Jazz music is another layer of the foundation of America’s soundtrack. Charles “Buddy” Bolden is said to be the first musician to ever play jazz music, but whether he is or not, it’s clear that his contributions to the genre helped form the jazz movement. Many jazz musicians, including Jelly Roll Morton and the trumpeter Louis Armstrong, proclaimed him to be one of the most powerful musicians ever to play jazz. The birth of jazz begat the birth of American popular culture from Armstrong to Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Fugees, and Dr. Dre. Bolden is credited as the one that laid down that foundation.
Bolden’s Impact on Jazz
Bolden was born September 6, 1877 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Bolden began playing the coronet, which is an instrument similar to the trumpet, when he was a teenager. He joined a small New Orleans band where he honed his musician skills. He later went on to create his own band, that is considered to be the first group to play what would later be called jazz music. The group played a variety of genres including, blues, waltzes, ragtime, and other popular songs of the time period. Bolden cemented his reputation in the industry by using the power of his horn to put listeners into a trance or get them to dance into a frenzy. He made the songs his own by playing blues songs at medium tempos, sprinkled with racy lyrics. He took the blues and mixed it with gospel inflections for a more rhythmic feel, and the result was a new sound that spread throughout New Orleans.
The Buddy Bolden Band consisted of cornet, guitar, trombone, bass, two clarinets, and drums. From 1900 to 1906, the Buddy Bolden Band had top billing in New Orleans. Bolden became known as the moniker “King” Bolden. According to NewOrleans.com, songs first associated with his band include “Careless Love,” “My Bucket’s Got a Hole in It,” “Get Out of Here and Go Home,” and “Funk Butt.”
Things started to spiral out of control for Bolden in 1906. He suffered from depression and his alcohol usage brought on bouts of paranoia, including a fear of his own coronet, and severe headaches. His last public appearance was in 1907 with the Eagle Band at the New Orleans Labor Day Parade. During the parade he began screaming and suffered what seemingly looked like a nervous breakdown. NewOrleans.com says he was diagnosed with schizophrenia and admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at the age of 30. He remained there until his death nearly 25 years later on November 4, 1931.
On May 3, 2019, the first ever film inspired by the jazz legend, BOLDEN, will be released in theaters nationwide. The film stars Gary Carr, Yaya DaCosta, Reno Wilson, Erik LaRay Harvey, and Ian McShane with music written, arranged, and performed by acclaimed jazz musician Wynton Marsalis and directed by Dan Pritzker.
The film’s stars recreated the only photo left of Buddy Bolden and his band.
While his musical life was cut short, and there’s not much left of his actual recordings today, Bolden was and still is lauded as a musical genius of his time that inspired the likes of jazz artists that followed in his footsteps.
After decades of contributing to America’s soundtrack and taking a long hiatus, the Queen of Funk, Chaka Khan is making her musical comeback with her first studio album in 12 years. Khan made the announcement about her new project Hello Happiness on her website earlier this month. It’s the follow up to Khan’s 2007 studio LP Funk This.
“Hello Happiness is an album which sets Chaka Khan’s soulful vocals to an empowering collection of songs with cutting-edge production,” according to the statement on her website. “With an eye on the future and a respect for the past, Chaka Khan has delivered an album with the contemporary edge to entice newcomers to her world class talent and the quality to excite long-term fans.”
The forthcoming album will be released on Diary Records / Island Records, a new label created by Major Lazer founder/producer Switch and artist/songwriter Sarah Ruba.
Last June, the singer released “Like Sugar” as the first single from the upcoming album.
The second single and title track, “Hello Happiness” is a dance-oriented track that takes listeners on a funky journey.
Khan began her professional career in 1973 as the lead singer of the funk band Rufus and their hit song “Tell Me Something Good.” The group scored a GRAMMY for best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for the song.
