Groove Theory: The Internet Is R&B's New Remedy

If the acid jazz sounds of The Internet aren't on your radar yet, they should be. VIBE caught up with the six-person band before the release of their third studio album, Ego Death.

If the acid jazz sounds of The Internet aren't on your radar yet, they should be. Instinctively carrying the torch of this generation’s answer to R&B/soul, the six-person band is cool, calm and collected as they await the arrival of their third album, Ego Death, sure to skyrocket them into major success

On a blazing summer day at AFROPUNK, the Brooklyn-based music festival that hosts a mixed scene of established and fresh acts, The Internet was hypnotic. Emitting psychedelic sounds that engulfed the crowded park, I was summoned by an angelic yet raw voice that packed as much conviction as Pac’s thug life tattoo and his Makaveli album cover art combined. There she stood in a plain white tee and blue jeans, deep in the groove and belting out her sincerest thoughts. It wasn’t forced; it was fluid, giving even the smoothest operator a run for her money. It was the producer/DJ-turned-singer of L.A.’s radical, hip-hop collective Odd Future, Syd tha Kyd. Behind her was a full band going just as hard, comprised of Matt Martians on the drum machine (and possibly holding a mariachi shaker), Patrick Paige II on bass, Jameel Bruner on keys, Steve Lacy with backing vocals (and guitar), and Chris Smith on drums. Together, they made the Los Angeles-based R&B/soul band, The Internet.

While performing in Hov's borough, the six-piece group attracts a mixed bag of audiences. The diverse crowd of hipsters, skaters, preps, and nerds bobbed their heads, flailed their arms, and moved their hips in unison to the funky, soul-inspired tunes The Internet delivered with ease. These six black kids were killing it. Heart-rending melodies and playful chords stroked my soul and tip-toed on my heart as the steady, syncopated flare of the hi-hat and snare drums complimented the lead singer’s effortless crooning, blending into one potluck of harmonious, feel good music. In the Internet's words, however, their experimental sound is acid jazz.

It’s been shy of a year since that day and the six-person outfit of The Internet managed to conquer in an arena where trap queens and strip club anthems reign supreme. Although their moniker signifies millennials' perpetual hub, the twenty-somethings (minus 17-year-old bass player, Patrick) prefer being artists of the people. Priding themselves on music that speaks for itself, the group has penetrated the mainstream scene, garnering praise from a number of outlets. Spin hailed them "neo-soul experts," Mass Appeal predicted that the group's First Lady would "make history," and Pitchfork found them to be "undeniably impressive." But even 140 characters couldn't deny The Internet's greatness.

The group made their musical debut with Purple Naked Ladies (2011) and followed up with a smooth transition into 2012’s Feel Good. Putting out their music for free before signing with Sony Records, their musical peers like Chad Hugo of the Neptunes, Mac Miller, Casey Veggies, and Chance The Rapper have all given their catalog the ultimate co-sign. Since then, they’ve built a quiet staying power, cleverly constructing a wider fan base by pedaling their positive vibes to the masses on festival show stages, even hitting the road with fellow L.A. native Jhené Aiko, and touring overseas.
The Internet is now gearing up for their third album, Ego Death, which drops June 29, on Columbia Records. Their most evolved work to date, the 12-track project is a departure from the full-bodied live instrumentation that their last endeavor boasted. Hearty on the in-studio production side of things, the group offers unexpectedly hard-hitting tracks anchored by Syd’s saintly vocals. Basically, it’s a game-changer. Experimenting with various styles of music for the past four years ultimately helped them unearth a sound all their own. “We finally found our sound,” Matt Martians told VIBE. Trust, this discovery hasn’t dismantled their day-one fan base. Chock-full of passionate emotions that even the hardest d-boy couldn’t resist, die-hards won’t be disappointed while new sets of ears will embrace the cruise control pace of vibrations they’re supplying throughout the LP.

Collectively, they’ve put their souls on wax for Ego Death, saying, “Being vulnerable and honest. It’s about us growing up as a band and as individuals, and the challenges we’re facing and learning from.  It’s about us acknowledging our egos and the egos around us, and using them the best way we know how.”

After five months of e-mail tag and Twitter exchanges, VIBE (finally) caught up with the group two weeks before the release of their new album. During the interview, Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians cleverly finish each other's sentences, discussing the space they occupy in modern-day music, maturing as a band and all the individuals that contributed to the album. They are also holding sidebar conversations with three other members in attendance, trying to conjure up answers while maintaining focus on the subject at hand. Along with an awkward silence when compared to Ashford & Simpson, the band laughs then describes their journey through their soul-derived cosmos. –Ashley Monaé

Your third studio album, Ego Death, is coming soon. What was the recording process like?
Matt Martians:
 We started the first song [on the album] immediately right after Feel Good. The first song we made was called “Golden.” It’s like we know we want to make a good album, but we don’t really have a direction, which is kind of good. When you try and have too much of a direction, you sort of box yourself in and leave out cool ideas that you could possibly do. To put an album out like Ego Death, we don’t think too much about anything ­– just being free about things and going with whatever comes to you.

