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What would Motown be without Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, the legendary Marvin Gaye or its founder Berry Gordy? The better question is “What would Motown be without the Funk Brothers?” While this musical collective never released their own records under the Motown label, they were a vital part of the iconic Motown sound and shaped the overall voice of Young America. But many people, like myself, had no idea who the Funk Brothers were until the 2002 documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown was released and showcased the history of the Detroit-based studio musicians who backed tons of Motown artists and played on more number one hits than Elvis Presley, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. They were the city’s unsung heroes and other than within Motown circles, they never got their due credit for helping to create such timeless music.

IMG_5435

From left to right: Woodrow Chenowith, Don Babock, Vincent York, Matthew Balmer, Dwight Adams. Photo Courtesy of Lars Bjorn

The documentary started the discussion about the Funk Brothers and allowed many of the studio musicians, both living and deceased, to receive more exposure outside of the Detroit area. But, the conversation about the Funk Brothers should not have stopped after the documentary. The Motown Jazz Project is one undertaking that is continuing to highlight the legacy of these musicians and also showcase the fact that most of the Funk Brothers were jazz musicians and/or came from a jazz background. This effort was established through a collaborative partnership with the Southeastern Michigan Jazz Association, Eastern Michigan University, EMU’s Department of Music and Dance , and local Detroit jazz musicians.

The Motown Jazz Project presented their first concert on Saturday, April 5, at EMU’s Student Center and it featured a number of Detroit area jazz musicians who have ties to Motown artists. The band was led by veteran guitarist Ron English, a Funk Brother himself, who played with Motown acts such as Martha Reeves and the Vandellas and the Four Tops and featured keyboardist Al McKenzie, musical director for The Temptations and Martha Reeves; Darrell Smith, former music director for The Spinners; saxophonist/flutist Vincent York, former musical director for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; trumpeter Dwight Adams, who regularly tours with Stevie Wonder; and drummer Ron Otis, who tours with contemporary Motown artist Kem.

Together, with vocals by Toledo-based singer Ramona Collins, the band performed a list of popular Motown tunes by The Miracles, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross and The Supremes and more. There’s no denying the ageless power in the Motown sound and that was proven by the ethnically diverse crowd, from young to old, singing along to the catchy, rhythm-driven tunes such as The Temptations’ “My Girl,” Diana Ross and The Supremes’ “Stop in the Name of Love,” and the Motown classic “Dancing in the Street” by Martha Reeves and Vandellas, which Collins purposely ended the show with to get people dancing in their seats.

Ramona Collins

Vocalist Ramona Collins. Photo Courtesy of Lars Bjorn

The Motown Jazz Project further confirmed the major influence the Detroit jazz musicians had on creating the Motown musical process. Even if there had been no vocalist singing the songs, there would have been just as many people clapping and dancing along to the funky, upbeat grooves provided by the band. The Motown Jazz Project did not even scratch the surface of Motown’s extensive musical catalog.

The band could have gone on for hours and hours and still not have covered every song the Funk Brothers played on. With the success of the concert, SEMJA just might make this an annual event where people come out to both celebrate Motown and the important contributions of Detroit jazz musicians. For more information about the Funk Brothers, CLICK HERE.

 

Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life

— Art Blakey

The first time I read the above quote by the jazz drumming extraordinaire Art Blakey, it was in my  jazz music history course at UM-Dearborn. At the time, I didn’t know exactly what Mr. Blakey was talking about and why he thought jazz was so important that it could erase the obstacles in a person’s life. I was still very much a jazz novice, and did not understand the legacy of this music and why it was so important to people. But, throughout my history class, I learned just how important jazz is and why it should be appreciated by everyone.

The history of jazz itself is one of the greatest stories every told and truly showcases the legacy of a triumphant group of people who didn’t let society keep them from expressing their creativity. If anything, their struggles resulted in great music and it has helped to shape the overall spectrum of American music.

While many may think that music, jazz in particular, cannot rid someone of pain or issue s in their life, just ask any musician or fan of jazz, and they will quickly attest to the truth in Blakey’s statement. There is peace in jazz melodies and rhythms, and it does have the power to change a person’s mood. Louis Armstrong once said that “what we (musicians) play is life and that jazz is played from the heart. You can even live by it.”

