All posts by Blaire Monroe

Blaire is an online content producer, contributor to two.one.five magazine, and an avid hair twirler.
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Concert Review: All She Needed Was Some – Childish Gambino

Words by Blaire Monroe, photos by Daniel Wooden

It was only five minutes before the 8:30 pm starting time when I squeezed my way up to the second floor of the Electric Factory. The first floor was too filled to even attempt to conquer. The Philadelphia stop of the Deep Web Tour was completely sold out.  As I looked for some place, any place, to slither into so that I could get a glimpse of the stage, a chant broke out amongst the antsy crowd: “WOOOORLDSTAAAAR, WOOOORLDSTAAAAR, WOOOORLDSTAAAAR”. There was almost a pleading tone in their unified voice; where was the man of the hour?

I finally found a tiny opening between two girls who were seemingly irritated, but nonetheless, they made some room. Below us, a handful of people, who I correctly assumed were friends of the performer, started filing on stage and sat down in what appeared to be a simulated party scene.

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(photo by Blaire Monroe) 

“Do you want to come up here?” One of them yelled.

Taken aback, I looked around, “Uh, me?”

My confusion turned to bliss with a fraction of panic as they all nodded in unison, “Yeah, you!”

Two minutes later I was escorted on to the stage. As we hastily walked behind a row of instruments, my guide explained that I would be part of a quick party scene, and that afterwards I could watch the rest of the show from behind the stage.

Are you fucking kidding me? I thought. Best Friday ever.

Moments after I found my seat on set, the lights dimmed, the crowd lost their shit and out marched writer/actor/comedian/singer/producer/credited emcee, Donald Glover – stage name, Childish Gambino.

With a quick glance and a smile to the crowd, Gambino instantaneously sat down at the piano to open-up the show with the instrumental interlude “Playing Around Before The Party”.

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“This is about to get crazy, just keep your eye on the screens”, grinned a producer friend of Gambino’s.

He was right. Behind me was a wall-sized screen, which started filling up with imagery varying throughout the show from the backdrop of a mansion, to trippy lasers to a raunchy, silhouetted threesome featuring Gambino as the main event.

As he cut loose on stage he performed winners “I. Crawl”, “II. Worldstar”, “Dial Up” and “I. The Worst Guys” from his astonishingly classic album Because The Internet. It was hard not to be fixated on him. His energy was infectious, and his passion for performing was more than evident. He had a very genuine connection with his band; every now and then I would see him glance back at each one of them and give them a playful smile.

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Moments later as Gambino was winding down the popular head bopper, “I. The Party”, the stage lights shined down on the other “party goers” and myself.

“I invited all these people to my motherfucking house”, Gambino points to us, “get the fuck out of my house!”

We all slink off stage and get politely ushered to the backroom for the next few songs. It’s in that room that I meet a friend of Gambino’s who flew in from the west coast just to see her longtime friend perform. She’s also a performer, a talented poet and a writer. She tells me that she’s known Gambino since their freshman year at NYU and as she talks about what a wonderful dude he is and how incredible it’s been to see him flourish, she radiates pride and admiration.

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Three songs later we’re brought back on stage to watch from a cozy couch set up behind the band. I’m bummed to have missed my favorite boastful banger from the album, “IV. Sweatpants”, along with a few other numbers, but I’m obviously not complaining. I still got to catch “ III. Telegraph Ave.”, “I. Pink Toes” “V. 3005” and “II. Earth: The Oldest Computer”. Gambino performed his entire album, in addition to a few familiar throwbacks.

As he winds down the show with a candid freestyle and the final crowd pleasing compilation of “Bonfire/Freaks and Geeks/Firefly/Yaphet Kotto/Heartbeat”, Gambino croons to the floor seats and then he moves to the left side of the stage to a group of people who were in the top row and regrettably stuck standing behind a giant pillar. As I look up at them they’re grinning uncontrollably, mouthing the lyrics back to Gambino and reaching out as far as they can just to be a little bit closer to him. All corniness aside, the performance is magical – honestly.

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Many of us have seen Donald Glover prosper on screen in the NBC comedy Community, or as Hannah’s Republican boyfriend in season 2 of Girls, or as an indisputably hilarious stand-up comedian but to see him perform as Childish Gambino and to witness him immerse himself in his music live on-stage, you can tell, that’s without a doubt where he truly shines. It’s just something you’ve got to see for yourself, and I was lucky enough to witness it up close.

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Grab tickets to see Childish Gambino on the last couple of stops on the Deep Web tour, here.

