Believe the Hype: Indie Music at Adams Morgan Day

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With over 70 performances on 6 stages, over 200 artists and an expected crowd of over 30,000 people Adams Morgan Day is making an amazing attempt at reviving itself as DC’s premiere family festival! Indie Adams Morgan is the machine behind getting a diverse line-up of amazing local talent to showcase at tomorrow’s festival. The organizers of Indie Adams Morgan have a founding organization called Songwriters and Poets wherein they hold a festival of their own every year. If you are anywhere near the DC Metro area or can get here you DO NOT WANT TO MISS ADAMS MORGAN DAY 2013! 

Hashtags to follow: #ColumbiaStage #BelmontArts #BBS #FloridaStage #AdmoDay2013 

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I will be hosting the #ColumbiaStage check out the line-up i’m rocking with and come rock with us! 

Feel free to copy the individual posts below and tweet/post along with me! 

11:30am #ColumbiaStage I will welcome the crowd and The Haiku Hitmen warm the stage. #admoday2013 

12pm #ColumbiaStage @gandersonmusic “I write songs to figure out my thoughts, play with ideas, and communicate.” -Garrett Anderson

12:20pm #ColumbiaStage @rillamusic Christine Havrilla “the quintessential pop-rock goddess.”-Dena Marchiony,Philadelphia Songwriters Project

12:50pm #ColumbiaStage @christielenee unique guitar fuses folky/funky playfulness w/ pop/rock inspired songs & virtuosic guitar compositions

1:30pm #ColumbiaStage @laurabaronmusic Song poet Laura powerfully performs and composes contemporary folk, blues and jazz. #admoday2013

1:50pm #ColumbiaStage Kitty Boy! Fans are asking…what is the ‘Kitty Boy’ way! #admoday2013 

2:20pm #ColumbiaStage @moonliscious Some funky helping of rock & jam intensity;shake on some soul and jazz. The flavor of Moonliscious.

2:50pm #ColumbiaStage @wiseeyestribe “we’re about franks tattoos,organic foods, oriental rugs,& a wood-burning stove for the ambience.”

3:20pm #ColumbiaStage @peprmnstr815 “I’m 23. Been writing since 2008. Bow ties are cool. I make faces. Have fun!” -Juels Bland

3:30pm #ColumbiaStage @uglypurpledc Ugly Purple Sweater is an acoustically-tinged indie rock band from Washington, DC. #admoday2013 

4:30pm #ColumbiaStage @lbpdc #LBP is a homegrown, Washington D.C. 4 man, hard-rock band with a penchant for kicking ass! #admoday2013

5:00pm #ColumbiaStage @crochetkingpin collaborates with @boomscat and does what bad muthaf*ckers do with Hip-Hop/Poetry/Soul Fusion!

5:10pm #ColumbiaStage @konshensthemc Konshens views life as change. “Without struggle, there is no progress.” -Frederick Douglass #HipHop

6pm THE HEADLINER #ColumbiaStage @paperhaus Paperhaus is a set of passionate songwriters believe in the transformative power of music.

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On conscious rap’s need to reconsider and improve standards of live performance excellence…

Photos by Diamond Dixon


In seeing Lupe Fiasco, Erykah Badu and Mos Def – three of the most influential conscious hip-hop artists to date – in one week, it created a personal awakening surrounding a desire to re-consider how/if we should analyze hip-hop as a performance art? Is Hip-Hop a performance art? Arguably, it is. The mainstream music industry is now pushing not just hip-hop artists, but all artists into relying heavily on concerts as their most stable source of immediate income. Therefore regardless of whether it is a performance art or not, artists to perform well in order to survive.

