By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
I heard Wednesday night's biggest party was at APTwhere hip-hop/soul DJ Rich Medina teamed up with broken-beat producer Phil Asher in the basement rec roombut I needed to witness the return of Black Lily, the open session that spotlights "the ladies of the Roots" and Philly's alt-black music explosion. S.O.B.'s was filled with urbanistas and the men who date them. Wyclef sib Melky Jean looked hot, although her monotone performance didn't exactly hit for the crowd. I'm guessing that everyone was waiting for former Brand New Heavies songstress N'Dea Davenport to make the scene. She arrived onstage at midnight in a look by stylist Carmen Webber: Adidas boxing boots and a sarongóhot! She tried to get everyone to chant along, but, dude, honestly, it was mostly an industry crowd (yeah, I know, another one) and people just stood watching until she got into "Brothersister" and some other BNH classics. The big surprise was when rock/r&b enigma Me'Shell Ndegéocello joined Davenport for the rest of her set.
I caught up with Mercedes Martinez, one-half of the Jazzyfatnastees and co-founder of the Black Lily phenomenon. The party's recent certified superstar, Jaguar Wright, is a testament to its power as a goldmine of new female black talent, especially artists from the City of Brotherly Love. What exactly is up with the explosion of influential music? "It has to do with Philly being a small town and a big town at the same time all at once," said Martinez .
Look for the Black Lily girls to continue expanding their reach. There are still weekly parties in Philly, where acts like Fertile Ground, Tamar Kali, and Jaguar Wright make regular appearances. Coming up is a Web site, a European edition of the party (London, baby!), and, eventually, a foundation to support the fruition of left-of-center black music artists.
Hip-hop Svengali-on-the-move Wyclef Jean, who came to support sister Melky, was spotted in the crowd. Besides his own album, Masquerade, due this summer, he's producing a new disc for the pop trio City High, who popped up everywhere on the Viacom networks last year hawking their record, from spots on 105th & Park to promos for the Real World Chicago. "I want to push it up a notch with them on the next album," said Jean.
At a Vibe shoot in the airy Noho penthouse loft of Sun Digital Studios, photographer Robert Maxwell and his assistants were testing the light on a chaise lounge as a team of fashion eds waited to receive Kimora Lee Simmons, designer of the Baby Phat clothing line (and a newly expectant mother). Baby Phat's marketing director, Michelle Perez, ushered me into a room dressed with YSL caftans and Dior utility belts laid out for her Phatness to meet brand-new Vibe fashion director Michael Nash, who was bright, friendly, and totally handsome (truly a fashion person?). Nash had just gotten back from a vacation in Brazil when he got called to fill the shoes of former director Angela Arambulo. What happened to Arambulo? Not a word from anyone (though judging from a spread in last month's issue, featuring a couple involved in a fight by a banged-up fridge, it was probably a good move). The publishing world, sigh, can be such a cruel and unforgiving place . . .