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Dice Raw gets Boxed

Dice Raw in Henry Box Brown | photo courtesy of Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein
Dice Raw in Henry Box Brown | photo courtesy of Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein

The occasional mouthpiece for The Roots heads into his second theater piece Henry Box Brown: a Hip Hop Musical for Black History Month

Forever connected to The Roots, Karl Jenkins – aka Dice Raw – has struck out on his own in a big way within the last five years. Starting with his most politicized solo album yet, Jimmy’s Back, and his self-penned accompanying theater piece, The Last Jimmy (both dealing with Jim Crow laws, the unfairness of black-male incarceration and present-day forms of enslavement), Jenkins has further ensconced himself within the world of theater with Henry Box Brown: a Hip Hop Musical.

Running at Community College of Philadelphia’s Bonnell Auditorium, the musical he stars in and has co-written is about the legendary Virginia-based slave who — upon losing his wife — mailed himself in a 3′ x 2’8″ x 2′ box to Philadelphia and subsequent freedom. From there, “Box” Brown became prominent for his writing and his on-stage antics as a hypnotist, magician and singer. Continue reading →

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From North Wales, PA to Arkansas to the Hoagie Nation: An interview with John Oates

John Oates
John Oates | photo by Greg Vorobiov | courtesy of the artist

Anyone who knows the platinum-plated duo of Daryl Hall and John Oates gets that they are two men separate yet equal and as far apart from each other as sausage and silk. It is when the famed twosome come together in soul-filled harmony that they ever-so-gloriously unified and of one mind.

Currently living in Nashville, and making solo music far apart from the R&B-based rock, it is Oates that seems farthest from where he started; North Wales, PA to North Philly’s Temple University campus, where he met Hall. For all of the soul-pop the duo is renowned for, Oates’ recent solo career – or at least his last four studio efforts 1000 Miles of Life (2008), Mississippi Mile (2011), Good Road to Follow (2013), and now, the newly-released Arkansas – is ingrained in the coffee house folk that he loved as a young troubadour.

On his way to an Arkansas-based live showcase at World Café Live this Tuesday, February 6, Oates rapped about his new music, his still new autobiography Change of Seasons, and – of course – the just-announced second iteration of Hoagie Nation, Hall & Oates’ showcase of locally-curated bands and meat products, which returns to Festival Pier on Saturday, May 26, this year featuring their new summer tour partners, Train. Continue reading →

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Kimbra’s Primal Heart wins out

Kimbra at The Roots Picnic | Photo by John Vettese for WXPN

It’s hard not to embrace an interview subject who enters the conversation laughing before the first question is lobbed. That’s Kimbra: the New Zealand soul singer whose albums before 2018 (The Golden Echo, Vows) were cheerfully cluttered, genre-mixing experiences marinated in the meaty juices of dance-pop.

Her newest album following her recent move to NYC, Primal Heart, is due in April, and takes a different tact in that the whole of the album is a windier, more minimalist experience, which allows her emotional lyrical perspective to shine through to a greater extent than in previous sonic settings. Before she appears at Union Transfer on January 31, Kimbra chatted about golden echoes, gods and Gotye. Continue reading →

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Two to Tango: Inara George and Matt Whyte (Rupe Shearns)

Inara George | photo by Alexa Nikol Curran | courtesy of the artist
Rupe Shearns | still from video // Inara George | photo by Alexa Nikol Curran | courtesy of the artist

Inara George and Matt Whyte are going through some changes as late. The chanteuse from the bird and the bee and the one-time Earl Greyhound are moving beyond the celestial pop we identify them with into something heartier and more holistic, a la Whyte’s Rupe Shearns’ alter ego and his To A Deer Outside Ithaca release to say nothing of George’s gorgeous aptly titled Dearest Everybody. Plus the headliner George and the opening act Shearns are old buddies. So we got them to play Two to Tango before their Boot & Saddle date tonight. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: The Django Pages – A.D. Amorosi’s greyhound rates the hits, disses the misses of the year gone by

Django Amorosi | photo by Reese Amorosi | courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributor A.D. Amorosi turns to his trusty greyhound Django for some musical feedback.

Your best friend does not always like the music that you like. That’s what friends are for. At least this is the case of Django, our greyhound, with whom my wife and I share a loving bond and living/listening space on a daily basis. It’s his house, he just lets us live there.

If I am reviewing a Migos single with Pharrell Williams, he is reviewing it too.  Same with a Johnny Cash box set, a Sheer Mag download, an Archie Shepp YouTube moment, or what-have-you.  If I am laughing at Love & Hip Hop: New York and watching the dilemma between Remy Ma and her husband/manager Papoose, chances are Django is observing this behavior – and my reaction – with his ears pricked high. Does he enjoy everything on Love & Hip Hop? No. Can I tell the difference? Yes. Continue reading →

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The Key’s Year-End Mania: A.D. Amorosi’s best reissues of 2017

David Bowie | via NME.com

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2017 incredible. Today, Key contributor A.D. Amorosi looks back over the best repackaged and reissued classics from 2017.