Armstrong is one of many who has benefited from the music’s healing power. Armstrong is one of the most, if not the most revered musician in jazz, period. His superior skills on the trumpet shaped the sound of jazz and he has influenced tons of musicians from all types of genres. But, judging from his legendary status, its hard to imagine that he was abandoned by his parents and even spent time in a juvenile facility in New Orleans because of his behavior. It was in this facility that Armstrong fully devloped his skills on the cornet, and later on the trumpet. Despite his difficult childhood, he went on to become a jazz legend. And my guess is it was his love of the music that kept him going and even with the intense racism that he, as well as tons of other African American musicians endured, they continued to fight their battles using music as their swords.

When I listen to jazz, I not only find peace and inspiration in the hard driving or soft rhythms and soothing melodies, but I also think about how much passion and work these artists put into making this music.

This is one of the reasons why jazz should be celebrated. Every April is Jazz Appreciation Month and it was created to be an annual event that would pay tribute to jazz as both a living and as a historic music. In honor of JAM, concerts are hosted by various organizations, jazz lectures are held at academic institutions and the music itself is celebrated in various ways.

To learn more about how you can participate in Jazz Appreciation Month, visit Jazzapril.com.

 

Black Women Rock, 2014 in Detroit, from IXITI.com

Steffanie Christian (right). Courtesy of Flickr. Photo by Tanya Moutzalias | CultureSource. Click here for more photos.

If you have never heard of Betty Davis, then Detroit poet jessica Care moore’s annual Black Women Rock concert will definitely give you a sense of her spirit and hardcore energy.

moore started the concert ten years ago as a tribute to Davis, an African American female rock ‘n’ roll artist who was married to Miles Davis in the 1960s and who introduced him to pioneering rock/funk artists like Jimi Hendrix and Sly and the Family Stone. Betty’s influence on Miles inspired his transition to jazz fusion  in the later 1960s, which produced iconic records like Bitches Brew and In A Silent Way.

Ms. Davis was a firecracker in her own right and in addition to modeling, she also recorded a few controversial albums throughout the 1970s. Although she never attained critical success as an artist, she was way ahead of her time displaying an independent, badass attitude and sexual demeanor that was not admired at the time, but is now celebrated by female artists today.

Ms. moore learned about Betty Davis after she received a compliment from The Roots drummer Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson. He told her she smiled like Betty Davis, and at the time she didn’t know who Davis was, but after falling in love with her story, she decided she wanted to educate others about Davis, and this resulted in the first Black Women Rock concert at the National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta.

This past Saturday, the concert took place at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, where its been held for the last four years.

Since its inception, Black Women Rock has become a grassroots movement that gives  women from nontraditional musical backgrounds a space to be creative and showcase their artistic talent. The entire production is run by women, and the concert is a complete rock experience filled with  excitement from beginning to end.

This year, the concert welcomed back an amazing group of vocalists, musicians, and artists who rocked the stage. The show was sold out, as it has been for the last few years, and it was no different as people lined up outside the door to get into the theater.

The show began with a clip of singer Nina Simone championing the beauty of African American culture, and was followed by a tribal dance, which included moore, who served as the MC of the show and one of the night’s performers.

Seattle based artist Kimberly Nichole, also known as the “rock ballerina” because of her ballerina stage attire, was the first performer of the night and her set was accompanied by heavy-based guitar licks and powerful vocals from the young songstress. She lit the stage up with her dark, acoustic driven song “It Ain’t Fair,” but an audio failure caused her to have to restart the song. The audience didn’t mind one bit because they just got more time with Nichole, who joked with the crowd until the audio was fixed.

The audio failures were the only annoying part of the show, which thankfully only took place at the beginning.

Kimberly Nichole. Courtesy of Flickr. Photo by Tanya Moutzalias | CultureSource

Punk rock/soul artist Tamar Kali graced the stage next and brought her hardcore essence to the show. Kali is one of the many  artists who have performed at Black Women Rock throughout the years. World music artist Imani Uzuri is another  artist that has been rocking with the show since its debut in 2004. Uzuri has a dynamic, soulful voice and turned the show into a full-fledged blues shouting show during her dedication performance to black women.

