Monthly Archives: November 2011
I had to get an exclusive with a friend of Distinguished Detroit and I am very honored and pleased that he agreed to be the first. Not only is he a highly acclaimed/talented musician and composer, he is also the self-proclaimed King of making macaroni & cheese (smile). As a major part of The Foreign Exchange camp, producing music and touring with indie music’s hottest band on the planet, Zo! is a very humble and down-to-earth cat who willingly gives listeners a glimpse into the workings of his craft. And he is a son of Detroit so it only seemed fitting for me to feature the big homie and share with DDET readers the love from one of our own. Read below! =)
Zo!: Well, that’s kind of the point. We come from getting the CD, we read the linear notes as the music is playing and you wanna know who played what. But then, you want to take it a step further, like, how did this come together? I’m a big documentary head so anything autobiographical, biographical…I’m all into that. So I think that it’s dope that if I’m in a position where I can do that for other people, then I’m going to do it. It also helps with people connecting with your music. They feel a deeper connection with your music because if you feel like you’re apart of the process then you are going to feel connected to the song a little bit more. It’s not just something you’ve downloaded off the ‘net and thrown in your ipod real quick. I’ve had this talk with Phonte before because nowadays people don’t live with the albums. Before, you would take it in, run it, but you would also know about it. So with stuff being downloaded and being real quick, there’s no details behind it. Shoot…a lot of people still don’t know that I don’t sing! People still ask me and say things like “I loved your voice…”, you know, but I don’t sing! They just download it and have all this music and don’t know what the hell to do with it. So, that’s a part of it, as well.
LiLi: That just goes to show that you’re just as much a music fan as you are an artist or a musician because you understand the fan side of it- us wanting more than just the music but the whole experience. That’s what I appreciate about you, most definitely!
Zo!: Thank you!
LiLi: Have you ever thought about doing a video documentary for any of your upcoming projects, or The Foreign Exchange, period?
Zo!: Yeah, I’ve thought about it. But um…I think the documentary would probably be boring. (laughter)
LiLi: Why?! Because y’all are some clowns and I think that would be the best thing ever! Y’all really need some video footage! (chuckles)
Zo!: I do have video footage of us making Return of The Mack.
LiLi: When I heard that song I said ‘they were in the studio clownin’! I need that video footage, man! That junk was hilarious!
Zo!: But the thing is, normally we’re not in the studio together…
LiLi: Oh! Okay…
Zo!: So, we’re sending files back-and-forth, taking advantage of this technology. But if we were in the studio together, we would have had to do a documentary together a long time ago. But I think it would be boring because they would say ‘okay, they’re doing the same thing for this song. That’s all he does? Okay…’ Even the damn camera man would be bored like, ‘man you did this shit yesterday’!
LiLi: (Laughing) You gotta switch it up man, come on…
Zo!: Yeah, it’s the same formula but, it works!
LiLi: Right! Well, I hope so because we need to see that, most definitely! When I read your studio campfires I envision it all but then I’m thinking ‘man, this needs to be on video!’ Just keep that in mind for the future and make sure I get it first! I’m just playin’! (chuckles)
LiLi: So out of all of your albums- and I know it’s hard to pick a favorite- but when it comes to the process of putting an album together, which one did you have the best experience with?
Zo!: Mmm…I don’t know…
LiLi: Gotcha! No, I’m just playin’ (laughter)
Zo!: I know right! Um, I would probably have to say Sunstorm, process wise just because I worked with so many different people. I guess result wise, there were eleven vocalist on that album. To be able to get eleven people moving in the same direction, to me, was an accomplishment. So I would probably say that one. (laughing)
LiLi: That makes sense! Okay! Who are some of you favorite vocalists to work with that you have worked with in the past?
Zo!: Well, Phonte obviously. With me and him at this point it is unspoken. I send him something and he’ll send it right back.
LiLi: That is ignorant chemistry right there!