The Residents once said, collectively, that “ignorance of your culture is not considered cool.” As a large part of our culture happens to be musical, genre specific, reminiscent and product driven, there’s no reason – with the advent of the mega-reissue – to miss out on the drama of that which came before you, or at least came before the immediate now. That said, this is not a game for the timid or the down-sound-cloud-loading digital type. This is for the tactile luddite who like things heavy and touchable. Continue reading →

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Ursula Rucker: tender, torrid, tough

Ursula Rucker
Ursula Rucker | photo by Neal Santos | courtesy of the artist

Philadelphia’s Ursula Rucker is part of America’s continuum of Afro-conscious performance poets such as Gil Scott-Heron, Wanda Robinson, Sonia Sanchez and The Last Poets. Yet, since the early 90s – her work with King Britt, Josh Wink, The Roots, a series of electronically devised solo albums – Rucker has modernized its musical form, while maintaining a uniquely seductive éclat that is hers and hers alone.

In the last several years, she has tucked into her past, and that of her family’s to come up with a lengthy performance piece My Father’s Daughter. Now, after spending the month of October performing its tales of motherhood and survival at NYC’s Club Theatre at La MaMa, the guileless poetess and atmospheric guitarist Tim Motzer have returned home to co-craft a love letter to the City of Brotherly Love’s present day changes in gentrification and beyond at the Kimmel’s SEI Innovation Studio on December 9.

Motivated by percussionist Doug Hirlinger and joined by co-composers John Swana (valve trombone) and M’Balia Singely (lyricist), the currently skeletal “Dear Philadelphia” tone poem is part of the Kimmel’s Jazz Residency program with its final, staged performance occurring next spring. So, at the very least, we know what Rucker has planned for the next six months. Though we conducted this interview via email, Rucker’s rhythms and cadences come roaring through. Continue reading →

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Two to Tango: New York City’s Shilpa Ray and Philly’s Shawn Kilroy team up Sunday at Kung Fu Necktie

Shilpa Ray photo by Ebru Yildiz / Shawn Kilroy photo by Bill Di Cecca || courtesy of the artists

New York City’s Shilpa Ray makes oddly noir-ish, neo-jazzy pop on albums such as her lustrous new Door Girl on the Northern Spy label. Philadelphia’s Shawn Kilroy has an angular, Bowie-like demeanor to whatever brands of music he chooses to essay, especially now in his most recent electronic excursions. Ray and Kilroy may not know each other, but they will share a journey (or at least a bill) at Kung Fun Necktie on November 19. Here is their story. Continue reading →

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Lukas Nelson and Co. bring the real

Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist
Lukas Nelson | photo by Myriam Santos | courtesy of the artist

Two years ago, Lukas Nelson, his brother Micah Nelson, and the membership of the ragged Promise of the Real were just coming into its own as backing band-collaborators of Neil Young for his Monsanto Years album and tour. The Nelson Brothers and their surfer buddies in Promise had recorded rough, jammy, Cali-countrified albums such as 2010’s Promise of the Real, and 2012’s Wasted, by that time (Micah is a solo artist under names such as The Particle Kid and Insects VS Robots), yet, between this then-new association with Young – to say nothing of their personal and professional lineage, playing and touring with their dad, Willie Nelson – there could have been a fear that legend would overshadow youthful ebullience and individuality.

“Willie’s my dad, Neil is our friend, both are masters and originals; why run from that?” Lukas Nelson told me back in 2015. Besides, with its slow, syrupy 2017 album Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real topping the Americana charts (along with the December 1 release of his collaboration with Young, The Visitor), Nelson & Co have found a sound, a niche and an audience all its own.

With that, they hit Union Transfer on November 14 as WXPN’s Artist to Watch for the month of November. Continue reading →

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RunHideFight brings Geeta Simons from motherhood to garage-rocking mother-f$#&ing-hood

RunHideFight | photo by Adam Wallacavage | courtesy of the artist

Toward the end of the mad, bad, 90s in Philadelphia, blunt, forceful guitarist-singer Geeta Simons was part of several essential bands, with the revved-up garage rocking Rockula and the poppy, post-punk Swisher being two of her most notable and notorious. Like other musical artists before her, Simons was effected by two things, for better and worse: physical problems involving the dexterity of her hands, and marriage, then children. So she became, in her words, “freaking Donna Reed, if she was tanned and cool,” for over a decade of (still wedded) bliss, and raising two girls.

Like other artists before her, Simons grew as restless now, as she was a young player – the very manifestation of the 7-year-itch. So, she kicked the kids out of the playroom, so to speak, began demo-ing new garage-ish songs she had composed, then formed RunHideFight with another punk rock mom, Christine Weiser of Mae Pang, as well as Stinking Lizavetta’s Cheshire Agusta and Suffacox, and Jonathan “Brother JT” Terelsky.

Simons debuts her band and her custom-made checkerboard double-neck 24 string (12 electric neck/ 12 electric sitar neck) Chris DiPinto guitar in an opening slot for the legendary Pere Ubu at Johnny Brenda’s on November 14. Continue reading →