Cover Art for the new 'Organized Noize' EP

Organized Noize Speak On Putting Southern Hip-Hop on The Map, Bringing Creativity Back to The Game & Their New Critically Acclaimed Self-Titled EP

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Legendary Atlanta Production trio Organized Noize on the cover of their new self-titled EP ‘Organized Noize.’ From left: Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown

Have you ever listened to TLC’s mega hit “Waterfalls?” Have you ever played your Stankonia CD by OutKast so many times that it just completely stopped working? Perhaps you’ve sung En Vogue‘s 1996 hit “Don’t Let Go (Love)” or Xscape‘s 1995 song “Keep It On The Real” at the top of your lungs so high that you completely lost your voice? If you’ve found yourself doing any of these things then more than likely you’re a fan of legendary Atlanta production trio Organized Noize. Organized Noize which consists of Rico Wade, Ray Murray and Sleepy Brown have been producing some of your favorite hits since the early 90’s. This past May 5th, the trio released their first collaborative self-titled EP, Organized Noize. The EP features appearances from Atlanta’s own 2 Chainz, Big Boi, Cee-Lo GreenJoi and others. Although the album only consists of seven tracks, Organized Noize did an excellent job of getting their musical point across. Consciously aware songs like “We the Ones” and “Why Can’t We” that tackle all the political and cultural tensions currently taking place in America in addition to psychedelic tracks like “Kush” and “Awesome Lovin’” where the trio show off their trademark sound would give any music lover a musical high. I had the huge opportunity to interview Organized Noize last week during one of their press days. We spoke about the group’s upcoming projects, their 2016 Netflix documentary The Art of Organized Noize and some other things.

Speaking with the three young men, you’re initially thrown back by their humility. I myself didn’t know Sleepy Brown was even a producer. All these years I assumed he was just a background singer/hypeman for legendary hip-hop duo OutKast. Many people are used to seeing Sleepy Brown alongside OutKast in some of their more popular music videos like “So Fresh, So Clean” and “The Way You Move.” So, after finding out Sleepy Brown was responsible for producing all this awesome music, I was truly impressed. However, after speaking with him it makes perfect sense. Sleepy Brown’s father, Jimmy Brown was also involved in music and was a lead vocalist in the 1970’s funk band Brick. Brown also credits his dad for being a huge inspiration in his musical career. Although Brown is often compared to the late great hip-hop artist Nate Dogg because of their similar jazzy, melodic song hooks, he tells me he doesn’t mind the comparisons at all and is actually honored. As far as musical influences, Sleepy Brown says Curtis Mayfield, Isaac Hayes and the Commodores are his top three faves. Pretty decent top three!

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Organized Noize’s Sleepy Brown & Big Boi performing on ‘The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon’ on April 24th, 2017.

Next up is Rico Wade who serves as a leader for the group and is also the most outspoken of the three. Rico Wade who can be seen wearing a mask quite often these days says that the mask represents his evolution in music and the group’s alternative style that is well known all over the world. When I ask Rico Wade what initially drew him to hip-hop music, he says that watching the video for “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang and classic cult movies like Breakin’ and Krush Groove made him love the music and culture. Well thank goodness he decided to watch those films because without Rico Wade there would be no OutKast, Goodie Mob, Joi, YoungBloodZ, Slim Cutta Calhoun, Future and many others.

Rico Wade is the one who can be blamed for facilitating all these artists in his mother’s basement back in the early 90’s which is how the Dungeon Family got the idea for their name. Rico Wade was the one who gave all these talented people a safe place to express their feelings through hip-hop music. And since no good deed goes unpunished, the Dungeon Family eventually went on to sell 75 million plus records under Wade’s guidance. No big deal! Music Executive L.A. Reid also credits Rico Wade for introducing him to hip-hop music.

When I ask Rico Wade who his top three producers of all time are he names Quincy Jones, George Clinton and James Brown. Go figure since OutKast’s classic 1994 debut album Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik pretty much served as the group’s Thriller album in that it catapulted them to a much higher level in their music careers. When I ask the group what it was like producing and creating Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik back in the early 90’s and if they knew that the album would take off like it did, Rico Wade responds:

“We had to earn our respect. It was a time when Nas‘ song “One Love” (off his 1994 debut album IIImatic) and Raekwon were getting all the airplay on the radio. People weren’t used to hearing rappers with a southern dialect over hip-hop tracks. So, we had to convince the New York DJ’s to play our stuff.”

