I met Yahzarah at Bully’s Basement, the old Hip Hop hot spot in Durham. It was my first time seeing her perform and I was mesmerized by her stage presence, her voice, her. I spent the entire show hugging the speakers taking in every ounce of the unabashed soul she exuded. She, to me, answered that question that had been burning in my head for years: “What if Betty Davis and all of P-Funk had a baby?”
Yahzarah has appeared (in some form) on every musical project I’ve released. We first collaborated on a song called “Love with No Direction” from my band Mosadi Music‘s debut album, “The Window.”
The Window (Album Cover)
The album included two versions of the song (differently titled), one produced by Chris Boerner, the other by Apple Juice Kid. Check em both:
An unknown tidbit: Yahzarah’s guitar scat at the end of “Tomorrow Neva Comin” was sampled by Bueller Tout’ nou on “Get Dressed” which appears on my solo debut, “Twilight for Gladys Bentley.” This means that Yahzarah (aka Miss Purple St. James) has appeared on every album I’ve produced to date:
As I’m compiling these songs, I’m once again made aware of how fortunate I am to know and work with such talented artists. Miss Purple is certainly amongst those people.
image by Sedrick Miles of Sed Miles Photographie Internationale
I’m archiving my collaborations over the next few weeks and thought, on this proposed 80-degree day to share one of my favorites. It’s called Alright (A Spring Anthem) and features guest appearances by THE Carlitta Durand & the mighty emcee, Median. The three versions below are the original (produced by Chris Boerner), The Apple Juice Kid remix and a remix by Tyler Hypnosis. All are available for free download and make for pretty good riding music, windows down, elbows out. Enjoy and share!
I was honored that documentary filmmaker Katina Parker invited me to participate in her episodic documentary tv series, Truth. Be. Told. Katina is in the midst of a crowdfunding campaign effort to support the project. Support and view other previews feature worldwide community movers and shakers Alexis Pauline Gumbs, Sendolo Diaminah, Justin Robinson, Kai Barrow, Ashon Crawley, Matthias Pressley and Zelda Lockhart HERE.
“Truth. Be. Told.” is a documentary series that seeks to reclaim the birthright of Queer Black visionaries within our families and communities by providing a platform for out, Black LGBTQI-SGL-TS people to tell their personal stories of challenge, radical self-inquiry, transformation, and triumph. Shirlette Ammons (Poet, Musician and Creator of the “Twilight for Gladys Bentley” Project), is featured in our first season.
The 2013 Hopscotch Music Festival line-up was announced today and I’m very pleased that shirlette ammons T4GB is a part of this year’s roster of performers. I have yet to know the day, time, or venue, but as soon as the information’s available I’ll post it here. I do know that I will be playing songs from Twilight for Gladys Bentley with a live band and a few special guests. In the meantime, check out the entire line-up in the poster above and stream tunes from over 175 artists by visiting www.hopscotchmusicfest.com
Photos from Shirlette & the Dynamite Brothers opening for Bilal
Below are a few photos from Shirlette and the Dynamite Brothers’ performance at Motorco on March 28th. We had the ultimate pleasure of opening for soul singer, Bilal. Thanks to Chris Charles for these very cool black and white images. Check out more of his work at www.creativesilence.net:
Life has been hectic lately. The remedy: By night, turn off the radiation and write emo-laden poems (I’d also recommend a vinyl copy of Talking Book with few scratches and bruises). By day, if you have a few moments during lunch break, run through some tunes from your debut solo album with a deuce of your funkiest musician friends:
Get Dressed, LunchBreak Edition at The ArtsCenter w/Darion Alexander (bass), Will Darity (guitar)
We caught up with Shirlette Ammons to talk a little bit about her new album Twilight for Gladys Bentley and her recent ‘Pretty Precious Cargo’ tour with Berlin-based rapper sookee and Juan Huevos. Here’s we go…
Who is an artist that you are listening to that you feel people don’t know about yet, but should? Julius Eastman. just heard about him on NPR over the weekend. He was a black gay composer and pianist during the beat generation. His sound reminds me of Alice Coltrane. Check out ‘Gay Guerrilla.’ And my new favorite German rapper, sookee.
What was one of your favorite moments from the ‘Pretty Precious Cargo’ tour?