Rufus, which was later renamed Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and then Rufus & Chaka Khan, continued their successful streak of hits with “Once You Get Started,” “Sweet Thing,” “Do You Love What You Feel,” and “Ain’t Nobody.”
Five years later, she embarked on her solo career. Her self-titled debut album won a GRAMMY for Best Female Vocal Performance. The album featured the number one R&B hit and empowerment anthem, “I’m Every Woman.”
During the 80s and early 90s, Khan was a mainstay on the R&B charts with top 20 hits like “What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me,” “Got to Be There,” “It’s My Party,” “Love You All my Lifetime,” and “You Can Make the Story Right.”
She has sold 70 million records during the course of her nearly five-decade career, won 10 GRAMMY Awards, ad has released 22 albums with 10 U.S. number one singles. Some of her collaborators over the years include Prince, Quincy Jones, Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Mary J. Blige.
Hello Happiness will be released Feb. 15 and can be pre-ordered here.
Playing a role in the Civil Rights Movement is a thread weaved into the blanket of America’s soundtrack. The legendary Stevie Wonder played an integral part in bringing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day into fruition with its own soundtrack.
Wonder recalled the first time he had heard of Dr. King. “I was 5 when I first heard of MLK.” As he listened to the coverage of the Montgomery bus boycott on the radio, “I asked, ‘Why don’t they like colored people? What’s the difference? I still can’t see the difference. Want to know why? Because there is no difference,” Wonder said. That moment fueled him to lead the crusade to help create Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.
In 1968, just days after Dr. King’s assassination, Michigan congressman John Conyers introduced legislation to make a federal holiday in King’s honor according to History.com.
Congress didn’t move the bill forward and over the years, some states enacted holidays in honor of King on their own. In 1979, Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, testified before Congress but it didn’t work. Things started to change in the early 80s. Stevie Wonder penned the hit song, “Happy Birthday” on his 1980 album Hotter than July. The record pays respect to Dr. King with his portrait on the right and a collage of images from the Civil Rights Movement on the left.
Under Dr. King’s image, Wonder wrote: “Martin Luther King was a man who had that strength. He showed us, non-violently, a better way of life, a way of mutual respect, helping us to avoid much bitter confrontation and inevitable bloodshed. We still have a long road to travel until we reach the world that was his dream. We in the United States must not forget either his supreme sacrifice or that dream.”
The song celebrates King’s legacy but also takes aim at those who oppose the holiday with the lyrics:
“You know it doesn’t make much sense/ There ought to be a law against/Anyone who takes offense/ At a day in your celebration/ Cause we all know in our minds/ That there ought to be a time/ That we can set aside/ To show just how much we love you.”
After “Happy Birthday’s” release, Wonder and Mrs. King continued the fight to get Dr. King’s legacy honored. In 1982, she and Stevie Wonder presented a petition with more than six million signatures in support of the holiday to the then speaker of the house.
In November 1983 President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing the third Monday of January as the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Holiday. The first Martin Luther King, Jr. Day was celebrated January 20, 1986, nearly 18 years after his assassination.
To this day, Wonder’s “Happy Birthday” song is a familiar one embraced by the Black community when celebrating a friend or family member as an alternative to the traditional birthday song. The chorus is a joyful call to kinship.
Stevie Wonder still performs “Happy Birthday” to spread the message of Dr. King.
The Prince of Sophisticated Soul, Will Downing, is back adding another layer to his contributions to America’s soundtrack with an inspiring message on his 21st album, The Promise.
In 2007, Will Downing faced the unthinkable; a sudden onset of the auto-immune disease polymyositis that left him nearly paralyzed. During this trial, Downing says he didn’t curse God, but instead offered a prayer, “Lord you see me through this and I promise I will give you all the honor, and the praise wherever I go.” Over a decade later, Downing is making good on his promise with a 10 song thank you letter on his first ever gospel album, The Promise. With his distinctive rich baritone, Downing infuses his inspirational message with R&B and Jazz overtones, making it a departure from traditional gospel sounds.
