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The High Key Portrait Series: Bahamadia

Bahamadia | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN
Bahamadia | Photo by Josh Pelta-Heller for WXPN

High Key” is a series of profiles conceived with the intent to tell the story of Philly’s diverse musical legacy by spotlighting individual artists in portrait photography, as well as with an interview focusing on the artist’s experience living, creating, and performing in this city. “High Key” will be featured in biweekly installments, as the series seeks to spotlight artists both individually and within the context of his or her respective group or artistic collective.

Philly’s contributions to hip hop stretch back to the roots of the form, but few artists manage to become icons of the elements of style and with an impact and influence as far-reaching as our own Bahamadia.

Having gotten her start as a DJ in the 80s, Bahamadia had the opportunity to hone her craft right in the cultural crucible of a small Southwest-Philly-based production studio — an unassuming outfit that helped train and produce the likes of KRS-One and Boyz II Men. By 1993, Bahamadia debuted her unique brand of steady, potent cadence with her first hit single, “Funk Vibe,” and with championship from Gang Starr and The Roots crew moved on more hit records, and collaborations with the likes of Talib Kweli, Morcheeba, Erykah Badu, and Lauryn Hill.

Here, Bahamadia talks candidly about the early days in the gauntlet of underground performances, and about grateful and proud she is to be a Philly artist. She’s paying it back to her community, too, working now with disenfranchised kids from her neighborhood.

And as an artist who describes herself as “built to do what I do,” Bahamadia is still touring, still working on new music, still entertaining all the requests from fans for deliveries of her catalog of hits. “They always wanna hear it that traditional way,” she marveled, with a chuckle, “they don’t wanna hear you remixin’, they wanna hear it just like the record every night.” She observes of her fans, “people process and interpret things way different than you do! You just give your interpretation for how you internalize and express things, but somebody writes a lyric, and your supporters will come up to you like ‘yo! When you said that it touched my soul!,’ and that gives me more insight! And then I think too as you grow as an artist and as an individual, the lyrics mean something totally different than they did when you first created them.”

“It’s the illest thing, but that happens a lot.” She adds, “It’s cool, ‘cause it keeps the conversation going.”

Continue reading →

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Bahamadia has a new single and it’s all kinds of awesome

Bahamadia
Bahamadia

Philly hip-hop icon Bahamadia has been easing her way back into the spotlight in recent years, dropping an iPhone-recorded EP as well as a digital reissue of her 2004 retrospective compilation. All of this has been building up to her fourth LP, Here, which has been in the works for a little while – but a December tour reported on Okayplayer earlier today, coupled with a fierce new single, is a promising sign. Continue reading →

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Throwback Spotlight: A ‘best of’ compilation from Philly artist Bahamadia resurfaces ten years later

Photo courtesy of the artist
Photo courtesy of the artist

Ten years ago, self-proclaimed “hip hop queen” Bahamadia released a retrospective record B-Girl Sessions – The Best of Bahamadia 1993-2004. The limited-run compilation resurfaced this weekend on Bandcamp, and features the Philly rapper’s original tracks as well as remixes of popular songs that she appeared on, ranging from Erykah Badu’s neo-soul classic “Love of My Life” to Britney Spears’ inescapable pop gem “Toxic”. A few guest spots with local hip-hop kings The Roots (on “Push Up Ya Lighter” and “Proceed III”) also appear on the collection, as well as collaborations with Talib Kweli and King Britt. As far as the present goes, Bahamadia released a phone-recorded track called “Dialed Up” as a teaser for her anticipated fourth album Here.

(Hear More – Philly hiphop queen Bahamadia returns with Dialed Up, an 11 minute mix made entirely on her phone)

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Philly hiphop queen Bahamadia returns with Dialed Up, an 11 minute mix made entirely on her phone

BAHAM

She might not be a household name, but Bahamadia was a much-respected mainstay of the Philly hiphop community in the late-90s, releasing music at a steady clip well into to the 00’s (and even appearing at the first incarnation of Ladyfest Philly in 2003).

From her 1996 debut LP Kollage (produced by Guru and the legendary DJ Premier, and streamable on Spotify if you’ve never heard it), she landed several choice collaborations – with major national players like Talib Kweli, Mr. Lif and Erykah Badu, as well as local names like Army of Pharaohs and Jedi Mind Tricks. A couple releases followed up – including 2006’s Good Rap Music – and her modus operandi throughout them has always been a mix of funky, body-moving rhythms with a globally-conscious lyrical perspective.

This week brings a flurry of activity in Bahamadia’s world, with good reason – she just released her first new collection of music in almost seven years. Dialed-Up is a fierce, tightly-packaged eleven minute continuous mix that she produced, wrote and recorded entirely on her handheld mobile device. I’m not sure what’s more impressive – the way this EP was made or the fact that it sounds light years better than any record produced under those circumstances reasonably should. It also signals that the release Bahamadia’s long in-the-making LP Here might be just on the horizon. Give Dialed Up a listen below, and download it for $1 at Bandcamp.

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Inside opening weekend at Philly’s Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship

At the IHHE's inaugural session | photo by John Morrison for WXPN
At the IHHE’s inaugural session | photo by John Morrison for WXPN

Early Sunday morning, two dozen young creatives and aspiring entrepreneurs are gathered at Center City’s Pipeline coworking space, with a 15th floor view from the Graham Building overlooking a clear and crisp view of the Philly skyline.

At a glance, the room is like any other working space: boxes of coffee and bagels, half empty plastic bottles of water placed throughout the room, folks typing away at their Macbooks. But the energy is different today.

The facilitators of today’s session —  poet Erica Hawthorne-Manon and Dr. Bruce Campbell Jr. (aka DJ Junior) — are speaking to the group, which ranges in age from 19 to about 35, about the fundamentals of listening and conversing with others in a business / networking environment. The conversation is loose but intentional, the questions and observations coming from the group are probing and insightful.

This session marks the end of the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship’s inaugural weekend. A recipient of The Knight Foundation’s Cities Change grant, IHHE is a unique business school for creative entrepreneurs of the hip-hop generation. Over the course of a nine month period, the program will include a series of lectures, projects as well as Q&As with artists as well as music and business luminaries across disciplines. Continue reading →

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Jam out to the latest from Dice Raw, “How Will I Know”

Dice Raw | Via diceraw.net

Rapper, educator, activist and longtime Roots crew affiliate Dice Raw has been producing and promoting his hip-hop musical The Last Jimmy at various venues around Philly for the past couple years. But that’s not all he’s been up to.

We’ve seen him pop up at Bahamadia’s 20th anniversary gig at Johnny Brenda’s earlier this year, at the Roots Picnic (naturally) and occasionally with a new studio joint. Today we’ve got one called “How Will I Know,” which showed up on Spotify this week. Continue reading →

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The Ultimate Summertime Jam: Watch Bri Steves salute DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince

Bri Steves | via Facebook

First things first: Bri Steves, if you didn’t know this already, is awesome.

The up-and-coming MC is a loud and proud Philadelphian, and you’ll often see her rocking the stage in either a Temple or Sixers jersey while she spits verses about the 215. She’s got a dynamic presence and a compelling delivery – pointed and strong, but with plenty of chill to balance the vibe out. Her set opening for Bahamadia at Johnny Brenda’s this spring was impressive, and I’m equally digging this latest throwback to her roots – “Summer’s Mine,” a song where she salutes DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince’s classic “Summertime” by incorporating it into her own anthem for the season.

The music video for the song, premiered yesterday on The Fader, is equally fun, re-creating many shots from the original video as she rides around town with DJ HVNlee. Continue reading →