year ago I sent out the very first issue of theHotness. I practically
stayed up all night with my co-editor, Todd Wilson, as we transcribed
interviews and edited text. It was a serious affair of the heart as we
found ourselves consumed with the thrilling task of creating something
new and something special. In that first issue we featured an interview
with Jill Scott before most folks had even heard of the Grammy award-winning
Philadelphia native and definitely before anyone was jamming to her hit
song A Long Walk Home. Now a year later we have subscribers
from all walks of life representing almost every State in the US, as well
as cities in Europe, Australia, Japan and Africa. It is mind blowin
to say the least! With this, our first anniversary issue, (yeah, this
ones big but thats because its special!), we decided to head
back to Philly and interview the legendary MC, Bahamadia. Were also
looking at two Hot Girlz, Suphala and Renee Cox, who have been on the
scene for some time now yet continue to create music and art that is spellbinding.
Id like to thank all of the writers who have contributed to theHotness
this past year (Bahia Ramos who reviews Yo Mamas Last Supper, also
contributed to that first issue). For years we believed that there was
an audience out there who wanted to get down with theHotness and thanks
to the overwhelming support we have received from you, our subscribers,
we are certain that we are filling a huge void. Thank you! theHotness
is a reflection of the lives and experiences of sisters of color all over
this globe who defy classification through their art, their perspective
and how they do their thing. theHotness embodies the kind of indescribable
genius that leaves us, and those that observe us, breathless, mesmerized
rap music you have your beat makers and then you have your microphone
controllers. Being an adept MC is just as much about what you are saying,
as it is about how you say it. And then there are rappers like Q-Tip,
Rakim, and DMX that are remembered and renowned for the distinctive nature
of their voices.
In 1996 when Chrysalis Records released Bahamadias, Kollage,
the Philadelphia native, had ciphers from the Bronx all the way to Brixton
wide open off her flow and off of her voiceultra mellow and cottony
thick. Last year after seemingly disappearing from the demanding hiphop
set following the unsuccessful launch of her salient debut, Bahamadia
returned with her highly anticipated 7-track EP-- BB Queen
(her twist on B.B. King where B.B. now stands for Beautiful Black).
BB Queen at worse was too short and should have been an LP; at best it
extended itself lyrically and musically to roads less traveled by other
rap albums. Theres Beautiful Things that critiqued medias
obsession with violence and scandal, while the EPs last track, Pep
Talk flipped-out on a trip hop, electronica vibe.
Born Antonia Reed, Bahamadia, which is a combination of the Arabic words
badia meaning original creation and hamdallah
meaning thanks be to God, has been spending the majority of
her time touring in Europe with the likes of Roni Size and in the US touring
with the likes of The Roots. theHotness caught-up with her back in Philly
while relaxing with her two sons, reading Octavia Butlers Mind
of My Mind and writing new rhymes for her next project.
theHotness: What was hiphop like in
Philly when you were growing-up?
Bahamadia: It was so dope. There was
a wide range of styles of music going on in the streets like early electronica
and disco breaks. And then there were the playground jams. Even though
Philly is a big city it still has a rural feel to it. Everybody knows
everybody. People here are real supportive of each other.
tH: What inspires your work?
B: Eighty-five percent of the time,
Im inspired by beats. But Im also influenced by passages from
the Bible or other books. One song off the new record, Pep Talk
was drawn from a passage I read in Transforming Your Sexual Energy
into Creative Energy which was about the vagina and all the energy
that flows out of that part of a womans body.
tH: In your song Special Forces you
rhyme, Im lifting up my left tittie to yall token chicks/
You aint really hot/ Just image and politics/ Im prototype/
You duplicate of male affiliates. Is this song about female rappers
who use sex to sell records?
B: No. It refers to people (in general)
who feel they have to utilize different people to get advancement in this
industry. I basically called it like I saw it. Its not about a particular
person, but if it happens to apply to them, then Im talking to them.
tH: How do you maintain your underground
appeal in an industry obsessed with artists that look and sound like Lil
Kim and Foxy Brown?
