Swag Snap of the Week: Sarah Bryant and Jay Ellis

Sarah Bryant grabbed a pic with actor Jay Ellis Memorial Day weekend 2014, long before we came to know him as Lawrence on Issa Rae’s HBO hit “Insecure.”’

Play another slow jam: The Oops and Corey Black edition. If I had to pick my virtual vibe of the week, it would be a local one. I hopped up in Corey Black’s Quarantine Lounge on IG Live with his virtual quiet storm co-curator Bruce Franks Jr. aka Oops and listened along as the two rappers got into an epic slow jam battle. The difference between their battle and the Verzuz is that they used the music of other artists. And they played it all – from Sade to Shirley Murdoch up in that thang (yes, I said thang). The only thing that was missing was Doc Wynter signing off with his favorite excerpt from the poem “Don’t Quit.” And it was an utter wave when they showed love St. Louis’ own Willie Moore Jr. some love from his Pretty Willie days with an extended play of his jams. I must admit that my body had a mind of its on and commenced with an involuntary body roll when they flipped the switch on “Lay Your Body Down.”  I got my whole life as they sang along to songs and kept dropping gems that belonged in somebody’s blue light basement party for three whole hours. It was a win for St. Louis and for R&B at the same time. 

Back to back Verzuz battles. The first of a double dose of holiday Verzuz battles kicked off Saturday night as they switched it up and gave the dancehall/reggae folks a chance to aggressively bump and grind to their signature beat. I’ll tell y’all what, I learned one thing for sure when they were setting up that battle – CP time can’t hold a stick to JP (as in Jamaican People) time. They were sound checking for about an hour before Beenie Man and Bounty Killer did the first non-virtual battle. I know most of y’all aren’t into the genre, so I won’t labor long except to say it was one of my favorites of all the battles. Their energy was on 10 once things got rolling. Folks were giving Beenie Man the blues for his second trimester midsection before, during and after the battle. Trust me, those same folks are going to be accused of quarantine conception because of how they’ll be puffed out with those isolation absentee abs. To me their music is about the same, so I’m claiming Bounty Killer as the winner because of his delightfully raspy and heavy voice. Was I the only one thinking that he only talked like that when he was rap/singing? I was thrilled to know he uses that same “lawdhamercay. Bom, bom, bom” voice when he orders a number three at Mickey D’s. I must give Beenie Man a bun nod for his energy during the battle. 

Half of 112 and static from Jagged Edge plus one or two.  Listen. I have heard better sound tuning in to an AM station on my GPX portable player with those flimsy, notoriously short-circuited orange foam headphones during a thunderstorm than what Jagged Edge was severing up as part of the latest Verzuz battle. Folks didn’t keep the same energy with roasting the sound as they did when they went to town on Nelly’s Wi-Fi. I’m guessing by now folks are too exhausted by the recurring technical difficulties during Verzuz to bother. JE faced off against 56 (as in half of 112) and it was much more entertaining than I expected it to be – even if the sound did kill my vibe. And I’m also uncertain as to why JE was crammed into a utility closet full of LPs. You could only see two or three of them at any given time. I could see the twins – but all I could see of the other group members were hands passing around cans of what appeared to be St. Ides. I was like “112 needs to move to a bigger room too, because I can only see two of them.” Come to find out, only two of them were participating. The battle list from both groups bopped from start to finish, even though JE’s sound was utterly obstructed. It was to the point where I enjoyed myself way more than I expected. I feel like 56 low-key cheated with all the Biggie Smalls music and features. But Jagged Edge got them back by having side conversations all through the songs. If I were forced to declare a winner, I would say that just as with nearly all of the Verzuz battles, the undisputed heavyweight champion was the internet connection that fought dirty for the whole two hours. 

Talented ladies keeping it all the way (Facebook)l live. I’m going to keep the local virtual love going by shouting out Tish Haynes Keys and her virtual concert that she held at Local Legends Listening Room/Cigar Bar. As much as I hate being on lockdown, I was quietly breathing a breath of fresh air because I wouldn’t have to suffer through my allergies flaring up with every puff happening around me. Speaking of smoke, that band she was grooving with was absolutely sickening – and I mean that as a most high compliment. And which one of y’all told her that Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” is one of my top five all-time jams? I was so thrilled to hear her sing it. I don’t know, it’s something about when a sista with some serious pipes tackles that song, it’s almost like they give it a new layer of understanding. And speaking of pipes, Cory “Saxmo” Allen killed it with the saxophone solo. And Tish wasn’t the only local powerhouse voice flexing her chops on Facebook Live. Tasha B., Cheryl Brown, Anita Jackson and Adrienne Felton-King had a living room sing down that had me somewhere between chilling on the patio catching a vibe and full-fledged praise break. The served up The Clark Sisters, Al Green and everything in between. And whoever said big voices can’t blend, should have been tuning in. 

AfroSexyZoom. For the 6th Anniversary of his AfroSexyCool set, James Biko made adjustments due to that lowdown Corona – so the show will go on via Zoom at 7 p.m. on Friday, May 29. Everybody knows that AfroSexyCool is one of my faves, and with Biko’s skills on the table, I’m sure the energy will be absolutely transferrable from the physical to the digital. Check out his Facebook page by searching James Biko Gates to get the Zoom log in info.

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