It’s the only way to explain his untimely passing. He was called home at 57 on April 21, 2016, because he was needed for more important things. More heavenly things. That’s why we’re mourning his death so hard. In our minds, he was suppose to live until at least 100-years old. The New York Times described it best, “His death shocked not only legions of fans who had somewhat selfishly thought him to be otherworldly and invincible but also those who had seen him out and about in recent days: Prince was seen riding his bike, hosting a party and visiting a local record store and jazz club”.
Like the rest of the world I cried most of the afternoon on Thursday. A lot on Friday. In soft sobs on Saturday. But by Sunday — the tears barely came. On Sunday — the holiest day of the week and my favorite day, something inside me said, “celebrate his life, no more tears”.
So I shall not talk about the popular aspects of Prince: the awards, accolades, million-selling records and number-one singles. Or his talents on the guitar, with the piano and on the drums. His brilliance was a given. He produced, arranged, composed and wrote almost every song he released in a career spanning over 40 years. Who does that?
What I want to discuss is how he made me feel, the emotions he stirred when I listened to his music.
I bought my first two Prince CDs at 17; Diamonds and Pearls and The Love Symbol Album. Copped them on a road trip with my family in Killeen, Texas in 1993. I felt grown. My parents were pretty liberal when it came to music. I saw the movie Purple Rain when I was about 14. But I listened to “Damn U” from Love Symbol over and over and over again; watched that video of him posted on that stool with those seductive glances at least a hundred million times. He understood the power of eye contact. Seduction. Though his interpersonal connections were another story, as told in 2013’s I Would Die 4 U: Why Prince Became an Icon by cultural critic Touré. Prince understood the art of watching a lady. Intensely. Respectfully. Seductively.
He was a true Gemini, in touch with his masculine and feminine side. He helped me to connect my tomboy ways with my femininity; to embrace all of me. To take risks. To live boldly. I learned how to seduce by simply studying him; listening to provocative cuts like “Insatiable”, “Gett Off“ and “Cream” at 17 will fast track you. But I digress.
My Love Is Forever
Prince literally stopped the world last Thursday. From IG to Twitter to Facebook, all my feeds were filled with quotes, lyrics, photos, neighborhood tributes, stories of how this one man touched so many lives.
I learned how to not be afraid of being me by watching him. Over the years Prince was a study in contrasts. Biracial, androgynous, an artist at war with his record label; a Jehovah’s Witness, who in a previous life wore bikini briefs and thigh-high boots on stage. He was sexual and fearless. Confident and honest. Mysterious and a pop star. He lived his whole life in Minneapolis. His concerts were legendary. Man, how I adored him. I understood me by listening to him.
I saw Prince in concert for the first time in 1997. I was 22. In the military stationed at Davis Monthan Air Force Base. Drove from Tucson to Phoenix by myself. Freak flag held high. Dancing shoes tied tight. Prince gave a three-hour show. I think I levitated back to Tucson. The man had showmanship, musicianship, energy, cosmic abilities to connect with thousands. After that, I saw him three more times in concert between the years of 1999 and 2010; in Houston, Dallas and New York City. Each show topping the previous. He was notorious for giving three or four-hour sets; three or four encore performances. I never thought his 2010 show at Madison Square Garden would be my last time seeing him live. Surely I was going to catch the Piano and a Microphone tour this year. Surely.
As the Universe would have it, Prince was suppose to play a surprise pop-up show here in St. Louis on Monday, April 18, but according to news reports he didn’t want to announce it for fear of having to cancel or postpone because of the illness.
The shock is still there. The pain comes in waves. But I have great memories of how Prince’s music touched my soul and provided the soundtrack to learning how to love myself. Thus, my love for him is forever.
English-born neo-soul duo Floetry returned to St. Louis for a show full of sexy moments, simple pleasures and self awareness.
When Floetry called it quits in 2006, fans were heartbroken. With three successful records released by the singer-songwriters between 2002 and 2005 (Floetic, Floacism “Live” and Flo’Ology), many wondered if they would ever rejoin forces.
