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#NYC Celebrates #TheNotoriousBIG on His #50th Birthday with Series of Special Events!

Notorious B.I.G. Metrocard

Notorious B.I.G. Metrocard
Photo of a limited edition MetroCard commemorating the Notorious B.I.G.’s 50th birthday.

If it’s one thing that you’ll learn while listening to a song by The Notorious B.I.G., it’s exactly where he was from. The late Brooklyn legend made sure that whomever was listening to his music knew that Brooklyn, N.Y.C. was his home! May 21st marks the 50th birthday of Christopher Wallace known to the world as The Notorious B.I.G. and known to many as the greatest rapper of all time. To commemorate the Hip-Hop giant on his Golden 50th, his hometown will host a series of special events.

On Friday, May 20th, the Empire State Building will host a lighting ceremony to honor the iconic rapper. Visitors will be able to take pictures with a life-size photorealistic avatar of Biggie on the building’s 80th floor conservatory. The lighting ceremony will also include appearances by singer Faith Evans, rappers Lil Kim, Jada Kiss and Lil Cease as well as Biggie’s daughter T’yanna Wallace. Well known protégé of The Notorious B.I.G., Lil Kim also announced via Instagram that she will be hosting her 2nd annual B.I.G. Dinner Gala on Friday, May 20th to honor her late mentor.

The Barclays Center wil display images of Biggie’s records on their screens throughout the weekend. Finally on Saturday May 21st, shortly after sunset, the Empire State Building will light up with the colors red and white with a rotating crown and the number “50.” The colors red and white will symbolize the colors of The Notorious B.I.G.’s 1994 debut album Ready to Die.

Cover art for The Notorious B.I.G’s 1994 debut album Ready to Die.

In addition to all of this, the MTA will be releasing a limited edition MetroCard to commemorate the Hip-Hop giant. The MetroCard will only be available at three Brooklyn train stations including Lafayette Avenue; Clinton-Washington Avenue and Atlantic Avenue on the A, C & G train lines. So while fans are traveling to all these special events, they can also have a little piece of Christopher Wallace with them!

The Empire State Building representing for The Notorious B.I.G. bay-bay-bay-bay!

What a way to celebrate the greatest rapper to ever grace the microphone. #BrooklynGirlCode™ will be celebrating privately like we do every year for The Notorious B.I.G’s birthday by turning up the volume on our speakers as high as it can go and blasting Biggie’s timeless hits all weekend long. That’s how we show our love for Biggie because it’s the Brooklyn way! -xoxo #BrooklynGirlCode™ <3

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#Women In #Music: Art Vs. Business

Rapper Cardi B Performing at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

In today’s monetized music business, women are pushing the envelope and shattering traditional glass ceilings that were once set in place to keep men on top. With so many women in the industry currently making moves both in front and behind the camera, it’s becoming more and more obvious that music may be the surest way to skip all the loop holes and go straight to the top in corporate America. But who gets taken advantage of now that the women are becoming the leaders?

One of the main discussions in the music business today is the over-sexualization of women. From Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion‘s racy “WAP” performance at this year’s Grammy Awards receiving FCC complaints to Rihanna and Beyonce respectively showing off their bare bodies to promote their clothing lines, there’s no doubt about it, sex in the music business is “a thing.”

Rappers Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B give a racy and controversial performance at the 2021 Grammy Awards.

I guess the real discussion might be, can you succeed in the music business while staying true to yourself? Especially in today’s industry when it seems the female artists are often baring it all with hopes to become a household name. It actually still may be very possible. Ethiopia Habtemariam, a music executive who was recently promoted to Chairman & CEO of classic American imprint Motown Records is proof of this.

After joining Motown Records just seven years ago in 2014, Ethiopia Habtemariam rose through the ranks of corporate America while overseeing some of today’s most popular artists like Lil Baby, City Girls and Vince Staples. Habtemariam made it to the tippy top of the music industry where the bosses reside and she didn’t have to be overly sexual or twerk anything in front of any camera.

Motown Records CEO & Chairman Ethiopia Habtemariam.

Then you have Mona Scott-Young, a Haitian-American television and music executive who is responsible for creating the popular reality television series Love & Hip-Hop that has garnered a lot of attention over the years for perpetuating a bad image of hip-hop artists. Mona Scott-Young recently made the news for claiming that she gets way more criticism than her white male counterparts (i.e. Ryan Seacrest, Andy Cohen) due to the fact that she’s the only Black woman in her position. The interesting thing about Mona Scott-Young’s story is that her Love & Hip Hop show actually creates a platform for up-and-coming music artists to be seen. It was Love & Hip-Hop that introduced Cardi B to the world right before the sex-driven, Bronx-born rapper took the music industry by storm. So, can we be that mad at Mona Scott-Young for the image that Love & Hip-Hop portrays? Cardi B is undeniably one of the most successful hip-hop artists in history to date. Who knows if she would have reached this pinnacle without being featured on Love & Hip Hop? It’s almost like a double-edged sword.