Will Downing spoke with the National Museum of African American Music about crafting a praise worthy album that fulfilled his vow and how the illness changed his perspective and has influenced his music moving forward.
What inspired you to do this first gospel album and talk about the title, The Promise. What took you so long to do a gospel album?
Will Downing: The Promise is a promise that I made to my mom years ago that I would do a gospel album. So that’s one inspiration, and the other was obviously when I was sick and you know, you’re making that negotiation with God, like ‘hey, you get me out of this one, I’m going to do this.’ I’m one of the few people that actually make good on their promise. I’m making good on my promise because I can’t tell you the amount of times I’ve said ‘Lord, please get me up out of this bed, I got you, trust me, I got you.’
So, I’m making good on my word there and the reason that it’s taken so long for me to do it and because this is actually one of the first few times that I’ve had kind of musical autonomy to do what I wanted to do musically. Not that they [record labels] tell me what to do, but when I was at Universal, I was contracted to do an R&B album or contemporary jazz album. I always had to fulfill the contractual agreement. Now that I’m kind of doing the independent thing and able to kind of do a one offs with a label like Shanachie Entertainment. If they’re interested in buying it then that’s what you get. You automatically know what you get. There’s no contract with me saying I have to do an R&B album, I have to do a jazz, or whatever. This is something that I have done, self-financed, and then sold it to them to distribute.
In an interview with JET Magazine, you mentioned that you used live instrumentation on your Black Pearls album. Did you do that for The Promise as well?
Will Downing: Oh yes. There’s a lot of live instrumentation on there. I’d probably say like 70 percent. It kind of really brings the spirit of the music alive to me. You know, there are certain things you can program, but then there are other things you just can’t get that feel. This is supposed to be a feel- good record. It’s supposed to be an inspirational record. It’s supposed to be informative and heartfelt, so you need a lot of musicians to kind of bring stuff like that to life.
How would you describe your gospel sound for fans that are expecting to hear that traditional gospel sound?
Will Downing: I stayed in my lane. I know who I am, I know what I do, and I know what I do best. I’ve made enough records to know what will attract people to the music. You have to be yourself and that’s the type of record that I made. I made it so that musically, it didn’t really deviate from what I’ve always done. What I did was put a message on top of that and that is the inspiration. How was the process of putting this gospel album together different from your previous albums?
Will Downing: Well, with albums like this, I mean you really have to be vulnerable and you have to open up and you know look at yourself for real. It’s really no holds barred. You have to let it all out. I think that I’ve been able to do that in the past with songs. I think with this album, you really take a good look at yourself and, and you can’t be ashamed because you may find yourself crying and letting it all out that way. It’s very therapeutic, to let it out and you know that there’s other people out there in the world that feel the same way and maybe they’ve never heard someone say it and say ‘it’s okay.’
Was there a moment while you were recording that you literally had to step away and break down?
Will Downing: Well, it’s interesting because when I listen to the album as a collection, sometimes I find myself breaking down now. I mean because it really puts you in touch with yourself. You know, all the things that I’ve gone through throughout my life, I mean, it’s not just really just 2007, but it’s everything going forward. It’s your whole existence, you know, you are putting it out on whatever this digital format is now. So, you’re really saying what’s on your heart, going through the whole process of how you’ve been your entire life and how grateful you have been throughout the ups and the downs. Hopefully people can identify with the album and it makes them feel good about themselves as well. Let’s discuss some of the songs on The Promise. Talk about the song “Look at Yourself in the Mirror.”
Will Downing: Well, it’s one of those songs that’ll make you think twice about doing something because you have to look at yourself and know there’s someone, a greater or higher being, looking at you as well. When you look at yourself in the mirror, you should be pleased. It just makes you rethink everything before you do it.
How about the song “I Hear Your Voice?”
