Got to love the last.min.com way of the media industry. I got a call on my day off my from a producer at Sky News- who asked if id be willing to come in a talk about that evenings Mercury Music Prize. I jumped in a cab an hour later to go chat to news anchor Dermot Murnaghan about it. The Mercury Prize is one of the most respected music awards in the UK. Unlike many others it doesn’t leave the music industry scoffing. It is diverse and represents all ages, classes, genres, sexes and styles of music. You can be as old as David Bowie this year-66, or as young as Laura Marling -23. Annually a variety of music genres are shortlisted for the prize and it’s always had a healthy sprinkling of urban acts from Dizzee Rascal, Ms Dynamite and Speech Debelle. When Dizzee and Dynamite won it we understood, when speech won both peeps from inside and outside the urban music genre were left scratching their chins. Not cos she’s not good- but it just wasn’t her time. Like a dinner with all the right ingredients she just hadn’t cooked through enough and wasn’t ready to receive such an accolade. After all eyes were on her she had nowhere left to go.
This year, as usual there wasn’t anything controversial critics could criticise about the category so some said the shortlist was too mainstream. This was laughable. Many in the music industry may have heard of the acts but outside of it barely any knew the whole list. My taxi driver en route had heard of 4 out of the 12. (Also, the prize has for the past 22 years been £20,000. Surely considering inflation and time this should be higher in 2013?) Actually it’s not even the first place spot that counts. Others on the list can make this money up merely by being nominated. in the year that Plan B was nominated he sold an extra 43,000 copies of his album, and this year Laura Mvulas manager told me since her nomination her album sales had gone up 500%! So it’s a well-respected award shortlist that artists and their teams love. Music teams are given a nod of acknowledgement that all their hard work isn’t going unnoticed, and the artist winner or not, gets to call themselves a mercury artist for ever. A great deal. We had a good chat about it on air and all was well. But there’s always one thing that goes wrong isn’t there? This time it wasn’t me. Dermot’s Autocue clearly said ‘’Jasmine Dotiwala’’ and of course he said ‘’Yasmin’’- twice!. Good to know even the really big pro’s make errors too.
NUTCRACKER ON ICE.
I visited the London Palladium to see the Nutcracker On Ice. This is a ballet that I took part in annually at my ballet school, and is the most fun, easy ballet story to follow so I took my other half too. He’s always been a theatre fan but I’ve never really been able to excite him with ballet. ‘’I don’t need to see dudes in tights babe’’.
This story of a young girl called Clara and her families Christmas party is mesmerising at the best of times. Drosselmeyer, a local councilman, magician, and Clara’s godfather brings a gift of a nutcracker for Clara. As the clock strikes midnight and the party draws to a close, Clara falls asleep and the nutcracker gift appears as a real life size person in her dream that carries her to far lands of different ethnicities (Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish) and worlds of magical sweet kingdoms. In point shoes and tutus’ this is a visual spectacle but on ice its even more magical and dreamlike with its floating, soaring skaters who interpreted the story beautifully.
The poster advertising nutcracker on ice features old stage and TV stalwart Keith Chegwin but don’t let that put you off, he’s barely in it. Instead try your utmost to get to one of its nationwide tour dates if you can. The show plays Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff from Fri 8 – Sun 17 November and the Mayflower Theatre, Southampton from Tue 19 – Sat 23 November.You wont regret it.
The superstars of hip-hop show at Hammersmith Apollo, was a hotly anticipated gig that didn’t disappoint and luckily my music world connect Hakeem Stevens (CHOICEFM/ VP RECORDS/ USM MEDIA GROUP/ LOADS OF MUSIC LABELS LOL!), hooked a girl up with some last minute tickets. On arrival there was an ever growing, Heaving crowd outside with both tickets and guest list queue massive. Inside eve before the main show the venue was three quarters full already. The first thing I saw was Birmingham’s Lady Leshur who was mid set and had a great audience rapport and response. When you think that back in the day when Busta and peers used to first come and performing the UK, the UK warm up acts usually performed to a tiny crowd who didn’t much care about them this is a great progression. The crowd were positively jumping and cheering for Lady Leshur.
Next Radio1Xtras DJ Ace warmed up the crowd nicely before Red and Meth came on. This was interesting, as I had wondered which act would headline. Busta is good but Red and Meth have a crazy funny magic performing together. Red and meth have had so many years performing together their stage set is tight and slick. They even had hype dance moves and unison routines.
