Via ‘With a Brooklyn Accent:’ The United States of Sports and Music

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Clockwise from top left: Mickey Mantle, Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers, Willie Mays, Dion and the Belmonts.

Via Mark Naison, professor of history and African American history at Fordham University:

Growing up in Crown Heights in the 1950’s, the child of two teachers who had come out of dire poverty to scrape into the middle class, I viewed politics and government as abstractions, frightening and remote. Between my parents whispered talks of McCarthyite purges, the mushroom clouds I saw on tv, and the shelter drills we had in school, politics was scary. Televised pictures of Eisenhower and Nixon, who looked nothing like the Jewish, Italian and Black People in our neighborhood, made it remote. I was told by my parents never to sign a petition, the Constitution was something we memorized in school and trying to become President seemed absurd for people in my section of Brooklyn.
So how did I become “American,” attached to the possibilities, mythologies, and opportunities the nation offered to people of modest means who came from immigrant backgrounds?
It was sports and music which made me American. Watching Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Duke Snider play center field; watching Carl Furillo, who had the same face as many of my Italian friends, throw bullets from right field; listening to Frankie Lyman and the Teenagers; Dion and the Belmonts, and Little Anthony and the Imperials, kids who came out of neighborhoods just like mIne, create beautiful harmonies and sell millions of record; watching Giants linebacker Sam Huff try to tackle the great Cleveland running back Jim Brown! These were things that brought fame and fortune to kids like me, things that showed that anything was possible in America even if you grew up with very little or were stalked by ancient hatreds, such as the anti-semitism that was so much a part of my parents childhoods.
Read more here.

A beautiful moment at a Brooklyn club…

I’m sure there are some folks who have never been to New York City who imagine that, on any given night, one can find a nightclub to hit where one can hear all kinds of global music and an inclusive environment for anyone—gay or straight, dancing along to it. But that’s not really true.

This is precisely why I became a huge fan of a monthly party called Que Bajo?! a number of years ago (2011) and attended it as much as possible. It was the one party where I could hear music from Colombia, Africa, Puerto Rico, hell, even funky beats coming out of Austin, Texas. Purely danceable stuff with guest DJs from across the United States, Europe or Latin America making a pretty diverse crowd dance all night long.

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Geko Jones and Uproot Andy, founders of Que Bajo?!

That party is now defunct but, luckily for us, its DJs are still out there working at a variety of parties. (Que Bajo?! co-founder Uproot Andy is back from touring in Brazil and will be playing in Brooklyn on Friday, July 7!)

The other founding DJ, Geko Jones, is now throwing a party called Ministerio de la Parranda. Thankfully, this party is continuing the work of providing a cool space for a diverse crowd to hear a “sancocho” of flavors from Latin America and beyond.

Here’s just 29 seconds of video from the party on June 24. In it, you’ll hear the BEAUTIFUL chords of an African guitar so often heard in Congolese soukous and Colombian champeta music. I had to stop dancing and hit record because, again, this music isn’t easily found in New York City, and I needed to share the moment, which came on New York City’s Pride weekend.

It was a beautiful moment and although I’m very sad to see Que Bajo?! go, I’m happy there are other spaces where one can enjoy such an atmosphere.

(Read my story about the new party in Sounds and Colours.)

 

Start-up culture:A Q&A w Milk Sugar’s Sam Dwyer

Screen Shot 2017-03-02 at 11.43.32 AM.pngI love milk and dairy products (cereal o’clock is one of my favorite late night habits), so I would be so upset if I were ever to become lactose intolerant. You can learn all about lactose intolerance, which basically forces some people to have to forgo most dairy here.

My mom suffers from this affliction and she has to spend close to $7 per gallon of Lactaid milk for her coffee. Well, now there’s a new product that claims to make your lactose intolerance a thing of the past.

Milk Sugar was invented by Brooklyn-based inventor Sam Dwyer. I talked to him about the product and what’s it’s like to invent a supplement! (You can buy Milk Sugar here.)
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Sam Dwyer
1) Why did you start Milk Sugar? 
Lactose intolerance is something that for many people develops in early adulthood, after you’ve spent your whole life eating dairy. I am a young guy living in New York City — I love pizza! It was so frustrating to give up my favorite foods!

