When I received Adjua Styles new book The Ethereal Hike in the mail, I cracked it open with a mix of excitement and a tiny bit of apprehension. I knew the book would be about her life, family ties, and trying to come out on the other side of all things that can challenge you in life, especially — loss. And as a child of two west indian families, I’ve been working through all of the challenges of having a parent die in the midst of some challenging family dynamics that made everything even harder to take.
I was nervous about what feelings the book might bring up for me. But I plunged in. Well. I got less than 2 chapters in before I abruptly closed the book, placed it on my shelf and walked away from it. It felt like one of those sequences in cartoons where you’re the only one nude, giving a speech in front of a bunch of clothed people. It felt like I was reading something all too familiar, and I felt kinda seen, and kinda naked.
The next day I made some tea and cracked the book again. This time I took deep breaths whenever a chapter felt familiar or heavy. I laughed at the humorous moments. I made it through the book in one evening!
I felt like it was a lot to take in, but a very important read about the life and times of a caribbean, woman, growing up in new york city, making her way with less guidance than she would have liked and less of the motherly connection than she would have wanted with her own parent.
Later she was experiencing the joy of parenthood, the challenges of how to be the parent you want to be, while learning who your children might need you to be, and who you are to yourself–even as life requires your small parts of your identity to grow and change over time.
I think this book is a great read for EVERYONE but also: If you are like me and have Jamaican, Panamanian, Antiguan (or other Caribbean / island roots), OR you grew up in NYC during the 80 Blocks From Tiffanys / Bronx is Burning period in the city’s history, or you have experienced difficult familial relationships, strained parental relationships, challenges in Co-Parenting, challenges over people exhibiting antiblackness against you, mental + physical health challenges, grief, self esteem issues, or even if you just happen to learn well from mistakes of others — get this book.
The next day I went to the nail salon — which is part of me trying to focus on self care & Joy As Resistance. I didn’t have a plan for my nail design so I sat down and chatted with the two Latina women who were going to do them. I said how about pre-valentines nails? Give me the colors of those godawful candyhearts we used to eat.
As we collaborated to create a fun look, I thought about the music I played on #tidal that day asked them to make these nails a love letter to black women’s pop musical joy. I asked for names like: Rihanna (a caribbean struggle-to-joy story in it’s own right), Meg the Stallion (a tall girl’s delight with all the wily lyricism & sexual agency that goes with it), Lizzo (who reminds me of a gorgeous cousin of mine in all her bold confidence), and Normani (who faced down antiblack racism in her group, and has come back with a bang as a solo artist).
Finally the nails were finished. I wriggled my fingers looking at them, and thought about the book I read the night before. And how, like the pop stars on my nails, (& like so many of us women), the author of that book #AdjuaStyles, had gone through a LOT as a black woman, and still kept her head high. From the antiblackness I’ve seen ppl throw at her, to the remaking of her self with different career talents. to surviving loss.
She may not be a pop star, but she was just as much on my mind in that moment. I mentioned the book to the #nailtechs. Do you think I should add her name or is that weird. “Omg how inspiring. ADD HER NAME,” they said. And I’ve been enjoying these pre- Vday, #blackgirlmagic nails for days now. ❤️
In celebration of the Unbelievable B.I.G., who repped BK to the fullest: Little Giants teamed up with art director TTK and got a few special bangers for y’all!! Available now, in store and online. Limited in quantity, infinite in sauce. These are must haves for any fan of the Notorious One. Shop T-Shirts & Onesies at WeAreLittleGiants.com.
The new Complex documentary ‘Horse Power’ highlights how Hip-Hop took Polo Ralph Lauren and made it their own. So proud to say that TTK (@goTTKgo’s) art direction was commissioned for the opening sequence of the film! Sign up for TTK’s mailing list to keep up with more announcements like this.
To watch the film, click here. And remember to leave a positive comment about TTK’s art direction in the comments on youtube, under this instagram post, this tweet, and under this FB post.
If you haven’t snagged one of TTK’s Limited Edition shirts yet, I strongly suggest you grab the last few before they’re gone. Shop now at ArtByTTK.com. Thank you all for your support, always.
To our newest supporters, please remember to Follow TTK (@GOTTKO) on IG to keep up with his artistic endeavors. Watch the full film below!
Grandmaster Melle Mel doesn’t bill himself as a comedic personality, but when he’s paired up with fellow Bronx legend Lord Finesse, he sure lights up like one. Humorous, heartfelt, humanizing. Those words accurately describe Lord Finesse and Melle Mel’s responses to Miss Info’s questions at the Sonos “Tales from the Bronx” in-store Q&A.