Is the third time really a charm?
With this album, I feel like we finally found our sound. With our first album, our very first songs were on that album.
Syd the Kyd: Yeah, that was the first.
Matt: We didn’t get any mixtapes, any demos. The very first song we made together was “Cocaine” and “She Dgaf” so I feel like we grew in a different kind of way than I feel like most artists do. They put out EPs and scratch demos before they really come out. With this album, we finally found our sound, and it’s a sound that you can only get from us.

Ego Death is a definite departure from Feel Good in a sense that it’s a more mature, hard-hitting and darker sound.
Syd: Well, I know Matt can agree with me on this, we really just wanted this album to hit hard. Our last album was feel good music, it was airy. But this one, we wanted it to hit people in the chest. You know what I mean? Like, we wanted it to knock.
Matt: With this album, we really tried to hit people in the chest with it and tried to go a little bit harder. N.E.R.D, has always been a really big influence on us, and we like how they made sort of hard records, but still had a soft core to it. But you’re right. We kind of teetered on more of a hard-hitting album. I feel like when you want a broader audience listening to your music, you kind of have to have something for everyone –you heard the new album–the drums are a lot harder, they are a lot more hip-hop than they are live, like on previous projects we’ve had.
Syd: And we know it will still translate when we do it live and that’s why it’s kind of cool. We made Feel Good after performing PNL (Purple Naked Ladies) live so many times and we were like, man, we want to make an album with live everything. So we did that, got that out our system, and now we’re kind of going back to our producer ways and making beats. But it’s really a collective thing, everyone in the band contributes.
Matt: Everyone in the band has solo work as far as production, so we’re always working together.

Speaking of the band, the album cover has all members on it. The past two albums didn’t. What was the reasoning behind it?
To be honest with you, I feel like a lot of people, not anyone personally, but a lot of artists now are more about the image than the actual talent. I feel like a lot of people try to put on a mysterious, sort of tedious image to steer you away from the fact that they aren’t really doing much when it comes down to the talent they are trying to sell. So with us, I really wanted it to be clear-cut. Every time you play your favorite album, you see the artwork so every time you play our music, I want you to see the people and the hands involved. I don’t want it to be a question of who did stuff on the album.
Syd: Yeah, that was the main thing we wanted. We got tired of people, well not even tired of anything because it was never really an issue, but we just wanted everybody to know that we’re a band and not a duo—we have six members. We wanted everybody to know what we look like. We wanted everybody to know that we’re black and young.
Matt: It’s a throwback to the old Jackson 5 and Isley [Brothers] covers, too. Those are really the inspirations we had. Every one of those albums had just the band on the cover. You were able to see the differences in age and seeing how their style changed. That kind of thing is real cool to me, and I feel like I want to bring back the traditional sort of band per se.
Syd: And to give a platform for the members in the band because they all do their own work as well. We want them to be able to be like, ‘Yo, this is my album.’
Matt: It’s a visual aid and it’s face recognition, too. When we come to shows now, instead of the band coming on stage and people saying, “Who’s that?,” they know everyone and are like, ‘Oh sh*t. Sh*t’s about to crank up.’ Opposed to before, it would take Syd or me coming out for people to even make some noise. Now, it puts more emphasis on the collective unit, and you’re coming out more than just seeing Syd. Syd’s an instrument in the band—one of the instruments, you know what I’m saying?

The Internet is kind of carrying the soul torch for the new generation.
We’re not necessarily doing it on purpose. It’s just the kind of band [we are] so that’s naturally what we ended up making. We really just make what we want to. Our next album could be another genre – it could be pop. Right now, this is just kind of what we’re on and it’s probably going to stay this way; it’s what we grew up on and what not.
Matt: I do think it’s important, especially to black kids, to see different people taking on this kind of music. It’s good to see black kids picking up instruments and knowing they can work in a band as opposed to just doing rap music. There are other avenues of music you can go down as a black kid when you’re young that can work out if you really put in the work and really try to bridge gaps and try to do something different. That goes back to the [album] cover. It’s important that we show that camaraderie. The feedback from the cover was great. A lot of people were like, ‘Yo, this is so dope. Who is this? What does he play?’ That’s the type of feedback we want. We want people to feel like they can do it too.