Success is success is success! However, it’s harder for the older generation of music lovers to accept this brand new world of music. They’re the ones who grew up watching Lauryn Hill do it with such grace and class.

Lauryn Hill was and still is a beautifully talented artist who sold millions of albums and made a lot of money while keeping all her clothes on — a true gem in Hip-Hop. Still whether behind the camera, in the office or on stage at The Grammys, women in music, both the artists and the executives are raising the bar for many generations to come. And we definitely love to see it! -xoxo #BrooklynGirlCode <3

Singer/Rapper/Songwriter/Actor Lauryn Hill.

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Remembering #TheLastPoets for #NationalPoetryMonth

Cover art for The Last Poets' Self-titled 1970 debut album

April marks National Poetry Month across the globe. So, it’s only right for #BrooklynGirlCode to take a little time out to remember one of the seminal groups responsible for the evolution of modern day poetry and what would later become Hip-Hop music. The Last Poets formed in Harlem, New York in 1969. But, little did they know that after forming, they would have a mega influence on many generations of music to follow and many of today’s biggest Hip-Hop stars including Common, Kanye West, Mos Def and others.

Salute to The Last Poets for all their contributions to music and American culture as a whole! Below is a recent Instagram post from The National Museum of African-American History and Culture paying homage to the legendary Last Poets.  <3

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The Vintage Babies Are on a Mission to Save Soul Music!

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 9.44.02 PM
Vintage Babies cover art for their 2017 self-titled debut album.

“Nobody is making Soul music today. “Soul” meaning music from the soul. We consider this type of music “vintage music” because this is the music of the past and this music made you feel good. We’re creating this type of music right now. So, we’re the babies of the vintage music. We’re the Vintage Babies!” -DJ Dummy

If they’re not serenading the Sundance Film Festival crowd or performing for screaming fans at the popular Rockwood Music Hall in New York City, then you can catch the Vintage Babies somewhere making beautiful, compelling music that speaks directly to your spirit! Last month, Brooklyn Girl Code had the chance to sit down and speak with the Hip-Hop Soul duo consisting of Brooklyn’s own DJ Dummy and West Baltimore chanteuse Maimouna Youssef. Collectively, Maimouna and DJ Dummy have worked with several of the music industry’s elite including Common, Kanye West, Talib Kweli, De La Soul, Mos Def, DMX, Onyx, Das EFX, Raheem DeVaughn, The Roots, J. Cole, Trigga tha Gambler, Smooth tha Hustler, Group Home and many others. The duo recently spoke to Brooklyn Girl Code about Soul music, misogyny in Hip-Hop, what it was like being able to experience the Golden Era of Hip-Hop first hand during the early nineties and of course their self-titled debut album. The Vintage Babies are on a mission to save Soul music and we are here for it all!

Songstress Maimouna Youssef showing off her native beauty.

BKGC: My first question is for Miss Maimouna Youssef. Do you see your growth as an artist from your 2011 album Blooming to your current release Vintage Babies?

Maimouna: My approach as a writer for sure, I feel like I’ve grown a lot. A lot of the songs for the Blooming I had written years before it had even come out. So, this is a more mature version of myself for sure.

BKGC: How did growing up in West Baltimore contribute to your music style?

Maimouna: That’s definitely where I learned to rhyme and understand just regular coming-up in the ‘hood politics and just how to relate to other people. I grew up in a house and my parents are the ones who put me on to Hip-Hop. My dad always listened to Public Enemy and my brothers always listened to Wu-Tang. So growing up they were the soundtrack of my life until I started buying my own music. And I can’t forget those Baltimore club tracks, too (laughs)! So, just the experience within itself.

“Misogyny is a part of American culture. You see how many people are being brought to the pulpit right now in every area from politics to journalism? The music is a reflection of the community. So, it’s (misogyny) in the fibers of this country.” -Maimouna Youssef

BKGC: Listening to the album it’s obvious that you’re big on misogyny in Hip-Hop. What can be done to change this? It seems like it’s in the fabric of the music.

