Swag Snap of the Week: Kasi Lemmons and Vonde Curtis Hall

St. Louis born filmmaker Kasi Lemmons with her husband, actor Vonde

Curtis Hall, as the Archway Chapter of Links Incorporated celebrated

the creators of the world premiere of Terence Blanchard’s second

opera “Fire Shut Up In My Bones” with a special brunch at the Centene

Building in Grand Center. Lemmons wrote the libretto for the the production

based on the memoir of the same name by New York Times columnist

Charles Blow.

St. Louis rap history and roll call. Because of some deadline modifications, I had to wait a whole week to hip y’all to the magic that happened at the Missouri History Museum, thanks to DJ G Wiz and his film, “Background Check Vol. 1.” I have been going to events at the Missouri History Museum auditorium since forever and I cannot remember a time when there were so many people packed in to see what our own hip-hop historian had to say about the origins of STL rap by way of his documentary. Thanks to the series of interviews and a bit of footage, viewers saw how local St. Louis and East St. Louis radio had a strong hand in shaping hip-hop’s rise as a musical genre. Forty years ago, plenty of folks felt like it was just a passing fad. But our own radio legend, “Gentleman” Jim Gates, gave the greenlight for The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper Delight” to hit the airwaves on WESL 1490 AM, ultimately making the station the first EVER to play a rap record. This film points out that while New York gets credit for the origins, we certainly moved the dial to make it go global. The film also shows how St. Louis and East St. Louis radio helped lay the foundation for local hip-hop. If I named all of the people who participated in the video, attended the screening and were named dropped in the doc, I wouldn’t have space to talk about the actual event – or anything else this week. So what I will do is point out how Doctor Jockenstein got his props for engaging the first generation of hip-hop through his radio roll call. His daughter was on deck, as were several influencers of the hip-hop culture from past and present. DJ Kut was the MC and Lady Re hosted the 80s red carpet affair that reminded me of all the fashion risks we tried and failed miserably – but you couldn’t tell us that we weren’t fly. There were so many throwback crews and rap pioneers in one place that it made my heart melt to see how the audience was so excited and happy to show those legends how much we appreciated them and their contributions in moving the culture forward. 

Day party in the name of fashion. The cuteness of the Zenith Flair’s 10th Annual Fashion Show – also known as “Beauty Meets Fashion” – Sunday at Third Degree Glass Factory almost didn’t happen. The attitude of the woman with the blonde shadow-fade working the door had me ready to not bother. Trust me – I know how frustrating it can be as the gatekeeper, but dang. Because her attitude was so bad, that it gave me a bad attitude. I’m going to assume that somebody tagged her into that attitude the same way she tagged me into mine and keep it moving. But y’all came to hear about the show, so let me get to it. I knew there would be life given on the catwalk, but the folks on the other side of the runway were serving fashion, honey. I think my favorites were the gentleman with the neon and green tank top with the green fringing that stopped midway to his thigh, the gentleman with the clutched pearl denim outfit – yes, his top and bottom were covered in pearls. And the woman with the bedazzled copper face mask deserves a nod as well. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but you had to see it. Perhaps if I had been wearing one all winter at events where there were appetizers and meals, summer wouldn’t have gotten this shape. Okay, now back to the fashion show/day party hybrid. There were plenty of lewks to take in, though it seemed like more boutique clothing than the work of local designers. I lived nonetheless. Black boutique owners matter too. I think my favorite ensemble to hit the catwalk was that rust-colored, open back jumper with the crisscross back straps from Ebony Glover-Wright’s Urban Skye Apparel. But just about every presenting group had something I enjoyed. Shout out to the model who forgot her shoes and gave a high pony walk on her tippy toes the entire stretch. Oh, and let me give a shout out to Young Addy Co’s Afton, who was one of the hosts of the show. That gold cocktail mini-dress with the dangerous slit was giving “Narcos” season one, nightclub scene realness, and I could not have been more thrilled. If I had her body, I would be wearing it too! Meanwhile, co-host Torezz was giving us Town & Country with that short set that was serving vintage Martha’s Vineyard. 

Trees and the trap. So, the title of this item was supposed to be rapped like Nicki Minaj, just in case you didn’t get it. Corny, I’m sure … but it is what came to mind for me when DJ Hoodbunny’s segment of Jon Alexander’s new short film, “Nature of Sound” was shown Saturday afternoon at Old North Provisions. Jon’s film was an ode to St. Louis nature and St. Louis music – and Hoodbunny was in the middle of a beautiful forest, busting it down with some of the best trap music St. Louis artists have to offer. His mix playlist included Zado, Jiggy Keyz, ICE, Freshanova, Leonard, Charlie Free & Sav Karti and Meela Li. When he said during the talkback that his mix featured all local music, I was over the moon with pride that there were so many fire tracks for him to pull from. In my opinion they could hold their own against any music in ANY region. The same can be said about the talent of the other featured artists in “Nature of Sound.” Mad Keys was serving up a chill vibe with his compositions that live up to his name. And Tonina, who has been getting national buzz as a singer and musician – even a plug from our favorite president Barack Obama, inspired the birds to chime in as she performed a beautiful tune on acoustic guitar. I really enjoyed how Jon blended what we have to offer musically with elements of our local landscape as far as the birds, lakes and trees. He accomplished his mission of showing the beauty and variety of them both. 

Down for Tupac and Neighborhood Nip. Once again, I enjoyed seeing folks use a visual arts and music combination to remember Tupac around the time of his birthday at the annual exhibit and spin session, entitled,  “R U Still Down.” With 2720 gone to glory, Kris Blackmon and Tef Poe moved their show to The Fellowship for 2019 Saturday night. It was the perfect place for it. This year, they also worked in a healthy heaping of pieces that remembered Nipsey Hussle – which made me sad because he was another great one gone too soon, but happy that he will be remembered for trying to make his community a better place.                                                                              

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