Will Downing: That is one of the only ones I didn’t write. I hear it and lyrically, I hear a voice ringing in my ears, and wonder ‘is that you Lord?’ Don’t you always question yourself or when something’s going and wonder if you are supposed to be doing this? Am I supposed to be here? Is it God guiding me? I don’t know about anyone else, but I find myself questioning a lot of the things that go on in my life, karma, and all that stuff. If I do something wrong, or if something wrong happens to me, I think, ‘Lord is that you giving me a little light tap saying like, don’t do it again?’ When things go right, it’s the same sort of thing. I would assume there’s a lot of people that feel the same way.
What about “You Blessed My Life?”
Will Downing: It’s an acknowledgement of all the things that have gone right in my life. The worst things that have happened to me ended up with a blessing attached to it, you know. So, the song is just being grateful for the good and sometimes the not so good, but even just the lessons. I’m still here to talk about it where there’s a lot of the people that haven’t had that opportunity to wake up this morning. I’m grateful for the life that I have and for what I do, because to me, this isn’t work. I’m blessed to be able to do this for a living and support myself and my family. The song “God is So Amazing” is really a full circle moment for you.
Will Downing: Most artists will never rarely say that they have a favorite song on a record. This one to me is my favorite because I recorded that song originally back in 2007 when I was really, really, really sick. That is when the doctors had pretty much written me off and it was like the last song that I recorded off of the After Tonight album because I didn’t think that I was going to make it, to be honest with you. And if you listened to the original recording, you can hear the strain in my voice. You can hear the weakness. I mean, it was just something I just did the best that I could with what I had and to be able to come back 11 years later, and re-do the song while upright as opposed to sitting in a wheelchair or laying in a hospital bed like I was when I did the original recording is a before and after picture, to show you that God is truly amazing because look at where I was then and where I am now.
Looking back over the years, with your experiences with your health, and finally coming full circle with this album; has your approach to music changed?
Will Downing: I mean it affects everything you know, because like most young people you think that you’re invincible, because you never think anything is going to happen to you and then when it happens, that’s the wake-up call. So, you start realizing that that your time is limited and what you say and what you do is impactful and important and how you spend your time and what you say is also very important. So, you just can’t throw anything out into the universe the older that you get. It makes me think about everything that I’m doing. As opposed to in the early days, the ulterior motive might have been to just do this or that and get a check, like I’m going to sing this song and get this money. So, as you get older, you start thinking that maybe that wasn’t as important as you thought it was and you start trying to get yourself together and making changes. You become more about society- based things and people, and how you live your life. The less time you have, the more meaning.
Social media has been blowing up with young R&B singer Jacquees making the declaration that he is the King of R&B of this generation. What are your thoughts on this?
Will Downing: The King of R&B? Please (laughs). There are so many artists that are really starting to come into their own and they have had several records out. I often ask myself who is the future? You look at Raheem DeVaughn who has been around for a minute, then you look at someone like myself, then it’s like you’re still just starting to me. So, it’s like a bunch of artists who could stake claim to it and they are really good, but this Jacquees, I’ve never even heard of him. He’s got more work to do.
Who do you think is the King of R&B?
Will Downing: I don’t consider what these artists do today as real traditional R&B. There’s a new face to R&B that I don’t even recognize to be honest. I mean R&B is more than just a beat and a baseline, it’s a way of life, and a mindset. The traditional sense that I know R&B to be, these kids haven’t even touched that and it hasn’t been touched in a while. From a lyrical standpoint, these guys aren’t finding a slick way to say I want to get with you, they just get straight to it without putting some polish on it. Even with the female artists, it’s the same sort of thing. Every song these days is explicit. As R&B artists, we are supposed to be the slickest talking, smoothest, educated, and putting the high gloss on what we’ve laid down, so why are you making the music raw like this? I don’t know what to call this but it’s not the R&B I remember.