Read below for a few of the questions, responses and quotes that stuck with me.
Describe the parties you attended before DJ Kool Herc began throwing his own jams?
Before Herc, most of our parties would be all guys in the party . No girls was there ! You could go to Herc’s parties like ” Damn!” He was the first one in Hip- Hop with the total package in the party. – Mel
What’s one of the most special things about the Bronx?
One of the most special things about the Bronx is all the original Doo-Wop and Salsa groups came from the same area of the Bronx that me and Lord Finesse are from – Morrisania. A lot of talent came from the Bronx. ((“Must be something in the water,” Miss info responded.)) Yes, but these days there’s too many people that want ‘more,’ but don’t appreciate what they got! – Mel
Talk about growing up in the Bronx, and what Hip-Hop meant to you then.
[People ask] why do I dress like this. I dress like this because when I was in the Hood we ate CHICKEN FEET AND CHICKEN BACKS. Hip-Hop was my one opportunity to be somebody and I took it. I may not have made it to the money spot but Hip-Hop is all around the world now. We won. These days there are many people who want ‘more,’ but don’t appreciate what they have.
Back then, how did you feel about the song The Message?
Ed Fletcher wrote the main part of the song. I’ll be honest, I didn’t wanna do The Message at first because we was rapping about partying! We didn’t believe in the song. Only Sylvia Robinson believed in the song, and at the end of the day, you gonna cave to what a woman says. (Laughter)
One night we were at a huge party. This was around the time the song Planet Rock was hot. Sylvia was gonna play The Message. I was nervous so I stood in a corner off to the side! They was playing Planet Rock, when suddenly they took it off and threw on The Message. Everyone in the dance froze at first, then the reaction was instant. It worked!
She made the right record at the right time. Like Cardi B. – It may not be the best record but it’s the right record at the right time. The song changed Hip-Hop, and changed my whole career. It was the first record that actually said something. – Mel
Finesse on DITC forming as a group
It wasn’t like we were aiming to put a group together. It was just organic. We was all solo artist s trying to form a group. So putting DITC together… was difficult.
How’d you meet Big L.?
At a music conference.. someone came up to me and said this guy wanna rap for you and says he’s so good that he’ll only rap for you once. And if you hate it – he’ll never bother you again. I thought, well shit… I gotta hear this guy.
Do you remember any names from the music conference where you met Big L?
Oh man… The host was Serch… the DJ was Biz Mark. Um, you had RSO with young Benzino…
What should be the driving force when artists hit the studio to make music?
I think with hip hop, to make it fun it gotta be organic. Anytime you look at something and say I gotta do the same thing as the other guy–you’re saying you’re happy with being number two. Because the original is already out there.
On artists complaining about their position
You just a copy so don’t be doing that [imitating whatever is hot], then complain that you’re not hailed as one of the greatest—you were #2 from jump!
Describe what lyricism meant to you at that time?
What people don’t understand is we went from Cold Crush to Melle Mel to Rakim. The progressive bar was set so high I was like… I gotta be good! These dudes pushed me!
MISS INFO: “Alexa, play Lord Finesse, Funky technician.”
ALEXA: “Now Playing funky technician by Lord Finesse and Mike Smooth “
And with that , Craig G’s immortalized voice blared through the speakers on the hook.
As I watched the crowd of listeners applaud these two cultural architects, I thought about how much it means to me, a woman with some BX roots, to see people from the Bronx speaking honestly about the challenges they endured, the foundation they built, and strides they have made in this imperfect but beautiful thing called Hip-Hop and in this one life we have to live.
For the first time ever, producer and emcee Pete Rock performed live with a jazz band. Aptly named Pete Rock And The Soul Brothers, the band’s set was a part of New York City’s Winter Jazzfest, a marathon music festival The New York Times described as designed to “encourage discovery” of new groups and sounds. I was very eager to hear the female saxophone player that Pete Rock was raving about on his instagram…
Pictured above: Pete Rock And The Soul Brothers – Maurice Brown (Trumpet) Lakicia Benjamin (Sax), Bigyuki (Keys), Mono Neon (Bass), Anu Sun (Percussion), Marcus Machado (Guitar), Daru Jones (Drums). Follow them on social.
Attending this concert felt like witnessing a historic moment for Hip-Hop. There was an urgency to my need to attend, an urgency underscored by our loss of iconic producers, emcees and other vanguards of the culture.
