By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
Sonic Boom: Anti-Pop Consortium's Priest, M Sayyid, and Beans
Photo Credit: Chris Davison
The Gotham Celebrity DJ series at Joe's Pub the other night was packed with urban music-industry types and their hangers-on. Beautiful model-DJ Beverly Bond revealed she's working on a new album due for a late-summer release. She's not singing on itjust producing all the tracks, with other guests handling the vocals. Look for her party, WQMB, at the soon-to-open club Candy, in collaboration with former Tribe Called Quest frontman Q-Tip and "DJ to the Stars" Mark Ronson. "We're playing hip-hop and soul. Like, real good hip-hop"' said Bond. "You know what I mean?" I think so, Bev.
At a party featuring random celebs taking to the decks regardless of their proficiency with tables and a mixer, you'd expect some clumsily paced, attitude-driven fake-DJ set, but it was actually a fun, leisurely night for music lovers. And although Gothammagazine was hosting, honestly, it seemed like The Fader's fete since all their editors were spinning. (Let me disclose: They are sometimes my bosses, but don't let that make you think I'm biased.) That magazine, around just over two years, has become the culture title du jour thanks to strong photography and clashing profiles of artists like The White Stripes, Cee-Lo, and Ghostface Killa.
Fader editor Erik Ducker dutifully laid highbrow gems like the J. Geils Band's "Angel in a Centerfold" and Steely Dan's "Peg" on the plates. Later on, editorial assistant Mariel Cruz looked woozy when she spied my reporter pad. (Mental note: Ditch the pen and paper. Nothing frightens media people more than an abrupt turning of the tables.) "I don't like this being-on-the-other-side stuff!" complained Cruz. Cocky, self-assured, and English, creative director Eddie Brannan delivered a pretty tight set, especially when he played the Junkyard Band's "Word," that go-go jam you remember from junior high. Brannan, by the way, has been responsible for driving the sweeping changes in editorial content and photography direction.
At Joe's PubagainTuesday night, I waited in line with other media types to get into the special invite-only gathering celebrating the release of Anti-Pop Consortium's latest, Arrhythmia. High Priest, Beans, and M. Sayyid rocked the stage, a special thank-you to the sea of music writers that crowded the space. There were roving alt-music scribe Eric Demby, Flyer's Saidah Blount and Daniel Shumate, and the Voice's own hip-hop authority Jon Caramanica, among others. Love music critics (in doses), but where were the stars?
Photographer extraordinaire Ryan McGinley, who actually just shot APC for an upcoming spread in the art/culture magazine Index, was in attendance. I had to ask him about a quoteon how pornography was what inspired him mostthat he had given Paper magazine in their 50 Most Beautiful People issue. "My mother actually saw that in a supermarket in the town where I'm from in New Jersey," explained McGinley. "She said, 'I can't believe that I raised you to say something like that!' But I don't think it was a bad statement. I think that pornography can be beautiful." I can't be mad at that.
McGinley, who's coming out with a self-titled second book of photos, recently shot Russian writer/porn star Slava Mogutinclimbing stairs and jumping poles on an East Village rooftoptotally nekkidfor Index magazine. "We've been friends for a long time, and it wasn't a big deal for me to take pictures of him," said McGinley. No word as to whether APC ditched the clothes for their shoot.
Triple 5 Soul founder Camella Ehlke did her own spinning at the premiere party for the latest Vs. T5S project Wednesday night, throwing on tracks like Osunlade's "Tree of Life" and Sylvia Striplin for, yeah, you guessed it, another industry crowd, but this time art directors and graf artists.
Every two months, Ehlke invites a communication/design/art collective to "challenge" her and take on the Lafayette retail front as an exhibition space. The Fader(they've got their hands in everything, don't they?) took over the storefront for the last designer challenge. This time it was Williamsburg-based design group Grafik Havok. Members Derek Oerner, Sadek Bazaraa, David Merten, and Indira Cruz all hail from Atlanta, where they've applied their graf-inspired artwork to campaigns for Coke, AT&T, Novell, and Adidas. They're on to chicer contracts, now handling the upcoming T5S fall ad campaign, but they still got love for the ATL. ("Dirty South all the way!" proclaimed Bazaraa.) They just completed their first art-direction gig for Elemental, a Big-A title reporting on hip-hop art and music.
"Hopefully this is the last retail environment that we show at," said Oerner. The collective has just made inroads into that hallowed transition point for all design firms looking to fuck shit up in the art world: a demo book. The demurely pink, limited-edition, Archie Double Digest-sized Elizabeth Kent Story takes its name from a Southern woman who studied witchcraft in Australia (OK . . . .) and profiles the group's visual vocabulary of tag work and tittie-baring images of Snow White. I had to have a copy.
You can see more of their stuff when it hangs at the 55DSL store at Union Square this summer.
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 . . .