Maimouna: I wouldn’t even say it’s in the fabric of the music. I would say it’s in the fabric of the culture. Misogyny is apart of American culture. You see how many people are being brought to the pulpit right now in every area from politics to journalism? The music is a reflection of the community. So, it’s in the fibers of this country. I’m sure it was brought over from Europe because at that time women were seen as the same as cattle. The first steps are really acknowledging that it’s a problem because if we don’t acknowledge it as a problem then we perpetuate the problem. Women can perpetuate misogyny. If they promote these type of misogynistic ideas to their sons then their sons become those type of people who feel like it’s okay to disregard or degrade women. So that’s what can be done about it. We can stop acting like it doesn’t exist and that it’s not a real problem and retrain ourselves and then our children.

BKGC: So, based off of that who is your favorite female Hip-Hop artist?

Maimouna: Um, I gotta say Lauryn Hill. You know I came up on Lauryn Hill. It was like God, my mom and then Lauryn.

BKGC: (laughs) In that order!

Maimouna: Yeah, ’cause you know my mom is a singer, too. She’s really the one that taught me to sing. I can’t even say I look at it like female emcees. I like who I like in terms of emcees. So, I would just say my favorite emcees who have personally effected my life are Lauryn Hill, Andre 3000, Nas, Jay-Z and KRS-One. KRS-One had a huge impact on my life as a child. So, yeah I would say those artists probably had the biggest influence on me as an artist.

BKGC: Do you and Common currently have something in the works?

Maimouna: We just did a show recently in Chicago. I worked with him on some writing for his last album and he’s also on the Vintage Babies album.

“I love being in the studio because I like to create what’s in my soul at that moment.” -DJ Dummy

Hip-Hop Soul duo Vintage Babies from left: Maimouna Youssef and DJ Dummy. Photo courtesy of @madidangerously.

BKGC: Okay so now I’d like to ask DJ Dummy some questions. Hi DJ Dummy.

DJ Dummy: How are you?

BKGC: I’m good. I didn’t know your career spanned so many years back. I can’t believe you worked with Group Home. That’s like the era of Hip-Hop that I’m from. Group Home opened up the flood gates for so many of the nineties Hip-Hop groups. What was it like working with Group Home? Were they the first artists you actually worked with back in the 90’s?

DJ Dummy: The first tour I ever went on was actually with Group Home. It was an experience because I was only 18 years old. I’m getting to travel the world with Group Home and yes that was like that era of Hip-Hop that I love so much with the Pete Rocks, the (DJ) Premiers, the Rzas. Those producers were killing the Hip-Hop game. Every record was made by them. So, to be around Group Home who were affiliated with Gang Starr at the time is how DJ Premier became one of my mentors. It was truly amazing to witness that at that young age.

BKGC: How did you get involved?

DJ Dummy: Group Home was on tour with Onyx and Das EFX and my brother was Onyx’s DJ, DJ LS One.

DJ LS One Mixtape Cover
DJ LS One mixtape cover from the late 1990’s.

BKGC: Oh! DJ LS One is your older brother and he’s the one who brought you into the game back in the early 90’s?

DJ Dummy: Yes.

DJ Dummy working the tables
DJ Dummy working the tables!

BKGC: Nice! So what do you enjoy doing the most? Battle deejaying, club deejaying, concert deejaying, directing music, or being in the studio?

DJ Dummy: It’s all different loves. I love being at the club because I love the fact that I can control anybody’s mood at any given time. If you’re having a bad day at work and you hear me deejaying at a party then you’re going to forget about that whole bad day you just had.

I love being in the studio because I like to create what’s in my soul at that moment. No matter what writer I’m with. Whether I’m doing a Hip-Hop song or an R&B song, all my tracks are stories already within itself without lyrics. I always make beats like that. Being in the studio is my outlet for my personal soul. As far as being on stage at a concert, I love hearing the live aspect of what I just created. I can’t say I love one more than the other. So, those are the reasons why I love my profession.

BKGC: So out of everyone that you’ve worked with, who was your most memorable?

DJ Dummy: Back in November at the Rockwood Music Hall performing with Maimouna.

“My top five artists? Number one is Pete Rock, by far number one. Then I would have to say DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z and Andre 3000.” – DJ Dummy

BKGC:  Yes. That was an amazing show. I’m glad I was able to attend. Just like I asked Maimouna, who would you consider your top five most influential artists? The ones who inspired you the most to get into music and stay involved?

DJ Dummy: My top five artists? Number one is Pete Rock, by far number one. Then I would have to say DJ Jazzy Jeff, Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z and Andre 3000.

DJ Dummy striking a pose with rapper/actress Queen Latifah.