Historically, hip-hop culture centered around a party where the emcee just kept the party going. However, if the emcee is standing in place rapping the lyrics to his own song couldn’t you just do the same while a DJ spins at a local club? Prior to this I have attended many Hip-Hop shows and the usual routine is the show starts late, an opening local unknown rapper bores the crowd, then the mainstream artist finally comes out. Artist noted as old-school such as The Pharcyde, Smif-N-Wessun, or M.O.P usually have over ten people on stage along with weed smoke and alcohol. Watching a rapper on stage can be as grueling and enjoyable as karaoke. Sure you get to rap along, but the actual performance doesn’t matter much. As long as the crowd is familiar with the song the show is considered awesome.

This is exactly what I was thinking at the Lupe Fiasco concert at the Filmore (Silver Spring, MD). This was his first time back in the DC area after being kicked off the stage for repeating one verse of “Words I Never Said” at an inauguration event. The Filmore show did not sell out which is evidence that his poor performance at the inauguration could have possibly affected ticket sales in this area. Fans buy concert tickets to see their favorite artists perform. If your favorite artist is Lupe what you enjoy is a single rapper on stage with a DJ rapping his songs and moving no further than a square away from the mic. In between songs he made statements like “I don’t give a f*ck, but I give a f*ck” [paraphrased].  He also spoke against rappers who don’t stand for anything. This was similar to old school Hip-Hop artists. They too often have a moment in their show where they criticize the radio or the government. Arguably, this made yhe Lupe show was boring and uninspired. Fans were forced to enjoy his presence in the room (which is all they were going to get) vs. his presence and a moving performance. There was no light show, no LCD displays behind him, there was nothing to enhance his performance. Lupe’s music came off as self-centered, the artist projecting his thoughts on others during his performance.

One day later Erykah Badu performed at this same venue and it was a entirely different story. Beyond the Erykah Badu most noted for being a neo-soul singer is an emcee who started out freestyling on the radio as “MC Apples.” She is also a producer and member of the “Soulquarians” a neo-soul/hip-hop music collective which includes Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Questlove, D’Angelo, Q-Tip, James Poyser, Bilal, and late great Hip-Hop producer J Dilla. Erykah’s show was sold out with minimal promotion within moments of tickets going on sale. There was no opening act. Her DJ spun for roughly 30 minutes before her band members took their places. She walked out on stage and addressed the crowd with body language. She approached the mic and stood there for a second while the crowd went wild. Then she raised her arms toward the ceiling striking her warrior princess pose. The music started and she performed the entire Mama’s Gun album with minimal banter in between. Her performance was all about the music and the fans. Erykah Badu IS her music and during the show you become her music. There was a large screen speckled with stars burning bright then fading during various songs behind her. After each song the main show lights would dim to signify the end of the song. She had a drum pad and multiple instruments as usual. At the end of her set the crowd cheered for an encore. She came back out on stage and performed three more songs including “The Healer (Hip-Hop)” giving special tribute to J. Dilla. No matter where you see Erykah Badu it is a cosmic vibrating experience. She is also standing in place, but her energy is changes with the energy of the song therefore subliminally instructing your spirit on how to move.

Upon walking in to the Mos Def show I expected less Erykah vibration and more Lupe inanimate “i’m the rapper, your’e the crowd” stage presence. I was extremely off on this one! The 930 Club is one of DC’s most popular concert venues and The Mos Def show was by far one of the most awesome shows I’ve seen where a single rapper is on stage performing. The opening act was “Watch The Duck” which is an eccentric underground trap-step group from Atlanta. They were interesting to say the least, however to have such a unique group open for Mos Def is fitting being that they are at the forefront of their genre. Trap-step is a mix of trap music and dub-step. It is hype party rocking music! I predicted that their explosive energy would be wasted due to Mos Def just being a rapper with two sound engineers/djs accompanying him. However, I was sadly mistaken. Mos Def walked on stage, the crowd when wild and the next hour was full of charisma, echoing voice affects, dancing, and party rocking. Mos Def used the entire stage during his performance. Mos Def also took a break in his performance to show love for J. Dilla by playing several of his tracks. The crowd was unfamiliar but Mos Def was so consumed in the songs that everyone had to rock with it. He consulted his sound/engineers often and they were more of a team than just guys controlling tracks and sound for an artist. By the end of the show his entire shirt was soaked with sweat.

