Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Music should and will always come first -DJ Chicken George

Image courtesy of Elle Magazine

A Nefferttiti-esque woman, Egyptian head dress replaced by a sculpted afro, in a Chanel tweed dress, stands in front of a late afternoon sun-kissed, fire escape adorned, brick wall. Then, she reclines along a cement ledge in a Fendi cashmere dress and sable vest with the Brooklyn bridge in the background. The sun sets on the city, and these images begin the editorial, "New York State of Mind" in Elle's September issue. This fashion spread ties in the sweetest elements of raw, urbanity with jazz and funk. I often find parallels between music and fashion and this editorial bears a striking resemblance to Jazztronica, DJ Chicken George's (CG) unique culmination of hip hop, jazz, soul and funk.

Jazztronica has been the soundtrack to my life these days (it is difficult to get tired of, perhaps due to the diverse genres of music that CG knows so well). So when I took a moment to relax and thumb through the 2010 September issue of Elle Magazine, and I came across "New York State of Mind," styled by Samira Nasr and photographed by Laurie Bartley, I felt a rush of excitement. The imagery created by Nasr and Bartley seemed so familiar... that feeling of deja vu.

I immediately began to cross reference each look to specific mixes created by CG, i.e. page 511, the Calvin Klein suit and Carine Gilson Lingerie Collection corset reminds me of the track "Give Me the Night (chill night mix)" by Randy Crawford on Radio Jazztronica #1 and on page 513, the model in a Chloe silk blouse and crepe pants perfectly illustrate Abstract Truth's "We Had a Thing (Jay's naked remix)", also on Radio Jazztronica #1.

I can go on about the similarities between CG's Jazztronica and this fashion editorial, instead, I urge to you click on one of these links and feel the vibes yourself. The mixes are housed on Properly Chilled- down tempo music and culture and can be accessed through DJ Chicken George's audio mixes on his website as well www.djchickengeorge.com Radio Jazztronica. Sit back, relax and let the funk fill your soul.

All previous images courtesy of Elle Magazine

This post was supposed to be published in September, near the release of writer/ photographer Damon Daood's afro infused coffee table book entitled Afrodesiac. Still, it's never too late to expose a book that allows readers to delve into their chocolate covered fantasies... http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1740255. Damon was sweet enough to share some delicious insight on his creative endeavors.

What initially triggered your desire to shoot images of women in afros?

The initial seed was planted several years ago with a photographer friend–we armed our alternative egos with cameras for the day and began shooting for the hell of it. Well, I guess I was doing more shooting of her yummy sweet thangs (I do after all have quite the sweet-tooth.) She busted out an afro wig along the way and it was all chocolate from there. Shortly after our encounter, I began crafting a screenplay of a martial world where fu, fros, funk and ninjas were the norm. AFRODISIAC is somewhat an extension of that world–a distant cousin but the book idea wasn't conceived until much later in the spring of '09.

From what I had the opportunity to witness, this appeared to be an intense project. As you initially immersed yourself in it, did you have any idea what you were getting yourself into?

I really didn't quite grasp the magnitude until this past year. There was an extended period of time where I couldn't look at a woman without picturing her nappy (I'm sure that sounds naughty but it's the truth). If rolling around with 20 flavors of fro in yo’ trunk is full immersion, then yes I’m very guilty and throw the chocolate wrapper at me. I wanted an experience everyone could enjoy on some delicious level–from the ninja in the lens, the viewer thumbing the pages or even the spectator on the street witnessing the fro down – It's definitely the largest scale project I've singularly taken on.

You gave a handful of women, myself included, the opportunity to lead a super sexy alter ego while we were in front of your camera. How did it feel to be on the other side of the lens, capturing the images?

Although I was the one wielding the camera, there was a part of me that enjoyed being the proverbial "superbly" on the wall. It was a delicious spot to be and highly addictive. Women love to feel beautiful (and desired) and eye love dipping them in my chocolate soul sauce. I warned every woman who came onto the project that the experience would be unlike anything they’ve experienced and by the end of the shoot how difficult it would be returning to their 'regular' self. I witnessed this transformation dozens of times. The alternative egos served as an extension to their identities and the 'fros became the mojo to drive each. I'm a man who loves to play like a boy in a constructive way and it's always fun to invite others into my chocolate covered neurosis.

Your final product is gorgeous; something to be proud of. But I know that you have more up your sleeve. Is there anything that you are willing to share at this point?

Thank you. I’m delighted to hear you enjoyed it! I'd like to continue with future AFRODISIAC volumes touching on certain themes and expand on what I've started here but that's down the road. I have other avenues involving music & film but wherever I choose to go or do I won't stray too far from my nappy heady roots and the chocolate will certainly be melting on the tongues of the natives.