Someone puts out a record and it lasts a month or two months maybe, and then they’re gone. It’s just a new day and it’s hard for like old artists like myself to identify with it. I mean I have a real problem with it. A real problem. Obviously, there are some extremely talented people out there that aren’t getting their due, and then these new folks come out and sort of brand themselves. So, you became big because someone pressed “like” on your page. (laughs). If you go back in history, people put in work and I don’t see a lot of work being put in today. Don’t get me wrong, they are cute, look good, but you have to say something. There’s a lot of people out there that put it down and put in a lot of work.
My music matters because (fill in the blank).
Will Downing: My music matters because I was here. It’s changed people’s lives. I’ve had and am still having an impact on the world.
For more information, check out Will Downing’s website.
The holiday season isn’t complete without the sounds of one of the most classic R&B Christmas albums ever recorded; The TemptationsGive Love at Christmas. The Temptations roster for this soulful album included Otis Williams, Dennis Edwards, Glenn Leonard, Richard Street, and Melvin Franklin. The group crafted the household staple released in 1980 that is a part of America’s soundtrack. While this isn’t the Temptations first holiday themed album, it has been deemed as one of the most memorable. Ask anyone what their favorite Temptations Christmas song is and they will surely mention “Silent Night,” with Melvin Frank’s bass filled voice opens the track with “T’was the night before Christmas,” and sign’s off with infamous line “Merry Christmas from the Temptations!”
In an interview with NMAAM earlier this year, founding member of the group Otis Williams expressed that he is used to hearing that people consider the Give Love at Christmas album a classic. “People love our version of ‘Silent Night.’ I think we did a great rendition of such a fantastic song to begin with. All we did was put our imprint on it and it’s been a hugely successful record. We did that album in the 1980s and it’s still a very popular one when Christmas rolls around now,” explained Williams. The song was recorded in the 1970s on their first holiday album; The Temptations Christmas Card, but the updated six-minute version is the one most refer to as the ultimate classic as the Temptations tap into their gospel roots to conjure up the true spirit of the holidays.
The Give Love at Christmas album is filled with the Motown sound as the tempting Temptations showcase their smooth harmonies that are evident on the hits during their hey day when they ruled the charts. The album features songs such as the introduction, “Give Love on Christmas Day,” that highlights Glenn Leonard’s falsetto on lead.
“Everything for Christmas” has harmonizing background vocals with Richard Street taking the lead, making listeners want to hang the mistletoe and the stockings with care.
“The Christmas Song” features various members on lead vocals.
Dennis Edwards turns “This Christmas” into his own soulful version that shines and makes you want to two-step.
The group tackles another standard that has been recorded multiple times over the years, “The Little Drummer Boy.” The harmonies march to the beat of the drum throughout the song.
Each song on the album is a reminder of why the Temptations have reigned as one of the greatest groups of all time by putting their signature stamp of soul on every single song.
So, when you are looking to fill your stereo with ‘yuletide carols, old and new,’ The Temptations Give Love at Christmas album is the perfect soundtrack as you trim the tree and spend time with loved ones this holiday season. Happy Holidays!
The lyrics were written 40 years ago, heralding a new America where dancing would be a path to freedom, where music would be a catalyst for inclusion and where people of different colors would play one another’s songs. About this and so many other things, Funkadelic was right. There is indeed a party going on right now on the mothership, and there are no VIP passes. Its all-inclusive.
One Nation Under a Groove- This is a dream that represents the opportunity to educate, awe and inspire the nation. And we are doing just that. To date, the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM) educated 8,000 youth on the innovative and creative ways in which African Americans expressed themselves through the use of limited resources and memory to create music; connected 1,200 youth with prominent artists to cultivate a better understanding of the cultural and historical significance of African American music; hosted 5,650 adults through social networking programing that engaged them in discussions about America’s music culture; and reached 117,150 audience members through the provision of platforms for emerging artists to showcase their talents. Yet, there is still more we can do!
We need your help, now more than ever, to continue connecting the many voices that form the soundtrack of our American lives. With your support, we can create a museum that will inspire children of all backgrounds to read, write, and dream in unity. Together, we can create One Nation Under a Groove! Please donate today!