Pictured above: Maurice “Mo Betta” Brown (Trumpet)
These losses have shaken me, but I’ve found multiple lessons therein. One of those lessons involves not assuming that I can just “see someone another day” for another day is not promised. For these reasons and more, I made my way to Bowery Ballroom, despite the cold.
Watch the video mashup of a few of my favorite moments from the band who say they plan to do even more work together in the future.
As the band jammed, and guest emcee Smoke Dza crooned smoothly over the music, I look out at the crowd and was struck by the amount of lovers I saw. There were so many couples in attendance, they were wrapped in each-others arms, swaying and dancing together. There were groups of friends, and even strangers making new brief, joyful connections with the simple exchange of an excited glance and a smile.
Renee from Zhané was in attendance. At first, I didn’t know it was her! She had on a big, warm hat, and puffy jacket with a hood pulled over it. She was filled with energy as she danced in front of me. When she went live on social media, she spun in a slow circle, giving her followers a full view of the crowd. That’s when I was sure it was her in the legendary flesh.
As I waited for my friend after the show, I noticed Renee encouraged various artists in the band to see if there ways she could help them further their careers by making a few strategic introductions. She was doing what I want to do more of as a way to honor Combat Jack’s memory. Spread even more love, practice more collective economics, operate from a mindset of abundance, listen to my intuition, and be of service to others by connecting them to opportunities where I can. These are things I do, but can always do more of.
I tapped Renee and introduced myself. We had a candid conversation about New York’s arts and culture scene (endangered by gentrification), and supporting the growth of our Hip-Hop architects as they explore new avenues for their talent. I felt encouraged by her intense desire to see all of us help each other succeed.
When I noticed and introduced myself to Shara, (Pete’s manager for years), she greeted me with warmth. “Chevon? Wait, Chevonmedia, right?”
I nodded yes.
“I know you. You do good work,” she said smiling.
I smiled right back.
I admire many women in Hip-Hop, but the ones behind the scenes are some of the most inspiring, unsung heroes I look up to. It feels good when one of them recognizes my efforts. Salute to all the awesome women behind the scenes. And salute to Pete Rock And The Soul Brothers band, who put on a show that so many awesome women were delighted to attend.
My freelance communications work for the filmmaker Victorious de Costa involved bringing attention to the the Indiegogo fundraising campaign he launched for his film ‘Digging For Weldon Irvine‘. I booked him on interviews and today I’m sharing a bit about my favorite interview, which was on The Laura Coates Show.
‘Digging for Weldon Irvine’ is a feature length documentary, currently in production, about the life and influence of the enigmatic, highly sampled American composer, Weldon Irvine.
A Hampton alum, Weldon Irvine wrote the lyrics to ‘Young, Gifted and Black’, and was the bandleader for jazz singer Nina Simone. He was also a mentor to many hip-hop artists, including Q-Tip and Mos Def and Talib Kweli. Bars about Weldon can be heard in What’s Beef, if you listen.
A reminder of how little some things have changed, Weldon’s last major project before his passing was ‘The Price of Freedom’, a compilation featuring hip-hop, jazz, and R&B artists in response to the police shooting of Amadou Diallo.
Weldon’s own brilliant life ended abruptly when he shot himself in front of Nassau Coliseum in New York on April 9, 2002.
Director Victorious de Costa was in the midst of fundraising to finish off the balance of the film when he hired me to boost visibility of the campaign. One of the interviews I booked him for was in Washington, DC, on The Laura Coates show. Laura is a big Jazz fan who was eager to hear more about ‘Digging for Weldon Irvine.’
Listeners learned about the film that day, had an opportunity to donate, and speak with the director. Some callers even reached out behind the scenes with personal stories of their relationship to the composer, some of which may be included in the final cut.The fundraising video for the film features interview clips with Weldon’s family, DJ Spinna, and more. Victorious, an award-winning filmmaker and Sundance Institute member, has funded much of the film out of pocket. Still want to donate? Have questions about the film? Contact the director here. Have a great day and contact me if you want to discuss your need for communications consulting.
I tried to prepare myself for Reggie’s passing in advance but I didn’t prepare enough. My heart aches for his children.
Instead of joining in the public mourning that has become customary on social media, I succumbed to feeling robbed of an inspirational person; someone I dearly wanted to walk a longer road with. I also saw and felt there were people who didn’t honor him in life, trying to social-honor him in death. Realizing my own light was dimming, I signed off and focused on reflecting on my feelings, and letting them wash over me by observing and naming each emotion I was feeling – without judging myself for having any of them.