In conclusion, rap, as much as any other popular musical form is currently in a strange place. When live performance matters as much, or more than selling albums or being well-marketed, we must study the art of how the genre is presented live. There’s a market that is always fiending for an artist who tells the humanitarian story of being pissed at the government and standing up against the “system.” Clearly, presenting that live must evolve from Lupe’s conscious, yet lackadaisical performance. Erykah Badu and Mos Def have been in the game over ten years and are still selling out shows, and present a possible blueprint for the future. They are experienced and an experience within themselves. They are sure to say thank you to fans in between songs and you are sure to feel that they are thankful. Lupe gave me music. Erykah and Mos Def gave me a feeling. The difference between the two is easily describable while the actual experience is not. There was just something spiritual about their performance. They are real people that really mean their lyrics therefore there was no need to chastise the hip-hop they don’t like during their show. I was not a fan of Lupe or Mos Def prior to these shows. I walked into the Mos Def show a skeptic due to Lupe’s performance. As rap and all music evolves to understanding how to survive in an era where live performances have increased importance, presentation clearly is of the essence.

Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) at the 930 Club (DC)

ORIGINALLY PRESSED BY: Brightest Young Things (BYT)
Photos by Daniela Toleva
March 4, 2013

Up until Saturday I was convinced that most hip-hop artist while entertaining on the radio and in videos are mediocre in concert. One rapper rhyming over a beat can be monotonous and uninspiring. In fact, Until Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def hit the stage at 930 Club I was sure that I would rather rap along with rappers while getting dressed for work then watch them perform. I am not a huge Mos Def fan, in fact I can only name you his mainstream hits like “Ms. Fat Booty” or “Umi Says.” I can name the movies I’ve seen him in like “Brown Sugar” or “Something the Lord Made.” I walked in a skeptic and walked out a believer.

The 930 Club is one of the only venues that’s awesome enough to display the headliner’s set time on their event page. This is especially convenient for hip-hop concerts because the opening acts are sure to be hit or miss unknown rappers that could really ruin your experience if their terrible. I just wanted to walk in, find a spot, and watch Mos Def work. I have friends who are huge fans and rave about him being a great performer. However, I have seen plenty of rappers on stage alone or with a crew of 15+ and have not been really entertained. To add insult to injury my friends could never actually tell me what he did or performed that made his shows so great. Yet they continuously pay to go see this guy.

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Well, seeing Mos Def in concert was by far the most entertaining experience I’ve had attending a show where the performer is one person on stage. Here’s the kicker! I can’t really explain in words why the show was so awesome. All I can say is when you think of the word “Hip-Hop artist” he is the absolute unadulterated epitome of charismatic lyricism.

On stage there was long table draped with black cloth behind which his sound engineers/DJs orchestrated his entire performance. The video behind him played a blurry overexposed unidentifiable nonsensical movie. Then there was Mos Def dressed in a white button up shirt, white pants, bowtie, and brown shoes gripping his custom red Super 55 Shure Mic rhyming like his life depended on it. He is a veteran he could have cut corners, played it real chill, and just rapped. He gave every song his all. He did a little shuffle of the feet, rocked out to a rock song, sweated through his white shirt jumping around on stage all while rapping and singing ON KEY! His DJs were on point.

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It was as if the three of them were making up the set together as they went along. They would consult each other with body language as well as Mos Def visiting the table a few times to ask their opinions. Throughout the show he continuously thanked the fans and cracked a joke while untangling the mic chord saying “whip it like Django!” My favorite moment in the show was seeing him perform “Umi Says” live. This is a song that I listen to when I need inspiration. It has gotten me through many of life’s rough patches.