Both big, tall and bounding across the stage together with dynamic energy, they had themselves and the crowd high from the moment they stepped onstage until their last bow. Their lyrical flow was as strong with clarity as if we were listening to their records, their passion and charisma talking and involving the crowd in a natural manner was slick and authentic. it made me acknowledge that acts that are half their age don’t have their stage experience or crowd reaction. They deserve a full 10/10 for their set….but…they did mess up timing for the whole show by turning up at the venue at 830 when they were due to be on stage and didn’t make their way straight on stage until 9.20 putting everything behind schedule so the UK acts had to fill in. They were drinking and smoking weed (nothing new there) and Busta was in the venue at 8.50pm as he wanted to see Red and Meth’s set and half way through came down to watch it from the side of the stage.
Everyone knows the venue time curfew is 11pm but by 10.20pm Busta still hadn’t appeared nor was there any sign of him due to Red and Meth’s antics. I know from past experience that Busta can put on a really, tight, slick live set with his cohort Spilff Star and it runs a good hour. (Yes, sad what I pick up over the years following acts around on tour making TV specials about them)So it was a domino effect and Busta Rhymes was late onstage, seemingly unrehearsed and without his usual sidekick Spliff Star, the set was flatter than should be and lacked the usual tight rehearsed lines and intro into each song.
He performed all of his hits and did a 50 minute set in the end. If he had to rush through stuff, the blame lies with Red and Meth who were (apparently) unprofessional from the time they came off the plane.
My own personal gripe was that half way through his set he spent a 10 good minutes of his set paying tribute to legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla and then told the audience’ ‘if you don’t know who f#*@ J Dilla is then go and do your f&*^^%& homework!!!’’. Now I have no time for music snobs. I found this rant totally offensive rude and unnecessary. Did he ever think that these younger or more uninformed hip-hop fans all come to love hip-hop via a different path? We all access our love for art via a million different routes. Some people are deep fans that know an artists back catalogue inside out, others come to music via their hobbies of dance, friends, radio and more. Having spoken to many of my live show promoter mates I know that these more ‘’uninformed fans’’ are the ones that attend gigs loyally and pay for their tickets unlike a lot of hip-hop heads (like me) who often probably came to gigs via the guest list and promoter comps. The fans Busta was dissing very likely actually paid full price for their tickets. These fans are lining your pockets and keeping your bills paid. How about educing them with ‘’if you don’t know who J Dilla is he was a very ground breaking, prominent respected music producer and I’d urge you to go check him out’’
Music snobs get short thrift from me. Who are you to judge what makes a better, bigger hip-hop fan? Why should an older, wiser more informed fan make others feel awkward because they don’t know who J Dilla is? How about nicely educating them instead of alienating? It’s like music snobs that get pissed off when new fans stand at the front of a rappers show citing’’ I was a fan before them, they don’t know what hip-hop is, how dare they stand at the front!’’ WTF? We spent years trying to make our genre of music big and commercial and now that it is you wanna bite the hand that feeds you for not knowing enough? As an American would say- sheesh!
Busta finished by rolling fast through a few hits but i think we all knew it was a fast fix rescue set (blame it on the high duo) as opposed to his usual awesome set.
MANDELA- A LONG WALK TO FREEDOM MOVIE
Finally I attended a special screening of the new Mandela movie- a long walk to freedom. An amazingly powerful screen story about the great man, played by our very own Idris Elba, who in my humble opinion did a brilliant job. Idris South African accent is most certainly better than his American accent. He spent 5 hours a day in face make up to transform his face shape and appearance to become Madeba and looked the part. Its only when you see close ups of Idris eyes that you can see the power of his individual brand. His co star Naomi Harris who played his wife Winnie Mandela was as powerful and had us empathising with her every step of her own personal journey too. Both of their intertwined stories against the backdrop of apartheid in South Africa had the audience in tears and sobs were heard throughout the film. I personally found the story of Mandela’s close ANC comrades most fascinating. Amongst the tight male group of 5 was an African Asian man who did time with Nelson and fought alongside the black struggle. It made me realise that we brown and black skinned brothers and sisters have been closely knit throughout history. The film is out in the UK in January and it’s an all time classic. Surely Idris and Naomi will both get Oscars for this!
R&B SUPERSTARS COMING TO WEMBLEY ARENA NOVEMBER 16TH 2013!
Now time to prepare for the biggest R&B show this side of Christmas! The superstars of R&B Wembley Arena show featuring Faith Evans, Sisqo, Donnel Jones, Mario, Dave Hollister, Kelly Price, Bobby V, J Holiday, Ginuwine, Adina Howard and Chico Debarge. The last one was a great day out for the whole family, well organised and well worth it.
I jumped on the phone quickly with some of the acts. Sisqo told me: “last time Jas I came with my Dru Hill family, but this time its the solo stuff, it’s the stuff you wanted to see, Know you can never ever expect what the Dragons gonna do.” Faith Evans gushed in that sultry velvet like voice: “I’m gonna be putting down some good old skool R&B, make sure you’re in the house.”
J. Holiday added: “This a show you don’t wanna miss- see you all there.” (What he said!).