Describe the songwriting process. How collaborative is it? Also, Syd, did you seek out input from the guys?
As far as writing lyrics goes, I have a guy that I write with all the time. His name is Nick Green and I wrote “Dontcha” with him. After [that], I was like, ‘Yo, we gotta write more.”
Matt: He’s got a real cool band called Nicky Davey.
Syd: Yeah, check them out. They’re awesome and are about to drop another EP. I wrote most of the songs with him. I wrote a couple of tracks with girl named Taylor Park, and James Fauntleroy wrote one of the songs for me. I wrote a couple songs by myself.
Matt: Steve wrote on a few songs and is singing as well.
Syd: So yeah, collaborative effort definitely. The writing part is mostly me and like I said, I bring in my guy, Nick Green–he’s a big part of it. That’s about it. I like to keep it the process condensed and still be a part of it.
Matt: We like to run everything by each other. Even if Syd is not right there, writing with them, then she’ll play it and ask if it’s cool. [The music] has to clear [with] everybody.

There are other amazing artists featured on the album. Syd, are you and Janelle Monáe’s voices layered on “Gabby?”
Yeah, it’s really random. What actually happened is Janelle is a friend of Matt’s family—his brother works with her. She was in town and she came to my studio. Matt and Steve had made this beat called “Whip,” which is the second half of “Gabby.” Matt wanted her to sing on it and she started singing like these interesting kind of operatic melodies.
Matt: Sort of like samples.
Syd: Yeah, it sounded like a sample. I just sang along with it and wrote the lyrics to the similar melody for it to fade on top. The plan was for her to come back and re-record stuff and for us to finish writing, but she never made it back in time. So we were just like, forget it, we’ll just act like it’s a sample and keep it under there.
Matt: It’s funny how things work out because that’s really what I wanted her to do. Tyler [The Creator] does a similar thing with his features, too. We’ve been hanging with out with [Tyler] a lot while making this album. This is the type of feature that blends in. You don’t really wait for somebody to have this crazy verse; it’s kind of more organic and deeper that way. It’s a better blend, too, because it’s not like you have a verse come in and then they’re gone. I don’t know, I guess that’s just me personally, but I kind of like those type of features where it feels like it’s a little more thought out. It’s cooler, too.

How did you all link with Vic Mensa?
 Right when we got signed to Sony ATV, one of our publishers, Katie Welly, kept telling us we should work with his guy named Vic Mensa, but it never worked out. Time goes on or whatever and Vic’s in town—this is before all the mayhem—and he comes through, chops it up, drops a verse and just dips–that’s it.  Vic is real cool, like a real cool cat. He’s always supported us and shouted us out to a lot of people. Everyone on the album I consider a friend. It wasn’t really hard to get the features because it was literally like calling up friends and being like, Hey, you want to do some sh*t we’ve been trying to do?
Syd: This was a little bit after the INNANETAPE days, so it was like when we had been bumping “Orange Soda” and “Lovely Day.” We had been bumping his sh*t for a minute. So it was dope that he came through.
Matt: Yeah, that’s the thing about Vic. Every time we were in his city, he’d come out and support so he’s got my support. You’ll notice on the feature on the album, Vic started with a live band so it’s like going back to his roots, moreso than the hip-hop that he’s doing now. It’s cool.

How do you think you each have grown individually since The Internet’s inception back in 2011?
Man, I’ve gone through a lot of my own little personal battles. I can say I’m a much happier person. I’m more satisfied and content. I’ll probably never be fully satisfied, but I’m definitely way happier than I was even last year and even 2011. I’m much more confident. I try to portray that in the album so I hope that comes across. I’m a much better singer. I’m not great or anything, but I’m much better than I was in 2011. I’ve been practicing a lot and taking classes.
Matt: It’s a lot of behind the scenes [development] for me with handling business. I stopped taking a lot of things that have to deal with the music business personally. Also, taking a stronghold on our career, like Syd and I own our own separate clothing for the band. We have really just learned how to take things into our own hands and control our own destinies. As far as growing musically, I kind of try to stay in a place of having infinite possibilities – like from being trash one day and tight the next. I don’t know. It’s weird. [Laughs] I kind of like to stay in limbo. People always say they make their best sh*t when they’re young and they become trash when they’re older so I can’t really gauge it. I’m in a weird space right now.

If you could give Ego Death a mission statement, what would it be?
I don’t really want to give people too much because I want people to interpret it how they want to interpret it. Play it late at night though. When you first get that sh*t, get some wine and bump it.

Photo Credit(s): Facebook/The Internet

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Quavo Is Introducing 'Fan Controlled Football' To The Culture

From their penchant for popping tags and name-dropping designer brands in their rhymes to the obsession with diamond-encrusted neckwear, the Migos are the modern-day poster-children for decadence and opulence. But when it comes to balling, group member Quavo is a seasoned veteran, literally and figuratively. Notorious for his appearances in NBA all-star celebrity games, where he routinely dominates the competition, Huncho has built a rep as one of the athletically gifted hit-makers in music today.