$100 will sponsor one artist to learn from professionals who have excelled in their music career during a Fine-Tuning Master class.
$150 will teach middle and high school aged children the art of writing lyrics through the Innovation of Lyrics and Spoken Word program.
$200 will purchase harmonicas for 20 youth to participate in From Nothing to Something program.
$300 will purchase spoons for 150 youth to participate in From Nothing to Something program.
$500 will further the stimulating monthly discussion that Sips & Stanzas provides to adults.
$1200 will provide 80 high school students a day to connect with prominent artists to gain leadership practice and a better understanding of cultural and historical significance of music created and performed by African Americans in Music Legends and Heroes program.
Gospel singer Koryn Hawthorne is breaking down doors and cementing her place on America’s soundtrack. At 2o years old, the singer has already had the longest reign on Billboard’s Hot Gospel Songs chart by a woman for “Won’t He Do It” with 35 weeks in the number one spot. The track breaks Tamala Mann’s “Take Me to the King” record which crowned the chart for 25 weeks in 2012-2013.
Koryn grew up singing in her family’s church in Louisiana, but her first public appearance was in a talent showcase in Las Vegas where she won top honors in her category. Influenced by the likes of musical giants Tina Turner, Etta James, Mary J. Blige, Michael Jackson, and gospel greats like Fred Hammond, Mary Mary, and Kirk Franklin, helped hone her musical resume. By age 11, she was auditioning for singing competitions such as America’s Got Talent, X Factor, and American Idol. During her time on American Idol, she was sent home early for sticking with the gospel genre that was in her heart. That experience eventually gave her the push she needed to try out for The Voice for its Season 8 competition. As fate would have it, Hawthorne made it to the finals of The Voice as part of super producer Pharrell Williams team. On her website, she explains, “The first thing Pharrell said to me is, ‘We’ve GOT to do gospel,’ which was incredible! So, the first chance we got, I did ‘How Great Thou Art.’” She adds that doing the show helped to shape her vision of her artistry. “For me, The Voice wasn’t about choosing the best songs, or picking songs to best demonstrate my vocal range, but about choosing songs with the best message,” she says. “I thought, ‘God gave me this platform and I need to inspire people, even if I’m not here to win.’”
After the singing competition, Hawthorne found her way to RCA Inspiration where she found her musical match. In 2017, she collaborated with a lineup of hit-making producers and songwriters including Warryn Campbell and Bernie Herms to release her debut EP, Koryn Hawthorne. That debut garnered her two Stellar Award nominations earlier this year.
She released her full length album Unstoppable in July 2018, which reached number one on the Top Gospel Albums chart, and in an interview with CBN News, she said the title of the album goes hand in hand with the story of her life and career. “I felt like it would be the perfect name,” she toldCBN News. “Throughout the course of my life, God has always orchestrated my steps. The purpose that God has over my life is unstoppable and nobody can stop that. With this album, I want to encourage other people with that. Everybody has a purpose and at this time, it’s necessary to find out what your purpose is and be unstoppable in it.”
The title track “Unstoppable” expresses the relentless pursuit of God’s plan. On the album, Koryn’s versatility is on full display from up-tempo songs to raising her fist in victory in the song “Warriors.” It’s obvious that Hawthorne immerses herself into every song she sings to minister to her audience.
The singer appeared on the 2018 Black Music Honors to pay tribute to former Temptations front man Dennis Edwards. Hawthorne also won her first Dove Award this year in the Contemporary Gospel/Urban Recorded Song of the Year category for her hit, “Won’t He Do It.” The single was originally written and conceived for television drama, Greenleaf’s soundtrack. Hawthorne explained on her website that it was important for the song to resonate with fans. “But the most important thing was for the song to sound like I wrote it myself. So, I thought about things in my life, what God has done for me. I don’t ever want to sing something that doesn’t feel like me. My number one rule is that if you don’t feel it, other people won’t.”