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This Saturday: Get down with FRIENDS & FAM

The weekend is finally upon us and it’s about to go DOWN. Our homie DJ PHSH has just returned from Israel is ready to set things off with his latest installment of FRIENDS & FAM this Saturday, January 18th, at Kung Fu Necktie. Prepare for back-to-back sets with DJ PHSH and special guest DJ FERNO.

You already know it’s bound to be the most epic of dance parties, so don’t miss out. The good times begin at 10 pm, cover charge is $5. See ya’ll there.

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FRIENDS & FAM

Kung Fu Necktie

1250 N. Front St.

10 pm

$5

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Must Have: The NaVeY Snapback

Get fresh for the new year with one of our favorite new releases of the season: the NaVey snapback. Designed by LA-based musician and Music Director Brook D’Leau, these snapbacks feature the Anchor Plane Logo stitched on the front along with the motto “Fiducia Est Non Satis”  (trust is not enough) embroidered on the back.

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You can choose between the featured black, light grey and royal color palettes, however, we can assure you they’re all equally dope. During the holiday season the hats moved pretty quickly, so there are only a few pieces left. Grab ‘em up fast at The NaVey Rag. Follow D’Leau and The NaVey Rag on Twitter & Instagram for more updates.

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Check out artists Miguel, Jack Davey and more rockin’ the NaVey snapbacks below:

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Artist Spotlight: In the Studio with Naima Merella

A few months back, I stopped by Queen Village’s Essene Market to view the exhibit “Lovely Locks”, which featured drawings that depicted women with big natural, kinky, curly, twisted hair. The artist, Naima Merella, was holding an opening reception for the general public. Although I was naturally drawn to her subject matter and seriously impressed by the attention to detail in her drawings, what really captivated me was the fact that this wasn’t even Naima’s only master medium. She graduated from University of the Arts with a degree in Photography, but she also has a natural ability for painting and carving.

Weeks after the show Naima invited me to her studio, an alluring working space which was left to her by her late mentor, Francis Tucker. After catching up and getting a quick tour of the studio, I had a few questions for her:

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two.one.five magazine: For you, what is the most integral part of being an artist?

Naima Merella: The most integral part of being an artist is finding the truest way to express yourself, in whatever form it may be. Personally I believe everyone is an artist its just about finding your niche. We are all creative people we just express our selves differently. To be artful is to make something look good and to make something look good is to make it look easy.

215: You paint, draw, photograph and more; do you have a favorite medium?

NM: My favorite medium changes depending on my mood. Lately I’ve been really into encaustics. Encaustic is an umbrella term but I use beeswax over photos. Wax is fun because its very malleable which makes it very versatile. I like pouring it over photos and then carving away at it making different focal points in the image; thick wax blurs the image and thin wax is clear. I like using media that has unpredictable results and then finding a way to control it enough to create happy accidents.

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Photo Credit: naimamerella.wordpress.com

215: What would be your dream project?

NM: Right now my dream project would be to paint a mural in the city. I love street art, its probably the kind of art that influences me most, murals are different but they still have the same effect of adding some visual eye candy to places that would otherwise be boring or blighted. I like the idea of working on such a big scale & creating something that would contribute to the overall atmosphere of the city.

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215: Who are some artists that you’d like to be compared to?

NM: I’m not sure who I’d like to be compared to but some of my influences include Bob Assman, Leah Macdonald, Maya Hayuk, C215, Hieronymus Bosch, many of my teachers and friends who are artists are really my biggest influences.

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Photo Credit: naimamerella.wordpress.com

215: You recently had an opening for a project called, “Lovely Locks”, what was the purpose behind that project?

NM: The purpose behind the Lovely Locks project was to celebrate natural black hair. Recently I’ve noticed more black women who wear their natural hair, instead of straightening it. I think it’s awesome! We are able to see and wear so many different types of hair textures and styles. Its rebellious and exotic and a source of empowerment for black women. But further than that I explore questioning the self, is the hair part of us or is it a separate being simply attached by the scalp. Are we in control or is it in control? …As we all know hair can often have a mind of its own.

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215: Who was your first teacher? Other teachers that influenced you?

