Lovers of rhythmic vocabulary were in euphoria this past weekend as some of the greatest writers in our history showcased their time-honored classic material. First, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center Prudential Hall Betty Wold Johnson stage hosted Represent! A Night of Jazz, Hip Hop and Spoken Word to a capacity-filled house. Helmed by music director and band leader (of A Christian McBride Situation), Christian McBride delivered above and beyond the expected excellence despite being thrown a few curves in the projected lineup, giving additional credence to his statement, “The thing that bonds hip hop and jazz is the ability to improvise.”
Advertised prominently on the bill were the illustrious mics men guaranteed to bring the noise and move the crowd. Unfortunately, unforeseen occurrences prevented the illustrious Chuck D and the GOD emcee Rakim from making the scheduled performance. In their stead McBride was aptly able to fill the void with an act just as impactful with Yasiin Bey, or the Mighty Mos Def if you need a point of reference. Bey joined the already stellar lineup that featured politicians, stayed artist (you can be both) with Councilman Dupré L Kelly, one-third of the hip hop group ‘Lords of the underground’ and Newark Mayor Ras J Baraka, musicians Ravi Coltrane and Javon Jackson, Jessica Care Moore, Nikki Giovanni, The Last Poets, Speech of Arrested Development and Black Thought of the Roots. Assembled talent alone does not make a night special—the work still needs to be done. From my point of view my personal highlight reel leads off with the great Nikki Giovanni. For years I was stuck on the version of “Ego Trip” as performed by the Kimberly Reese character on the television show “A Different World,” until I heard the live source material. “Niggers Are Scared of Revolution” is still a relevant powerhouse of a wake-up call that The Last Poets can hold up to society and Speech’s “Tennessee” showed that he and Arrested Development were criminally underrated despite Grammy trophies. Going in, these hotspot moments could be anticipated; the surprise moment though was the show-stealing duet “Simple” of Apropos and Jessica Care Moore. TRUTH!
Speaking of TRUTH, setting the weekend off lovely was Valerie Simpson and friends at Sony Hall. Simply stated she’s a treasure. Hailing from the Boogie Down, it can be argued that her writing catalog may have just as much impact and influence as the musical genre that now is most associated with the borough. Packed inside the intimate space, the audience was taken through a prism of anthems that helped shaped the careers of all-time great talents such as Diana Ross (“Reach Out and Touch,” “The Boss”), Marvin Gaye (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Your Precious Love,” “You’re All I Need to Get By”), Chaka Khan/Whitney Houston (“I’m Every Woman,”) and even her own group Ashford & Simpson, that made an empathic statement on the charts and served as an exclamation point on the night with “Solid.”
To put things in perspective, a prestigious industry award is named in honor of her songwriting prowess: Soul Train Music Ashford & Simpson Songwriter’s Award. Wanna know who bagged that this year? Make sure to tune in to peep the feel-good show of the year, the Soul Train Awards 2022 presented by BET. Hosted by award-winning comedian and actor Deon Cole, the Soul Train Awards 2022 premieres Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on BET, BET HER, Logo, MTV2 and VH1. The “Soul Train Awards Red Carpet Special” pre-show will air at 7 p.m. ET/PT, with hosts Tank covering the Main Stage, Letoya Luckett on the Correspondent Stage, and Novi Brown (“Tyler Perry’s Sistas”) in the Walmart Lounge.
Happy Turkey Day all. Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.