Although he's known for his skills on the hardwood, football is definitely among his passions. His newest endeavor, an ownership stake in Fan Controlled Football (FCF), the first professional sports league to put the viewer in the coach's seat and the general manager's office, in live time, finds him putting his focus back on the gridiron. Having inked an exclusive, multi-year streaming broadcast partnership with Twitch, the FCF will be the first professional sports league to be fully integrated with the streaming platform with the potential to explode in the digital age, where user interest and participation is the main recipe for success.

Having tossed the pigskin around as a Georgia high school football star, to Quavo, it was a no-brainer to get involved with the innovative league on the ground level. “We are building a brand and something different in our league – with the fans. They are in control and get to pick the team names, colors, logos, and more,” said Quavo said in a press release. “I’m really excited because FCF is fast-paced, high-scoring 7v7 football and you are in control. You go from sitting on the couch watching TV and pressing buttons on the remote to actually pressing the buttons on the plays.”

Played on "a 35-yard x 50-yard field with 10-yard end zones,” the Fan Controlled Football league will kick off in February 2021, with a four-week regular season, one week of playoffs, and a Championship week. The league will consist of former elite D-1 athletes, the CFL, XFL, and the Indoor Football League. Broadcasted live from the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility in Atlanta, each game will be 60 minutes in length and will allow the viewers to play a hand in the final outcome on Twitch.

Aside from sports, Quavo has been relatively lowkey on the musical tip as of late, with two years having passed since a solo release or a Migos album. However, according to him, this delay can be considered the calm before the storm, as he assures him and his brethren are primed for one of their biggest years yet. VIBE hopped on the line with Quavo to talk Fan Controlled Football, what he's got cooking in the studio, and his foray into TV and film.


You're the newest team owner at Fan Controlled Football (FCF). What about the league piqued your interest and made you wanna get involved?

It's just showing my interest in the game of football and just trying to put a twist to where it's fan-controlled, fan-involved. A lot of times we watch the game, you watch the game, you just have some concerns. Sometimes you feel you can make the plays or call the play, [with FCF], you can sit on the couch and make the play. I just think we came together to make something crazy like that. I feel like it's something hard, it's something new, it's something fresh. It's a new beginning to something, like giving ni**as a chance. Giving D-1 players who couldn't make it to the league a chance, giving ex-NFL ni**as a chance if they still got it, [and] to go with the fans. When we saw the Falcons lose the Superbowl LI, we [fans] just knew what plays to call, we knew to run the ball. We were up 28-3. All we had to do was hold the ball, but we wanted to air it out and we made a mistake and lost to Tom Brady. Just like when Marshawn could've won a Superbowl. If they'd have given him the ball on the two-yard line. We knew that Marshawn Lynch was supposed to get the ball, [but] they wanted Russell Wilson to win it and the New England Patriots caught an interception. So that's how we're trying to shape it, we're trying to make something new.

The FCF will be live-streamed exclusively on Twitch, which has become one of the leading platforms for eSports live-streaming and will kick off in February 2021. Do you feel the FCF has the opportunity to fill that NFL void during the spring, particularly given the fan engagement that FCF enables?

Most definitely, cause after the Super Bowl, it just feels like you just want another game. You feel like you want one more game. and coming from something [where it's] eleven on eleven players to seven on seven, I feel [there’s] still a difference. After coming from watching the game and the regular politics, the regular structure of the game, now you're getting to be involved in a game that you can control. You can pick the jersey, you can pick the helmets, you can pick the jerseys, you can pick the coaches, you can pick the plays. I just feel there are two different dynamics [between the NFL and FCF). You come from sitting on the couch and pressing the remote to actually pressing the button on the plays."

Speaking of fan engagement, the FCF is the only professional sports league that enables fans to call the plays in real-time and puts the viewer in control of a game’s outcome like never before. Have you ever had that experience, as far as fantasy football?

Nah, but I'm into Madden. You can sit at home and pick your plays [with FCF], it's just like the lifestyle of Madden. It's like a reality of Madden. You're playing with people at home, with these unique athletes, and it's seven-on-seven.

As an Atlanta native, how significant was the FCF’s state-of-the-art facility being in your hometown in your decision to come on board as an owner?

It's very important. We got top-tier talent here, so it's opening up opportunities for a lot of guys. We're just glad it's in the south, it's like a hub. Everybody loves Atlanta and everybody wanna be here. Everybody wanna play and the weather is good.

NFL Super Bowl Champions Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch, boxing legend Mike Tyson, and YouTuber and podcaster empire Greg Miller are among the FCF's team owners. How does it feel to be competing against some of the most accomplished athletes and entertainers in the world? Have you had the opportunity to meet with any of them?