Eventually finding success in their own right; Marsha Ambrosius (The Songstress) appeared on numerous singles by various artists as well as mixtapes and dropped two studio albums (Late Nights & Early Mornings, 2011, Friends & Lovers, 2014); while Natalie Stewart (The Floacist) shared her debut Floetic Soul in 2010; followed by The Floacist: Presents Floetry Re:Birth in 2012; and Rise of the Phoenix Mermaid in 2014. Fast forward to spring of 2015 and Floetry began touring again.
Last night at The Pageant, the show was equal parts reunion, simplicity and awareness.
The show’s opener Kris Kelli, a Jamaican born reggae singer gave that Caribbean flair ala Rihanna. Wearing shredded black jeans and sex appeal, she slow wined and performed a handful of prerecorded tracks that the audience mostly felt; some scrolled through their cell phones during her 15-minute set. Still others clapped and bobbed their heads alongside songs about love and confidence.
Giving about an hour-and a half-performance, Floetry set the stage in the first half with signature tracks like “Sunshine”, “SupaStar” “Butterflies”, and “Feelings”. With percussion, drums, keys and bass, the setting was simple; it was almost like we were at a jam session, kicking it with friends.
The Floacist barefoot in a full-length afrocentric dress with colorful beads around her neck and The Songstress in silver Nikes, a form-fitted black dress and silk robe, they appeared relaxed, comfortable; even giving each other fist pounds at one point in their setlist. They have a synergy that’s undeniable. VH1 describes it perfectly: “Stewart conjures up images of earthiness, while Ambrosius’ ethereal vocal styling evokes thoughts of a heavenly realm. Where these two worlds meet is a place of perfection.”
Having their respective solo moments, there was a moment where The Floacist and the audience connected on her song “Breathe” from Floetic Soul; the band faded into the background and all sang “You gotta let it go / let it go / so you can grow / you gotta let it go / let it go / just breathe”. Whereas Ambrosius chose “I Want You To Stay” from Late Nights as her solo selection; moving to piano to showcase her skills, she talked and flirted while sharing. One thing noticeable this time around, though — was Ambrosius’ vocal range; big, bold and broad, on every song she poured her heart and soul out on that stage and everyone noticed.
Naming the second half of their show the “Grown Folks Section” or “Red Light Section”; complete with a track of bedroom moans to intro each song; the British singers went through requisite singles such as “Lay Down”, “Say Yes” and “Getting Late” that if they hadn’t performed them, there would have been major issues between them and the audience filled with mostly ladies.
Closing the show with their debut single “Floetic”, the duo proved once again that great chemistry and good music will always survive to see another tour.
Taken from Montreal beat maker Kaytranada’s forthcoming album 99.9% (out May 6), are the new visuals for “Glowed Up,” — the second single from the record and a two-part electro-funk-hip-hop mashup featuring rapper, singer and Dr. Dre protege Anderson .Paak. With Kaytranada’s beats and Paak’s energy on the mic, it’s a perfect matchup in music.
Born Louis Kevin Celestin, the Haitian-born producer and DJ was also behind the slinky “Girl” by the Internet (from their Grammy-nominated LP Ego Death). Kaytranada’s 99.9% will feature AlunaGeorge, Anderson .Paak, Little Dragon, Vic Mensa, and the Internet’s Syd, among others.
One of the most respected poets, activists and teachers of our time, made a stop in St. Louis back in February. Having authored writings of poetry, plays, essays, columns, children’s books and short stories, many of us at Central Auditorium in downtown STL were in awe.
On that day, I wrote this in my notebook …
Sonia Sanchez, poet, activist, professor and legend is now reciting new poems, old favorites, haiku in a room full of blacks, whites, old, young; photographers, artists, writers, academics and you can hear a pen drop; heartbeats and ideas and thoughts permeating the space. She’s so tiny. So tiny, almost fragile to touch. She’s talking about memory, Black Lives Matter, Civil Rights Activists of the past; LGBT issues, writers; war, organic foods, non violence. She talks so real and authentic.