Zo!: It’s like me and him having a conversation…it’s nothing! Sy Smith very much so because with her it’s very effortless to come up with stuff. The same when performing with her. When we performed a couple months ago here in D.C., just the two of us with a percussionist, we didn’t rehearse! We had a set list and agreed on some songs and said we may play all of them or we may not. We may play some shit that’s not on here and we did five or six songs that weren’t even on the joint! She’s like me in a way where she likes to have fun with the music. She’s very flexible as far as where the music can go. Very easy-going to work with. No one show is the same. And on top of that she is super professional! We get asked all the time, ‘why don’t you work with so-and-so’ but we work with everybody for a reason. We work with people who not only have talent but they are folks who got their shit together. This is the company you want to keep when dealing with music because it’s not that common! You get a lot of cases where somebody is just super talented but if I can’t get a call-back from somebody then we can’t work off the break! I can’t trust you to call me back or not do some shady shit with the music, so it’s got to be a lot of things that line up. But I would say those are my top two.
LiLi: Okay! That’s what’s up! Besides Black Thought- which I read on your latest campfire story about working with him but it didn’t work out although eventually that will happen- who is an artists that you want to work with in the future?
Zo!: I would love to work with Faith.
Zo!: Yeah, I’m a big Faith Evans fan! I’m a huge Faith fan!
LiLi: Same here!
Zo!: We always have the arguments of who’s better between Faith and Mary J and…
LiLi: Oh…come on! (laughter). I love Mary, don’t get it twisted! But Faith…vocally!
Zo!: To me, it’s no contest! You know, someone else may say differently but that’s my opinion. I love Faith! Her vocal arrangements…and I don’t even pay that much attention to the lyrics but even her writing…she’s just dope, man!
LiLi: She sings so effortlessly!
Zo!: She is probably top on my list, vocally. Probably her and Lala Hathaway.
LiLi: Well I most definitely appreciate you taking the time out to chat with a sista, via Skype and I look forward to you and the FE camp coming back to Tha D. We need your music, man!
- Zo3hree5ive’s “Just Visiting Three”….Finally! (distinguisheddetroit.com)
You walk in the door and the aroma of pancakes immediately welcomes you in. As your feet peddle across the hardwood floors your eyes are dancing along the artwork surrounding the four walls which you stand in. The atmosphere is laid back and full of hospitality as folks are lined up to get their pancake fixins and wash them down with a mimosa. The DJ is spinning hip hop records sure to make your body move and you will constantly hear laughter and hand-slaps as homies greet each other.
Nothing about this spot makes you feel like a stranger but indeed like you are at home- it is in a loft. The kitchen is full of lovely ladies sweating over a stove, delivering pancake-after-pancake with a smile. No one is dissatisfied with their plate, what’s in their cup or too shy to get in each other’s personal space.
You can’t help but feel a connection with someone at The Untitled Bottega- the home of Mixtapes And Pancakes.
You are immediately introduced to the pancake aspect of the night but what about the mixtapes? A common ground for a lot of folks who step foot into The Untitled Bottega is their independent artistry. The support system behind allowing a platform for these artists to shine is what the city needs. A breath of fresh air to promoting raw and upcoming talent and emerging creative ambassadors of Detroit.
I happened to be in the cut chowing down on a pancake laced with strawberries & whip so I didn’t get a chance to make my way to the forefront and see the acts in center stage. Although I regret not posting up soon enough to get the artists in action I was able to find a video on YouTube of the one of which I was in attendance (which you can watch below). The artwork is courtesy of a Detroit artist by the name of Flaco Shalom who is also the host of the event. You don’t want to miss the next Mixtapes And Pancakes. I promise you will regret not being in attendance at 126 Iron St. for the next one!
Once again the Manila Bay Cafe was full of Detroit Music energy as folks from different walks of life came through to share their gifts. The spot was packed and there were a lot of supporters for the feature artist, Dr Selah (@Dr_SelahE), an awesome poet who had the audience drawn into the sweet words of truth that came from her soul. One of her poems was so raw that I asked her to place it on a plaque so I could bronze it and give it to someone for Christmas- she is just that awesome!
There were quite a few folks who weren’t being stingy with their talents that evening, such as RenCenCoolBeanz, who had the audience yelling his lyrics back at him with excitement. Then there was a young lady by the name of Kezia who had an altar laid before her full of purses and instruments as a result of her powerful vocal ability. Katrina Storm- a powerhouse vocalist and energetic host of an open mic event at They Say Restaurant- tore down the walls and almost took us to church. Then there was Comedian C.P., in his truest form, crackin’ jokes on the comedian on-stage before him then grabbing the mic and killing it. And the electrifying band who came down to visit us earthlings for a moment O.T.I.S. (Out There In Space) had everyone up on their feet, partying the night to a close.
