Issue 53 (RZA / Jesse Boykins III)
Like a highly trained Shaolin monk, this issue has many styles. And many of our featured artists are masters and leaders of their respective styles and movements. And most have combined multiple styles to create a new one. RZA put his two loves, hip-hop and kung fu flicks, together and created the Wu-Tang Clan, becoming its self-appointed leader and arguably the master of New York’s grittiest period of hip-hop. To sing the hook on Ghost’s “After the Smoke Is Clear,” RZA recruited William Hart, leader of the Delfonics and master of Philly’s sweet-soul period. Nite Jewel looks to the past for inspiration, whether ’80s synth pop or the recording techniques of experimental-music pioneer Brian Eno, who quickly rose to fame during his brief stint in Roxy Music, the art-rock band formed by painting student Bryan Ferry. Ferry, who was mentored by England’s most famous pop artist and collagist, likened Roxy Music to that of a collage: all of his interests—art, fashion, women, and music—mashed together. With two different phases of music, Bryan Ferry and Roxy Music would influence countless musicians and bands. Another influential figure whose name never fails to show up is the late J Dilla, who is pinpointed as influence number one by Bilal, who noted, “J Dilla pulled from all different genres, and he had a record collection like I’ve never seen before…rock, jazz, electronic, everything. And he mixed it all into what he did—which was hip-hop.” Bilal would absorb this multi-style influence and return the favor to his protégé, Jesse Boykins III, who is sharing his philosophy through his Romantic Movement, recruiting artists like Mara Hruby along the way. J Dilla’s music spurred multi-instrumentalist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson to interpret his songs for orchestra, enlisting Dilla cohort Karriem Riggins to add that beat. Ferguson finds himself as Los Angeles’ most in-demand arranger and recently collaborated with the Gaslamp Killer, who is leading L.A.’s turntable scene with his Low End Theory night. Leroy Sibbles was not only the lead singer of the Heptones but also the musical director of Studio One, where he brought a new bass style to reggae. Sinkane brings together many styles and genres—polyrhythmic Afrobeat and modern electronic—to create his unique, indefinable music that sets him apart on the dance label DFA. Danny Alias brought together his love of spoken word, parody and humor, promotion, and house music to create the brief but influential dance label Persona Records. Portland’s Pleasure was pleased with the label support from Crusader Wayne Henderson but always stuck to their guns and championed their own polished and funky blend of R&B and jazz. Last but not least, influential Bay Area rapper Mac Dre had two creative periods in his short career, including pioneering the long-lasting hyphy movement, a subculture that combined its love of cars, partying, music, and dance.
As a disciple of kung fu flicks and hip-hop, the RZA began his journey as a teenage solo rapper learning the ropes. After stepping away and finding time to reflect, he returned to the game in ’92 with his own chamber, becoming a celebrated producer as leader of the Wu-Tang Clan. Over the years, RZA has followed a sacred path of music, spirituality, and philosophy. Now a stint in acting has led him back full circle to his first love, martial arts cinema. The disciple has become the master, the Abbot has become the auteur, and Shaolin’s finest has found himself along the way.
Under the tutelage of Bilal, singer/songwriter Jesse Boykins III learned to embrace the totality of life as a key to unlocking music’s secrets. A leader of the Romantic Movement, he revels in honesty and the female perspective. After quietly releasing a grip of material over the past few years, including his new project Zulu Guru with close collaborator MeLo-X, Jesse has slowed his pace to work on his upcoming magnum opus, Love Apparatus.
Bryan Ferry fashioned his art-rock band Roxy Music as the ultimate image-conscious musical experience. As a successful bandleader and solo artist, he pioneered two genres of music, art-rock, then new wave, influencing generations of musicians with each stage of his career.
Whole Soul. As front man of the beloved Delfonics, William Hart brings an unmistakable falsetto and uncanny songwriting about love and heartbreak. Always the heart and soul of Philly’s most-championed groups, Hart enters his next act drawing inspiration from his past and present.
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