Having spent much of the cocaine ’80s and early ’90s inside exciting New York City clubs (CBGBs, Wetlands Preserve) watching the fem-funk-rock-soul antics of Black Rock Collation artists Felice Rosser (Faith), DK Dyson (Eye & I), Kelli Sae (JJ Jumpers) and Sophia Ramos (Sophia’s Toy) doing their thing on stage, I’m no stranger to the concept of Black girls rocking.
Years before the concept became a slogan that became a mantra that became an annual Beverly Bond/BET event, the aforementioned women (amongst many others) held their own on multiple bills across the city. While each of these artists were (and remain) aurally unique, besides their rock aesthetic and on-the-road-with-boys horror stories, they also shared the experience of being signed by a major label and then, for whatever reasons, were dropped.
These artists became a part of my musical journey that began with LaBelle and Chaka Khan, travelled down to Joi and Erykah Badu and continues to this day with FKA Twigs and SZA. However, for all my babbling about rockin’ Black “girls,” I’m ashamed to admit that in the spring of 1999, when Cree Summer released her solo project Street Faërie (Sony/Work Group), my expectations weren’t that high. Coming nine years after her Different World co-star Jasmine Guy released a new-jack disaster (her much hyped self-titled slab of wackness had little musical vision), I wanted no parts of that Summer’s music. Although I’d always had a crush on Summer’s television character, the crunchy college student Winifred “Freddie” Brooks who started off as a goofy granola kid and blossomed steadily into adulthood.
Back in 1993, when I’d stop hanging in rock clubs and was instead B-boy head nodding to the Snoop and Dre’s gangsta vibe on “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang,” I missed out on Cree’s rocked-out persona when her group, Subject to Change, was signed to Capitol. Although the label put out advance cassettes, the home of The Beatles, the Beasties and MC Hammer didn’t really know what to do with StC or their project Womb Amnesia; the band was soon dropped.
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Cultural critic Michael A. Gonzales has written cover stories for Vibe, Uptown, Essence, XXL, Wax Poetics and elsewhere. He’s also a columnist for soulhead.com. Read him at Blackadelic Pop and follow him on Twitter @gonzomike.
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