NM: Wow, this is a tough one I feel fortunate that I have had many teachers who really influenced me. My first teacher who got me seriously interested in art was Joy Batten she was my middle school art teacher, in 7th grade she made us write a paper on what art is, pretty heavy stuff but she helped us form an opinion. In high school I was in an art magnet class the teachers were Mr. Piechocinski and Ms. Walsh, I still keep in touch with Mr. P, they really helped my technical skills and helped me find my own niche as far as painting. Then there’s Francis Tucker I never actually had him as a teacher but I did an independent study with him, he really helped me out at a time when I was struggling with my work, he helped me to let loose and appreciate materiality. Unfortnetly he passed away last December but as he has always been eager to help students and always thinking of others, he left me his studio for a couple of years so I would have a place to work. Then there’s Alida Fish, David Graham, Sandra Davis, Sarah Van Keuren, Leah Macdonald and Sarah Martin. Mainly these are people who really care about their students and are passionate about sharing the knowledge of their medium. I really appreciate teachers that are passionate about sharing knowledge with others. There is this weird thing in the art world where people like to keep their techniques secret so no one can steal them, I think that’s stupid.

215: What’s the best career advice you’ve ever gotten?

NM: Tucker always told me, “Find a way to support your habit.”

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You can check out more of Naima’s work here and at www.naimamerella.com.

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Skyping with UK House maven George FitzGerald

It’s been a busy year for break out UK house maven George FitzGerald. After burning up the top 40 charts in Europe, signing with Domino Records and being featured in Indie favorites such as Pitchfork, FitzGerald is now making his big leap across the pond and taking his show on the road for his first North American tour, which kicks off in December.

Last week, FitzGerald called me up on Skype so that we could chat about his musical influences, his feelings about touring in the US, his brand new hit single “Magnetic”, and I even took a shot at prying out his wildest tour story.

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two.one.five magazine: What’s your earliest memory of House music?
George FitzGerald: (laughs) Oh, let’s see…my earliest memory of House [music] is, if I’m really honest, when I first started buying records in London. The House records were always kind of the B-sides of the Garage records that I was purchasing and I thought that they were really, really terrible and uncool. It was only a few years later when I came back to those records, having had a completely different set of experiences, that I realized how great they actually were.

215: What do you feel is the major difference between House music in the US vs. House music in the UK?
GF: I can only say from what I’ve seen during the few times I’ve been to the US, but obviously the US is where House was born and it’s very interesting to come over to the US and see the paradox.

Some people are very aware and very in tune to the history and the heritage that there is in [House music] and some people really think that’s it’s from Europe, and that it’s from the UK or Germany. The good stuff from the UK and Europe is the stuff that doesn’t rip off of the classic US House music. Obviously you have to reference it and you have to know where you’re coming from and what you’re making but for me it’s like listening to UK hip-hop or something like that (laughs) it’s never quite as good.

The stuff I feel proud of is the super modern UK sounding stuff, that’s the contrast that I like.

215: How do you feel about diving into your first North American tour?
GF: Obviously there is a certain amount of intimidation when you come to a new place but to be honest I love coming to the US. I’ve never had a bad experience. Even when I’ve had a bad gig it’s never been a bad experience. People are very friendly and enthusiastic.

I think with the music that I do, in a lot of cities, if the scene is smaller then that often makes it even better because people know it’s underground, it’s not Pop music, and there’s that, kind of, roots and culture feeling to it. I’m super excited. There are loads of places that I’ve never been to before, like Chicago, Denver, Washington and all of these amazing places.

215: Have you ever been to Philly?
GF: No! I’ve never been there. I’ve heard really good things. Friends of mine who have been touring who have played at some similar venues have said really good things about Dolphin Tavern.

215: You were born in London. What influenced your decision to move to Berlin?
GF: I studied German at University and I used to work here as a translator in a previous life, and my girlfriend is German so I actually just wanted to get out of London for a bit. It’s a nice bonus that there is a really thriving dance music scene here, but that doesn’t really have anything to do with my decision. It’s not the reason I came.

215: How do you feel that you’ve contributed to the resurgence of UK house music?
GF: It’s really hard to say. There are loads of people out there who have also contributed in bigger ways than I have. I’ve always wanted to be slightly on the outside of it because I don’t like to just pigeon hole myself to making House music and being a part of what will reasonably be a short-lived thing in this kind of resurgence of UK house music. There is a whole new generation of really young people listening to dance music where as dance music, especially House and Techno, used to be a thing that people in their late 20s, 30s and older listen to. It’s a very exciting time.

215: In your latest single “Magnetic” you used your own vocals instead of samples. Is this going to be a reoccurring theme in your upcoming album?
GF: Yes, it definitely is. Not just my voice, but I’m working with vocalists as well. The single before [“Magnetic”] which was called “I Can Tell” was really me in my head saying goodbye to using sampled vocals in that House and Garage type way. I’ve already written quite a few tracks for the album that feature my vocals or someone else’s and that’s going to be a very central feature to the album.

It makes it something extra personal when it’s you actually writing the lyrics and you singing, or singing through somebody else. It’s been a really liberating thing for me to do.

