It’s MJ Monday Y’all!
It’s MJ Monday Y’all!
Join GFM’s DJ Polished Solid, Love Man and Jehan from The Music Snobs as they embark on a lively discussion, analysis and celebration of Sheila E.’s 1987 eponymous release celebrating 30 years today!
Some of the questions we debate are:
Has Sheila E, the album, held up over the years?
Should Prince, Sheila, and D’Angelo have adopted James Brown’s “Good God” in their live performances?
Do we need Cat (& Sheila & TC Ellis & Tony M) to rap?
Should we do a TC Ellis True Confessions episode?
Are Prince & Sheila E dissing Jerome & Mazarati on Love is a Blue Train?
Does “Wednesday Like A River” sound like a country song or a Wendy & Lisa song?
As always I was trolling You Tube last night and I came across this documentary I had not seen in years. Back in 1995 I had the pleasure to meet CJ who is the host/tour guide on this trip around D.C. circa 1984/1985. CJ was kind enough to give myself a copy of this doc as I was preparing to open a youth center where the focus would be on music as a tool to provide safe and productive activities in the afterschool hours.
My hometown located 112 miles south of D.C. has always had an affinity for Go Go music and this doc served as a fantastic teaching tool for me because the younger musicians that I was working with had come of age in a different era of Go Go. ’84 was still the era of the big bands with horn sections, faster tempos and more virtuosic ensemble and solo playing.
For my money the BBC puts together very well produced documentaries and you will hear from some of the seminal players of the era both musically and on the business and cultural side of the music.
Checkout the rest of the episodes after the jump.
Phil Perry has been making music for over four decades with no signs of stopping as he is set to release his 12th album, Breathless, this month on Shanachie Entertainment. Grown Folks Music spoke with him why he continues to record, the necessity of classic R&B music, the consideration he takes in approaching a remake and of course, his definiton of Grown Folks Music. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: This is your twelfth album. What motivates and inspires you to continue to record?
PP: I’m stil trying to be better at what I’m doing [laughs].
GFM: As you continue on this journey as an artist, what has the evolution been? What has the growth process been?
PP: That’s kind of a loaded question. I recorded in every way of recording since 1969. I’ve gone from straight analog-8 track-two-inch tape to Adat, to direct-to-disk, to floppy disk, to hard disk recording [laughs]. So, for me the evolution is never ending. I find I’m much more at peace when I’m keeping up with how it’s evolving and how to use technology not as a crutch, but as a tool.
GFM: I hadn’t even thought about it from the technology standpoint. I was just thinking more [in terms] of what your experiences were. But, since you brought up the technology part of it… you said you find it’s best when you embrace the change in how music is created. Do you find it a lot easier now [and] that it helps things go more smoothly, especially from the other aspect in terms of reaching out to the fans and how you get your music out to the people?
PP: It certainly has proven to be a very useful and very affordable marketing tool. There’s absolutely no question about that. But, in terms of the software that I use when I record, it makes the process a lot quicker and a lot cleaner but it’s still the process. If you don’t how to do the process without the computer, [then] the computer can only help you so much.
GFM: So what you’re saying is an artist… is an artist… is an artist?
PP: I’m saying at this stage of my life and my career I think it’s necessary for me only to continue to dream, because I’m living a dream. I get to do what I love to do… but to become better at it and to teach the ones under me the difference between nonsense and nuance.
GFM: It’s interesting that you mentioned the ones comes under you. Who do you see coming? Or, who has presented themselves in the last four decades since you’ve been doing what you do? Who do you see who you feel displays those qualities… the nuance?
PP: There are a lot of people who have the ability, but they haven’t been given the opportunity yet. So, I haven’t really heard them. But, the suggestion that they don’t exist is a little silly. If you look at evolution of music and the evolution of how to make it and the creative process, there are people blessed with inspiration about creative process every second of every day. The question is what they do with it.
I’ve been writing for a long time. Sometimes, just to clear my head, to dive into the process and be a part of the process as opposed to the focus of the process– it does me good. It clears my head. It makes me open to direction. It makes me accessible to try a new way of doing things and it gives me a broader base on which to work the next time I work. It’s a constant growing process if you let it be and you have faith in the people you work with.