The orgasms rising in ‘Gut Lightning’ during our performance at the Girls Rock Camp Austin benefit. The organizers had already told us ‘no cussin and no sexually explicit lyrics (I’ve since wondered if they forewarned any of the rock groups, anyways…)’ I remembered that ‘Gut Lightning’ has an orgasm leading up to the chorus and asked Juan Huevos if he thought it might be obvious. He was like, ‘Nah. It don’t even really sound like an orgasm. It just sounds like….sound.’ When the part came up, it sounded unquestionably like an orgasm. I looked at Huevos, Huevos looked at me, and we fell into one of those silent laughters that won’t allow you to catch your breath. We laughed all the way through the chorus. It was cool. Plenty of great moments that I’ll always cherish.
What one track really stands out from your new album?
‘Sexy Cerebellum’ stands out because it introduces the phrase ‘fuckable feminist.’ A fuckable feminist is a woman who has a strong political sense of who she is and is also very fine. It speaks to the way most of the women I know and love move through the world. They don’t compartmentalize themselves.They roll with all of themselves all of the time and they’re intelligent, visionary, and hella sexy. All of it. All the time.
What would your last meal be?
What is your twin sister thinking about right now?
The exact same thing I”m thinking right now.
Tell us a joke.
Q. Did all the animals on Noah’s Ark come in pairs?
A: No. The worms came in apples.
Write a haiku for/about Gladys Bentley
(welp, not a ‘real’ haiku, but…)
proud silhouette stance
and bulldagger blues prowess
You are receiving the email because you have either opted-in to the Grip Tapes email list or downloaded music from a Grip Tapes artist in exchange for your email address. If you do not think you signed up or simply do not wish to receive any further emails from Grip Tapes simply click unsubscribeto remove yourself from any future mailings.
A Note: The final installment of Pretty Precious Cargo Tour [Recapped] was postponed due to a heart-breaking loss among my chosen family. A truly boisterous and uncontainable spirit. Jurina Lee. So much style, more vibrant than most . You are already missed and forever remembered.
THURSDAY MARCH 14TH: THE ROAD TO NOLA
So….as we hit the road to New Orleans, I was under the false impression that the trek was only like 5 hours and some change. Hungover, a bit hoarse, and oblivious to clocks, we left the Days Inn outside of Austin thinking we were making good time, lollygagging, and eyeing the landscape for a Waffle House. When some sobering body finally mapped the route, we realized that we were actually 7 and a half hours from New Orleans, which would make us miles beyond fashionably late for our show at NOLA’s Allways Lounge later that evening. We called Manager Meredith and asked her to contact the venue to let them know we wouldn’t arrive in NOLA until around 11pm, the same time we were set to perform. As per the Big Easy, the Allways folk were pretty laid back about the schedule adjustment.
Oh snap! Let’s rewind about 7 hours (we ain’t sleep much) because I forgot to post this:
a triptych of turntablists
The Pretty Precious Krewe split into our own factions at some point during our last night in Austin. Sookee and I agreed that we wanted to leave every rug in Austin cutthefuckup (Sookee, this means we wanted to dance, like, really hard). We were at this bar, where, at the close of the night, a slue of DJs bumrushed the stage. Three sets of turntables sat front and center. They took turns–3 at a time–rippin it for the remaining 5 people at the club. Sookee and I were the two up front pumping our fists like iron and going slightly HAM. This really happened. Word to hip hop. This. Really. Happened.
Now, back to traversing that vast puzzle piece, Texas. This long stretch of nothingness included not a single Waffle House. We instead stopped at a tumbleweed diner for some grub. Sookee and Big L couldn’t decide between breakfast and lunch so they kinda did this just:
If I were Frida Kahlo staring at this palette, I’d probably murder my brush. In case you’re wondering, that’s 2 grilled cheese halves, hashbrowns to the left, eggs to the right, and a dollop of overcooked carrots garnished with three overcooked green peas. Holla blah.
Good thing we were hungover. Otherwise, we would’ve cared that this is NOT butter:
Real talk, though. We gobbled all that shit up like a bunch of hamburglars. The secret: ketchup.
One of our last images of Texas (beyond that endless 75-mph stretch of highway):
I wish a ringer would.
We arrived in New Orleans about midnight, an hour later than we’d told the fine folk at Allways Lounge we’d be there. Needless to say, by the time we unloaded, Honorable South, the gracious (and dope) NOLA-based band who were to support us that evening, had already packed up and the crowd had paper-thinned. After dealing with the disappointment of missing the show, we packed up and headed to our hosts’ house for the evening.
We did not play here. I repeat. We DID NOT play here.
FRIDAY MARCH 15: NOLA
Sookee woke up, covered her leghands with mismatched socks, and sat on a shotgun porch:
sookee. shotgun porchin it.