Most definitely. I have a good relationship with Mike Tyson. I've met Marshawn Lynch, it's a blessing. I feel like we're not competing right now, I feel like we're building a brand. I feel like we're building a league. I feel like we're trying to make the world understand what we're bringing to the table and what type of game we bring to the table, you feel me? I feel we're trying to create something different. Once we get the ball rolling, it's all together and moving into a real FCF league, then we'll get to compete. Of course, we all wanna win, but right now, we're just trying to get the foundation and the basics going and letting the strength of the owners and the relationships show on the field.

Being that you'll all be working with your respective fan bases in shaping your team’s personality and identity, any thoughts about what the team’s name will be? 

Man, I wish I did, but it's so straight strictly fans that you never know. Just like with music, can have an idea that is a smash, and then the fans don't think it is. You gotta strictly listen to the fans on this one. You gotta listen strictly to how they want it because it's the point of the game, that's the point of the league. We gotta let them control this game and then we the players and we the people that's listening to the people, the culture. FCF stands for culture, too, you feel what I'm saying? We listen to the culture, we're letting the culture run the field.

How involved will you be in the drafting and scouting process for your squad?

The fans make the draft, fans get to see everything. Open books, everything. It's an open thing, it ain't nothing to hide over here. The fans control it all.

In addition to sports, you've also been delving into acting, with cameos in shows like Atlanta, Star, Black-ish, and Ballers. Earlier this year, you appeared as yourself in Narcos: Mexico. How did that opportunity come about? 

Narcos reached out. We [Migos] had this song called “Narcos” on the [Culture II] album and we went and shot [the video] in Miami and everybody thought it was a Narcos movie scene and it ended up being Madonna's house. So we just shot that there and then they reached out to us. I think Offset had a performance somewhere and Takeoff had to do something and I just ended up being free that day and I went and shot it in New Mexico. I had fun, I loved it.

Do you have plans to pursue any supporting or leading roles in film or television?

Hell yeah, most definitely. I've been sitting down and having real great meetings with directors and people that got some movies in the works for 2021. I feel like I’ve got some good spots. I don't wanna tell it cause they’re gonna make some announcements. It's coming soon.

It's been two years since you've released a solo project or one with the Migos. Can fans expect any new music from you anytime soon and what are your next plans on that front?

Most definitely, hell yeah, we're shooting videos right now. We’re vaulting up a whole lot of videos so we can give you music and visuals at the same time. “Need It," the song came first and then the video. Right now, we wanna get a lot of videos and a lot records in the vault and smash [them] all at once 'cause it's been two years.

Pop Smoke's passing was one of the more tragic events in rap in recent memory, but his debut album, which you appeared on throughout, has been one of the most successful and acclaimed projects of 2020. How has it been seeing how the album’s been received, especially after you and him developed such a bond in a short time?

I'm happy. I'm proud of him, that was my partner. We did a lot of records, we spent a lot of time together and I feel like the album would've did even more with him being alive. A lot of people's album just go crazy when they die, I feel like his sh*t would've still went crazy. He had the momentum, he had the buzz. He was having fun. He was hot, he was fresh, he had everything ready.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

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Toots Hibbert performing at Hammersmith Palais, London in 1983.
Photo by David Corio/Redferns

Remembering Toots Hibbert

The best singers don’t need too many words to make their point. Otis Redding could let loose with a sad sad song like “Fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa” and get you all in your feelings. Bob Marley got pulses pounding with his “Whoi-yoooo” rebel yell. Gregory Isaacs melted hearts with nothing more than a gentle sigh. Toots Hibbert, who died last Friday at the age of 77, could sing just about anything and make it sound good. One of the world's greatest vocalists in any genre, Toots paired his powerful voice with the understated harmonies of Raleigh Gordon and Jerry Mathias to form The Maytals, a vocal trinity that never followed fashion and remained relevant throughout the evolution of Jamaican music—from the ska era to rock steady straight through to reggae, a genre named after The Maytals' 1968 classic “Do The Reggay.”

Whether they were singing a sufferer’s selection (“Time Tough”), a churchical chant (“Hallelujah”), or the tender tale of a country wedding (“Sweet and Dandy”), The Maytals blew like a tropical storm raining sweat and tears. The lyrics to Six and Seven Books,” one of The Maytals' earliest hits, are pretty much just Toots listing the books of the Bible. “You have Genesis and Exodus,” he declares over a Studio One ska beat, “Leviticus and Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua, Judges and Ruth...” Having grown up singing in his parents' Seventh Day Adventist Church in the rural Jamaican town of May Pen, Toots knew the Good Book well.

