Historically Black culture has been the pinnacle of the Music & Entertainment Industry. In this installment, we will not only explore the impact of Black Culture on Music & Entertainment throughout history, but also the appropriation, theft & whitewashing of this impact as well.
Join us for a conversation with Shelley Nicole from blaKbüshe and Vernon Reid of the band Living Colour to discuss Black Joy & Pain in Music.
At a time where it seems where every manifestation of Black self-affirmation—Black Lives Matter, Black Self-Care, Black Girl Magic—is being assailed by prickly sorts antagonized by most things Black and self-affirming, Black-on-Black love has become medicine for the melancholy, an elixir crucial to keeping the African Diaspora sane and forward-moving. Shelley Nicole—the mainspring behind Shelley Nicole’s blaKbüshe—is simultaneously a product, a witness and architect of Black-on-Black love, a calling that has informed all of her work as a singer, writer, composer, actor, poet, musician and a healer. It is the tap root of her latest work, I Am American, a collection of songs written by her and produced by award-winning guitarist, composer and producer Vernon Reid of the band Living Colour.
I Am American harks back to the Golden Age of classic albums that embraced collaborative energy from diverse, paramount artists. The album is forged from the connective tissue of rock, soul, blues, jazz and funk into a seamless, genre-defying blend while tackling the hard questions of women reclaiming their cultural identity, their psychic refuge and their personal agency. The project is part of the continuum of audacious, self-confident and eclectic Black sisterhood that extends from Rosetta Tharpe to Nina Simone to Betty Davis to Labelle to Joan Armatrading to Meshell Ndegeocello.
Even in these times, Shelley maintains every faith that love will ultimately prevail and humanity invariably will course-correct. Her truth – “Remember you’re connected to the person next to you. Everybody is, I am, you are, we are really just that connected. As we are all here, we are all part of one Source, Universal Life Force, whatever you want to call it. And we don’t know what’s coming beyond this place, but we are here now together, so how are we going to do this together a little better?”
London-born American guitarist, founder of Living Colour and a co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, Vernon Reid has done a great deal to undermine stereotypical expectations of what kinds of music black artists ought to play; his rampant eclecticism encompasses everything from hard rock and punk to funk, R&B and avant-garde jazz, and his anarchic, lightning-fast solos have become a hallmark. In 1980, he joined Ronald Shannon Jackson’s seminal avant-jazz fusion band, The Decoding Society and in the following decades Reid went on to work with a wide variety of experimental musicians including Jack Bruce, James “Blood” Ulmer, Bill Frisell, John Zorn, Arto Lindsay, and Public Enemy.
Vernon has also composed for noted film-makers Charles Stone 3rd (Paid In Full), Shola Lynch (Free Angela and All Political Prisoners), Gabri Christa (One Day at a Time – A Caribbean Man’s Journey into Yoga), Brad Lichtenstein (When Claude Got Shot, Ashe ’68, There Are Jews Here, As Goes Janesville, Almost Home, Ghosts Of Attica ), Kasi Lemmons (Dr. Hugo), Laurence Fishburn (Five Fingers), & Thomas Allan Harris (Through A Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People for PBS’ Independent Lens and Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela for PBS’ P.O.V. series). Reid is also the co-creator of The Field Negro Guide To Arts & Culture with W. Kamau Bell as well as the theme music composer for Bell’s CNN series United Shades of America, & Mr Bell’s ground-breaking FX Show, Totally Biased . He was the music supervisor on Charles Stone 3rd’s, Mr. 3000 featuring Bernie Mac .
His songs have in appeared in films such as Say Anything…., Judgement Night, and Look Who’s Talking Too as well as video games Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. He has appeared in documentaries such as PBS’ American Masters – Jimi Hendrix: Hear My Train a Comin’, A Band Called “Death,” Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone and HR: Finding Joseph I.