215: Out of all of the music that you’ve created so far, what song means the most to you?
GF: “Magnetic” is definitely one of them. Also, a track called “Don’t You”, because it was the first thing that ever got me signed and pressed to vinyl. Those two tracks are very personal and very close to me.

215: What’s your wildest tour story?
GF: Oh no…. (laughs) not one that I can tell you. You put me on the spot, so that’s kind of a cop out isn’t it?

I think just this summer in general. A lot of DJs complain about traveling and stuff but when you’re just kind of, for the first time, getting quite busy with the amount of demand there is for this kind of music all over the world it can be overwhelming. I’ve had a couple of jam packed days of touring with a couple of gigs in one day and I just thought “this is not real life”. You’re on a flight to a new city and then you jet right back and it’s been quite an amazing experience.

215: Along your journey, what artists have you come to admire?
GF: I really like Caribou. One of the reasons that I signed to Domino Records, and one of the reasons that I’m taking charge of more of a personal kind of process is because people I look up to are people like Caribou, and people who aren’t club musicians. It’s stuff that you can play in the club but also stuff that you can just kind of listen to at home with your headphones. It’s club music with real depth. So, anyone who’s writing that kind of music at the moment.

215: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten in your career so far?
GF: It’s a really, really cheesy one, but it’s kind of true. This is, like, straight out a self-help book or something (laughs).

There’s a really great DJ from London called Rosco who does kind of funky, UK music. When I first started playing, I came over to Miami for WMC and I hadn’t really played anywhere. When you’re playing in a melting pot of different people I think a lot DJs have this problem where they worry about fitting into where they’re playing so they worry about “oh shit I’m playing with “X”, I’m playing in this place, I better play this type of music or else I’m going to go down really quickly” and [Rosco] was just like, “you know what, fuck it, you just have to, kind of, do you wherever you go, and you can’t really do more than that.” As long as you represent yourself pretty authentically, even if people don’t like it, they will respect you. Even if it’s not peoples’ style, they can see right through you if you’re trying to please them with stuff that they know. And that advice genuinely works.

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George Fitzgerald will be stopping in Philly on December 20th and at the Dolphin Tavern.

You can check out his brand new single, “Magnetic” below:

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Photo recap: What Scene Block Party

Over the weekend I was invited to stop by a block party which I was told would have various, local music artists that would blow me away. I ventured down near Temple’s campus with the expectations of a normal house party  in addition to a minor headache from the Halloween festivities that I had attended the night before.

As I approached the party, I could hear laughter, clapping and chatter, accompanied by the familiar sounds of a heavy bass. I was immediately welcomed by one of the party hosts who was from a local collaborative known as What Scene , made up of Philly cool guys Brandon Potter, Curtis Matthias and Champs.

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At the helm of the party was a DJ booth which sat behind a small stage space which was covered with an array of instruments. Behind it was a poster with the full line-up which consisted of the following bands and artists: Champs, Theodore Grams, Bakery Boys ft. Mick Raw, Bok Nero, Sincerely Tahj, Swiper, DJ Coop, The Twims, Hangman Pasco, Imposter, Anyee Wright and Marv Mack.  Although I was only familiar with two of the performing artists, the warm vibes from the people at this party were making me feel right at home and getting me pretty excited for this thing.

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After standing, dancing, clapping and vibing through six hours of performances, I’m officially a fan of the What Scene movement. Yes, the artists were truly talented, but what really got me was the comradery and the uplifting spirit of all of the artists and the friends and fans that came out to support. Philly’s music scene is so competitive because of all of the talent in our city, and I’ve found it rare to see Philly artists help out artists outside of their own clique . To see such a strong group of musicians showing so much support for one another was really refreshing and exciting and, sort of, humbling.

It was quite the experience. Keep an eye out for the next one.

For more, check out the photos above and below.

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Interview: Wilbert Hart & Faith Newman talk Philadelphia Soul

Philadelphia is easily recognized for being home to a very authentic music scene. Legends have been born and raised in this city and up-and-comers continue to surface and thrive. However, the late 1960’s through the early 70’s was a very special time period for music in Philadelphia. It was the era of Soul music and Philly was representing this genre all the way at the top of the charts. As popular groups like The O’Jays, The Stylistics and The Spinners began to blossom, there was one group in particular that stood at the helm: The Delfonics. With classic hits like  “La-La (Means I Love You)”, “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)”, and “Ready or Not Here I Come (Can’t Hide from Love)”, The Delfonics ruled the Soul and R&B scene.