GFM: You’ve done a lot of remakes in your solo career and this album [Breathless] features them as well. How do decided what songs you want to re-interpret?
PP: I have to hear some of myself in it.
GFM: What you do mean by that?
PP: I don’t mean that necessarily from a musical perspective. I have to have a connection with that story. I have to have undergone some of the content therein to personalize it to me and to make it sound like it means what it does mean. I was fortunate to come up in a era where radio really did have a different sense of quality control. By that I mean you would hear the singles– but you could tell based on the quality of the singles and how they came across the radio– that anything on the record was going to sound good based on the quality of what you were listening to. I’ve been very blessed in my life to work with the people that I’ve worked with and learn along the way. The one thing that all of the people that I’ve admired over the years in the industry have in common is they have an unyielding trail to quality.
GFM: My ears perked up when you spoke of radio having a different quality control. That kind of goes back to my question of you continuing to record and produce albums. Because radio is not showcasing music the way it used to, does that ever discourage you in any way?
PP: No, because I never try to make music to be the flavor of the month. I try to make music to be the flavor every month. I don’t view classic R&B music as archaic. It’s a lot of people under my generation that, unless they had family functions where people played music all the time and everybody brought what they wanted to hear, there’s not a lot of classic R&B music being heard today unless you’re listening to a classic R&B station. Classic in the old-school sense. The old-school sense of classic is a great song sustains the test of time. It could be 60 years old when you hear it and you hear the quality in it you know why it was a hit– you just can’t put your finger on it.
GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?
PP: Unlimited subject matter based on life experience.
Phil Perry’s 12th album, Breathless is set for release on February 24.
About the album:
Phil Perry’s new album, his 12th as a leader, Breathless, will leave you feeling just that. The singer explains, “Each of my 12 solo projects is a House where listeners go to HEAR the music, but while they are in there they also FEEL a lot of love – it’s Home Sweet Home.” Perry is joined on Breathless by his longtime collaborator, producer extraordinaire and pianist, Chris “Big Dog” Davis. Davis and Perry have a chemistry in the studio that is undeniable. Having worked together on several projects, they have proven to be a winning combination. “Chris and I respect the music the same way we respect each other,” shares Perry. It’s a unique and rare thing and it’s easy because we speak the same language. What’s really amazing are the times we enjoy whenever we get the chance to perform LIVE together.”
Breathless opens with the jubilant and playful title track penned by co-producer Chris “Big Dog” Davis and Fred Sawyer. Perry rides a joyous groove as he croons, “You take my breath away, every time I see your face. You take my breath away, I want to feel your warm embrace.” The utterly delightful and inviting number is the perfect way to open the album. Davis and Sawyer also co-wrote the sultry and devotional “Heavens Away.” The tender ballad penned by Fred Sawyer, “Never Can Say Goodbye,” showcases Perry’s pristine and soaring vocals, flawless diction and soulful delivery, as he drives home an enduring testament to love. The spunky “Do Whatcha Gotta Do,” written by Chris “Big Dog” Davis and Timmy Maia, aptly describes the trials and tribulations of love and commitment. Davis and Maia also wrote the powerful and emotive “Someday We’ll Meet Again.” A highlight on Breathless is Perry’s stunning recreation of Stevie Wonder’s timeless classic “Love’s In Need Of Love Today.” Phil delivers this truth serum wrapped in the healing balm of his vocals. “When in our history have we needed to show each other LOVE, more than we need to now?” asks Phil. “No one wants to Forgive. No one wants to be Kind. No one wants to accept Change. It’s all about LOVE, from the inside out. We talk about LOVE, but LOVE is a Verb, as much as it is a Noun.” Perry delves into guitarist Lee Ritenour’s songbook with the irresistible “Is It You?” and guitarist Tony DePaolo joins Perry and Chris “Big Dog” on the lovely Davis original “Nobody But You.” Fans will delight in Perry’s reinvention of the Burt Bacharach/Hal David composition, “One Less Bell To Answer,” which was a hit for the 5th Dimension in 1970. Perry takes this classic and truly makes it his own. One might ask how he is so convincing? He explains, “It’s no secret. I try to become the story, not just the Storyteller. The goal is to allow listeners to hear themselves in the story.”Breathless closes with Phil Perry’s original co-written with Chris “Big Dog” Davis, “Moments in the House of Love,” and just as Perry states, you can feel the love. There is no doubt that Breathless is like coming home to a house filled with love.