Cover art for OutKast's classic 1994 debut album 'Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.'
Cover art for OutKast’s 1994 debut album ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.’

Wade’s perseverance paid off and OutKast went on to not only find a place amongst hip-hop’s elite but amongst all of music’s elite. But, it didn’t happen over night. Rico Wade’s influence was heavy and even spilled over to his close family members. A young hip-hop artist right out of Atlanta that went by the name “Future” wanted to excel in music like his older second cousin. Future went on to become a top selling hip-hop artist as well. The only negative repercussion of Future’s success is the heavy glamorization of drugs in his music (i.e., “Mask Off“) that Wade wishes would come to an end. Wade states:

“Future, that’s blood. But, I still feel like he can be more creative in his lyrics.”

Still, Future has done what many other artists have never done in hip-hop. This past February the rapper made history when he became the first artist in any music genre to have two back-to back albums peak at No. 1 on the Billboard charts (FUTURE and HNDRXX). So, you can’t deny Rico Wade’s second cousin his accolades.

Nevertheless, all eras eventually come to an end and with consciously aware artists like J. Cole, Chance the Rapper, Logic and Kendrick Lamar doing big things in music these days, we may see an end to all the “drug rap” real soon.

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Finally is Ray Murray who just may be the most humble one out of the trio. Although he’s pretty quiet, he serves as somewhat of a back bone for Organized Noize. He also served as a mentor for Goodie Mobb member Big Gipp who credits Murray for teaching him the art of rap early in his career in the group’s 2016 Netflix documentary The Art of Organized Noize. In the documentary directed by Quincy Jones III, we also find out Ray Murray is a graffiti artist and when I ask Murray if he still does his graffiti when he’s not making music he replies: “What you know about graffiti?” When I ask Murray who his top three producers of all time are, he politely states, “Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, Teddy Riley and Rico Wade.”

No doubt Organized Noize has already cemented their position in music history. However, they are not done. With new projects coming up soon including Big Boi’s new album Boomiverse which the trio executive-produced, these guys are back in business. In a time where everything is being recycled in music and originality is almost non-existent, it’s nice to know that Organized Noize is here to bring some creativity back to the game. Purchase the Organized Noize EP here and stay tuned for upcoming news from Atlanta’s legendary production trio via their website http://therealonp.com/. Keep up the awesome work fellas! ❤

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Photo courtesy of Prince Williams/WireImage
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#TempleFootball Dominates at the #NFLDraft2017

And now for your weekend sports break… it was a great weekend to be a Temple Owl! Temple University dominated at this year’s NFL Draft which took place this past weekend in Philadelphia, Pa. A record 250,000 plus people attended the draft which was held outdoors for the first time in the NFL’s history. The draft which took place on the steps of Philadelphia’s Art Museum located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway proved to be one for the books. Overall Temple Football had three players drafted including Nate Hairston who was drafted to the Indianapolis Colts in the fifth round; Dion Dawkins who was drafted to the Buffalo Bills in the second round and Haason Reddick who was drafted in the first round to the Arizona Cardinals and was the 13th pick overall. In addition to Hairston, Dawkins and Reddick being drafted, six other Owls were signed on as free agents this past Saturday in Philadelphia. Newly drafted Temple Owl Haason Reddick told Philly.com:

“It means something special is really going on at Temple. I would advise people to open their eyes and watch what’s going on.”

With this past weekend’s draft being the second year in a row that Temple’s football program sent three players to the NFL, Haason Reddick is speaking true words. We’re sure Temple University Head Football Coach Geoff Collins was one happy camper this past week. So proud of Temple Football’s 2017 NFL draftees and even prouder to be a Temple Ooowl! That’s my alma mater! All the best to Temple’s newest draftees in their professional football careers. Check out all of Temple’s 2017 NFL draftees below.

 

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No. 7 Haason Reddick was drafted to the Arizona Cardinals in the 1st round, 13th overall in the 2017 NFL Draft. Photo courtesy of Temple Football Instagram: @temple_fb

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#JackieRobinson on Breaking the #ColorBarrier in Major League Sports

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Photo courtesy of ESPN Instagram (@espn).

