual respect. Watch the full interview below.