Today is the centennial birthday of American jazz pianist and composer Thelonious Monk. So, you know Brooklyn Girl Code had to write about it! Thelonious (Sphere) Monk (named after his maternal grandfather) was born in Rocky Point, North Carolina on October 10th, 1917. To many, Monk is considered to be one of the forefathers of modern jazz. And today on his 100th birthday, Thelonious Monk is still one of the most-recorded jazz composers in history falling second to Duke Ellington. This record is one that we may not see broken for a long time to come. Monk who stood out from the crowd for his unique sense of fashion, was a true genius on the piano and could woo his audience even if he played wearing only shorts. Monk started playing piano at the young age of six after moving from North Carolina to the Big Apple in 1922 with his family. As a youth, Monk played the church organ and later began taking his musical career more seriously serving as the house pianist at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem. A world-renowned venue that is known as the birthplace of Bebop music. Monk’s noted influences included Duke Ellington, James P. Johnson and his mentor Mary Lou Williams. After an incident with the New York City Police involving Monk and his friend Bud Powell in 1951, Monk had his New York City Cabaret Card revoked and couldn’t play at many N.Y.C. venues for several years. This forced the jazz legend to take his musical talents over to Europe.
Later in his life, Thelonious Monk became more introverted and performed less for sold out crowds. But, thank goodness his music career spanned over thirty years (1940s- 1973) because otherwise, we would have never been blessed with Monk’s musical genius and prowess. Long after his death, Thelonious Monk is still influencing American music and culture and will continue to do so. Happy 100th Birthday to a real American jazz legend! Watch footage of Thelonious Monk playing with his band in Norway and Denmark in 1966 below via YouTube.
Have you ever listened to TLC’s mega hit “Waterfalls?” Have you ever played your Stankonia CD by OutKastso 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-LoGreen, Joi 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!
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 Southernplayalisticadillacmuzikback 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.”
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.”
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.
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! <3
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