“Feels so good to be a Crooklyn Dodger!” – Masta Ace “Crooklyn Dodgers

The day was April 15th, 1947. Seventy years ago today, to be exact. It was Opening Day for the Brooklyn Dodgers in the historic Ebbets Field stadium which was conveniently located in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, New York. However, this Opening Day was way different than the Dodgers’ previous ones. Today, a young man by the name of Jackie Robinson who wore the number “42” on his jersey would be taking the field as the starting first baseman, batting second. On this day, seventy years ago, Jackie Robinson single-handedly broke the color barrier in Major League Sports.

Although there were rumors that people would be boycotting the game due to their disapproval of Robinson’s integration, the game actually went very well. The Dodgers would go on to win 5-3 against the Boston Braves (now known as the Atlanta Braves). When Robinson’s number was called on the P.A. system as the Brooklyn Dodgers’ starting first baseman, the crowd applauded “politely” according to sports editor Ed Silverman who was at Ebbets Field on this historic day in 1947 to witness history. In a new article for The New Yorker which commemorates the 70th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Ed Silverman revisits April 15th, 1947 and talks about what the day was like:

“I deliberately sat in the bleachers, which were predominantly filled with black attendees. The women were all well coifed. Many wore lovely dresses and light coats. The men were all nicely attired. It was more like going to church than to a ballgame.”

Jackie Robinson would go on to have a stellar first season in his Major League Baseball career and became the recipient of the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1947. Robinson also served as a Major League Baseball All-Star for six consecutive seasons from 1949 through 1954 and won the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1949, becoming the first Black player to do so. All in a day’s work for a legendary sports giant like Mr. Robinson. All in a day’s work!

Check out some cool footage via MLB.com of Jackie Robinson’s opening day, here.

The #Artistry of #ChuckBerry

Today’s #TBT has to go to a true musical genius. R.est I.n M.usic P.aradise to legendary Rock ‘N’ Roll artist Chuck Berry! The music most certainly lives on!!! Check out Chuck Berry doing his famous “Duck Walk” via YouTube here.

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Photo of the late Chuck Berry doing his famous “Duck Walk” courtesy of @genius Instagram via @rashidaaz Instagram

#InMemoriam The Notorious B.I.G. Twenty Years Later

Mural in Brooklyn, New York depicting The Notorious B.I.G. as Che Guevara

Check it/ I grew up a fuckin’ screw-up/ Got introduced to the game/ Got an ounce/ and fuckin’ blew up – The Notorious B.I.G., “Runnin'”

What a difference twenty years can make. Or, in this case, what a difference twenty years can not make! It’s been two decades since The Notorious B.I.G. was tragically gunned down in Los Angeles on March 9th, 1997. However, the hip-hop template that B.I.G. set prior to his passing has yet to be altered. Christopher Wallace was 24-years-old when he passed. Looking back to that year, it seems like he was way older than he was because of his mature demeanor. B.I.G. was definitely one of the coolest and just a real lyricist at heart. He put words together like no other lyricist in hip-hop had done before him. Although we’ve seen a few eras of hip-hop come and go since 1997, there is still this obvious void that has yet to be filled. Why is this?

Shortly after B.I.G.’s passing, Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) rose to stardom and did an excellent job of continuing the legacy his predecessor began. But, as far as talent and skills on the mic, no one has yet to surpass the young Brooklyn boy with the crisp Coogi sweater and the fancy Versace shades.

It’s 2017 and Emo Rap is what sells records. Long gone are the days of “rags to riches,” “made it from the bottom” hip-hop fairytales. Still, we all get a thrill out of dreaming about B.I.G.’s imaginary replacement and hoping that they could possibly be waiting on the sideline somewhere for their chance at fame. Until then… B.I.G. reigns supreme! Rest in peace Comandante Biggie!