The Maytals broke out worldwide in 1966 thanks to the song “Bam Bam,” which won Jamaica's first-ever Independence Festival Song Competition, held during the first week of August as the island nation celebrated both independence from Great Britain in 1862 and emancipation in 1834. They would go on to win the coveted title two more times, but “Bam Bam” was a singular song with a message every bit as powerful as Toots' voice. “I want you to know that I am the man," Toots sang. He was young and strong, ready to "fight for the right, not for the wrong." The trajectory of "Bam Bam" would not only transform Toots' life but make waves throughout popular music worldwide.

"Festival in Jamaica is very important to all Jamaicans," the veteran singer stated in a video interview this past summer while promoting his latest entry into the annual competition. "I must tell you that I won three festivals in Jamaica already, which is “Bam Bam,” “Sweet & Dandy” and “Pomp & Pride.” Toots described that first festival competition as a joyous occasion. "Everybody just want to hear a good song that their children can sing," he recalled. "Is like every artist could be a star."

In 2016, on the 50th anniversary of "Bam Bam" winning first place, Toots looked back over the legacy of the tune that made him a star. "I didn’t know what it means but it was a big deal," he told Boomshots. "You in the music business and you want to be on top and you write a good song and you go on this competition and if they like it then it becomes #1." After The Maytals won, the group was in demand not just all over the island, but all over the world. "We start fly out like a bird," he says with a laugh. "Fly over to London."

"Bam Bam" went on to inspire numerous cover versions, starting with Sister Nancy, Yellowman, and Pliers. It would also be sampled in numerous hip hop classics, and interpolated into Lauryn Hill's "Lost Ones." But according to Toots, he did not benefit financially from these endless cover versions. "People keep on singing it over and over and over, and they don’t even pay me a compliment," he told Boomshots. "I haven’t been collecting no money from that song all now."


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“This man don’t trouble no one... but if you trouble this man it will bring a Bam Bam” Original Maytals Classic @tootsmaytalsofficial 🎶 All them a talk, them nuh bad like Niya Fiya Ball ☄️🔥💥 via @tonyspreadlove . 💥💣🔫#Boomshots

A post shared by Word Sound & Power (@boomshots) on Sep 12, 2020 at 8:19am PDT

When Toots began singing in his parents' church, music was not seen as a career prospect, and the profits were slim for Jamaican recording artists in the 1960s. "Those days we get 14 cents for the record to play on the radio," Toots said. "I get three shillings and five shillings for a number one record, which I had 31 number one record in Jamaica... It’s not about money for me. It’s about the quality that Jamaicans need to go back in the festival jamboree... You gotta talk to the children."

On the poignant “54-46 (Was My Number),” Toots recalls the dehumanization of his arrest and 18-month imprisonment at Jamaica's Richmond Farm Correctional Center for what he always insisted was a trumped-up ganja charge just as his music career was taking off. The song's crescendo comes two minutes in when Toots breaks into a scat solo that cannot be translated into any language known to man, delivered with palpable passion that made his message universal. During Toots' ecstatic stage performances he would follow this riff by commanding his band to “Give it to me... one time!” Then the 'd make 'em say Uh!  (Way before Master P!) “Give it to me... two times!” Uh! Uh! And so on and so forth until Toots worked the place into a frenzy.

The Maytals' live show was so explosive that Toots began touring all over the world, opening for rock megastars like The Rolling Stones and The Who. While Bob Marley richly deserved the title King of Reggae, his friend Toots was performing internationally before The Wailers, and remained a force to be reckoned with throughout his life, blazing a trail for generations of reggae artists to follow in his footsteps.

On his Grammy-winning 2004 album True Love, Toots recorded some of his greatest hits with a host of legendary artists, many of whom were also good friends, including Willie Nelson, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bonnie Raitt, Sheryl Crow, and Eric Clapton. His 2006 cover of Radiohead's "Let Down" was a favorite of the band's, who used to play it on their tour bus. Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood called Toots’ version “truly astounding,” according to Easy Star Records Michael Goldwasser.

Toots supported himself and his family by touring all over the world. During a 2013 show in Richmond, Virginia he was singing John Denver's "Take Me Home Country Roads" when a teenager in the crowd threw a vodka bottle at the stage and hit him on the head. He suffered a concussion and had to stop touring for several years. As his first album in a decade, Got To Be Tough was highly anticipated when it was released on Trojan Jamaica label August 28. On the cover the former boxer and lifelong fighter can be seen throwing a punch. Just a day after the album dropped, Toots came down with symptoms similar to COVID 19. Within a few days he was hospitalized where doctors placed him into a medically induced coma from which he never recovered. As his Tidal obituary pointed out, he passed away exactly 33 years after his old friend Peter Tosh died by gunfire.

Songs like "Just Brutal" from the hit different now, with Toots pleading for more love in a world gone wrong. "We were brought here," Toots sings. "Sold out. Victimized brutally. Every time I keep remembering what my grandfather said before he died."