While Uzuri’s set was more soulful and calming, there were no holds barred during Detroit based rock/soul artist Steffanie Christi’ian’s performance, which was was by far the most edgy and entertaining. Christi’an definitely showcased that gut-wrenching rock sound Detroit is known for, especially when she was dancing all over the stage and engaging in a battle with the guitarist. But, it was her rough, soul-driven vocals that stole the show, especially when she performed “What You Gonna Do” and the rock heavy tune”Hit.”

What keeps people coming back every year for this show to see artists that are not mainstream is because of the fact that they are not your conventional artists. All of the artists are successful in their own right and have the support of indie labels and a core group of fans.

And with Black Women Rock, more people are discovering these immensely talented female independent rock artists. During the show, moore announced that Black Women Rock will be showcased at the American Jazz Museum in Kansas City and at the Apollo Theater in 2015.

Artists like Nina Simone, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey would be so proud of this concert. Betty Davis, the woman who inspired this concert, is well aware of its existence and I’m sure is excited to see women like her continuing her legacy.

Check out my article about Black Women Rock here

If 2014 did not start out great and optimistic for you, then there is one song that can definitely boost your mood. The simplistic, yet catchy funk tune “Happy” by Pharrell Williams is one of the most cheerful and positive tunes that has gotten air play in a while on both pop and urban radio stations. But if anybody could pull this off, it’s the music mogul Skateboard P. The boyishly handsome writer/producer/artist, who is 40 by the way, has been in the game for over 20 years, and, along with his production team The Neptunes, has produced  magnum hits for the likes of  Britney Spears, Nelly, Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and Beyonce, just to name a few.

And as an artist, he hasn’t done bad either. His introduction as an artist came in 2001 when his band N.E.R.D. released their eclectic album In Search of…   His nonchalant, falsetto has also appeared on tons of hits by hip hop royalty like Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg, and he released his his debut project In My Mind in 2006, which found him switching between rapping and crooning to the ladies.

Although he may have seemed to drop off the musical radar the last few years in terms of singing, he more than made up for his absence by producing and being featured on two of the biggest records of 2013: Robin Thicke’s controversial, sexcapade “Blurred Lines” and the techno club banger “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk.

He took home multiple Grammy’s for “Get Lucky” in January and was also nominated for an Academy Award for “Happy” which was featured in the animated film Despicable Me 2. (check out his stunning performance of the song at the Oscars here)

So, if this is how Williams bounces back onto the scene, then everyone needs to jump on the bandwagon and follow his lead.

And today, his new album GIRL hits stores.

The album title is pretty self explanatory, to say the least. The title isn’t an acronym for something that has nothing to do with females and is code for something remotely sexual or disturbing. Williams simply wanted to show his appreciation for all women and give them a record for the ages.

During a listening party for the new album, Williams said that “Women are a phenomenal force in my life and in my career and are the cornerstone of existence.”

GIRL is a sultry, R&B, disco driven, lush experience that encompasses Williams’ boyish fantasies about the opposite sex and his overall love for the ladies as well as his serene views on life.

There are a few guest appearances on the album, mainly artists that Williams  has worked with, but an unlikely collaborator is Oscar winning film composer Hans Zimmer, who scores the orchestration for the first track “Marilyn Monroe.” The intro is composed of strings and futuristic  beats as Williams sings about his longing for a different girl that stunning beauties like Marilyn Monroe or Joan of Arc can’t compare to.

Going through the album is like time-traveling back to the hippy era when just about everything was about the great feeling of being in love and how life is supposed to be filled with roses and lilies in the valley. The Woodstock vibe especially kicks into gear when Williams sings lines like “Life to me is easy/People make it complicated/When love is the tool/No reason we can’t make it” on the Jackson 5-ish feel good record “Brand New” featuring Justin Timberlake.

