#BEFOREHIPHOP A night uptown with salesmen and clients

Pete took off his blue mechanics overalls, splashed on some Brut cologne and slid into a beige suit and chocolate, wide collared shirt before calling an OJ to pick him up. The overnight man had just arrived. Once he clocked in Pete clocked out. He could have taken the late model Caddy he had stashed in the back of the garage, but he wanted to make a few stops and parking uptown could be a bitch. The OJ that arrived at the midtown garage was a Deuce and a quarter driven by…


I’ve partnered with Audibile Books to release many of non-fiction books as well as several of my novels as audio books.

B-BOYS, BUPPIES, BAPS & BOHOS: Notes on Post-Soul Culture is my first collection of articles, most of them from the Village Voice, where I free-lanced music pieces and wrote a column called Native Son in the late ’80s into the ’90s. Hip-hop, R&B, the crack era, the black film boom, gangs, politics and ethnic tension are among the topics covered in this books. There’s also a time-line of Post-Soul Culture that opens the collection.

https://www.audible.com/pd/B-Boys-Buppies-Baps-Bohos-Audiobook/B099KT96DR?asin=B0977N3WXQ&source_code=AUDOR2220706219UJO

In the early ’90s…


An Evening of music, dance and culture from a work in progress

The sound of thick, chunky heels on hard concrete. Thin gold chains — one with a honey bear dangling from it — rested against the chest of a man whose shirt was open to his waist and his collar is wide and pointy. The shirt itself is made of nylon and is lime green. His suit is the Kelly green of a shamrock. A bright red jumpsuit adorned her 34–26–38 body. Her open-toed shoes and head wrap, that covered her auburn tinted hair, were the same color. Her…


Back in 2006 I sold a pitch to HBO Films called ‘Life Support,’ which was based on how my sister Andrea had survived contacting HIV and how that effected our family. Queen Latifah had tentatively agreed to play a character based on my sister. A conference call was set up with the then head of HBO Films, the producers, me and Latifah’s long time manager Shakim Compare.

I knew Latifah and Compare from my days at Billboard, but I had never worked with them in a business situation, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Well what I experienced was…


A memory of music and culture from the height of the soul music era.

Chicken wings and potato sit on plates in the kitchen. Six-packs of beer are stacked on the lower shelves of the refrigerator. My mother moves through her preparations wearing a sky-blue dress she sewed using patterns on her machine. She takes her brunette wig from its resting place on a white head made of Styrofoam. The scent of Prince Matchabelli perfume fills the hallways of our project apartment.

In the living room, multi-colored bottles of whiskey and Barcardi rum sat next to tall bottles of Coca-Cola…


For #blackmusicmonth

Very few people have had a life as rich and varied as James Mtume. Born in Philadelphia and raised in a deeply musical family (his biological father was saxophonist Jimmy Heath, his stepfather pianist James Foreman), he grew up excited by activism and music. He’d become a member of Ron Karenga’s black nationalist US Organization and would become a political activist who’d help Newark elect Ken Gibson, that city's first black Mayor. …


Nile Rodgers is one of the first people I interviewed when I started my music journalism career in the late ’70s at Billboard magazine. Throughout the years he’s been one of the more insightful artists I’ve spoken to. Not a surprise because he’s had a long, hit-filled career as a producer/writer while developing one of the most identifiable instrumental sounds in all of pop music. Starting with Chic in the late ’70s and continuing with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” Nile has remained at the forefront of danceable pop music. These quotes are outtakes from my documentary FINDING THE FUNK, which…


#BLACKMUSICMONTH Memory

Nelson George

Otis Blackwell was born in Brooklyn, New York but much of his body of rock screams Southern rock & roll: “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Return to Sender” by Elvis Presley, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless” by Jerry Lee Lewis. All are ’50s classics recorded by white sons of the American South. but this short, dark-skinned didn’t just pen rock & roll. His “Handy Man,” originally cut by black crooner Jimmy Jones, made the R&B charts and then was a major hit for James Taylor in 1977. Perhaps Blackwell’s most successful copyright is the nightclub standard, “Fever,” first recorded by…


For Black Music Month, I’m digging in the archives for gems

D’Angelo became the symbol of the neo-soul movement in the mid-90s, as he and a slew of young musicians and singers brought an organic sensibility to R&B, whose mainstream sounds had become digital and technologically driven. But, as his last album, the Grammy award-winning Black Messiah made clear, this Richmond, Virginia native is passionate about progressive sounds in funk and rock. On his last tour with his band, the Vanguard, D spent more time playing guitar than keys, which suited material that was often politically edged and substituted abrasive haze for the warmth of his first two studio albums. …

Nelson George

Author and filmmaker. Current books: a novel, The Darkest Hearts (Akashic); music collection The Nelson George Mixtape (Pacific) www.pacificpacific.pub.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store