I eventually discovered that I could take Lactaid pills with dairy, but they never made me feel good, and my beloved jerk room mate would make fun of me for being “lactarded.” I wanted to understand more about my body, so I started researching what lactose intolerance is — and I learned that while 10% of people with Northern European ancestry have problems with dairy, as much as 60% of our diverse US population at large has problems. But all Americans love eating cheese; on average we eat 34 pounds of the stuff every year.

What I realized was that Lactaid medicalizes, and stigmatizes, a common condition. If you’re lactose intolerant, there’s actually nothing “wrong” with you: it’s normal. So with Milksugar I set out to do two things: create a normal lactase enzyme supplement pill for normal people, and then also to… let nature in.

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What I mean by letting nature in, is that the psychology surrounding consumer products is tremendously important, because it effects how you understand yourself. The coolest thing, I think, about Milksugar is that the active lactase enzymes are derived from a cool Japanese fungus, koji, which in latin is called aspergillus oryzae. Koji is beloved in Japan, because it’s the secret ingredient for making sake and miso — it creates tons of enzymes, including the ones that break apart the dairy sugar, lactose, that gives us lactose intolerant people so much trouble!

I think that big corporations believe Americans are too wimpy to knowingly eat cool Japanese mushroom pills that help them digest dairy. I have a more optimistic view of my countrypeople: I think they will like to know! Because nature is really, really cool!!

2) What’s the best thing about being your own boss?

Well, I can sleep in and stuff. Also I can entertain myself with notions of earthly riches. I’m more inclined to think of myself as an entrepreneur than as a boss. It’s a distinction that makes a difference. I’m terribly impulsive; I don’t command myself, so much as I am drawn forward by curiosity and vision. In that way, I am a servant.

And that’s the best part — the freedom to pursue the dream!

3) What’s one of the hardest things?

Well, I’m not a rich kid, or in possession of vast savings, so there’s been some financially tight moments. How terrible — I have had to live off rice, and sometimes recycle my better-remunerated room mates cans for beer money. Oh, woe is me (I’m joking, although having money to go out is fun). It’s more seriously stressful to be late with the rent. Obviously, as a start up business with not too much sales volume yet I should worry about failure. But the truth is that I don’t.

In the back of my mind I have been preparing to do a project like this for awhile. I am very fortunate to have some truly amazing and inspiring friends, teachers, and investors who have walked similar paths. I wouldn’t be doing this without them.

The hardest task for me has been setting the correct expectations for myself, and remaining mindful. I can be very impatient, but changing the way an entire culture thinks about lactose intolerance won’t happen overnight.

That said, I think we can win.

New hip hop from NYC’s Justin Bates

Justin Bates
Justin Bates

Brooklyn rapper, Justin Bates (a Chicago native), tells me he often gets “You remind me of someone,” in regards to his sound. YES. Is it Red Man? I’m not sure. But one thing is clear: He’s got a GREAT voice.

Obviously, he’s a great lyricist, too, or I wouldn’t be sharing his latest track, “All On We,” produced by Madwreck. I dig the soulful intro, and again, can’t say enough of Bates’ voice. This song is very reminiscent of 90s New York hip hop for me!

And check out this video for his track, “Turn The Music Up,” from 2012.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/20853720″>Justin Bates &quot;Turn The Music Up&quot;</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/javiergoin”>jG Films</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Meet (& support!) Norvis Jr.

A little over a year ago, Natalia Linares (the digi-femenista/music manager/publicist) behind conrazón invited a small group of people for a private concert at her Staten Island apartment featuring an independent artist, Norvis Jr.

I’d met him (real name Nelson-Mandela Nance) a couple of times prior to the performance, but I wasn’t familiar with his music. I had no idea what I was in for.

Norvis Jr. sings his types of soul.
Norvis Jr. sings his type of electro-soul in Staten Island.

Not only was I blown away by his unique brand of electro-soul, but the intimacy of the performance coupled with the ‘zone’ he was in signaled to me that I was witnessing something special.

