Big Daddy Kane, the Soul Man?
Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo
Hip-hop legend, Big Daddy Kane could spend the rest of his career performing his classic songs all over the world without switching up a single beat. Yet, Kane reveals a fearless energy as he seeks to reinvent himself as a member of Las Supper, a soul, funk and R&B collective.
The announcement shouldn’t be too surprising since in 1991 he recorded an R&B duet featuring Alyson Williams entitled, “I’m Not Ashamed” which appeared on his album Prince of Darkness. Kane’s vocal coach for that song was the legendary, Sarah Dash of Labelle. Apparently the lessons paid off. “Sarah taught me how to stay in pocket singing bass notes and that helps since with this band I am doing backgrounds,” he says.
In addition to background vocals, Kane provides rhymes that enhance the sound of his fellow members, Show Tyme and Lifted Crew. Many of Kane’s lyrics on the band’s debut album Back to the Future are socially conscious, which he hopes will bring a balance to mainstream music. “With this record I hope people see that you can say something educational to the public and make it sound cool.”
Kane isn’t the only one headed down a new path. The journey leading up to Tonya Lewis-Taylor’s debut album, Delayed but Not Denied has been filled with many detours and challenges. After years touring as a back-up singer and rejection from record labels, Lewis-Taylor became burnt out. She eventually went behind-the-scenes to open an event publicity firm with clients including Jay-Z, Kanye West and Russell Simmons. Then in 2005 she created Entertainers 4 Education Alliance, which provides support for youth to have successful academic careers. Looking back Lewis-Taylor is grateful for those experiences but believes that now is her time as a singer even though she is 41-years-old, an age that the music industry usually shuns upon for new artists. “The title song speaks to everyone who had a dream and it has been delayed but God said ‘You’re not denied from the dream,’” she reflects. “Even though things got held up and I had to make adjustments to make money—chasing dreams is expensive. But if you just step out on faith He will open the doors and make it happen for you.”
The cost of pursuing one’s dreams is something that Tenisha Percell, founder of The Skool Boye Agency knows all too well. Before launching her successful college marketing agency, the Bronx native was an intern at various record labels including Def Jam while balancing school and side jobs. Her faith has been rewarded as she recently signed a marketing deal with Epic Records to handle all college and teen marketing for their urban division, which includes acts such as Future, Sean Kingston and Ciara. The entrepreneur sees her role as encompassing more than just marketing. She wants to provide artist development in an industry that has cutback on cultivating the talents and longevity potential of recording artists. “We get to work with young new artists and create their youth marketing campaign before anything else is even decided. So we serve as the artist development for the youth market and the label uses us as an engine or resource to predict what the next move is gonna be,” she says.
There were dazzling moves on display during the Figure Skating in Harlem annual gala at Central Park’s Wollman Rink. Founded by Sharon Cohen, the organization is constantly growing to meet the needs of the girls it serves as it expands into its new Leading Edge Academic Center and plans for the creation of a home ice rink of its own in Harlem. Special guests included Tamara Tunie, Rhonda Ross, designer Vera Wang and honoree B Michael. The latter shared his enthusiasm over his current b michael AMERICA RED Collection which is available at select retailers, including Macy’s. The designer plans to expand the chic ready-to-wear pieces with next year’s launch of the b michael AMERICA BLUE collection. “With next year’s collection we want to create a lifestyle brand. So you’ll be sleeping on our sheets soon,” he says.
Since 1999, B Michael’s creations have been celebrated and worn by the likes of Halle Berry and Cicely Tyson. Still B Michael believes that he is only just beginning to tap into his full potential. “I still feel like I’m in the pioneer mode and everyday developing that business and working to leave a legacy that someday will be worthy of a museum. But now it’s about totally making it happen.”
As Kane and B Michael demonstrate you can never stop evolving.
The Harlem Arts Alliance is a not for profit arts service organization celebrating 10 years of service to a prestigious list of members such as the Apollo Theater, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce, Columbia University, Harlem Stage (Aaron Davis Hall) and over 850 more cultural/arts institutions and individuals. The weekly column, Harlem Arts Alliance Presents: On the “A” w/Souleo, covers the intersection of the arts, culture and entertainment scene in Harlem and beyond and is written by Souleo, founder and president of event/media content production company, Souleo Enterprises, LLC.