Photo courtesy of Damon Daood

I was so flattered when Damon suggested that, due to my undeniable passion for hip hop culture, I "fro" down and really release that part of me. The shoot was exhausting, hot and dirty (we were literally sprawled across asphalt on one of Austin's hottest summer days) but it was so gratifying to participate in this project. I also need to make note that the book was edited by the one and only, Amy, who is also responsible for the editorial aspects of Suburbane Style.
Photo courtesy of Damon Daood

Photo courtesy of Damon Daood

Photo courtesy of Damon Daood

Monday, November 1, 2010

Night Fever Part 2

If there is no music, there is not dance -Tito Puente

Last March I started my SXSW experience with a Tuesday night event hosted by Jeff Strange of StrangeTribe and Papa Chop of Soul of the Boot Entertainment, along with Bemba Entertainment. Featuring Chico Mann and Ocote Soul Sounds, among a long list of amazing artists, it was an eclectic fusion of talent. I attended the show solo. I sat on the rooftop patio at Momo's, sipped on a glass of wine and listened to the tango-infused sounds of the Austin Piazzolla Quintet. I was so content, so satisfied so ready to take advantage of the music-infused week.

Two nights later at Scoot Inn, Chico Mann warmed the air on a bone chilling night with his electronic Latin funk. His music was alive and melodic, undeniably uplifting. Unfortunately, SXSW sets are often cut short, due to time constraints. I was left wanting to hear more.

Eight months later, thanks to Jeff and Papa Chop, I had the opportunity to see Chico Mann perform again, at Night Fever. It was indeed a necessary follow up after his SXSW set. On a costume-clad Halloween night, Peligrosa, Austin's finest crew of Cumbia bumpin Latin style DJs, properly opened a set for Chico Mann. And again, as soon as his set took off, that funky Latin sound warmed the chilly October night.

So far, Night Fever has yet to disappoint. Jeff Strange and Papa Chop are onto something huge. Several months ago, when Amy and I interviewed them, we were left with an abundance of blogging material, plenty of information to share with our readers. This is our follow up to the original Night Fever blog post... The logistics...


Meg: The first Night Fever that you did was DJ Numark, that was your flagship event?

Jeff: That was the launch party that was their [Wax Poetics] hip-hop issue.

Meg: But the Night Fever that Rich Medina played, that was your genre selection?

Jeff: Right, that was the following month. That was our pick on wanting to do a soul party.

Papa Chop: That event also had Juneteenth which we felt that was an important time to do a very urban genre, you know, and soul music. We wanted to give a little back to that day. The marketing needs to come from multiple angles, because for some people, Rich Medina might not mean anything but if Rich Medina’s gonna play some music on Juneteenth, Juneteenth means a lot to some people so, you know the different angles we try to grab and incorporate, we try to make it appealing to more than just the people that follow us, the people that love us, the people that know what we do cause you want it to grow.

Meg: Do you see Night Fever as a concept that can be duplicated in other cities?

Papa Chop: I’m glad you axed that question.

Jeff: Yeah, that’s a really good question because that’s another seed that we want to plant and utilize the Romero family bus and convert it to the Night Fever train.

Papa Chop: And the other thing that is, if you think about it, the concept of Night Fever is that, we have a record store involved so we want to cater to people that love vinyl, that love music to that capacity, that they would actually go to record stores and shop. So we wanted to bring the record store to the venue in a small capacity so that they can gain exposure and have something different. I have studied many concepts of parties, I don’t know of any other event, or monthly event, themed event that has actual vinyl for sale in the event the night of and so for us that was… for me that was very important, but on that note, in every major city there are tons of record stores, so we could take the concept on the road, we can find a visual artist, we can find a VJ to do images, we can go into these cities and extend our concept and our business to their local communities.

Jeff: Get locals involved.

Papa Chop: It’s meant to be Austin based...

Jeff: And that being started from just simply doing just a Texas circuit, utilize [Austin] being just a few hours away from Houston and just a few hours away from Dallas and doing, you know, being able to do a Thursday, Friday, Saturday, you know three night in a row Texas tour with our artists that are going to be on the road. That will be the start of getting Night Fever in other cities and we’ll just grow from there...

Papa Chop: I mean, I think if you take the concept in and try not to bring the whole crew... You are coming in with open hands and a concept and saying, we want to work with you, we want to put you to work, we want to see what ya’ll have because they might bring something to the concept that we couldn't get. You just never know, you have to be open to different people’s creativity and their capacities but Austin will get the love and Austin will be heard very much.

Meg: Can you name three DJs that have most influenced you?

Jeff: Name three of my biggest DJ influences… Wow… Man that’s not really a fair question. That’s not fair because I’ll leave all my boys off that I’ve worked with many times you know what I mean? There’s always more to come. My music selection is pretty much in all and on shuffle constantly, so…

Meg: What was the last song that was on when you got out of your car?