He took a moment in his set to play several tracks from the late great Hip-Hop producer J. Dilla. Interestingly enough the crowd at the 9:30 club did not recognize the tracks. He didn’t let that stop his tribute. He was so involved in honoring him and vibing to the tracks that the crowd had no choice but to join in. His set went back and forth between classic Mos Def to the newer Mos Def. Watching most rappers perform is just a performance. Seeing Mos Def live was an experience that including a hype that you can only fathom if you’re in the room. I walked in a skeptic and walked out racing to Spotify to create a playlist of every Mos Def song new or classic that I could find. I just wanted/needed more. When he comes into town again I am sure to be there!

Lupe Fiasco at The Filmore (Silver Spring, MD)

All words: Shelly Bell
All photos: Lauren Bulbin
ORIGINALLY PRESSED BY: Brightest Young Things (BYT)
March 1, 2013

I went to a Lupe Fiasco show and favored the french fries.

It would have been more entertaining to watch an empowered Lupe Fiasco kicked off stage for political rants than watch him perform at the Fillmore in Silver Spring on Wednesday. The last time he visited the D.C. area he was removed from an inauguration event stage for repeating the lyrics of “Words I Never Said.” This is an anti-war anthem in which he expresses his disdain for capitalism. The entire beginning of the show Wednesday was a mix of old school hits and ratchet party music by DJs from WPGC. Flex Mathews and his pal Kosher Dill exerted as much energy as a group of opening rappers could. However, Lupe fans had come to see Lupe and that’s it. They could careless about anyone else who came onstage. This event was sponsored in part by Pantene. There was a raffle for Pantene products at a Lupe Fiasco show!! Before Lupe came on stage the DJ played a 2 Chainz song. The songs were censored. This was an all ages event. WTF? This experience was totally out of sync with the conscious government cursing eccentricities of Lupe’s brand. Basically, WPGC threw a party and invited Lupe. It was actually not a bad idea! Tony Reddz, Peter Parker, and DJ Flexx kept the crowd hype while the DJ spun crowd favorites. I had more fun before Lupe came out.

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His fans are sure to have a different story. Lupe fans will most likely note the event like this…The lights dim. The opening act is a conscious neo-soul rap group that includes singers, rappers, and a live band. The crowd raises lighters and waves their hands along to the beat. After a few minutes the crowd gets tired of the opening act and is shouting “LUPE! LUPE! LUPE!” The stage clears! Lupe Fiasco’s band come out set up and prepare to rock. The stage goes black. The intro to their favorite album comes one. Lupe ascends from the rafters. They stare into Lupe’s eyes and sing along to every song. Every word he says is like hymns floating off a page!

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WROONNGG!!! That is what I expected the show to be like. Yet a comment under a picture of Lupe on the WPGC Facebook page sums it slightly – “Truth on the street the venue didn’t sell out and a lot of people came out to really see Flex Mathews Da Harbor and then left after my man Flex shut it down DMV style…” Lupe did give valuable life lessons about how he doesn’t give a f*ck but gives a f*ck. He also encouraged the audience to create more then in the next few minutes went on a rant about how rappers need to stand for something. I guess his point may be that people don’t just need to be creative but they need their creativity to stand for “something.” Totally subjective. If you’re a fan and you like to sing along to Lupe on stage you would have thoroughly enjoyed this. I am a fan of his unapologetic ability to stand up for his truth. His truth is not always a truth I can get with, nonetheless it’s his! I support people who are all about their thing. In another light I support great showmanship. If fans pay to come see you honor the all-ages rules and watch your mouth. Have LCD displays. Have a light show. Bring a band. My favorite thing about the Lupe Fiasco show was the french fries at one of the best concert venues in the DC, MD, VA area – The Fillmore.

Inner Monologue: Smif-N-Wessun & M.O.P. at the Howard Theatre

ORIGINALLY PRESSED BY: Brightest Young Things (BYT)
February 26, 2013

I was 12 years old when M.O.P. short for “Mash Out Posse” came to fame debuting their first single “Do you want some Hardcore.” (1993). I was 15 when Smiff-N-Wessun released “Dah Shinin” (1995). Now 20 years after M.O.P.’s debut and I was excited to see them rock out on stage for the first time in my life at the Howard Theatre. During a Hip-Hop show many things run through your mind. The show usually starts late and the opening random rapper is someone you could careless about. However, this time it was the legendary M.O.P. being opened up for by Smif-N-Wessun maybe things will run a little bit different.