B: Basically God is present in my
life. And I dont even consider myself an underground artist. I just
feel like I havent gotten my time yet. In terms of the people that
are shining now, thats in Gods plan for them to be shining
at this particular time. I have a great deal of respect for anybody thats
doing something original and doing something productive with their lives.
How they choose to communicate to the world may not be how they express
themselves behind the scenes.
tH: You seem like you have reached
a level of enlightenment with your music. How was making this record different
from some of your past collaborations?
B: I might have compromised and done
things in the past to pay the bills, but now Im way past that. Now
I can just be me and do what I feel like, talk about whats on my
mind and reach out to so many more people.
by Uma Amuluru
who has grown up with two or more cultural influences can appreciate the
schizophrenia induced by multiple worlds. The delicate balancing act of
being neither here nor there is daunting, although not without rewards.
Once in a while, though, an artist comes along who melds two worlds together
and changes the way in which each world is perceived. Suphala, a tabla
player and producer, is one such artist. Her first album, instru
mental, is a tapestry of fusion, which intermingles the intricacies
of both her worlds-- East and West. Suphala grew up in Minnesota and mastered
the piano before moving onto the tabla, an East Indian percussion instrument.
Now residing in New York City, she spends her winters in India, furthering
her study of the tabla under the guidance of Ustad Zakir Hussain. She
has recorded with artists such as Lady Ms. Kier, Perry Farrel, Vernon
Reid and Nina Hagen instru mental is her first solo project
and it is exquisite in that it blends experimental contemporary music
from the West with the Eastern tabla and its classical influences. I had
a chance to catch up with this multifaceted diva as she was ending a European
tour with the Persian singer Hussan Deyham, and chatted about culture,
music and being real in the face of MTV.
theHotness: You were born and raised
in America and mastered a Western instrument. What then prompted you to
make the change to such an esoteric instrument as the tabla?
S: I was intrigued by the improvisational
aspect of the tabla and Eastern classical music, in general. With Western
music, you master the great old compositions and you are done. With eastern
music, you learn the ability to create on the spot, to be versatile. The
study goes on infinitely. That is why I have to continuously go back to
India once a year. Learning to play the tabla is a never-ending process.
tH: You have been studying in Mumbai,
India for over seven years now, formerly with the late Ustad Allarakha,
and now with his son, Ustad Zakir Hussain. Was it hard to lose your first
S: It was the worst time of my life
so far. I was very close to him and he was the greatest living tabla player.
To lose someone like that was a big deal for the country and also myself.
But I am very lucky that I still have a teacher in his son Zakir, who
is just incredible. I havent completely lost a mentor.
tH: Do you find it difficult to be
an artist in a country where Indians are such a relatively new minority
with little, if any, visibility in the media?
S: No, because that is why I decided
to do what I do. I am learning Indian music, which started thousands of
years ago. It is not new music. And then a couple of years ago people
like my guru and Ravi Shankar brought their sound to the West. Now it
is easier for artists like me. They have already laid down the foundation
for younger tabla players and Indian musicians in general. So really,
it is much easier now (for me) than it was for them. There are always
challenges one faces regardless of whether they are doing a new or old
tH: instru mental is entirely
produced by you. What is your process for composing songs?
S: It varies. For instance, my friend
Fafu and I composed a couple of the pieces when we were out in LA, and
then I did the rest in a couple of months. It involves discipline and
the mindset of waking up and being in the studio, not really talking to
anyone. Being in the studio is very different from playing shows and practicing.
Sometimes ideas come to us as we are creating and other times I have an
idea mapped out in my head and I try to recreate what I am hearing in
my head. Essentially, the concept is rhythm based and once I lay down
the foundation I can put the effect on the sound. This music is experimental
so I dont follow a very traditional process of composing.
tH: What do you have planned for instru
S: I like selling my music online.
I have a website, www.suphala.com, which is my primary method of distributing
the CD right now. A label called Innerrhythmic is going to distribute
it worldwide in the spring of 2001.
tH: What do you think of the whole
Napster revolution and what it means for music?
S: MP3s are great. There are so many
artists out there willing to put their music out for free. It is very
nice to cut out the middleman and get straight to the audience.
tH: Do you plan on touring?
