Recent Posts

‘Everything’s Gonna Be Alright,’ Naughty by Nature


In 1991, East Orange rap group Naughty by Nature had their breakthrough hit with the sex anthem “O.P.P.” Their followup was a quite a shocker: an uncompromising look at ghetto life with a deceptively upbeat name, “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” (derived from Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry”). The song, sometimes also known as “Ghetto Bastard,” is about someone who has nothing going for him, and never rises above it. He has an absentee father and a mother who can’t afford to raise him; he can’t get a job due to racism (“nappy hair was not allowed”) and turns to crime. Jail, and suicidal thoughts, follow. Continue Reading →

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‘Ladies First,’ Queen Latifah, featuring Monie Love

Hip-hop was, at first, pretty much a guy thing. And it still is, in many ways. But many women, along the way, have made their presence felt, and one of the first was Queen Latifah. “Ladies First,” a track from Latifah’s 1989 “All Hail the Queen” album that featured British rapper Monie Love, was a bold declaration, in the days when hip-hop was still defining itself, that women could hold their own:

The ladies will kick it, the rhyme that is wicked
Those that don’t know how to be pros get evicted
A woman can bear you, break you, take you
Now it’s time to rhyme, can you relate to
A sister dope enough to make you holler and scream? It’s a serious point, but the tone of the song isn’t dry or humorless. Continue Reading →

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Shows of the week: Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin, Thomas Wesley Stern, Billy Hector, Onyx

A church it is not, but over the past 12 months, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark has hosted a run of astoundingly good gospel performances. Last October, Kirk Franklin presented a fierce, funny, high-energy set of devotional music that, when the star sat at the piano, felt reassuringly traditional. That show was followed by a gospel revue curated by Bishop Hezekiah Walker that featured a mid-evening appearance by Camden’s Tye Tribbett, a musical polymath whose band finds the middle ground between Weather Report and the Black Eyed Peas. Franklin and Walker are both members of the first generation of gospel artists who had to reconcile church music with the ascendance of hip-hop — and so are Fred Hammond and Donnie McClurkin, who will co-headline at NJPAC on Friday night. Both singers are on the far side of 50, and both are modernizers who have nevertheless remained faithful to inspirational music. Continue Reading →

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