Of course, as time progressed, the music scene began to change. Popular radio stations began to play less Soul & R&B music and more Rap, Hip-Hop and Pop. Lyrics began to focus less on quality and more on narcissism and power. Originality began to become a thing of the past.

Today I’m sitting in The Recording Academy nervously waiting for two guests to arrive. After a couple minutes of fumbling around on my lap top and anxiously checking my phone, in walks Faith Newman. You probably know Newman as the genius who signed Nas to Colombia Records or more recently as the hand that presented 2 Chainz his first publishing deal. Currently, she works for Reservoir Media Management where she manages Scott Storch, Danja and Wilbert Hart of The Delfonics, who walks into the room shortly after Newman’s arrival.

Hart recently signed a publishing deal with Reservoir and is working with Newman on some new sounds. Newman has already landed placements of his music in McDonald’s ads and the TV show Unsung. The pair have quite a history together.

After greetings and introductions are made, the room falls quiet as Newman and Hart take their seats.

“Alright”, Hart says, “let’s talk”.

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Two.one.five. magazine: How did you know that you wanted to be involved in music for the rest of your life?

Wilbert Hart: That’s a good question! I’ve always enjoyed singing and from an early age when I was in elementary school I just gravitated to glee clubs and anything that had to do with singing. I’ve always been drawn towards harmony.

215: How did Philadelphia’s music scene impact you?

WH: Philadelphia is a great city, as you know. It’s a great music city. Just being around the incredible musicians that were there, and the engineers, and just being involved in that atmosphere was a fantastic situation. We were blessed to be in that environment because that was truly a learning experience.

You go to other places and you see how much influence that Philadelphia has on the world as far as music is concerned and it’s a beautiful thing.

Actually, people say that [The Delfonics] are a part of the Philadelphia sound and that’s big, that’s huge. Just to be included in that scenario is really humbling.

Faith Newman: It’s influenced me completely and totally. It’s where I grew up. I remember when my grandparents still lived in Allegheny. I used to sit on the stoop in the summertime and people were playing music and it was just very authentic.

I lived in New York as a teenager but Philadelphia is my heart and it’s what got me into music at a very young age.

215: How do you feel about the present Philadelphia music scene in comparison to how it was in the late 60’s/early 70’s?

WH: It’s definitely changed! Production has changed, the songs have changed. People don’t listen to what they used to listen to anymore. Everything has changed, so you have to change with it, and if you don’t then I don’t think it’s going to work out for you.

I never thought there would be a time when you would listen to the radio and hear someone just rapping. We’re singers, you know, and now these guys want to come up here and start talking and they’re making more money than me? That’s crazy [laughs]!

I welcome the change. I might just be the oldest rapper in the world.

FN:  You can’t even compare the two. [Philadelphia] was the center of the universe in terms of R&B and Pop.

215: What do you consider to be the defining moment in your career?

WH: Getting a Grammy. That was everybody’s dream in music as far as groups were concerned. That is the highest achievement that you could ever gain.  That was kind of like the crowning moment for me, just to be recognized on that level. Our Grammy was for “Best Performance” and that really made me feel good.

215: Can you describe how you felt when you received that Grammy?

WH: It was an incredible feeling. It’s something that I truly cannot explain because I lived through it and it was a blessing. I can’t really explain the feeling. I’ve been blessed and lucky as far as being in the right place at the right time.

FN: Talent might have a little bit to do with it too… [laughs]

WH: Okay, maybe a little bit.

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215: I hear you’re both working on reviving Philly Groove. How do you plan on reintroducing the label?

FN: We have a lot of different things that we’re looking at. Some of these things just come up by themselves. Wilbert’s song “Hey Love” got a McDonalds spot! We’re going to digitally release a few special packages of music. Wilbert and The Delfonics have a feature coming out in late October.

There is the music that people know about, like the big records such as  “La La Means I Love You” or “Ready or Not”, but [The Delfonics] actually recorded two entire albums of other music for Philly Groove that are really, really good. Not as many people have heard this music, so our plan is to put that back out there digitally.

215: Wilbert, if you could describe your new sound in one word what would it be?

WH: Wil-matic.

215: I dig that. What are your thoughts on R&B music today?

FN:  It has definitely changed. It’s been very shaky. I think that there is a huge gap in what people call “urban music” today. I mean, there is Hip-Hop, and that’s what’s commercial, but you can’t really say that there is R&B music anymore. Who are you going to point to? Maxwell? Jill Scott? There’s a void there.

WH: It’s absolutely changed. There is a big part of it that’s gone.

FN: There is Pop music and there is Hip-Hop. As far as Soul, I’m really not seeing anything.