Just when you think that boyish charm and “worshiping women” mentality will continue, like on “It Girl” and the tribal escapade “Lost Queen,” he hits you with that hip hop version of love, which is much more dirty and blunt than the passionate codes he speaks in before. And this kind of distinction is what makes the album work and is what defines Williams as an artist and producer.

His laid-back nature never leaves, it just takes a detour to another musical planet, where tunes like the mid-tempo R&B jam “Gush” and “Come Get It” exist, and reveal the explicit side of a Virginia Beach kid who used to fantasize about girls in the gym locker room.

He can’t help that he’s a ladies man. Just looking at the album cover explains it all. The cover shows Williams in a cool “I’m the man” stance standing beside a group of modelesque females in bathrobes. He caught some slack for the revealing album cover for its “lack of minority women” in the image. But that controversial bit didn’t keep Williams down. He even went on record as saying that there was an African American woman in the picture and that he felt bad that people were so caught up on this issue rather than celebrating the fact that he made this album for women.

We could all learn something from Mr. Williams about keeping calm and just living in the moment. GIRL definitely showcases his love of eclecticism and not going where the crowd is, but finding a new path to travel down. He’s a perfect example of what critic Nelson George defines as “retronuevo” which is taking something from the past and putting a different spin on it. If Williams can bring 1970s vibes back and make us millennials wish we grew up during the disco era, then he has succeeded in his goal.

4 out of 5 stars

Gee, but it’s hard to love someone
When that someone don’t love you
I’m so disgusted, heartbroken, too
I’ve got those downhearted blues… 1[]

Classic blues singer Bessie Smith recorded the above lyrics from the song “Downhearted Blues” on February 16, 1923. The song was her first single and it sold 780,000 records in the first six months and would go on to sell 2 million copies. [2]

Bessie Smith

Smith, along with artists like Gertrude Ma Rainey, Mamie Smith, and Alberta Hunter were responsible for bringing the blues to the forefront of America and introduced people outside of the African American community to the deep, emotional experiences that black women went through.

Classic Female Blues was a genre dominated by women in the 1920s and was the first blues genre to gain national popularity. The genre transitioned from a primarily vaudeville type of the music to a more professional entertainment based music when Mamie Smith became the first artist to record a vocal blues song in 1920.

Once record execs saw the immense demand for Smith’s first recording (which sold a million copies in a year), more female artists began recording blues records and touring around the country.

At the root of every lyric sung by any blues woman laid her sexuality and in political activist and scholar Angela Davis’ book, Blues Legacies and Black Femisim: Gertrude “Ma Rainey,” Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday she discusses how different forms of love were present in the themes of classic blues music.  “One of the most obvious ways in which the blues lyrics deviated from popular musical culture,” Davis explained, “was their provocative and pervasive sexual-including homosexual-imagery.[3]

Mamie Smith

Other themes that were articulated in women’s blues music were violence, marriage, heterosexual and homosexual relationships, and  traveling.

The music of blues women had a profound social influence on working class women. Due to the independent, courageous outlook blues singers presented in their music, they encouraged working class women to be more liberal and the artists also served as a voice for underrepresented females.
Classic blues singers also influenced the move toward black women’s’ ideology within an academic context. Many feminist scholars like Davis and Hazel Carby have cited the impact that blues singers have had on their work.
Part II of the series will showcase folk blues artists Robert Johnson and Leadbelly.

Allmusic

On the record, “I Wish” Toni Braxton, in a deeply heartbroken state, croons “I wish, I wish, I wish she’d break your heart like you did me/I hope you’re unhappy/I hope, I hope, I hope she gives you a disease/so that you will see/Not enough to make you die /But only to make you cry, like you did me.”

The lyrics may seem harsh, but Braxton’s soft chilling vocals truthfully showcase the painful feelings that divorcees, including herself, may have experienced not to mention the thoughts they may harbor after ending a marital relationship.

Braxton’s longtime music partner and mentor Babyface has also gone through the rings of divorce,(Babyface and his ex-wife Tracey Edmonds divorced in 2005) and now the two are putting their own spin on a topic that has been sung about many times before, but this time both parties are telling their side of the story on the same record.

