Listen y’all, I know I say every year that the St. Louis American Foundation Salute to Young Leaders Awards and Networking Reception is something special – and mean it every time. But for the 10th Anniversary last week, there was an energy and spirit in the air that I don’t have the words to explain. You just had to be there – and if you were one of the folks who packed the Four Seasons 6th floor ballroom to the point where people lined up along the walls because there was no more seating available, I’m certain your life was changed. That Rebeccah Bennett! Trust me, our city has a special gem in her. Folks at this year’s Young Leaders event saw it for themselves when she slayed as mistress of ceremonies. “Where can I buy her book?” my seat neighbor asked. “This woman is the truth. I have chills.” I told her, “She doesn’t have one yet. But stay tuned.” I was so caught up in her rapture that I was one motivational moment away from getting a shadow fade, clipping on some statement earrings and declaring myself her disciple. Y’all can think I’m playing if you want to! But let me get to celebrating the 2020 class of Young Leaders – and I’m celebrating all y’all with the same energy as Mikel Whittier’s uncle. And just as I expected, folks gave me some corporate realness style goals. Ashley O’Neal and that emerald ensemble…girl, you did that! And Doneisha Bohannan made a color choice I never would have had the nerve to consider with that yellow power suit. But I loved it so much that I want to apply for a job just so I can wear a version of it to the interview so that I can have my prospective employer assume that I am a bold and creative and knows how to take risks that pay off. Deanna Taylor, that bow neck teal number was begging to be in my closet. And can we take a moment to offer the highest of praise to Danielle Smith’s phenomenal footwear? Elvis Presley would’ve have wished he could – your blue suede shoe game is undefeated. I love saying “I told you so,” especially when it comes to our events. And Young Leaders 2020 was a whole black excellence vibe. For those of you who missed year ten, y’all better get on this wave for 2021.
So-so sized crowd for Saadiq. Please, riddle me this: How is it that every single time Tony!Toni!Tone! comes to town (which is about every other year) y’all show up in droves and spend half the time complaining about how you thought you were hoping to hear Raphael Saadiq, even though he hasn’t been in the group for 50-11 years? Then, when Raphael Saadiq comes to town – for the first time since he left the group – y’all aren’t bothered enough to even fill up the balcony of The Pageant. But let the Tonys make their biennial show at Ballpark Village. It will be crammed to the max with folks whining about how the new lead singer (who has been singing with the group for going on two decades) doesn’t sound as good as Raphael Saadiq. I want somebody to make it make sense. Let me just go on with the show I’ve been waiting months to see. Saadiq brought his “Jimmy Lee” tour to the Pageant Wednesday night. It being on a weeknight might have had something to do with the non-capacity crowd. But he hasn’t been here forever, so he probably thought he was going to sell out too. Raphael was good. But I feel if he had a more robust group of R&B lovers to pack the place out, the energy would have had him teeter from good to great. The audience was medium but mighty though. And for those faithful Tony!Toni!Tone! whiners who missed out, he gave a healthy serving of songs from his days in the group. I think my favorite part was when he played hits that folks might not have known he wrote and/or produced. Looking back on it, Total’s “Kissing You” is totally a Saadiq record. I’ve spent every night since he gave us a sip of it wishing he had kept the track for himself.
Mardi Gras in the mix. After a break from partaking in the St. Louis Mardi Gras celebration in Soulard, I hit it up Saturday morning and it was worth me almost saying “forget it” and just parking on the highway on-ramp and walking up like some of y’all’s general population coworkers did. It was packed with plenty of patches of soulfulness to keep me amused and distracted from a sensory overload because of all the folks and sounds. Y’all, has it always been that crowded and colorful? And by colorful, I mean way more of us than I expected. I made it over to James Biko’s station just in time for him and Corey Black to create a vibe that had Mardi Gras lowkey feeling like The RootsPicnic. It was every single solitary thing. All that walking had me requesting special seating to prop my feet up and rest my ankles, but I have no regrets.
Club Chaifetz on lock. I still had a bit of residual trauma stepping up into the Chaifetz Arena for the Streetz on Lock 2K20 tour starring Yo Gotti, Boosie, Lil Baby and ‘nem after being held captive there a couple of weeks before, but I went ahead and proceeded as if it never happened. And when I tell you that the show went on with military precision – with the sound right tight and everything – and ended at a decent hour too. Understand that Vanessa Townsend, Darion Brown and the rest of the crew working behind the scenes kept it moving to the point where they needed their own round of applause. I started to go late. Had I not trusted my instinct to go ahead and be punctual, I would have stepped up in there just as Lil Baby saying “thank y’all for coming out.” It was packed to the gills up in there and the energy was on 9000. It was like a plus-sized Marquee and I wasn’t mad. All the acts did their thing and I enjoyed the show from start to finish, even if the order didn’t make sense to me. I don’t understand why Lil Baby closed the show when Gotti was the one with the key to the city no comment (because I don’t have anything nice to say). As usual, Gotti didn’t let me down on stage. He had me gagging though, when he pulled a move straight out of the handbook of the late great Queen of Soul and Shade Aretha Franklin. When he finished his set, he was giving his goodbyes and shaking hands from the stage to give the impression that he was the last act. I enjoyed it almost as much as I did his set.