WH: To me, [R&B] is turning into Pop music. All of my stuff now, I will label as Pop, I mean why not? I want everybody to listen to it. Everything is almost one giant genre now.

FN: There is a void in real music, and real songs, and real R&B artists. There are, like, two ends of the spectrum and nothing in between.

I think re-introducing Philly Groove will call attention to these things. I think drawing attention to the soul and the romance and all of that good stuff can hopefully inspire some people to take some changes, or to the people who have already taken those chances to gain some exposure.

WH: I’m doing a project right now which speaks to what you’re saying. The music that I’m doing right now, you can relate to it as R&B because it has that flavor in there and then the hip-hop sound and the right drum sound that is going to get everybody’s attention. I’m working with a record company called ITG Records and we’re about to release some product on a group called Code Blue. I’m also going to have a single coming out that’s going to be called “Stand Up For Love”.  You have to blend these things together. It’s not going to go away.

FN: I have this theory: disco is sort of making a come back right now, and I think that’s almost a precursor to what will happen to R&B.

WH: R&B is like the root of everything you’re hearing now. These guys go back today and sample these old records.

FN: They sample Wil’s records! We literally just got a request for a sample today.

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215: What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve ever gotten?

WH: Take your time and understand what you’re doing if possible. A lot of the time, as an artist, you do stuff that you really don’t understand. In my life, I’ve made a lot of mistakes by not doing that, by not really understanding the guidelines or the bottom lines to things that I’m involved in. I advise anybody that’s going to do something, especially music related, to get an attorney, make sure everything is lined up properly and the move forward. If you do it the other way, you’re going to run into problems. Take my word for it.

FN: To be myself. A lot of people have become very successful by not being so nice to other people, and at one point in my career I thought that that was kind of what you had to do to get ahead and I think that I just stayed true to who I was. So, in my 20+ year career, I can say that I haven’t burned any bridges or made any enemies.

WH: That’s beautiful.

FN: And it’s possible, it really is.

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Keep up with Wilbert Hart and Faith Newman by heading over to Reservoir Media Management!

You can also follow Newman on Twitter.

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A Walk and Talk with Khari Mateen

words & photos by Blaire Monroe 

“Are you liking these weird vibes that I’m making for you?” laughs a voice from the stage. Khari Mateen has just finished warming up for his live show at Chris’s Jazz Café, the chatter amongst the audience begins to quiet down. This is my first time seeing Khari perform live; after the show a friend of mine compares him to a “much more interesting Pharrell Williams“.

The Grammy nominated Singer, Songwriter, Musician, Composer, & Producer not only sings, but also plays cello, guitar, piano, tambourine and other various instruments that he has mastered. It’s no wonder that since he was 18 years old Khari has been recruited to work with artists such as Jill Scott, Tye Tribbett, The Roots , James Poyser, the list goes on.

Two weeks later, prompted by his impressive show and possibly a little bit by his charming stage presence, I make my way over to Manayunk to check out Khari’s recording studio. As I walk in, I’m greeted by Brook D’Leau of the electric LA duo J*Davey; Khari is currently working on their next album. For the next couple of hours I sit and watch as they build a couple of tracks together, piece by piece. Khari mentions how tedious this can be, but I’m honestly fascinated by his whole process.

After awhile, Khari is ready to take a dinner break, so we walk down to Main St. and we talk for awhile.

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two.one.five magazine: How did you get involved with The Roots, Jill Scott, James Poyser, etc.?

Khari Mateen: My father played saxiphone with Kindred [the Family Soul] back in the day. I would come up and spend my summers in Philadelphia with my father and I would be around cats like Scott Storch, The Roots, Ben Kenney from Incubus, and they were just coming up as musicians and doing their thing. I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. That’s how I saw them, that’s how I was previewed to their music, and once that happened I was like “oh my god, this is amazing, they’re doing exactly what I want to do: playing instruments, recording it, producing it and making music in a very creative way” and from there I just kind of got more into the business of  making records.

215: What was it like being a teenager and being around such highly acclaimed musicians?

KM: I probably really got in a room with them around 18 or 19 [years old]. I think at 18 years old I was, like, sleeping at the studio and at 19 I was kind of officially on Game Theory.

It was amazing because I was just fired from my job at the movie theater [laughs]. I didn’t do anything, I was just uninspired and they felt that my character was not what they wanted in their institution because I was miserable, so they did me a favor and made that decision for me.