On their new album Love, Marriage, and Divorcethe artists put the rocky parts of a relationship into perspective and speak more on how issues like infidelity and money can seriously break two people apart. Babyface and Braxton have been in the music game for over 20 years and have worked together to create some of Braxton’s greatest songs like “Breathe Again and “Another Sad Love Song” both R&B classics.

It’s been a while since the two have released albums. Babyface’s last solo record was in 2007. After a number of failed solo projects, as well as dealing with illness, Braxton was on the brink of retirement until Babyface, who helped launch her career in the early 90s, talked her into making music again. And now the R&B icons have reunited and are bringing good contemporary R&B back to the forefront of the music scene.

There is a real sense of authenticity mirrored throughout the project and it is mainly due to the maturity of the artists, who don’t paint relationships out to be simply love or hate, but meeting somewhere in between.

Although, at times, it’s hard to tell where the love is on the album. On their dramatic first single, “Hurt You” both singers apologize for cheating and come to the realization that they both crossed the line.

And on the mellow tune “Roller Coaster” they can’t decide whether they want to stay together or break up.

But, the fire is turned up a bit on the sexually tense record “Sweat” where making love is the only alternative to fighting. And on “Reunited,” a somewhat Peaches and Herb vibe is nostalgically created as the two come to a mutual agreement to work things out.

In the end, we can only hope that reconciliation is the final step, but on the final track “The D Word” we find that’s not the case, even though the verses suggest that the relationship is never really over as Babyface sings “Although we’re apart/You’re still in my heart forever and ever.”

We have Babyface to thank for bringing the talented Toni Braxton out of retirement and this record further proves that these two music giants don’t ever need to stay out of the limelight.

4 out of 5 stars

The reason why I didn’t write a review of the Grammys last Sunday is because I was mad. I know that doesn’t sound like a good enough reason not to voice my opinion about the star studded event, but at the time, my thoughts were completely centered on race and I felt like it was the 1960s all over again. Like it was a time when African Americans were not properly recognized for their achievements because of their ethnicity.

Now that includes all kinds of recognition, but I’m specifically referring to their lack of acknowledgement in music. Like in the 1920s when jazz bandleader Benny Goodman was named the King of Swing instead of Duke Ellington, who is, as everyone knows, the true arbiter of big band jazz. Or in the 1950s when Elvis Presley was crowned the King of Rock n Roll instead of Little Richard or Chuck Berry. And then I realized that while there have been some changes in terms of racial division in this country, there are still some major concerns when it comes to African American achievement on a national scale.

Here we are in 2014 and white artists are still capitalizing on music that they played no role in creating.

By now, you already know where I’m going with this racial blast, especially since it has been the topic of discussion ever since the 56th annual Grammys aired last Sunday and caused yet another controversial hoopla.

White hip hop artists Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, who took the music world by storm with their hit singles “Thrift Shop” and their gay rights anthem “Same Love” snagged four awards during the music ceremony and caused quite a stir both musically and racially when they beat out rapper Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album.

To be clear, I have nothing against Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Thanks to white artists like Eminem and the Beastie Boys, who have somewhat bridged the gap between the black-white dichotomy in hip hop, their success was not seen as unusual in the music industry.

But, after their rap shattering four Grammy wins, we were taken right back to the pre-Eminem era and back to the Vanilla Ice era when white rap artists further showcased their alienation within the hip hop genre and showed how “mimicking African American urban dialect and culture” was just another way of getting ahead in a career that was pioneered by minorities.

I believe there would not have been as much concern if Macklemore truly had a better album than Kendrick, who many have claimed to be the best rapper since Tupac. Kendrick more than proved his rap superiority with Good Kid Maad City, as well as with the numerous mixtapes he has released throughout the last few years. Even if Jay-Z, Kanye West, or Drake would have snagged the Grammy for Best Rap Album, there would have still been some controversy surrounding the issue because when it came down to lyrics, beats and overall production, Kendrick’s album was better. There just would not have been a racial undertone.

Even if Kendrick has snagged at least one out of the seven Grammys he was nominated for, then I would have felt a little better about the “they robbed us” moment when he got snubbed for Best Rap Album. But, to not even be awarded one, that’s where my anger set in.