After 7 is back and the group spoke with Grown Folks Music about returning to recording after a 20-year hiatus with a little help from Babyface, and embracing the new tools and processes of the industry. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: You’ve actually done some live shows in this new configuration [Jason, Keith and Kevon], but there’s been a 20-year hiatus since you’ve recorded. Tell us why the time is now to return to recording.
After 7/Keith: It’s not so much that we felt it was time. Honestly, a year ago this time there was no plan or no motion on our part to even think about recording. This is truly a God-sent resurgence of After 7. A catalyst for this is Babyface. As he was writing his project, a spirit touched him. He had a wealth of music and he felt that it was great opportunity to perhaps get After 7 to come back to the table. When we did the BET Awards several years ago, we were interviewed and asked if would we ever record again. At that time, we made a statement that we won’t be recording again unless it’s with Melvin. At that point we didn’t see the possibility of that coming back together because we all were doing our own individual thing. Melvin was all over the country doing his job. I was in Atlanta. Kevon got married and has a beautiful family. Jason was doing his thing with Macy Gray out here in California. So artistically, we got together to go do shows, but the thought of recording hadn’t crossed our minds.
It honestly took [Baby]Face’s vision to plant the seed with Kevon. He kicked it around. We got in touch with Melvin and he was excited about coming back together to do it and so here we are. But, there was no plan and there was no timetable from After 7’s vantage point. It turned out that God has a way of doing things way above and beyond what man can do with our planning. We all have been victims of trying to plan. [We say] ‘We wanna do this. I wanna do this. I’m going to start working on this. I’m going to do this.’ That’s where we came from, but we’ve grown. As you get older, you realized that you don’t control nothing. You have some things you have to do. What we had to do was stay in shape. What we had to do was try to maintain vocal viability individually and collectively and take care of our families.
But God had a plan to bring us back together, because this started in July  and here we sat in October with a record on the radio [“I Want You”], which is kinda strange for our history in the music business, because it always took weeks and months to set up a record– to set up a release. Here we are now with a record on the Top 20 with Melvin’s voice on it and with Babyface and Darryl Simmons writing and producing this fabulous record with all of our voices on it. We’re blown away by it, but I think we’re astute enough to know that this is God. We couldn’t plan this. It’s just unbelievable what’s going on with this record and us. Here we sit in Los Angeles now with Babyface and Darryl Simmons, the magical producers and writers who’ve affected hundreds of people’s careers and we’re blessed that it’s family. We’re back here recording an album to go with that single.
GFM: How will the new music bridge the gap of After 7 of the the ’90s and After 7 now? How will the new music bring the group forward?
After 7/Kevon: Staying true to what it is that we do. We have a signature sound. It’s identifiable. People recognize when they hear After 7. In the midst of all that has transpired in this music industry and all the music that people have listened to in the last 20 years, sometimes it’s good to get back to what you know. That’s where this window of opportunity has presented itself for us as an act. We do one thing. We do R&B. That’s our love. That’s where we’re from. We’re just true to that. It’s been a long time since you’ve been able to hear what it is grown folks listen to– the kinds of contributions we spoke about earlier with regards to the quality of music. The kind of elements and dynamics that you think make up a good song fore your listeners. We’re not venturing too far from where we started. We’re still going to give you all that you’ve known about After 7. We’re just gonna flavor it with a little bit of today, but really not much. We’re really just staying true to who we have always been and maybe what will open for us is the fact that people miss what it is that we do.
GFM: How did you feel about Miss Jazmine Sullivan’s song [at first] and then appearing with her on the Soul Train Awards? What do you feel that’s done for After 7 in terms of your comeback and your resurgence.