It was probably one of the best hour-and-a-half experiences of my life. #respect
Arriving in the era of Jodeci and H-Town, amazingly, 90’s R&B group Silk still includes all five original members, Timothy “Timzo” Cameron, Jimmy Gates, Jr., Gary “Big G” Glenn, Gary “Lil G” Jenkins and Jonathan “John John” Rasboro. Known for their most suggestive song, “Freak Me,” from their 1992 debut Lose Control, the quintet, who was discovered by singer Keith Sweat, delivers their sixth project, the aptly titled Quiet Storm, that’s full of sultry, melodic ballads as well as mid-tempo tunes. It is Silk’s first album in over a decade. Linking up with producer Wirlie Morris (Boyz II Men, Keith Sweat, Marsha Ambrosius, Charlie Wilson), the group waxes on about grooving on the dance floor (“Slow Grind”), being sentimental (“On My Mind”) and of course, taking it to the bedroom (“Baby Suit”).
“You never say yes to anything” started the ‘year of yes’ for Shonda Rhimes in 2014; a statement thrown by her older sister Delores during Thanksgiving preparations the previous year.
The television titan and creator of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder and The Catch, would decline any invitation that didn’t have to do with work or writing. Speaking engagements, dinner parties, media events, would all get the beautiful yet eloquent response of “no”.
Though the Chicago native seemed to be living the dream on the outside — successful writer with three beautiful daughters at home, Harper, Emerson and Beckett, and a booming business called Shondaland — Rhimes admits in the book that before her journey, she was miserable on the inside. She wasn’t living; she was just existing. Self-love and acceptance were major issues.
Enter the year of saying yes to everything that scared her.
And what a difference a year makes. Within that time span, Rhimes had the courage to have difficult conversations (which she previously avoided); she courageously ended two toxic friendships; gave three speeches at different events; chose motherhood over marriage; and lost over 100 pounds. She chronicles it all honestly, intimately and hilariously in the book.
Last month I read Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person (Simon & Schuster) for a number of reasons, but the main one: to learn how to say “no” more.
Let me explain. I have no problem saying yes. I say yes to most everything. I like my life. It’s a cool life. I write. I go to concerts. I go to lectures. I attend movie screenings. I visit the museum. I go for walks in the park. I eat healthy (most days). I cook. I bake. I take road trips. I play with my orange tabby named Jake. I talk to my mom everyday. I go out and laugh with my friends. I volunteer teach. As a matter of fact, I’ll be teaching English in China come July. Like I said, I like my life.
Year of Yes, however, to me, is not only a book about saying “yes” but it’s also about learning the power of “no”. My issue: I say yes to things I should have probably said no to a long time ago. Saying no has always been hard for me. But I’ve learned that no can be a powerful way to take charge of your life.
Like, no to certain relationships. No to texting (or writing letters) to exes. No to certain jobs. No to certain friendships. By nature, I’m not a confrontational person. I’m an Earth sign; I love peace, love, happiness. I like to make people smile. I see the bright side to most things. I’m a silver-linings-kind-of-girl. Every obstacle, to me, has a silver lining. I don’t like arguing. But I’ve learned that sometimes arguing is necessary. Sometimes I have to say yes to argument. And that’s okay.
By reading Year of Yes I learned to have difficult conversations with myself. Shonda Rhimes chose motherhood over marriage, ending a great relationship with a great guy. She said no to marriage. And that’s okay.
For me, until recently — like in the last year, I didn’t want to get married either. I always thought it was for ‘other’ people. Other couples. Now. I wouldn’t mind it. That said, until I read the book, I’d been saying yes to something I should have said no to years ago.
I decided to let go of feelings I had for an ex from 17 years ago; we reconnected last summer. Without going into all the ‘wonderful’ details; she was my first girlfriend. And I had to let go of the idea of her and I being together again. Finally accepted that it was never going to happen. Finally released the expectation of coupledom. I finally said “This doesn’t work for me anymore”. Truly. Deeply. I’d been saying yes to the idea of being with her for so long, I felt like it defined me. Not anymore.