“I’m feeling alright,” Toots said the last time we spoke, while he was still sidelined with stress issues due to the bottle-throwing incident. "I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling alright. I’m feeling just cool because is Jah works. You seet?" I asked him if the song "Bam Bam," was about him—a peaceful man who should not be provoked—or else. "Nooo don't trouble him," Toots said with a laugh. "It’s gonna be double trouble, triple trouble. A lot of trouble."

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DJ Cassidy

DJ Cassidy Speaks On 'Pass The Mic Vol. 2' Ft. Hip-Hop Greats LL Cool J, Rakim, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte And 30+ More MCs

With the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc globally, 2020 has been a year filled with tragedy and uncertainty, as an innumerable amount of lives have been taken or affected as a result of the spread of the virus. The world of entertainment, which relies on ticket-holders and live spectators, is affected severely, with artists unable to tour, give live performances, interact with fans, or even create material by committee. This unprecedented blackout of sorts is a tough pill to swallow and threatens to forever alter the industry as we know it. However, as a culture and artform that built its history around making the best of times with minimal resources at its disposal, hip-hop is at the forefront of keeping the public entertained and butts moving, with various DJs, artists, and producers discovering new ways to stay in tune with the people.

While new, digital platforms like DJ D-Nice's "Club Quarantine" and Swizz Beatz and Timbaland's "Verzuz" battle series are ahead of the curve, the latest virtual experience to emerge is Pass The Mic, a live event created and hosted by legendary spinner DJ Cassidy. A native New Yorker, Cassidy, who made his name via the club circuit during the late '90s and early aughts, has a resume that rivals the most accomplished of DJs, having spun at high profile events such as the 2009 inauguration ball for Barack Obama, Obama's 50th birthday party, and the wedding of JAY-Z and Beyonce. Performing hundreds of shows on a yearly basis, Cassidy, whose touring schedule was halted due to the pandemic, was stuck at home when a conversation with legendary soul musician Verdine White of Earth, WInd & Fire gave him an epiphany.


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Thank you @revwon @kingdmc @llcoolj @mrchuckd_pe @therealdjchillwill @therealdougefresh @thegodrakim @mcshan1 @mcmilkdee @specialedmusic @emceeserch @mclyte @chipfu @erick_sermon @doitalldu @therealgrandpuba @djpremier @darealgregnice #smoothb @blacksheepdres @therealclsmooth @realpeterock darealmonielove @youngmc89 @chubblive @officialbigdaddykane @robbasemusic @kidfromkidnplay @the_playgroundz @darealpepa @saltnpepaofficial @speech__ @rasadon @eshe2xgrammy @treachtribe @unclevinrock ❤️ You are my heroes. And to all 122,000 people that tuned in, I am truly grateful. 🎙👑🎙#PassTheMic @rockthebells @behindtherhymetv @twitch

A post shared by DJ Cassidy (@djcassidy) on Aug 5, 2020 at 9:13pm PDT

Cassidy explains: "In the heat of the pandemic, in the middle of the quarantine, I was facetiming with my good friend and mentor Verdine White of Earth, Wind & Fire. Verdine has grown to be a close friend whom I truly admire, and he and I go to dinner every month or so and, obviously, we were not able to do that. So we were on a Facetime call catching up and while I was talking to him, his song, ‘That's The Way of the World,’ came on my speakers. And ‘That's The Way of The World’ is my favorite Earth, Wind & Fire song and on a regular day, it sends a chill down my spine. But being that the world was in flux and everyone was in their homes, separate from each other, [and] being that I was looking into his eyes as I heard the song, a kind of special feeling came over me. And I said, 'You know, I'm very lucky that I have so many relationships with all of my heroes of music and I can hear their music in their company.' And I said, 'Wouldn't it be amazing if I could find some way to give that special feeling to other people around the world during this crazy time. And I said, 'Well, if I can connect my musical heroes from home to home, perhaps I can give people this feeling that I'm feeling right now. And perhaps I can use that as a way to pay homage to the heroes around the world fighting for health.' So therein lies the foundation of the whole idea."

That spark ultimately evolved into Pass The Mic Vol. 1, which saw some of the biggest R&B stars of the late '70s and the '80s performing their greatest hits from the comfort of their homes, for the world to see. The event, which was streamed live on Twitch before being uploaded to Cassidy's Instagram page, was a big hit, amassing upwards of twenty thousand viewers, prompting the DJ to follow up with a second volume geared towards his first love: Hip-Hop. Airing this past Wednesday (Aug. 5), Pass The Mic Vol. 2 saw DJ Cassidy summoning a slew of his friends, who just happen to be among the greatest rap artists of all-time, to join him in a cipher of the most pivotal rap records of the '80s and early '90s. DJ Premier, of the legendary rap group Gang Starr, spoke on DJ Cassidy approaching him to be a part of the massive celebration. "When Cassidy texted me the links to VOLUME 1, I was blown away by the people he chose," Premier shares. "And it kept getting more and more exciting as the songs progressed to wonder who's next. Even the way he sequenced it..."