S: I plan on going on tour in the
spring of 2001. Playing with artists is nice and I always learn about
the music business and how things run, but I definitely want to do my
own thing. I will probably do longer versions of the pieces on the album--
kind of extend out and tweak the sounds so it is a little different from
the records. There is more I can do live than in a studio.
tH: On a personal level, what do you
enjoy more classical tabla or this new stuff?
S: Classical music takes so many years
to develop properly. It gives me a deeper satisfaction than everything
else. But everything has its place. There is a time to listen to reggae
and a time to listen to electronic music. And I am interested in all these
things. In terms of preference, it is hard to say. I am creating what
I am capable of creating right now and hopefully (my music) will be ever
changing and growing. Sometimes I wonder why I am doing what I am doing,
mostly though, I just know that I have to do it. There is no other choice
Uma Amuluru may not be skillful on the tabla, but shes a
writer who aptly gets her Bhangra groove on at least once a month.
TO THE TOP
Mamas Last Supper
recently opened Committed to the Image: Contemporary Black Photographers
exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art has sparked yet another controversy
in the art world. At the center of this controversy is Renee Cox and her
piece, Yo Mamas Last Supper. Her photograph, a rendition
of Da Vincis The Last Supper, shows Jesus as a nude,
black woman-- coincidentally modeled by Cox herself-- which New York City
Mayor Rudy Giuliani has been quick to call anti-Catholic and
disgusting. Cox, a Jamaican raised in Scarsdale, attended
Catholic school until the fourth grade. She developed an interest for
photography as a teenager and has not looked back. Her work has been shown
in places like the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Whitney Museum
of American Art, and Aldrich New Museum of Contemporary Art in Connecticut.
Her piece is a critique of the Catholic traditions unyielding attitude
towards blacks and women. The photograph is neither lewd nor suggestive
of anything sexual or erotic. What stands at the center is the black female
form, unadorned, which apparently is something all Catholics and decent
citizens should find dangerous, particularly in Cardinal Egans time
of so many temptations. Surrounded by righteous dreadlocked
apostles, with the exception of Judas who happens to be a Caucasian, the
scene is one of serenity and peace. Coxs photograph challenges you
to liberate your perception of Jesus from his media imposed image as a
bearded, white male to that which gives you personal strength. Get some
religion and check it out.
~ Bahia Ramos enjoys art that is provocative because she understands
that, depending on the artist, even an etch-a-sketch can politically and
socially rock someones mind.
TO THE TOP
and Retrospect: A Bittersweet Experience
by Marcia Jones
may already know of me through someone else's words-- Saul Williams and
his book SHE. I am SHE. This is my first exposed writing attempt
to share my side of the story, to balance out the scales and to give the
female perspective. This is just a fraction of it. I have six full journals
that tell the whole story, but these entries you are about to read mark
the few monumental moments that changed the dynamics of my physical, spiritual,
and mental being in that relationship. Discovering motherhood, discovering
unconditional love, discovering anger and hate for someone you wish and
technically are supposed to love so much but can't. See basically we,
like many other young, creative, artistic, couples that had babies too
soon, tried to force ourselves into a traditional relationship because
that was all we knew. To try to reinvent something new was extremely painful,
premature and straight-up hard. Mind you, we were (and still are) in the
process of discovering creative self, trying to raise a child, and maintain
a home. Either you both sacrifice, no one sacrifices, or one person makes
all the sacrifices. I, in my opinion, was the lamb and the muse. I lost
and gave it all-- my beauty, my heart, my secrets, my gifts, my mind...
especially my mind, and he wrote about it. But my mother taught me how
to take responsibility for my actions, to claim my own truth and most
importantly, how to survive. Now in the end, I realize it wasnt
anyones fault, just something that was supposed to happen. A life's
lesson. Today I am stronger, wiser, more creative and beautiful because
of it. Growth and retrospect are wonderful things.
A prayer for my unborn child
Moved by moon
Inside my womb
I no longer bleed by moon
Mother of night
When all things are conceived, as they are conceived
I pray that you bless upon me the strength to be as you
Your guidance and light
Please mother protect this life
Place a circle around us unshakeable
Never swayed, vibrated, or violated by those not knowing.