Not that it was an easy thing for me to do, but I’m now willing to say it out loud without being nervous of what anyone will think of me for holding on for nearly 20 years. I’m over her. Period. I’m ready for true love. It’s empowering to admit it. It’s feels good to admit it. Life is good. Saying no is easy now. And Year of Yes has shown me that it will only get easier as time goes on.
Nora Ephron was the writer/friend in many women’s head. She was sharp, witty, independent, honest, ambitious; a feminist. A force to be reckoned with. When Ephron died in 2012 of complications from leukemia, stemming from a blood disease she battled for six years, many of her closest friends never knew she was sick.
The new HBO documentary Everything Is Copy (debuted March 21) was directed by Ephron’s son, Jacob Bernstein, who recounts a striking portrait of the woman who never allowed anyone to see her down. The film analyzes the family’s motto “Everything is copy” — meaning anything that happens in life (be it to friends or family) is fair game to be used in writing as comedy. She even admits it in an interview: “Writers are cannibals; they really are. If you are friends with them; you say anything funny at dinner or if anything good happens to you; you are in for big trouble.” Of course meaning your story could end up the story.
Ephorn wrote books, plays and essays; she created films with strong leading ladies like Silkwood, When Harry Met Sally, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie & Julia. The documentary showcases the New York native in many lights: how she would fire folks for the smallest infraction; her acerbic wit, her ‘celebrity marriage’ to Jacob’s dad and journalist, Carl Bernstein — which also became the 1983 novel Heartburn, followed by the film adaptation starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson.
Everything is Copy also sheds a beautiful light on Ephron’s third marriage to author and screenwriter Nicholas Pileggi. It lasted 20 years. In a series of interviews with celebrity friends, fellow writers and family members, they said Ephron become a softer, sweeter and more gentler Nora with him. It’s a great way to remember her. The film also attempts to answer the question of why she never shared her illness with many of those closest to her. Or even the masses.
Grammy-winning soul artist Anthony Hamilton stopped by NPR’s Tiny Desk (March 28) to showcase lead single “Amen” from his new album, What I’m Feelin’. The song is a praise to women; Hamilton says: “’Amen’ is just celebrating the beauty that a woman makes you feel, not just physical attributes, but the fact that she works, she goes to church, prays for you, cooks, cleans, just all those things that a woman brings to the table.”
What I’m Feelin’ is Hamilton’s fifth studio album; it features collaborations with longtime co-writers/producers Salaam Remi, and James Poyser of The Roots, as well as Mark Batson — who produced hit single “Charlene” from the singer’s 2003 debut Comin’ From Where I’m From. Guest appearances on What I’m Feelin’ include singer-guitarists Vince Gill on “Never Letting Go” and Gary Clark Jr. on “Ain’t No Shame.”
The NPR set list also includes: “Best Of Me,” “Cool” and “Charlene.”
International Downshifting Week is April 18 – 24; Earth Day is the 22nd.
What is downshifting? “It involves deliberately opting out of the career rat race, reducing working hours, cutting back on purchasing and living a simpler, balanced and more fulfilled life,” says Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones, authors of Downshifting: a Guide to Happier Simpler Living.
For some, a change in lifestyle might mean “switching to a less stressful job, working part time or from home, or negotiating flexible working hours – for others it may include escaping to the country or moving abroad to live the dream they’ve always wanted.”
Research has shown that Americans have approximately five hours more free time per week than was had 30 years ago. We have fewer kids, we are putting off marriage longer, establishing a career and even retiring earlier. With the creation of modern technology though, we are busier than ever. Smartphones, tablets; Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, reality tv, and a host of other media compete for our attention everyday. However, changing the way we live can have a significant impact on our well being, be it mentally, spiritually, or otherwise.