I only gave a brief summary of the acts who graced the stage but I have a picture show below for you to see everyone who came through. I didn’t catch everyone’s name and may even forgot to mention some folks but please do not charge it to my heart. Detroit is thriving with a lot of burgeoning talent and it is virtually impossible to catch everyone’s names but the “artists” who want to be known will keep showing up, singing, dancing, reciting poetry, telling jokes, rapping, etc to be recognized in the long run.
Live music moves me. Almost to a point of tears. When the waterworks flow then that means I’ve transcended beyond just hearing a song or a lyric but I’ve transitioned into conjoining God’s audible gift with my soul. I allow it to infuse my innermost parts and sooth everything that was burned in the raging fire of life’s woes. But to conjoin a message beyond the music moves me to a greater depth and changes my outlook in that moment of my life. Oprah calls moments like these “Aha!” moments. I don’t define them but they are rare and I am truly grateful when I am around to experience them.
I had an experience like this at the L’Renee Benefit Concert that was held this past Friday at The Charles H. Wright Museum. As if the opening acts of L.G., Elle, Gwenation and the wonderfully orchestrated (and professional, I might add) acts of L’Renee and company weren’t enough, the message she left us with at the end of the show was the bow on the gift of being “present” for the evening.
As L’Renee came out adorned in a white dress singing one of my favorite Michael Jackson hits, “I Can’t Help It”, there was a video playing onstage in the background which she later identified to us as a short film entitled “The Red Balloon” (originally Le Ballon Rouge, shot in Paris and written & directed by Albert Lamorisse, 1956). There was little-to-no dialogue in the film and it mainly portrayed a young boy being followed by one simple red balloon. Once he saw that it wasn’t going to let him be, he became passionate about the balloon and took it everywhere with him. He and the red balloon were inseparable until a group of jealous kids chased him down and stomped the balloon flat. But the film ends with balloons flying from all over Paris and overtaking the little boy until they lift him high and sail him over the entire city.
L’Renee tells the audience that her Red Balloon is music and that no matter what naysayers try to do to take it from her, she won’t stop thinking about her passion and knows that it will eventually sail her higher than anyone trying to stomp out her dreams. Then she posed a question to us- “what is your red balloon?” And that’s when the love swallowed me whole and I had to make a decision to face my fear and practice self-integrity regarding my own red balloon.
What have I allowed folks to stomp out of my life because they were jealous or because I felt unworthy? What balloon aka life mission am I trying to avoid but it continues to follow me around everyday, not ready to leave me or give up hope that I just may grasp onto it? I was taken aback because I did not expect to be overwhelmed with such life-changing emotion in my seat in the middle section of the second row. But at that moment, I knew my position in that seat went far beyond being a Distinguished Detroit spectator for the site, but it was a divine appointment to make significant changes in my life to align with the will of the Universe.
At the end of her creative plea of self-love, L’Renee asked for us to share with her what our “red balloons” were on sheets of paper and promised she would place them in a wishing well and think about each and every person who submitted. Then the show was over. But the message still lingers and prompted this post.
The message of doing what you were created to do is needed. We live in a microwave, cookie-cutter society that wants everything fast and identical. Originality and ingenuity is frowned upon while commercialism is mass-produced to meet the capitalist market values. But it is time to take back our own identities and be of service to others by staying in our lanes. When you spend more time working on building up yourself, you have less time to tear down others. When you do what you feel in your heart is right as opposed to doing what everyone else wants you to do, that is giving. You are of service when you act out your will and of disservice when you act out someone else’s or mimic what isn’t meant to be yours. And if they stomp out your balloon, keep your heart set on a flock of new ones to sail you to greater heights that you never imagined you could go!
Be the love you were made from. Be of service to yourself and people. Be original. Be Distinguished.
P.S.- My Red Balloon is writing and music!
P.S.S.- If you want to share what you Red Balloon is and join L’Renee’s Mailing List click here