The Notorious B.I.G. in his element! Photo courtesy of Aziza Hassan’s instagram @rashidaaz via @trace_urban Instagram

 

President Obama on the White House lawn watching Olympian Fencer Tim Morehouse and U.S. National Team Fencer Daria Schneider fence. Photo courtesy of AP

#TheAudacityOfHope: Obama’s Best White House Photos

The votes are all in and it’s official! Our beloved President Barack Obama is on his way out of the White House and Donald Trump is on his way in! *Takes 5 minute break to digest what I just typed.* Still, with that being said, nothing can take away from the two great terms that President Barack Obama gave us as the 44th President of the United States of America. He was a President of many firsts. Including the first to visit the island of Cuba since President Calvin Coolidge in 1928. President Obama also became the first president to visit a federal prison in 2015, the first time for any sitting president in the history of the United States. So, in honor of Obama exiting, I’ve compiled a list of some of his best photos taken by Chief Official White House photographer Pete Souza over the last eight years via his awesome and eloquent Instagram account. So, no tears today, please! Because life will most definitely go on! Just sit back and check out the awesome photos below and remember all the good times that we had while Obama was here!

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Only right that President Obama and former President Abraham Lincoln meet face-to-face.
President Obama on the White House lawn watching Olympian Fencer Tim Morehouse and U.S. National Team Fencer Daria Schneider fence. Photo courtesy of AP
President Obama on The White House lawn watching Olympian Fencer Tim Morehouse and U.S. National Team Fencer Daria Schneider fence. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

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President Obama became the first sitting president in the history of the United States to visit inmates at a federal prison in 2015. Photo via okwassap.com.

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Because we all need a beer break sometimes, right?
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And a coconut water break, too!

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2016 Olympic Fencer and my friend, Ibtihaj Muhammad with President Barack Obama at the White House.
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Syrian Refugee Olympian, Yusra Mardini poses with Barack Obama photo via NBC Sports.

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Temple Univerity, North Philly, Mass Gentrification, Temple University Police

The Side Effects of #MassGentrification in #NorthPhilly and #AnyTown, U.S.A.

This past Friday on October 21st, 2016 at approximately 8:30pm EST about 150 teens gathered on Temple University‘s North Philadelphia campus in front of the Pearl Theatre. The teens allegedly gathered after being called together via a social media post. Once the kids who were said to be between the ages of 14-17 years old congregated, they began attacking Temple University students, parents, police officers and even punched one officer’s horse in the head twice. In what seemed to be a well-organized revolt against Temple University Police. By the time the attack was over, there were only about four arrests made.

Why did the kids of this North Philadelphia neighborhood decide to come together and go on this crazy rampage? The only thing I could think of is mass gentrification. I myself am a graduate of Temple University (School of Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising ’04) and prior to graduating, the extreme renovation of Temple University’s North Philly campus was in its early stages.

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A crowd of kids gathered on Temple University’s North Philly campus on 10.21.16 and went on a violent rampage. Image via The Washington Post.

Now when I return to Temple’s campus once or twice a year to help out my college Fencing coach and Temple University icon, Dr. Nikki Franke with some of her various competitions (which I myself once competed in), I can see the plan that the university had to take over the entire North Philly area finally coming into fruition. It’s obvious. But, what about the the families who have lived for decades on these blocks and in these buildings that Temple has been taking over at such a rapid pace? What about the people being pushed out of their homes so Temple can build new buildings and facilities and hire other employees who more than likely aren’t even from the neighborhood and have no connection to the neighborhood whatsoever? You’re going to have a lot of angry folks and this time around it was the kids of North Philly saying “Look, we’ve had enough!” Mass gentrification is taking place all over America right now and the truth of the matter is we’re going to see more of these type of events happening due to a whole bunch of people (kids included) being fed up.

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Photo via @az_duz_it‘s Instagram and The Washington Post

When I was a student at Temple University, I tutored at a program organized by the university called “Temple Tutors.” Temple University students currently enrolled at the school would go to the various schools in the area and tutor students during and after school hours. I was pretty disgusted everyday I walked into the schools I was tutoring at when I saw how decrepit the school supplies that the students had to use were. Some of the school text books were hanging from the bind, literally. So, this made me think that maybe there are positive effects of mass gentrification, as well? When better schools are being built with better resources this is a good thing. However, there has to be some type of common ground between the people responsible for the renovating and the people who live in the neighborhoods being renovated or else these types of events will continue to take place.

I hope all the families, police officers, students, etc. who were affected by this unexpected revolt are doing well. Sometimes events like this have to occur to make things better. Either way, I will always represent my alma mater to the fullest. “][“U baby!!!