Jeff: I’m on my motorcycle.

Amy: Well... what was the last album you bought?

Jeff: I bought a few things off of True Thoughts, a record label out of the UK they released a Hot 8 Brass Band from New Orleans, Sexual Healin, so that was the last 12” purchase I guess um… I mean, I guess, J Boogie is definitely one of my favorites of all time and that kind of goes back to him not being genre driven. He is all over the place he plays all types of music. Very eclectic, very funky, very worldly so I tend to follow people like that, you know, people that I’ve worked with in the past that I really love are the ESL family also spawns off to the Fort Knox family you know Thunderball, Rex Riddem, that’s all family that I really dug for many, many years, I own all of their material so that family for sure, I mean, Rich Medina is legendary.

Meg: He was entertaining to watch and listen to. That was my favorite Night Fever.

Jeff: Someone I left off that has been really influential to me in the ESL family would be Ursula 1000, he has played so many epic DJ sets for me and his material and his music is absolutely amazing Ursula 1000, he’s in the ESL tribe; their all in the same tribe. What about you Papa Chop?

Papa Chop: Me?

Jeff: You know, Papa Chop should probably say Rich Medina; can we back up and rewind?

Amy: Yeah, I was going to say, we can rearrange some things.

Papa Chop: The reason why Rich Medina is my favorite taste maker DJ is because Rich Medina was the first DJ that I actually booked in an event, like, large name that had never come to Austin. Which was me and Jeff’s second event at ACL last year, we brought Rich in and Rich had never been to Texas and Jeff has worked with a lot of artists, he’s booked a lot of people, but for me Rich was the first regional act that I was able to be a part of bringing in and it was like instant family. Other DJs…

Jeff: It’s hard, isn’t it?

Papa Chop: Yeah, it’s really hard… Ima go on a local tip right here and I’m gonna tell you who my favorite local DJ is even though I shouldn’t... and this has got a lot of things that go into it.

I’m gonna be honest with you, Orion Garcia. I have the utmost respect for him musically, business-wise, I think that he inspires me to do more with what I do because I see what he is able to do and he is always ready to get on the drawing board and take on an idea. He is always willing to be a part conceptually, so I mean, his music selection; he’s making his own music so he’s not just a DJ. He is producing, he is coming out with his own material, he’s remixing he’s putting out albums, I mean, I very much follow what Orion does on a regular basis. So that’s two… is that good, one more?

Meg: Two will suffice…

Jeff: Well I mean, coming from our place in music and being so broad, and so open to all types of music that you really, I mean for me, it’s really hard to have a favorite. I don’t have a favorite band, I don’t have a favorite DJ, I don’t have a favorite genre, I don’t even have a favorite restaurant. But to answer your question, we got there, but you know…

Meg: Do y’all have a favorite Night Fever?

Here you go with this favorite shit again.

Papa Chop: I can definitely answer that one… I think that, as far as the dance floor and the vibe on the dance floor, the most epic night so far was J Boogie, by far. Just because I think that Jeff has done a good job of bringing J Boogie here, J Boogie has a lot of roots in the Austin community and plus we had DJ Sun, who has a lot of fans here because he is in Houston. J Boogie’s selection was just on point; he covered all the bases and I think that, when I entered the dance floor with J Boogie, it was it was happening. It felt like there was a lot of love being passed and people were just really gettin it. So Jeff can answer his favorite, but outta the first four, that was my favorite.

Jeff: I would have to agree. I think that was, as far as the vibe and the outcome, you know I think that everybody was really feelin it. Not that at every other Night Fever everyone was not feelin it, but…

Papa Chop: I think that J Boogie, that the volume three show really helped us to start building a fan base. I think that was a turning point, you know. The first one was really awesome, you know, Numark and Mel just really murdered it and it was great but, it was our first party so it’s special to us but, we did not really start building as much momentum. By the time volume three came up, I think we had some momentum. I think that people came out for it. I think people were receptive and that people started talking about Night Fever; people started wanting to be involved, spreading the love on social networks and stuff so, you know.

Meg: Okay, I have one more question. What is your favorite event that you have done collaboratively?

Jeff: Ooh, well, its SXSW 2010, this year. Tuesday night before SXSW of this year we did an amazingly wicked party at Momo’s, stacked with crazy talent, you know, we took advantage all the people that were coming into town for SXSW, did a launch party for the weekend. That was pretty epic for me, but you know as I say that I start thinking about all these other events, but that’s cause I’m not good on the favorites.

Papa Chop: But that one was you know, we put it together with another promoter, Brandon Medina from Bemba Entertainment. So we had three promoters on one event and we put it all together and people started coming to be involved after that, it’s not like we waited to see if we were gonna have sponsors to get involved to make it happen, we put it together and made it happen, you know, with our skills and logistics and then it all came full circle.


Photos courtesy of Suburbane Style