After I got fired I started to work more in the studio, and became a part of that. I kind of dedicated my everything to the whole music scene and to creating and being there and making sure that I was absorbing everything. It felt amazing. I felt like I was really doing what I wanted to do and really loving it. I was lucky enough to have a place to be. Being able to work with people like that is lucky. It’s luck, it’s situational but you’ve got to be ready when that time comes. The dedication needs to be there even before you really have any opportunity like that. In my eyes, I was lucky to be around some of those individuals.

When I was 13 or 14 I was meeting people like Tayyib Smith and Tia – who is now tour manager to the stars now, you know, all of these people that were putting in work very early on and so I learned and understood work ethic at that time, in addition to what I learned from my father and my mother. It was all about work, understanding, studying and caring, just really caring about it. I was so lucky to be around people that just cared.

Everyone was fortunate to be around each other in that situation, and I was just kind of young, and seeing that just made me want to give it my all. That was always going to be with me because I saw that. That’s how I saw music, that’s how I saw the organic side of it. That really pleased me.

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215: : Where do you feel most creative outside of the studio?

KM: I really do like new spaces. I think [when I’m] traveling I’m probably at my most inspired. You know? I like that whole process of traveling and meeting or talking to people.  I like new things and I like to be positive. So I’d say just really feeding off of the world; the act of traveling is a really creative place for me.

215: If you had to convert somebody into a fan by showing them just one of your songs, what would it be? 

KM: That’s hard to say, I feel like people have different tastes. I think there is a song that would not necessarily turn someone into a fan, but help someone gain an understanding of who I am, and that would be probably be “Friends and Family”. It’s a song that was on one of my EPs. I think my friends and family understand who I am; I’m a little bit dark, a little bit emotional, and a lot a bit creative [laughs]. I care about the people that care about those things, that’s very important to me. So, if they listen to that song, it may not make them a fan, but at least they’ll get to know who I am as a person.

215: Tell me about your favorite performance of your career so far.

KM: I really liked the Red Bull Sound Select I did at Voyeur. I was really feeling that. There were a lot of people and the sound was great which is very important to me. Sometimes I don’t really get a chance to play in rooms that can really support the way I recorded my music and how I want it to be presented. I try to put as much care into the production and mixing and editing process of my music, so I would like it to be presented in a way that I would like – which is huge sound and awesome engineers and speakers and all that stuff.

That was one of the better performances as well as the Firefly Festival. Red Bull had a great stage and it sounded great. The people that worked there were really awesome, and I’m a big appreciator of that. Hearing the sound and performing is what’s fun to me, and playing for the audience, that’s like a bonus. It’s like, wow, they really feel it and that’s not guaranteed all the time, it’s really not. When I get on stage I totally lose myself in that moment and when I get off stage I’m lost in the other side of music – the creative, the engineering, you know.

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215: As I was watching you work earlier, I noticed that you close your eyes each time you play the track back. What’s going on in your head?

KM: I’m listening. I’m thinking,”Does this sound right? Will this sound right two years from now? Is it emotionally making sense with everything that [J*Davey] is talking about?”. I’m trying to make it all make sense. I’m trying to think as other people would be listening to it. It’s good to have Brook [D’leau] in the room as well or sometimes I work with other artists. Sometimes I get lost in my own head. I’m trying to think for as many people as I can, and you can only do so much. At a certain point you have to call it. So, I think and think and think of all of these options very quickly, and then I make a decision and believe in that decision.

215: What are you working on right now?

KM: I’m working on J.Davey’s project at the moment. I’m also working on a project for myself that has been changing ever so slightly over the past few weeks. It’s going to be good. It’s going to be different and I think it’s going to be the next wave of how I will be releasing music in terms of the tone that it’s going to be in. It’s not so traditional.

I’m also doing a TV show with Blowback Productions, I’m working with The Roots, I’m working with STS and other various artists.

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215: You’re quite busy. Don’t you also teach spin classes? What else do you do outside of the music world?

KM: I like spin class, that’s the release I need. I sit down for long periods of time and that’s not very good for you. I don’t mind waking up in the morning and doing spin classes, even though sometimes it’s a struggle. It’s good for me.

Art is music. I like to paint, I like ceramics. I like to have conversations.  I really think conversation is key. I like to talk to people. I enjoy learning about science. I have a whole bunch of YouTube channels that I love to look at for science and history and knowing who I am and who we are as a people.

215: What’s the best piece of career advice that you’ve ever gotten?

KM: For me, it’s always been to do what you feel in your heart is right. That has two sides. People have always told me, “do what you feel in your heart.” However, the fine print that comes with that is that it might not come out well and the challenge there is how you deal with it, how you overcome it, and how you proceed after that. Now, if it does work out well, then the other fine print says you got to deal with that with some grace. Success garners a new challenge. So my best advice was definitely to do what’s in your heart, but I’ve learned that that also comes with it’s own issues, and that’s something important to remember.