BKGC: How did the both of you originally connect because it seems like it’s a perfect mesh. How did you guys come together and decide you wanted to form a group?

Maimouna: We met on tour. I was on tour with The Roots, he was on tour with Common. We always ended up on the same tour at some point. Plus, DJ Dummy had a radio show that he let me co-host with him and just act a fool on!

DJ Dummy: That’s what really started our real vibe connection. My morning radio show. The way that we vibed off of each other you would’ve thought that we were already a group and then I’ve always known Maimouna to be one of the most incredible singers that I’ve ever heard. I knew that she could rhyme her ass of as well! So at first, I had her doing work with other people and then I said you know what… “Let’s make a mixtape together!” It was all Maimouna’s idea to make the mixtape. Just the vibe from the mixtape made me want to create more music with her.

BKGC: Divine intervention. That’s what it sounds like to me. Maimouna, how did you initially get involved in music?

Maimouna: I recorded one song with Raheem Devaughn‘s producer Omar and then one of my high school teachers connected me with a publicist who connected me with James Poyser of The Roots and I started working with him and that’s how I got to go on tour with The Roots.

BKGC: How’d you guys come up with the name “Vintage Babies?”

DJ Dummy: That was the brilliance of Maimouna. It’s definitely a sound. Basically, what’s missing today is the soul from all of music. Nobody is making Soul music today and not “Soul” music meaning R&B. That’s not soul. “Soul” meaning music from the soul, emotional music. We consider this type of music “vintage music” because that is the music of the past. That music made you feel good. Even a song like “What’s Going On,” by Marvin Gaye, the way he sung it, it made you feel good. That’s Soul music. So, me and Maimouna came up with that. We’re creating this type of sound. We’re the young ones coming up creating this music right now. So, we’re the babies of the vintage music. We’re the Vintage Babies!

BKGC: Perfect.

“Me myself, I’m working on a book. A guide for young women getting into the music business. Being a female band leader and what comes with that and just being a girl from Baltimore who’s touched every continent and what that looks like.” – Maimouna Youssef

DJ Dummy: 2018 is going to be more of a focus on the Vintage Babies. Both of us will be working with Common.

Maimouna: Me myself, I’m working on a book. It’s kind of a guide for young women getting into the music business. Like all the things I wish I would’ve known fifteen years ago. Lessons and advice that I’ve been given along my journey. Being a female band leader and what comes with that and just being a girl from Baltimore who’s touched every continent and what that looks like.

“I could’ve went with the biggest artist and I chose not to because I don’t like what they stand for. I’ve been working on tour since ’95. So, we’re talking 22 years now and this is all because of decisions that I’ve made. No, I’m not on the front cover of any magazines. But, my career has sustained and after 22 years I’m still here. Blessed.” – DJ Dummy

BKGC: This next question is for DJ Dummy. What advice do you have for young up-and-coming artists coming into the music industry? It’s not a glamorous industry. What advice do you have for the future Kendrick Lamars and J. Coles as far as staying involved and not giving up?

DJ Dummy: It sounds cliché, but I’m a prime example of staying true to yourself. I’ve been asked to go on tour with many artists. But, I don’t like their music so I didn’t go. I didn’t just take the check and go. Every artist that I’ve been on tour with or worked with, I was a fan of them. So, that goes to other rappers and other producers. Don’t try to make that hit record just because it’s popping right now. I could’ve went with the biggest artist that’s popping right now and I chose not to because I don’t like what they stand for. I’ve been working on tour since ’95. So we’re talking 22 years now and this is all because of decisions that I’ve made. No, I’m not on the front cover of any magazines. No, I’m not getting any producer of the year awards. But, my career has sustained and after 22 years I’m still here. Blessed.

BKGC: Any last words for the people?

Maimouna: Just buy the album. Don’t bootleg it. Don’t just stream it. Buy the album y’all!

DJ Dummy:  Make sure to follow us because this is just the beginning and it’s going to be something so much bigger. We’re trying to make music that we know people need. There is a need for a certain type of music right now.

BKGC: Yes, your music is very spiritual. There’s no question about the spirituality that is present in your music. Your music is important!

BKGC: Thank you guys so much for taking the time out to speak with me. I wish you all the best in 2018. 2018 is going to be a big year for the Vintage Babies!

***

Check out the Vintage Babies latest self-titled debut album here and follow them on Instagram @thevintagebabies for new music and upcoming show dates.

The Vintage Babies live at Rockwood Music Hall in New York City on November 27th, 2017. Photo Courtesy of @madidangerously.