The singer also is getting into the Christmas spirit. In November, she released Christmas songs, “First Noel” and “This Christmas” as her first holiday recordings.
With her distinctive vocal prowess and artistry, Koryn Hawthorne continues making her mark as one of the most exciting new voices infusing gospel into her generation.
The sound of funk is a major component of America’s soundtrack. One particular song made history on November 18, 1978 peaking at number 28 on the Hot 100 Billboard Charts; Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove.” It’s a song that is a rousing anthem of union and community. George Clinton founded the groups Parliament and its counterpart Funkadelic paving the way for funk groups to follow in their footsteps. In 1978-1979, the groups racked up four Number One R&B hits: “Flash Light,” “One Nation Under a Groove,” Aqua Boogie” and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Funkadelic spoke with The Guardian earlier this year about how the creation of the funk anthem, “One Nation Under a Grove” came to fruition.
“We’d played a gig in Washington DC and afterwards two young girls, LaTanya and Darlene, came up to the car and told us it was the best concert they’d ever seen. They said: ‘It was like one nation under a groove.’ As soon as I heard that, I knew it had to become a song,” said group founder George Clinton. Clinton went on to say he wanted the song to have the silky sounds of an R&B classic, and he used his influences of The Temptations, gospel music, as well as a catchphrase from a movie. “I also took a catchphrase used by the Mantan Moreland chauffer character in the Charlie Chan movies, when he was ready to run from the ghost: ‘Feet, don’t fail me now!’ And the line ‘Dance your way out of your constrictions’ is about people’s hang-ups: you can deal with them by being grumpy or with a smile,” explained Clinton.
The song that is all about uniting humanity and gave Funkadelic the guitar slapping funky hit they needed in 1978. The song’s lyrics promote social and racial progress. “Ready or not, here we come, getting’ down on the one which we believe in,” signifies finding a way to knock down barriers in togetherness. The lyrics, “So wide you can’t get around it, so low you can’t get under it, so high you can’t get over it,” are seemingly the roadblocks and challenges you find along the way, but later in the song, “With the groove our only guide, we shall all be moved,” is the reminder that banding as one will help overcome it. Freedom is the key in the song. The lyric “We shall all be moved” connotates language similar to the civil rights movement, America’s constitution, and religion in the King James Bible. However, there are a few that will insist on staying in “Hang up alley way” while the rest of the world continues “Getting down for the funk of it.”
Guitarist Michael “Kid Funkadelic” Hampton added, “I always took “One Nation Under a Groove” to mean that some of the world’s problems are too big to change, so we might as well just groove.”
The National Museum of African American Music is celebrating the mixture of genres with a gallery room called “One Nation Under a Groove.” Learn more about the gallery room here, under “Thriller.”
America’s musical soundtrack isn’t complete without mentioning the contributions of African American recording artists from every genre. From spirituals sang by our ancestors to the booming bass of hip hop, there’s no separating the importance of music from history. To close the gap, some artists have taken matters into their own hands, by meshing the arts with the music.
Most recently, T.I. created a pop-up Trap Museum in Atlanta to celebrate the history of trap music. Among the art in the museum were paintings, photographs, and exhibits that paid homage to T.I. and other Atlanta rappers such as Migos, 2 Chainz, Gucci Mane, and other non-Atlanta artists like Rick Ross, Pusha T, and Meek Mill. In an interview with Billboard, T.I. explained why he decided to curate his own museum. “I want to celebrate the culture and not just me. The easy thing for me to do is set up a show and it just be me and perform all the songs from trap music, which I was tempted to do. The genre has become so significant that I felt it deserved more than that. It’s really going to be a place where people can take pictures and kind of interact.”
