al great: “pray i make it” + ddm “piece of my heart”

Two of my favorite Baltimore artists released new videos today.

Al Great: “Pray I Make It” I like the camera work on this one and the way Al, almost all alone, commands attention throughout this video. At the risk of sounding like a complete dolt, though, I didn’t really get the role of the two guys chasing him. (Ideas? Leave them in the comments if the spirit moves you.)


DDm: “Piece of My Heart” This is DDm (known to many still as Midas) at his finest–raw, heartfelt lyrics delivered with passion. I’m a fan of DDm’s more colorful antics as well, but I appreciate the subdued and grimy look to this video. The collage of footage at the beginning helps set the theme of the song into context, but having it take up almost half the entire run time of the video seemed a little excessive to me.

kokayi: pacific coast highway

As I’ve mentioned many times, Kokayi is one of the most talented artists I know. His latest release, Pacific Coast Highway, is an instrumental album inspired by undoubtedly one of the most breath-taking scenic routes in the contiguous United States. (I mean breath-taking literally–the one time I drove it, the views each bend and contour revealed were truly gasp-inducing.)

“The concept was to provide a soundtrack for the drive from San Diego to Washington State via the Pacific Coast Highway,” explains Kok. “It didn’t hurt that I wanted to do another instrumental record.”

Sequence-wise, the album follows the northward journey with sounds distinctive to each region peppering the songs. Check out Kokayi’s homage to the Bay area below.

kokayi: the mfn yay

This just in: Be the 1,400th person to like Kokayi on Facebook and he will perform at your home.

gentleman jack: arts beats + lyrics

dj lord (photo by kelly connelly

Held at the beautiful and expansive Mellon Auditorium in NW DC, this Jack Daniels event was just that: an event. As I made my way through the crowd, and past the drink lines, I saw that it was truly a party in there. I’m sure the Jack helped a bit, but really the party was made live by Public Enemy’s DJ Lord. Spinning a hip-hop set that spanned recent and not-so-recent years, Lord truly commanded the crowd with the help of a host and sort-of hypeman. Snarky Puppy, a tight funk outfit, was up next, and the music was good, but the timing unfortunate–especially on their more laid-back songs, the energy in the room while they were on stage was much mellower than it had been earlier. (Again, just a matter of timing. They were quite good.)

As for the artwork, I was excited to see legendary hip hop photographer Ernie Pannicoli, but did not see him nor his work during my laps around the art displays. It was cool the way they had the art set up all around, but the packed crowd made it a bit difficult to spend much time with a lot of the work. That’s a good thing, though, as people seemed to be there to party and view artwork. There was a lot of posing for pictures in front of the work–I suppose that’s part and parcel of the Facebook generation.


lupe fiasco: generation laser tour. merriweather post pavilion, 9.17.11

(photo by kelly connelly)

As I walked past the babbling brook by the path from the parking lot to the ticket booth, I could hear the high pitched screams of females in the crowd. The object of the crowd’s loud affection was R&B singer Miguel, a pretty boy with a pretty voice who has enjoyed a lot of radio play for his first few singles. During his performance of the latest of those radio hits, “Quickie”, Miguel led a sing-along with the crowd, who eagerly belted out “I don’t wanna be loved, I don’t wanna be loved,” in unison. I like this song, and often even if it’s a song I don’t particularly care for, there’s usually something moving about that many people singing together. This time, not so much. Miguel’s band was excellent, exaggerating the start-and-stop movement of the “Quickie” beat. Live, Miguel’s voice is wonderful and he is an engaging performer. Near the end of the set, he sang/adlibbed, “Would you dance on the tip of my tongue baby?” Cue girls screaming. Next, he continued the raunchiness by singing, “Take your panties off. Take your f***ing panties off.” Who said romance was dead?

Wale took the stage shortly after Miguel and band vacated it. Wale’s stage set-up was decidedly the most “hip-hop” of the night—just a DJ and hypeman/singer on stage with him, with no backdrop or frills. (No good lighting, for that matter, which made capturing decent photos of him a bit challenging.) Also no-frills is Wale’s persona on stage. Just a man and his mic, he moved from one side of the stage to another, danced (maybe “bopped” would be a more accurate description) a little here and there, smiled I think two or three times, but poured most of his efforts into just delivering his lyrics. Being at this concert made me realize how popular Wale really is. Although he wasn’t the headliner, the crowd—average age of 20 if I had to guess—seemed to know every word to every song. Highlights for me included “Chillin’”, “That Way”, and “Pretty Girls”. Black Cobain joined Wale on stage for “4 A.M.”. His presence was applauded by the crowd, and his energy on stage was cool, but it sounded to me like he might have been rapping over a vocal track. (I could be wrong, but that’s what it sounded like.) For all its simplicity, Wale’s set was marked by a true connection to the fans, especially when he handed his chain to someone on stage then jumped into the crowd with his cordless mic to perform “Nike Boots”.

While on stage, Wale said that four years ago, he was a student at Bowie State going to see Lupe Fiasco perform at the 9:30 Club. On this night, he was opening for the headliner at a big outdoor venue. Pretty cool. At this point, I feel I have to admit two things: I also did not realize how popular Lupe was and I have never been much of a fan of his music. I can see why people like him, and he’s a talented artist, but I have never really connected to his music on any level. Having said that, he put on an excellent show.

In stark comparison to Wale’s bare bones stage and show, Lupe’s stage was filled with background singers, musicians (drummer, keyboardist, bassist, guitarist, and a violinist), and a humongous anarchy A at the back. (A quick google search on Lupe and anarchy reveals a lot of speculation about Lupe’s stance on anarchy, but nothing substantive.) Lupe bounded onto the stage like a whirling dervish. Well, maybe not whirling, but leaping at the very least. Throughout the course of his set, he gave it every last bit of his all. It was almost theatrical in setting and performance, but with more connection to the crowd. Everything Lupe gave to the crowd, he got back from them. His band was good, but a veered a little close to adult contemporary territory now and again. Their rendition of “Kick Push” was pretty straight ahead and I can totally respect that—sometimes it’s a little annoying when people change up their most well known songs too much. (Maybe that’s just me.) “Hip Hop Saved My Life” elicited probably the most impassioned audience response of the evening, with several young men near me rapping along like they wrote the song themselves.

Neither here nor there:

  • When I went to pick up my ticket and photo pass, I stood and stared at the young guy working at will call for at least one full minute before he acknowledged me. Looking at his computer screen, I saw that he was deeply engrossed in a game of solitaire.
  • Doggy Style was played over the sound system between Wale and Lupe’s sets. I would bet the majority of crowd was probably in pre-school when that album came out.
  • I saw more than a few young ladies with “lawn seats” wearing super high heels. I could barely navigate the slightly muddy hill with any semblance of grace and I was wearing tennis shoes. More power to you, ladies.
  • I was bummed I missed Phil Ade. I like him quite a bit.
  • Big Sean was part of the tour, but did not appear on this evening for reasons I do not know. I also was not the least bit disappointed, though.
  • More photos from the show are online here.