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You can keep up with Khari by following him on Twitter, Instagram, or heading over to his website. He also currently puts out his own tunes through the Philly based music outlet The Lunchroom.

Check out his video for “Bye Bye” below:

NAGGTH Party_9.18

Interview: Dame Ward, Chris White and Truck North introduce “Not All Gods Go to Heaven”

It takes a remarkable and talented group of minds to come up with a production that not only involves multiple mediums, but courageously takes it’s audience through one man’s story through the lenses of race, religion and pop culture.

 AIM Productions, a company renowned for its production of concerts and festivals in the tri-state area, recently announced its unique theatrical production: Not All Gods Go To Heaven (NAGGTH). In the show, audience members will be introduced to Deacon Dun, a mythological ghetto-hero, and will be taken through the journey of his life, which features his rare transition from the man that he once was to the man that he’s trying to be.

This Wednesday, September 18th, come hang out with the producers, videographers and stars of the show at Underground Arts (1200 Callowhill Street) at 9 pm, where you can mix, mingle and discuss this fabulous upcoming production.

We got an opportunity to sit down with the show’s creator Dame Ward (Philadelphia Music Magazine), videographer Chris White and lead actor Truck North (The Legendary Roots crew), and discuss this unbelievable project:

 NAGGTH Party_9.18

Two.one.five magazine: What inspired this show?

Dame Ward: It’s interesting. It’s gone through so many different phases. It started as a music video and we were working on all of these different concepts that we wanted to shoot. We just wanted something different and fun, and we had all of these songs to use. The video was originally about a stripper and what her life was like during the daytime. But then the music video just kept morphing into different things and interweaving a whole bunch of different stories which revolved around this ten year old kid who was having  a conversation with this fallen preacher figure about whether or not strippers, like his mother, went to heaven.

Chris White: Where we’re at now it’s like the 6th interpretation of where we started. We finally came up with this character named Deacon Dunn, and it’s a character study about him shown through all of these different mediums such as music, videography, dance and performance.

215: How do you think the audience is going to identify with Deacon Dun?

DW: I think at first they’ll find him humorous because it starts off pretty funny, but then we counteracted that with the fact that this dude has serious issues, and the story is of serious subject matter.

Truck North: I think they’ll gather that he’s this guy that’s trapped between where he was and where he would like to be. He’s constantly pushing and pulling between those two people. He’s a pretty interesting character.

215: Truck, how did you go about getting into the character?

TN: I’ve definitely been delving into realms of insanity [laughs], different realms of rap insanity and seeing where they will take or lead me.

215: Do you have a favorite part of this production?

TN: So far, I really love the brainstorming. I know I’m really going to like the musical aspects of it.

215: What was the most difficult part of putting this together? 

CW: Definitely figuring out what types of mediums we want to use but then also fitting them into something that flows right and has a heart to it.

DW: The genesis of the show is based around music, so the whole show is really based on tempo and pace. It’s around you. You’re not just watching it happen in front of you, it’s more of an installation; people will be dancing around you, while video is in front of you, and music is filling your ears. So I agree, I would say compiling all of the mediums together.

CW: The idea is to keep people on their toes.

TN: Honestly, being able to make Deacon a real live person in my brain has been the most difficult part overall for me. I want to channel it from where I need to.

215: How do you want your audience to feel after they experience this production?

CW I want them to feel everything come together as this one unique experience.

DW: I want people to be inspired because at its basic core, this is a piece of art. We want to give someone something different to do than just the normal “turn up” or just the normal show.

215: Were the characters inspired by anyone that you know personally?

DW: Definitely. There is a real Deacon Dun, we don’t know him personally but he’s a real guy, and he’s a church going guy but he definitely “turns up”.

215: If you could describe this production in one word, what would it be?

CW: I remember we were working on it the other day, and I just kept saying the same thing over and over, like “this is going to be…” but I can’t remember! Wait, I think it was “fluid”. Ok, no that’s not how I want to describe this.

[We all laugh]

DW: I really want to say “turnt up”, but I can’t do that. I can’t do that [laughs]. Can I say it has very high “turnup-ability”?

TN: I would call it “ambitious”, “epic”, “epically ambitious”.

CW: The wordsmith has arrived. I’m going to change mine to “dynamic”.

DW: Okay, let’s go with “epically dynamic” and “ambitiously turnt-up”.

Nailed it.