The day I discover he didnt love me
I feel as though you love her as you deal with me
Leaving me to live up to expectations in which she fulfills for you so
I watched as the words fell from your mouth and filled the air
I watch them all breath in your words. Intoxicated with my pain
I sit confused holding our newborn child, insecurely, restlessly.
You have left me here in this relationship; confused
I am trying desperately to love you unconditionally
Why am I still climbing that wall?
Patience? Belief in potential?
But for how long?
Nothing has ever stuck me harder than this
Why did you ever tell me you loved me?
Were you trying to convince yourself?
I wish for this uncertainty to be gone from my head
But I am still left with questions
Do we work this out, once we work this out, and can we love each other?
Whats wrong with me?
Am I being tolerated?
This relationship we have is not love.
New York City
I have made a home of this place
Concrete and chaos
I proclaimed when I moved here that I wouldnt be
The way I am now.
Drifting in my thoughts to escape
Searching my mind for simple pleasures
Survival makes the poor man happy here
But what about living life with passionate laughter
Everybodys face is blank with struggle
and so is mine
I dont even smile like I use to
This place has served its purpose.
I have to go now.
Its been 2 years
I am filled with bitterness
This morning I am tired
This morning I look, feel, and sound tired.
Angry at the sight
Disgusted with the sound
I cannot find room to love
I hear through your lies
I wish to throw things at you
But I think youd find it charming. My pain
And I feel it is wrong to cloud you with my gray jealously
I feel selfish to fill your joy with my sorrow
My love for you gets me nowhere and I have given myself to you
I do not wish to own you but clearly you are not mine
So I hold my tongue and my mouth begins to ache
I knew youd lie before I asked the question
Because you always do.
I could scream things to hurt right now
And I cant tell if I am shaking from this cold, or my anger.
No matter how far I go or you go
There is no distance that separates this
Here we are in the corners of the fucking world asking the same damn questions
We are not capable of loving each other
I am not able to love you the way you need to be loved
You are not able to love me he way I need to be loved
I hate myself for this
I hate you for this
I hate us for this
Today there is no spell that can bind me to your hollow words and empty
I was happy without you a week ago
And you where happy without me a week ago
And that, my friend, is the only truth we have seen to be true.
If I am to honestly share my self with you
I must begin by saying I am untitled
Titled once with labels of sweetness
Pick from my branch
To feed another life at my ripest age
My nectar falling spilling from his lips, belly full and satisfied
I said. As long as you are full my love
Bestow upon me life again I will always feed to you
But no food, no water, no soil to grow
I witnessed the death of my sweetness
With nothing left of me but core and seed I became bitter
To be reborn
From the same root
If I am to honestly share my self with you today
I must continue by saying I am untitled
Knowing only the blue movements of the wind
I hear her song and dance to her rhythm
Absorbing the heat of Vermillion sunrise
Her warmth nurturing the arrival of my sweetness
Hanging here alone from this branch
I impatiently await my ripeness again
Stroking the air as a testimony of the passion this fruit contains
As if willing wishing to fall
For us fruit cannot deny the pleasures of being eaten
But my branch
Will not surrender
If I am to share myself with you today
I must finish by saying I am unfinished
I too wait the day this process is complete
I have found comfort in the wait
I am eager of the arrival
Of my new, sweet, ripe, nectar
For on that day
Rays of light will shine over me
And I will fall slowly, gracefully, peacefully, through the air
Into the hands of the unknown, yet the hands I have prayed for
This time prepared to be eaten
By my love.
~ Marcia Jones is a visual artist, who resides in Los Angeles,
CA with her and Saul's beautiful little girl. Some of her works include
the cover art of Saul Williams, The Seventh Octave (Moore Black
Press), illustrations throughout SHE (Simon & Schuster/MTV Pocket
Books), cover art for Jessica Care Moore's upcoming, The Alphabet vs.
The Ghetto (Moore Black Press, 2001), cover art for Tish Benson's, She's
Smellin Herself Strong (2001), Saul Williams CD, Amethyst
Rock Star (Sony/DefAmerica, 2001), and cover art for Ahmad Jamal's, The
Renaissance (ABB Records).
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