Later that day, I had the pleasure of escorting Sookee and Big L around New Orleans. We made the mandatory trip to Bourbon Street which leaves most people I know with an even more disturbing view of overconsumption and capitalism. We sat at the foot of Lake Pontchartrain and watched the barges creep by, ate seafood omelettes and soft shell crab sandwiches. We talked about our ‘favorite’ words and some other nerdy shit (also about words). It was a great, uneventful day. That night, we took a cab over to Frenchmen street which, of course, was mad with music’s sweet, sardonic serenade.
Beyond the brass band lighting it up in the streets, Kermit Ruffin was killin it at Blue Nile:
We spent the rest of the night bopping about Frenchmen and the Quarter, haunted by the inevitable end of our Pretty Precious fantasy, a day removed from poofing into a magical mirage.
SATURDAY MARCH 16TH: PRETTY PRECIOUS SWAN SONG
The next night, we had a gig scheduled at this spot called St Roch’s Tavern, a known Saturday night bounce temple where DJ Rusty Lazar (of Big Freedia fame) holds down the ones and twos. This particular situation (whose legend precedes it) don’t pop off until about…daytime. We were scheduled to play at 9pm. Ain’t nothin goin on in New Orleans at 9pm except maybe a toddler’s birthday party. We sat around for a bit with the very friendly bartender (wish I had a photo to insert) and this 4-fingered guy (really wish I had a photo to insert). Instead of playing there, we ventured over to One-Eyed Jacks in the French Quarter where we heard rumors of a Lady’s Arm Wrestling event. Sookee and I decided to make every effort to perform at this event. It was our last night of the tour and we were intent on gracing at least one stage in the Big Easy.
Before we headed to the arm wrestling event, Sookee experienced another first befitting of New Orleans: her first sip from a brown paper bag. The entire, life-changing fifteen seconds is immortalized here:
When we arrived at One-Eyed Jacks and made our way backstage, this was the scene:
Backstage view of One-Eyed crowd
I could recount the details of how we actually ended up rockin for this lovely crowd (shouts out to Laughlin, Aesha, and the fine folks of L.A.W.W.), but, I’ll simply say it was a queer turn of events. Sookee and I played tag team and offered moral support to each other as we agreed to take the necessary risks to make it happen. By the time we hit the stage, the crowd had thinned out a bit, but the energy remained. Bentley Mode played, then Sookee. We rocked hard, like our last Pretty Precious performance depended on it.
Afterwards, we posed for a Pretty Precious Family Photo Shoot:
Pretty Precious, huh?
To everyone along the many miles of highway who housed us, fed us, came out to the shows, demonstrated any form of love and support, we thank you. Thanks to the fine folk at every Waffle House who smothered, smathered, and covered us… with kindness.
MONDAY & TUESDAY MARCH 11TH & 12TH: THE TREK TO AUSTIN
We hit the road Monday morning with a plan to dock in Shreveport, Louisiana, approximately 8 hours from Atlanta, 6 hours from Austin. It was on this stretch that Sookee played some instrumentals from some of the producers she works with as well as some of her favorite German hip hop. That was cool.
There were plenty of pit stops where fast food was ingested and curbside conversations about purpleizing hip hop, pushing the margins of the margin, sexism, sexuality, hip hop, German etymology, black vernacular english and much more ensued. At an otherwise average stop, I was inclined to partake of McDonald’s latest invention, the McBites. I also remembered that I brought along my weighted jumprope. The two seemingly unrelated topics are chronicled in this short video taken by J Waves:
Full disclosure: this video was not from the Atlanta to Austin stretch, but it is an accurate representation of our pit stops in general. Food, convo, maybe a jumpin jack or two.
We ended up docking in W. Monroe, Louisiana, about an hour outside of Shreveport. We were all eager to call it a night, get off the road, enjoy some airplane brown (and, by way of Charleston, our Berlin homies had been introduced to that sweet tea vodka, which I endearingly refer to as Drunken Fly Soup). Although you probably know what the inside of a Red Roof looks like, here’s some hotel photos:
Sookee red roofin
Sonja Red Roofin for realz
JWaves and Shirlette Red Roofin in the a.m.
that’s me sleuthin (not red roofin) outside the red roof
We hit the road after a Denny’s stop in hot pursuit of Austin. Along the route, we got into a conversation about boners, ‘lady boners,’ the fact that women don’t have language to describe that feeling of arousal that’s not directly subtracted from the masculine (like lady boner), consensuality, and that was all in the first 50 miles!
Eventually, we entered Texas:
and messed with it:
Bentley Mode messin with Texas’ backside
We arrived in Austin and ran into a few familiar (duck) faces:
Kyle, Betsy, Duck Face Waves
Sookee wanted some, so….