Downshift last year
As a writer and a collector, I’ve a knack for acquiring books, magazines and music. Summer of last year I decided to lead a more environmentally-conscious lifestyle by reducing my belongings to only things I absolutely could not live without. In turn, I donated tons of items to Goodwill, sold books and CDs at a used bookstore as well as sold gently-used clothes to resale shops; I even gave away a lot of things to co-workers.
Living a simpler life has allowed me to be in the moment, to enjoy the good times, to laugh more and to not take everything so seriously. It has also allowed me to further appreciate my commitment to giving back in the community. I’ve volunteered at the library more times than I can count, walked dogs at an animal shelter, and contributed time at a local radio station. For me, downshifting was a no-brainer. I’ve built closer relationships with family and friends; I’m less stressed, more aware and did I say, I laugh a lot more?!
Almost a year later
So this year I decided to only work on projects that are beneficial to my personal growth, that are fun, that are unique and that I’m passionate about. In writing, I’ve gotten the chance to interview artists I’m a big fan of, contribute health and wellness pieces to a major daily newspaper, and I even acquired a teaching gig overseas for a year, which starts during the summer.
I still do not own a tv or a couch; though I have a laptop, Netflix and Hulu, and plenty of chairs for guests to be seated. My home office includes a refurbished metal school desk (pictured above) that I bought from a guy on Craigslist. And my “office wall” is a wooden door (found in an alley) that I sometimes post a rotating selection of inspirational quotes. This is my simpler life. My green life. And I love it.
ND McCray is a St. Louis-based freelance writer.
It’s the only way to explain his untimely passing. He was called home at 57 on April 21, 2016, because he was needed for more important things. More heavenly things. That’s why we’re mourning his death so hard. In our minds, he was suppose to live until at least…
English-born neo-soul duo Floetry returned to St. Louis for a show full of sexy moments, simple pleasures and self awareness. When Floetry called it quits in 2006, fans were heartbroken. With three successful records released by the singer-songwriters between 2002 and 2005 (Floetic, Floacism “Live” and Flo’Ology), many wondered if they…
Taken from Montreal beat maker Kaytranada’s forthcoming album 99.9% (out May 6), are the new visuals for “Glowed Up,” — the second single from the record and a two-part electro-funk-hip-hop mashup featuring rapper, singer and Dr. Dre protege Anderson .Paak. With Kaytranada’s beats and Paak’s energy on the mic, it’s a perfect…
One of the most respected poets, activists and teachers of our time, made a stop in St. Louis back in February. Having authored writings of poetry, plays, essays, columns, children’s books and short stories, many of us at Central Auditorium in downtown STL were in awe. On that day, I…
Arriving in the era of Jodeci and H-Town, amazingly, 90’s R&B group Silk still includes all five original members, Timothy “Timzo” Cameron, Jimmy Gates, Jr., Gary “Big G” Glenn, Gary “Lil G” Jenkins and Jonathan “John John” Rasboro. Known for their most suggestive song, “Freak Me,” from their 1992 debut Lose Control,…
“You never say yes to anything” started the ‘year of yes’ for Shonda Rhimes in 2014; a statement thrown by her older sister Delores during Thanksgiving preparations the previous year. The television titan and creator of ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, and executive producer of How to Get Away With Murder…
Nora Ephron was the writer/friend in many women’s head. She was sharp, witty, independent, honest, ambitious; a feminist. A force to be reckoned with. When Ephron died in 2012 of complications from leukemia, stemming from a blood disease she battled for six years, many of her closest friends never knew…
Grammy-winning soul artist Anthony Hamilton stopped by NPR’s Tiny Desk (March 28) to showcase lead single “Amen” from his new album, What I’m Feelin’. The song is a praise to women; Hamilton says: “’Amen’ is just celebrating the beauty that a woman makes you feel, not just physical attributes, but the fact that…