What makes it so bad is that many people predicted Kendrick’s downfall at the Grammys and knew deep down that something like this would happen. I tried my best to stay hopeful and believe that true rap would reign this time, but this was not the case.

Yes, Macklemore poured his heart out and profusely apologized to Kendrick about winning the award when he knew that Kendrick really deserved the honor. Everyone saw the tweet he sent to Kendrick after the awards. Mack even went on the record and said that he knows he has a racial advantage in hip hop because he is white.

But the true blame for this stolen moment should not be put on Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. The real guilt is on the Grammy Recording academy who selected the winners. According to the Grammy process, “the winners are chosen based off of artistic or technical achievement, not sales or chart positions.” But, in this case, I believe chart position, popularity and race was more of a determining factor than the above mentioned criteria.

No one will ever be completely satisfied with how the Grammy selection committee chooses the winners; that is just not something we can change. But, when artists who are unfairly awarded due to race continues to prevail, then a serious look needs to be taken at this process as well as at the diversity of the committee. Only time will tell. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another 20 years before this racial Grammy issue is only a thing of the past.

“I definitely feel like they should always have more of the culture up in there, for sure, because we definitely stand out just like any other genre.. We part of the world. We part of the movement. So I think any awards, including the Grammys, should always push for more hip-hop because it’s music as a whole, it’s not just splitting different regions. Everything moves as far as sound and vibrations, and that’s how it goes. And we are a part of that.  —- Kendrick Lamar talking to XXL about hip hop’s presence at the Grammys

Here are a few articles which discuss the Macklemore/Kendrick Grammy issue.

NY Times

NPR

Pitchfork

How would you define the blues? Scholars, activists, musicians, and countless other people have injected their own description of this historical folk genre into the fabric of our culture ever since African Americans began echoing the moans, hollers, foot stomping and rhythmic timbres that would eventually form the blues.

Writer and author of the famous novel The Invisible Man Ralph Ellison describes the blues as “an impulse to keep the painful details and episodes of a brutal experience alive in one’s aching consciousness, to finger its jagged grain, and to transcend it, not by the consolation of philosophy but by squeezing from it a near-tragic, near-comic lyricism. As a form, the blues is an autobiographical chronicle of personal catastrophe expressed lyrically.1

The origin of the blues can be traced back to the later part of the 19th century and is the product of a variety of musical expressions such as revival hymns, spirituals, minstrel songs, folk ballads, work songs and field hollers. The blues, in its simplest form, can be defined as a type of folk music formed by African Americans as a result of their experiences in America. 2

The blues, known first as folk blues, continued to evolve from this musical creation on the Southern plantation fields into to a more artistic genre known as classic blues, which was pioneered by female blues singers like Mamie Smith, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey during the 1920s and 30s. And when it made its way to the urban centers of the North, the blues was altered into a more rougher form known as city blues.

Blues icon Robert Johnson

The blues has progressed tremendously since its beginnings in the deep south and while it is not perceived as a highly popular genre today, this music is forever etched into every American musical genre.

To pay homage to this historical music genre, I will be examining various blues topics that I researched in college. I’ll be discussing the blues as folk music, the blues as a form of sexual imagery depicted by female classic blues singer of the 1920s.

I’ll also be highlighting some city and rural blues musicians such as Robert Johnson, Howlin Wolf and Lead Belly. Finally, I’ll examine the present state of blues music and showcase some local musicians who are keeping the music alive.

Look out for BHM posts throughout the month of February.

Footnotes
1.Ellison, Ralph. Richard Wright’s Blues.
2. Oliver, Paul. The Blues Fell This Morning.

20140126-183643.jpg

Prominent literary figure and activist Amiri Baraka,79, died on January 9 from complications after surgery following a long illness, according to NPR.

The world knew him as a writer, scholar, activist, poet and author who flipped the political and social realms on their head with his unapologetic tone and profound words.

He always spoke his mind and never ceased to remind African Americans of their historical importance within this country. Baraka completely altered my theories on black music after I read his highly significant book Blues People, which was one of the early academic volumes on the history of African American music.