Duck Duck Duece
Our first performance was on Wednesday at the Girls Rock Austin Benefit. Upon arriving at the venue (which was a pretty cool stage set up in the back of a cafe), we noticed that the crowd was a mix of kids and adults. Because we reek of sex-positivity (I guess), we were informed by one of the organizers not to perform music that was ‘sexually explicit,’ or ‘contained cuss words.’ She emphasized that if it were a crowd of ‘just parents’ or ‘just teens’ we’d have more autonomy, but since they were all together, we shouldn’t talk about sex. Hmmm….
To open our set J Waves and I performed Gut Lightning which has a rousing orgasm leading into the chorus. Waves was convinced that the orgasm wouldn’t sound like an orgasm, so he convinced me not to worry. Now, I ain’t never met an orgasm that didn’t sound like an orgasm, however, I trusted Waves on this one. When the orgasm came up (pun intended) in the song, well, it sounded like an orgasm. I looked at Waves. Waves looked at me. And we both fell into that guttural silent laughter that makes ones eyes water and weird squeaky noises escape through one’s nostrils. I could not pull myself together for the entire chorus. We eventually got it together and finished our set. Was funny though.
Sookee rocked after us. But, before that, she was making the most pretty precious duck face EVER:
That evening, we played OUTLander’s Queer Hip Hop Showcase at Oilcan Harry’s. The entire line-up consisted of queer hip hop artists from all over the country (and Sookee:):
OUTlander Spring Music Fest Day 1 Line Up
Shouts out to the roster of Queer Hip Hop performers who supported and encouraged each other throughout the festival. Our homies God Des and She closed out the evening. Exhausted from an overwhelming day of music and mayhem, we happened upon a Day’s Inn on the outskirts of town where we crashed with plans to head to New Orleans at the sight of day.
Last installment of the Pretty Precious Cargo tour Recapped later today….or tomorrow. Check back! In the meantime, Like us on the Facebook.
I’m sure ya’ll know about wrenches. You know how life sometimes throws one in your well-planned itinerary? Well, ATL was like that. We arrived too late to attend a brunch that our gracious host Corian organized in our honor, so we went straight to Noni’s, the venue we were scheduled to play. Corian was one of The Queens set to perform with us. We ate. Chilled. Set up our equipment. Chilled. Had a beverage. Chilled. All the time noticing that no audience was arriving over the course of the hour or so that had passed. The Queens soon sashayed in (I’m a sucka for sashaying Queens) and told us that our show was sandwiched between a series of shows, so that might negatively affect turnout.These three (albeit blurry) photos accurately summarize our time at Noni’s:
Big L chillin w/bartender
Big L chillin w/J Waves
Sookee chillin w/couch
After a Pretty Precious Cargo powwow and a check-in with The Queens, we decided to take the party to Corian’s house and get down on an impromptu salon where The Queens, Sookee, and Bentley Mode performed for each other and an audience of gurlfrandz and fambly.
Returning to the wrench analogy, sometimes wrenches fix shit. Our impromptu salon at Corian’s was magical just. Each performance was so well received and encouraged by the audience of about 30 people stuffed into Corian’s love-filled apartment. Sookee performed her joint, “DRAG,” and well, The Queens went H.A.M. The RuPaul-quoted chorus had the whole house singing in unison, “we are born naked, the rest is DRAG.” I shared an a capella version of a song called Jon Anonymous and Sookee and I performed a slower-tempoed a capella version of’ Eatin Out,’ the chorus of which was raised to the rafters by a choir of Hallelu Queens. Talk about purplezing shit!
Here’s the rousing Cayenne Rouge proposing a toast:
And Sookee, who Corian henceforth referred to as his “German Goddess:”
And me performing an acapella (and tempo-defying, singalong) version of Jon Anonymous:
Aroara Thunder, one of the night’s performers, best summarized the queer-credible evening, “There are many times that I look back on my life and wonder about the choices I’ve made. Sometimes I feel like I’ve made nothing but mistakes and falls, but tonight has been one of the nights in which I realize exactly how things have fallen into place at precisely the right time. I’m so lucky to be surrounded by a mess of extraordinary and amazing people, and I only hope to have more amazing experiences in the future. Thank you, so, so much.”
p.s. Um, do any ya’ll know a sexy Queen who raise chickens? Well, I do!
Tomorrow’s installment will chronicle the 2-day trek to Austin, TX and Friday will conclude the Pretty Precious Cargo Tour Recap with memories from the Big Easy. In the meantime, Like us on The Facebook to stay connected!