Earlier this year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z, dropped the instantly viral first video for their surprise joint album, Everything Is Love, which accompanies the trap song “Apesh**” and which was shot exclusively in and around Paris’s iconic Louvre museum. The video recognizes “forgotten” Black artists, since according to the Amsterdam Student, world renowned museums like the Museum of Modern Art, Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Louvre, and the Rijksmuseum have overlooked art by African Americans, limiting it to white men.
Other American music museums do have some artifacts that represent Black music, from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Museum of Pop Culture, The Smithsonian, and the Grammy Museum, as well as all the Hard Rock Cafes around the country. The National Museum of African American Music will be an all-inclusive place to recognize the works of African American artists across a wide span of genres with displays on music imported by slaves, devotional music, gospel, minstrel, ragtime, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hip hop, and more. This is the only museum dedicated to preserving the legacy and celebrating the accomplishments of the many music genres created, influenced and inspired by African Americans. The collections and galleries that will be in the museum will educate, preserve, and celebrate the rich influence Black people have had on America’s music in over 50 genres.
Some artists say it’s been a long time in the making. Otis Williams, founding member of the legendary group The Temptations says it’s also important to preserve African American history so that generations to come will know the stories. “It’s very important because people need to know about the history of the artists that have brought so much enjoyment to people. It’s important to introduce the new generations to history. It’s important to have [the museum] so you can historically characterize everything so people can say they remember these guys and girls,” said Williams. 2017 Black Music Honors Crossover Music Icon, Jody Watley says agrees that’s important to have a place like the National Museum of African American Music to hold the keys to history. “It’s so necessary and so important. Rhythm and blues and soul music is the foundation for so many music genres in America. It is American music and influenced generations of people. To have that history which is often lost in our country, because it’s not just for us, it’s for the world. To have a place that is honoring the rich and profound richness of the legacy of our music, which is music for the world to me,” said Watley.
Trap music is another layer that makes America’s soundtrack. It’s referred to as a brand of southern street hustler rap, featuring synthesizer sounds, booming bass and 808 drums. The sub-genre focuses on lyrics about selling drugs, street violence, and the police.
One of the innovators of the sub-genre trap music, is rapper T.I. Earlier this year, Tip Harris staked his claim as the inventor of the popular sound. He claimed the music started with his 2003 album Trap Muzik. Trap music is described as a lifestyle and the term “trap” is short for “trap house,” which is where drug dealers operate out of.
With his 10th and most recent studio album, Dime Trap, T.I. goes deeper into the halls of trap music, the philosophy, and the future of it.
On “The Weekend,” he describes the album as a “Ted Talk for hustlers,” saying it shouldn’t be limited to lyrics about cooking in the trap house or dealing with the police, but instead anything from a hustler’s life, from falling in love, to having a child, can be rapped about. He closes the track out by stating that trap music doesn’t have to be one-dimensional.
Tip’s new music takes on that philosophy by diving into his personal life as a married man with a rocky relationship, six kids, and handling it in the public eye. On the album, T.I. berates himself for his failures as a husband and being a bad example to his kids. He taps into his vulnerable side with a realization that he had someone there by his side the entire time. In an interview with Apple Beats Music, the rapper revealed his reasoning for discussing his personal issues. “I’ve always kind of shied away from even speaking on those types of topics in my music,” T.I. added. “I felt like this is a time where the music is dope. I just felt that I had to lay it out, I had to put my cards face up on the table.”
The rest of the album touches on themes of positive vibes with T.I. reflecting on the joy in his life, and his evolution of trap music takes him down the sentimental road while he maintains his hard edge as the “King of the South.” He has some collaborations on the album including the song “Jefe” with Meek Mill that features a Latin feel. He also has songs featuring Yo Gotti, Anderson .Paak, Young Thug, Jeezy, YFN Lucci, and Teyana Taylor to name a few.
The album boasts a variety of lyrical content that pushes the limits of trap music and showcases Tip’s ability to infuse his maturity and vulnerability into an album that is a worthy contribution to America’s hip hop soundtrack.
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