I had the honor of hearing him speak last year at the Charles H.Wright Museum of African American History and I was truly inspired by his passionate lecture on wanting the country to build a united front and cease the destructive path that it is on. (To read more about Baraka’s lecture at the museum, click here)

I will be dedicating my Black History Month series on the blues to Mr. Baraka, who first fueled my interest in learning about the history of music. He truly impacted many people, including myself, with his eloquent and mind-blowing thoughts, and for that we are so grateful to have had him with us.

Our deepest thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Baraka family.

By now I’m sure you are sick of me talking about Mr. Yeezy, who has been the topic of a few of my posts this year and who just happens to be one of the most talked about people of 2013, especially after the release of his sacrilegiously titled album Yeezus in June. Not to mention his widely publicized relationship with reality diva Kim Kardashian which resulted in a baby named North West and an over the top proposal to his baby mama.

Yeezy is sure enough going to end up on every “most talked about person of the year” list, so I thought it would best to end 2013 with a concert review of none other than the self-proclaimed saviour of hip hop.

On December 19, Air Yeezy landed in Auburn Hills at the Palace to perform the third to last show of his national Yeezus Tour, which featured rapper Kendrick Lamar.

I’ve always thought of Kanye as a demented soul and creatively eccentric genius, but after attending his very weird yet exciting Yeezus concert, I’m convinced that my biased theory is right on the target.

There is no escaping extravagance, arrogance and braggadocishness when Kanye is in the building and he made that clear, from the huge mountain-esque stage set-up complete with demonic wolf impersonations and half-naked women to the tricked out mask he wore for most of the show. Even before the show started, he created the illusion that this was going to be a different type of concert experience by playing eerie, mystique background music symbolic of the over the top experience that was about to go down.

Over the summer, everyone thought Kanye was beyond nuts when he released his religiously titled Yeezus album in which he refers to himself as an almost equally perfect spirit. So, with giving everyone the impression that he was a god, why not keep up the charade? He did just that from the beginning til the end. A bright light shined down on the middle of the stage as white angels slowly entered and Kanye kept the crowd in anticipation of his arrival by waiting over five minutes before he came out from the back and immediately went into techno heavy “On Sight.” The ecstatic energy of both Kanye and the crowd continued as he went through almost all of the songs from Yeezus including a hardcore rendition of “Black Skinhead,” “I’m In It” and “New Slaves.” During a somewhat ceremonial performance of “I am a god” his entourage of females lifted him up while he rapped about him being a superior being. He didn’t spend the entire show on Yeezus, but went through a ton of his older material. The mood changed a bit when he went through tracks from his melancholy auto-tune album 808s and Heartbreak, which he released shortly after the death of his mother Donda West.

The stage rose up far above the audience as he performed “Coldest Winter” while snow flakes fell down from the sky, and went through a few more moody tunes like “Heartless” and an amazing performance of “Runaway love” in which he played the signature opening notes on the piano before going into the song.

Just when everyone thought he was going to continue going through his list of hits, he went on a 30+ minute tirade about his hatred of the media and how he thinks of himself as being on the same level as Walt Disney and Bill Gates. Now this was the Kanye that the media always targets and although his comments were downright arrogant at times, there was no denying that he is completely confident in his musical ability, and that is why his music continues to push the limits of brilliance.

Kanye definitely knows he has some true fans because anyone who wasn’t rocking with him would have sure enough exited the building before his speech was over. A few people weren’t too pleased his long lecture, but soon after, he brought out another Kanye, the guy from Chitown who started out with Jay-Z making beats and used to be more concerned with music than with himself. That Kanye brought out throwback joints like “Through the Wire,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone,” “The Good Life,” and even brought out a white Jesus during his most famous song “Jesus Walks.”

That was the Kanye that I fell in love with back in 2004. 10 years later, he is a million times more popular than he was when College Dropout was released. He proved that during his colossal concert at the Palace filled with 8,000+ fans and from the crazy set up to the enormous catalog list of music, Kanye doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.This is only a prelude to all the things he has in store for 2014.

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