International Downshifting Week is April 18 – 24; Earth Day is the 22nd. What is downshifting? “It involves deliberately opting out of the career rat race, reducing working hours, cutting back on purchasing and living a simpler, balanced and more fulfilled life,” says Polly Ghazi and Judy Jones, authors of…
With one self-titled EP under its belt, and now a major-label debut, Brooklyn trio Wet is still quite unassuming. Don’t You is an ethereal, pop/R&B-influenced project full of wispy vocals and songs about breaking up, being alone, and being okay. The group’s lead singer and main songwriter, Kelly Zutrau, holds…
Tedeschi Trucks Band’s third album, Let Me Get By, combines the soul of Memphis, the jazz and heart of New Orleans with some good old fashioned country-rock and blues. Now a 12-piece band, including a three-piece horn section (created by husband-and-wife duo Susan Tedeschi and Derek Trucks), Let Me Get By lovingly balances the…
New York-bred poet and actor Saul Williams presents MartyrLoserKing, a concept album (and soon-to-be graphic novel) about a computer hacker who lives in Burundi in East Africa. In a recent interview, Williams said “MartyrLoserKing” (the hacker’s screen name) “becomes sort of a virtual phenomenon — kind of like a virtual Banksy…
After years of performing at music festivals and opening for artists like the UK’s Disclosure and rapper Childish Gambino, New York City-based duo Lion Babe finally releases its debut, Begin. Comprised of singer-songwriter Jillian Hervey (daughter of actor-singer Vanessa Williams) and producer-musician Lucas Goodman (also known as Astro Raw), the followup…
Connected to the music industry for over a decade now, BJ the Chicago Kid finally bestows upon us his major label debut. The Motown-released In My Mind is a hearty blend of nu-soul, R&B, gospel and electronica influences. Born Bryan James Sledge, the South Side of Chicago native infuses music that’s both carnal…
KDHX: Ruthie Foster (with the Bottoms Up Blues Gang) gives a delightful set at Sheldon Concert Hall, Friday, February 19
Texas-born Ruthie Foster and the Bottoms Up Blues Gang were a perfect mix of blues, rock, country, gospel and folk. What I enjoyed most about opener Bottoms Up Blues Gang and singer-songwriter Ruthie Foster were their matching ability to pull in the crowd with charming tales of life, love, family and friends. The audience…
Cool Uncle is ’70s R&B vocalist Bobby Caldwell and Grammy award-winning producer Jack Splash. The self-titled project wraps soul, pop and smooth jazz into a sweet package for listeners who want to groove with two generations of artists, and smile at the same time. Caldwell is known for the 1979 blue-eyed…
SSNYC: Speech of Arrested Development talks new music and embraces lessons learned from past mistakes
One of several conscious rap crews in the early 90’s, which included A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Jungle Brothers, Todd “Speech” Thomas co-founded hip-hop group Arrested Development alongside former member and DJ Timothy “Headliner” Barnwell. AD crafted music and lyrics that not only resonated in black communities,…
We Are King is a lushly hypnotic album that makes love to your mind and ears all at the same time. Containing dreamy, soul soundscapes, the much-anticipated debut is from L.A.-based trio KING, consisting of sisters Paris and Amber Strother and friend Anita Bias. Why the name KING? Because they are in…
Ripping apart hyper-sexual images of female emcees, newcomer Lizzo is going a different route — commanding attention with her confident style, witty lyricism and banging beats. The Houston-bred, Minneapolis-based rapper shares Big Grrrl Small World, her sophomore record, and makes a bold statement in this age of the music industry: to…
I came across Inglewood singer-songwriter Tiffany Gouché a couple of months ago via Twitter from a SoundCloud clip of the newcomer’s sensually-smooth lead single, “Red Rum Melody”. Bringing something fresh to the soul-electro genre with the release of her third project Pillow Talk on December 15, the EP features a collection of eight seductive tracks that blends and bends…
Cali. native Anderson .Paak reminds me of a singing Kendrick Lamar; he speaks truth from life lived around him, all the while remaining humble throughout. With the release of his second, full-length record, Malibu, the rapper/singer will soon be on everyone else’s radar, too. Mixing elements of soul, hip hop, jazz and…