One of the main emotions that brought stinging tears to my eyes was this feeling of the culture (the people) being cheated. I turned that over in my head. Grief can be so unreasonable. I realized the feeling was because Reggie touched SO MANY people and was pushing (himself and everyone in this thing of ours) forward. I felt a sense of loss for the community and the culture because I couldn’t stop wondering what else might have happened if Reggie were allowed to be on earth for a few more years. Who else would he touch?
But this is life. None of us are here to stay. Not in the physical form, at least.
I imagine it doesn’t help that one of my parents has cancer and, I for a number of reasons, have been keeping that secret largely to myself.
Today was a better day. I cried but meditated on what I might learn from how I felt and what Reggie did for all of us. TTK took time out to comfort me which was dope. As I scrolled through old messages, I saw something Combat said to me that resonated. We had been talking about how we always seem to… see each other at the right place or time. Or be on the same wavelength about certain topics. “Trust the Universe,” Reggie said. “It never lies.”
As I stared at the quote I started to think about how much I missed another O.G. – Schott Free. He’s alive and well, but I’d been rifling through my newly updated phone the previous week, (unsuccessfully) trying to find where I saved his new number. Perhaps Schott crossed my mind again in this moment because I’ve had similar conversations with him. Real shit. O.G. shit. Honest shit. And the loss of Reggie Reminded me of that. Right then, I decided to turn Reggie’s quote into a graphic to inspire myself hereafter.
Suddenly, TTK walked over and handed me his phone, I looked at TTK quizzically. “Who is it?”
Incredulous at how the universe was again, working, I took the phone and had a conversation I’d been needing to have. I’m thankful Schott called. He was right on time. And I mean, Right On Time. We talked for quite a while, and I committed to not falling out of touch. It seems I fall out of touch with my O.G.s (men and women, peers and elders) when they seem far from me or when I assume (wrongly) that they are too busy to lend an ear. I gotta stop doing that. Distance is nothing in this age of digital communication, and half the time, when I am thinking of someone, the universe has them thinking of me too. Finally, we hung up and I regained this feeling of lightness and some optimism. I thought about how Reggie tweeted about wanting to be remembered for his Blackness.
Here are a few things I know.
I’m better at meditating on a loss, finding a lesson in it, and writing about it than I am at “tweeting through it” and that, is ok.
Combat Jack touched my life in ways I’m still working to comprehend.
I can never thank A. King, Jonathan Mena and Combat enough for connecting with me, for believing in me, in TTK, in Hip-Hop, in Black culture.
Combat was into helping our people by sharing knowledge. That included things like accepting my pitch to book a money coach (and friend) Tonya Rapley on the show. They even developed a relationship from there. His ability to make space for things we need to hear, should not be understated. We need more of it.
Combat was also becoming aggressively introspective, based on a belief that therapy, meditation and other forms of wellness practices are what many Black people can benefit from. I shared many similar views in this area and we exchanged wellness tips. Let’s all keep that going.
Part of interrogating his own beliefs involved doing a lot of listening to Black women (in public and private), as well as confronting any ways that he may have contributed to social norms that harm women, or behaviors that tacitly supported homophobia.
He also made space on his show to get real about relationships sometimes. And to talk more about healing and less about the divisive battle of the sexes that we have been fed. This man was pushing himself and challenging us to do the same. Some of these conversations occurred on the show. Some of these conversations were private ones we had.
In a time where macho or man vs. women attitudes can hurt women, hurt men themselves, and lead to behavior that isn’t productive, I felt Reggie spoke for the many men in my life who seek to exercise a balance in their masculinity. One that doesn’t disrespect divine feminine energy, but embraces that, and celebrates healthy masculinity as well. Because I see a need for Black people to heal with each other, I will admit– I despaired yesterday. I was angry at the world. Felt like a voice in that fight was taken. I felt just as angry as when Brooklyn District Attorney Kenneth Thompson died unexpectedly of cancer.
But guess what?
None of us are here to stay.
There are things I told Combat about. Things he encouraged me to follow up on. Actions he expected to see me take. If none of us are here to stay, then I think I’d better get started, in a hurry. In that way, perhaps I can seek to honor the energy he poured into my life.
Peace and love to Reggie’s family. To all of his beautiful children and their mom. To King, Mena, Pete, Dallas, Just Blaze, Benhameen,.. just ALL of his friends and comrades in music, media and private life. We are so proud of you. You have held the mantle up. You are amazing.
To every person he touched in a positive way. To everyone who intends to keep the tenets of his legacy going. May peace and a burning fire to make Reggie proud, be upon you.