After 7/Kevon: This is how God works. We’ve just been doing what we’ve been doing all along. When I first heard that song, everybody was blowing me up like, ‘Somebody’s got your song. Somebody’s got your song.’ I was like, ‘Hey, it’s okay.’ As a matter of fact I’d been a fan of Jazmine Sullivan long before this record dropped. I personally love the song. I thought it was a nice, fresh approach to something… it’s like putting a different chassis on a classic body. She was able to do that and make it work. At the same time while it worked for her, it also kind of put After 7 back in the minds of people in a way that maybe they hadn’t thought about. But, they definitely knew that was a sample of “Ready of Not”.
She’s a particularly talented young lady. [She’s got] pipes that are out of this world and her writing is on another level as well. So, it did not hurt by any means her selecting “Let It Burn” and being inspired by my brother’s [Babyface] song– he wrote “Ready or Not”– and using it. It was a great platform for her to come out and do something that people were somewhat familiar with. A lot of young listeners may not have been acquainted with the fact 25 years ago this was a song that played on the music charts [and] still plays today, but they weren’t familiar with it by name. So, she kind of raised the level of awareness and put us on the radar in a manner… so to speak… once again. It was a beautiful collaboration that we were able to share during the Centric Soul Train Awards show. It turned out phenomenal. She is a super talent… [I] had to add that again.
GFM: Jason, with you being a younger member, have you brought a different perspective or something that Kevon and Keith may not have thought about? What do you feel your role is in this dynamic or what is the perspective that you bring?
After 7/Jason: First of all I have an old soul. We’re actually closer in spirit than our ages would dictate. I just try to bring a little bit of energy and try to keep the crowd engaged. I do this little beat box thing that I recently found that I have a love and a talent for a little bit [laughs]. It’s fun. I like being on stage. I like the fact that I’m up there with family. It’s comfortable. I just try to bring more energy and fun around some very difficult parts at times, ’cause they are really, really, really good singers. So, I just try to hold my own and be over in that corner and make people remember. That’s all.
GFM: Keith, you mentioned earlier that the industry has changed in terms how quick the process was of getting the single recorded, sent out and released. It’s changed in the way music is distributed and promoted, but now there’s also greater and more direct access to your fans in addition to changes in the process. How does After 7 plan to use some of the new tools that weren’t available before to facilitate your comeback?
After 7/Keith: That is a big question. It was a big question that we had once we realized what we were trying to do. Again, God is involved. He’s blessed us with a couple people in our lives who knew a lot more about social media– as well as Jason has had a lot of experience with social media because he was co-managing with Macy Gray recently. The young lady that has been spearheading our efforts with Facebook, our fan page and Twitter is a television personality in D.C. and she has a wealth of experience and knowledge in it, because they have to do on a daily basis what we’re trying to do– set up a platform of response from viewers. She was able to help us enhance our website and set up all of our social media outlets. We realize we’re like dinosaurs. When we spoke to her at first, we were like three dinosaurs. I still can’t do a hashtag [laughs]. But, we realize that it is relevant and an absolute necessity to have these tools at your access because of the way that people listen to music now. Radio is an important element, but it’s certainly not the only element. It’s a learning curve for us and it’s a continuous process as we go how we can use it. She’s constantly telling us, ‘Pull out your phone. Videotape this. Take pictures of this. Videotape that. You guys have no idea I can use all this.’ But, she does it in her job. So, it’s been a little difficult to get our motors running, but our motors are finally running. We’re snapping pictures in rehearsal. We just did a choreography rehearsal for the new single, “I Want You”. We did some video shooting ourselves having fun doing that choreography, so we realize the viability of the access that it lends you to. It’s an absolute necessity and it’s new, but we’re gonna learn it because that’s just who we are when it comes to business. It’s [social media] just another aspect of the business of music.
GFM: What is your definition of Grown Folks Music?