Inner Monologue:
I put on flat shoes so that I can jump with the crowd. M.O.P. is sure to perform their high energy classic “Ante Up” and I want to be prepared. The show starts at 8pm. I’m here on time with my drink in place! Wait, why aren’t there any women here? Well, there’s one, two, me, OK, about 5 women in the building! It’s 8:30 is the show ever going to start? I wonder if they will have one of these local terrible rappers open the show. I hope not. It’s 9pm! Is the show going to start? All the dudes in here look like they went shopping together. I guess this is what “real Hip-Hop” fans look like. Hip-Hop heads most definitely consider M.O.P and Smif-N-Wessun “real Hip-Hop.” I do too! I guess. Wait! Is it 9:30? WTF? When is the show going to start?! Ah ok. Here we go. The old school hype men are on stage asking everyone to come to the front of the Howard Theatre. I wonder why these fans are huddled in the back of the venue anyway. Maybe they wanted chairs to sit in. The Howard Theatre knows that a M.O.P. show will be something like a Hip-Hop rock concert so not having chairs works best. What is this 40 year old guy in a hoodie, jeans, and timbs saying on stage now? Oh, get hype for Smif-N-Wessen. It’s 10:15! FINALLY the show starts at 10:30!

Yay! Smiff-N-Wessn!! I remember when I used to be in love with Steele. They are going perform joints from their debut album “Dah Shinin.” Wait why are there so many people on stage? 1, 2, 3, 10, 15, there are like 20 people on stage. Last I remember and researched there are only two members of Smif-N-Wessun. Just try to enjoy the show Shelly. “BUCKTOWN! HOME OF THE ORIGINAL GUN CLAPPERZ” I used to rock to this joint back in the day! “I SHINE YOU SHINE SHINE, I SHINE YOU SHINE SHINE.” Nostalgia feels the room as everyone sings along to the joints from our teenage years. Wait, are they rolling blunts on stage? Oh my God they are smoking weed on stage. I think I will stay in the back of the venue. Is that a Hennessy bottle on stage? Are they pouring everyone Hennessy? Wow, so they got 20 people on stage passing blunts and Hennessy amongst each other why the two people we came to see actually perform. Steele just turned his back on the crowd to smoke and drink. OK. I’m ready to see M.O.P. I am not a fan of what’s happening right now.

It’s about 11:30. FINALLY M.O.P.! Less people on stage. No weed smoke. No Hennessy drinking. Ok. I respect that they are all about the show. “You’re as cold as ice” drops. NOW THE PARTY HAS STARTED! Their focus is on the crowd the entire time. Billy Danze’s voice sounds just as raspy and hardcore as it does on the album! AWESOME! M.O.P. is a perfectly balanced professional duo. Billy Danze’s level of hype cannot be matched by any rapper in history. Lil Fame has a calm matter-of-fact type flow that works well on any track no matter how fast or slow. Every time Billy Danze screams “OH!” I just gotta scream “OH!” back. “Who remembers the first M.O.P. joint?” the duo asked. I have no clue. Just keep performing! “How about some Hardcore? yeah we like it raw!” Did more people come in? The entire floor is packed. FINALLY! The song I have been waiting for “ANNNNTTEE UP….” We are going wild in this joint! Jumping! Yelling! Screaming along to the song! YESS!! What a way to end the night! Smif-N-Wessun disappointed me, but M.O.P. rocked so hard I forgot that the first half of the show even happened!