Since then, Norvis Jr., a native of Dallas, TX. now living in Brooklyn, N.Y., has performed at a handful of New York City venues, but now he wants to take his show on the road with a spring 2015 tour. Listen to him here (he’s got a great speaking AND singing voice), and then support his Kickstarter (and its hilarious video displaying his healthy diet!) here.

Norvis Jr. surrounded by a diverse crew of music lovers!
Norvis Jr. surrounded by a diverse crew of music lovers!

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Raka Rich freestyles over Drake & Jay Z’s ‘Pound Cake’

Screen shot 2014-01-25 at 10.37.20 PMLos Rakas may be on tour with J-Boog, but they keep gifting fans with tracks every so often. This new one features Raka Rich dropping cocky lyrics over a remix of Drake and Jay Z’s ‘Pound Cake.’

Ahora estoy llenando estadios…” (Now, I’m filling stadiums.)
— Raka Rich on the track.

The “bilingual East Bay-flava’d banger,” produced by one of my favorites architects in the game — Nima Fadavi, is where the genre is going to keep going, folks. Get on it.

And it’s not just Spanish. Hip-hop is global game, and this is good thing for those who are sick of the same 10 artists we keep getting shoved down on throats on all mediums. (And, yes, I’m aware Jay Z and Drake are two of the 10, but that’s what makes this track special. Raka Rich, along with Shark Sinatra, Sin Que, and D.A.Go give this track a different flavor for sure.)

Zuzu and Burt Fox. <3
Zuzu and Burt Fox. ❤

Also check out a new BASS-tastic track by Brazil/Brooklyn’s Zuzuka Poderosa. “Baile Crunk,” produced by Burt Fox, is just as hot as the hook proclaims:

Rio De Janeiro, Tennessee & H-town,
Rio de Janeiro, Atlanta, Miami…

Música! What I’m listening to this week.

Haven’t updated music news in a while, so here goes…

The Brooklyn-based psychedelic salsa band, La Mecanica Popular, have released a new video for their single, “La Paz del Freak.” Great song and I’m pleased I have a CD for my dad. The man loves his salsa. Always has. Check out the video, and read about the meaning of the song, on Sounds and Colours! And if you’re in NYC, check them out at Lit Lounge on the 21st.

La Mecanica Popular. Photo by Gina Vergel
La Mecanica Popular. Photo by Gina Vergel

My homeslice Christian Vera from Chicago’s SOULPHONETICS crew sent me a beautiful mix. It’s got some sultry Brazilian tunes in it and, to me, that equals love. Close your eyes, pretend you’re on a beach in Rio, and listen here. (Free download, too!)

Photo via Soulphonetics on Facebook.
Photo via Soulphonetics on Facebook.

In the wake of Isabela Raygoza’s great “20 Spanish-Language MCs Everyone Should Hear” article in MTVIggy this week, Christian Vera turned me onto a Puerto Rican-by-way-of-Chicago rapper, the Color Brown. I always appreciate an emcee who can rap clearly the whole song through, so lyrics are truly heard, so I’m a fan upon first listen. I plan to explore more, though. There’s a lot on his Soundcloud.

Start off with this track, “Exilio,” since it opens with the sound of the coquí, and that made me miss Puerto Rico.

Elvis Costello has released a new album with The Roots. I repeat: Elvis Costello and The Roots. Listen to this wonderful collaboration via WFUV.

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Throwback Thursday. This remix by Uproot Andy shuffled onto my earbuds last night when I was walking my dog. “El Botellon” was released on Bersa Discos in 2008? Is that right? All I know is I always requested it the year I first met him, which I believe was 2011. (And he obliged. What a guy!) The track ever gets old.

Finally, I’m on a real soul kick. Charles Bradley! Lee Fields! Take me to a Daptones party! (Or the next best thing. Charles Bradley and more at Williamsburg Park on the 2oth.) Watch this 2011 performance of “Why Is It So Hard?” from a live session (backed by The Menahan Street Band) on KEXP in Seattle. Phew! Deep lyrics.