After 7/Keith: The kind of music that we sing [laughs]. It’s a lot about love and relationships. Not disrespecting men or women with your lyric content and being something that is inspiring to listeners. They’ve got that term, ‘Music soothes the savage beast.’ You know back when there was Beethoven and Bach and the 5th symphony nobody was singing those melodies, but people were going crazy over the music. There’s a level of respect that you have to have for music and when you add your vocals and lyric content to it, it should be a little bit respectful. But, I understand kids and youth and the difference between being 50 and 20. There’s a big difference, but my personal opinion is there should be some integrity taken with the sanctity of music itself. Grown folks music falls into the category of substance. [It is] something that is inspiring, touches the heart, thought provoking and then you get into other areas [like] the moods that it puts you in– sexy, happy, dancing– whatever.
Kevon: Grown folks music is music that touches and moves you. That’s what music is purposed to do and with a certain degree of respect. I think what we perform is grown folks music. You won’t hear me tearing down a woman or being disparaging in any kind of way. It’s respectful. We can talk and sing about a lot of things as long as the music is feeling good, the message is clear, it’s thought provoking, it touches you, it moves you and at the end of the day it makes you want to come back around and listen to it again. I like to hear some of these things over and over again. Marvin Gaye– that’s grown folks music, I don’t care what you say. No matter when you hear it, you’re never mad at hearing it again. Hopefully, we can put ourselves in that category… that it’s grown folks music that we do.
Check out After 7’s latest single, “I Want You”
Jekalyn Carr’s first live album, The Life Project, was released on August 5th, 2016 and reached #1 on the Top Gospel Album charts. The album’s lead single, “You’re Bigger” dominated the gospel charts reaching #1 on the Gospel Airplay, #1 on the Digital Gospel Songs, and #33 on the Adult R&B Radio Airplay chart. We spoke to this rising young gospel artist right before her first trip to the Grammy awards, thanks to the nomination for the single “You’re Bigger”. Read below and enjoy.
GFM: What does it mean to you to be Grammy nominated?
JC: It means a lot to me to see how people are inspired by my music. That’s my ultimate goal– to inspire people and to give them hope. Also, seeing our hard work paying off–it’s an amazing feeling.
GFM: I recently saw you BET’s Super Bowl Gospel Celebration. Tell me about that experience.
JC: It was great. A lot of great artists, along with myself, came together for the Super Bowl to do a gospel concert and it was great. I had an opportunity to do my song, “You’re Bigger”, which the song that is nominated for a Grammy this year (2017) and I also had a chance to sing with the NFL choir.
GFM: Who did you see there or meet there that you thought, ‘I’ve got to work with that artist one day.’?
JC: There were a lot of great people there, but one in particular I would say is Miss CeCe Winans.
GFM: How do you balance your music ministry with your evangelical ministry?
JC: It’s not hard at all. I guess it’s whatever people call me there for at their event– whether it’s to preach or to sing. Sometimes, when I go to speak becasue they know I sing, and they know my music, they want me to do a little bit of one of my songs. Like “You’re bigger”– a lot of people want to hear that when I go places– so it’s not hard at all balancing it out.
GFM: The gospel music industry is filled with a lot of seasoned artists. What do you feel you bring as a younger artist in gospel music?
JC: The message and the stability and the source of the music is the same. I think what draws a lot of young people to my ministry is my being the age that I am–19 years old and [having] started and the age of 5– the things that I’ve accomplished so far at a very young age gives them the message that it doesn’t matter how old you are, where you come from or what environment you may come from. When it’s in you to be great, you’re going to automatically be successful once you tap into it. I think the music is the same, but the message– as far as me being the age that I am– that’s what draws them more to my ministry.
GFM: What’s the most memorable testimony you’ve heard so far regarding your music?
JC: There’s a lot of them. [There’s] one in particular from the song “You’re Bigger”. There was a young lady who came up to me after one of my concerts. She was telling me about how she had applied for something but she got denied. But, when she connected with the song and [connected] her faith and her belief with the words of the song, immediately after that they called her back and told her she had gotten approved.
GFM: Ten years from now, what do you hope to be doing in terms of your career or your ministry?
JC: Of course I will continue to speak and sing because that’s just who I am. There’s also things that I’d like to do. Fashion designing– I’m getting ready to launch that in just a few. I would like to have written a lot of books by then… acting…doing a lot of acting by then and of course more music.
Follow Jekalyn Carr on Twitter
Her album: The Life Project, is out now.