LIVE DC: K. Michelle at the Howard Theatre

ORIGINALLY PRESSED BY: Brightest Young Things (BYT)
February 25, 2013

All photos courtesy K. Michelle

K. Michelle – An artist most comfortable in her own skin as evidenced by her getting completely nude during my backstage interview following a phenomenal performance at the Howard Theatre, DC. She has been noted by media as dramatic, ratchet, and nonsensical even. However, she is a classically trained pianist, a guitarist and walks in an honesty that most are afraid of. She’s Tennessee’s finest crazy, sexy, cool star most known for her appearance on VH1‘s “Love & Hip-Hop Atlanta.”

Fans were onboard and ready to ride the “K. Wave” from the first note of opening song “You Gonna Learn Today.” She was the same sincere authentic character from the reality show cracking jokes with catchphrases like “F*ck the haters, they make ya roots itch.” With a salute to R&B singers she performed her rendition of her favorite songs by Monica, Mary J. Blidge, and Brandy. Her way of showing love for Go-Go music was an unsuccessful attempt at Jill Scott’s “Love.” Without congas a cowbell or some instrument to give a Go-Go sound – It’s not a Go-Go song! DC appreciated the attempt.

The highlights of the show included a bold yet entertaining serenade of “Can’t Raise a Man,” to pictures of her ex-lover and NY Knicks player J.R. Smith on the LCD screens. The show took an emotional turn with her teary-eyed heartfelt somber performance of “I Don’t Like Me” while sitting in front of a vanity mirror. “No matter how many wigs I put on, or how cute I think I am there are always those days where I don’t feel so pretty” she uttered. The crowd cheered in agreement. The “K. Wave” climaxed at an operatic performance of “The Coochie Symphony.” Even though this was a satiric ditty about “her coochie being broke” her vocal range was impeccable. The most awkward moment in the show was a beautiful tribute to God with gospel song “Yesterday” by Mary Mary which was followed by a song that repeated the lyrics “f*ck love, I want the sex and the money.”

Nonetheless, K. Michelle’s vocals are a force to be reckoned with. Her vocal ability is far too advanced to minimize her to being just the next “R&B queen.” Her personality coupled with extraordinary talent place her in a category yet to be created by the media. Before the singing the last song she announced that she would no longer be a cast member of Love & Hip-Hop after the coming season. Fans were disappointed but at this point it doesn’t matter. At the beginning of the show the audience may have been divided between fans of her music and fans of her personality on the show. However, at the end of her charismatic performance the audience left as fans of K. Michelle specifically. Aside from blowing me away with her performance interviewing her erased all skepticism of her as “just another ratchet fad.”

What do you want people who have not been exposed to the reality show nor your music to know about you?

I am a musician. I started playing the piano when I was 9 years old. I am a very outspoken person and a mother. They have to get to know me not what they hear. I think media plays a big part in it. Media is going to create you to be who they want you to be and not who you are.

I’ve noticed that you don’t talk about your family much. What does your mother think of all of this?

I keep them out of it. People always question “where’s her son? you don’t have your son.” I don’t bring him up. I have help. That’s not their business. If it wasn’t for my mom I don’t know what the heck I would do. I flew my mom out for the first time (BB Kings in NY 2/19/20). We have been very private because you have to maintain something.

What advice would you give a young singer starting out and is wondering where to go?

Fight hard for what you want. If you know that’s what you want, fight for it. It’s not going to come easy. Everybody that it came easy for is not around anymore.

How do you think leaving the cast of Love & Hip-Hop will affect your career?

The fans know now (that I am talented) and that will keep them. The show introduced me to people, but the fans got me the deal (Atlantic). As a writer, you never know, I may change my mind. It has been very difficult as a mother. It’s been very difficult to speak positivity upon black women and then go pop one in their face. We all as people contradict ourselves. We’re human. I’m just at the point where I don’t want to fight. I just want to be happy.

What’s next for K. Michelle?

The album (Rebellious Soul), a single, some movie stuff. I am opening up my first store. I am executive producing my first show “Minnie Mona.”

When asked if there was anything she would like to say she replied humbly “I just want to say thank you.” All ratchetness aside I predict that K. Michelle is in a transformation that has the potential to render her undeniable.

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