Beginning with Run of Run DMC performing "Sucker M.C.'s," the nearly forty minute set included appearances from the likes of LL Cool J, Chuck D, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, MC Lyte, Kid N' Play and Naughty By Nature, all of whom tear the house down, albeit virtually from the comfort of their own. The session includes many magical moments and is filled with a love for one another, as well as the culture that brings us all together.

With the second volume in the series having took place, with many more to come, VIBE spoke with DJ Cassidy via phone about the genesis of Pass The Mic, what the process entailed putting the first two volumes together, the healing and unification of music, and how Black music has had an indelible impact on his life and career.

VIBE: The first volume of Pass The Mic included appearances by Earth, Wind & Fire, New Edition, Bobby Brown, Kool & The Gang, Patrice Rushen, and other stars of the '70s '80s. What made you kick off the series celebrating that particular era?

DJ Cassidy: I think two main reasons come to mind. First of all, the Facetime call with Verdine White was really the genesis of the concept, so it was that call that inspired the whole idea. And it was that song, the first song on Vol. 1 that was playing, so to me, it was automatic that I should go to that era of music to set the project off. But the second reason is kind of a bigger picture, which is I really believe that that music is the most feel-good, uplifting music ever created. It is undeniably body-moving and for two-thirds of my life, I've traveled the world, making people dance and there is no music that uplifts, inspires people, makes people smile and makes people dance than the r&b music of the '70s and the '80s. So when the world is going through what it's going through and people wanna smile and people wanna be uplifted and people wanna unite, there really was no greater music to channel to try to do such a thing, to achieve such a mission.

How would you describe an episode of Pass The Mic and what are some unique wrinkles users can expect?

Pass The Mic is an interactive mixtape delivered in a way that you've never experienced before. As I drop each record, you experience that record with the artist who recorded that record and you connect with those artists from home to home. And through that personal experience, you're left with an emotional experience of music unlike any before. And I'd be lying if I said I thought that all the way through when I started, I didn't. A lightbulb went off for me, I saw the big picture and I went for it, but I didn't quite understand how emotional the response would be until I premiered it.

You've also mentioned how the times we're in, with the COVID-19 pandemic, was also a factor in you creating Pass The Mic. What are your thoughts on how other DJs and producers have been adapting to the climate we're in?

Well, I think the pandemic has been such a tough time for everyone around the world, yet it's also been a great time for DJs to be the best versions of themselves. At our core, we DJs unite people. At our foundation we bring people together through music and no one exemplified that better, bigger and faster than D-Nice. In the first week of the pandemic, he found a way to unite the world through DJing and it was truly beautiful to watch then and remains beautiful to watch now.

You've been spinning professionally for upwards of two decades and have an expansive list of high-profile artists and musicians at your disposal. What has the recruiting process for Pass The Mic entailed and how would you describe the artists' reception to the idea of it all?

Well, the process has certainly evolved, I would say that's the best word to use. The recruitment process for Vol. 1 was entirely different from Vol. 2 'cause while recruiting artists for Vol.1, I had nothing to show. All I had was a crazy idea that some people understood and some people didn't, but what they did exhibit was a unanimous trust in me and for that, I was not only grateful, but extremely honored. We're talking about some of the most legendary r&b artists of all time, they don't need to do my Pass The Mic idea. And they all took a leap of faith and they put their trust in me and I think they were all excited by the results and that really was the biggest reward. The recruiting process for Vol. 2 was entirely different because not only had many of the artists now seen Vol. 1, but for those who didn't I of course had Vol. 1 to show them. One of the greatest experiences was calling Big Daddy Kane, one of the greatest rappers of all-time.

Now, I haven't spoken to Kane on the phone in years. In fact, I might have never spoken to Kane on the phone before. I first developed a relationship when he performed at my birthday party in New York many years ago, over ten years ago. And every time we see him, it's all love and, of course, I admire, idolize and look up to him and I wasn't even sure if I had the right number I called, I got a voicemail, it wasn't his voice. I text him, I said 'Kane, it's Cassidy, is this still you?'  And he called me within five minutes and I picked up and go, 'Kane!' And his first words were, 'Look, if you're calling about something having to do with Pass The Mic, I'm in,' and that was one of the greatest phone calls I've ever had in my life. And I will never forget that one sentence. Big Daddy Kane, the great, the legend, the forefather, he not only saw it, but loved it, felt that's why I might be calling and was down to take part in whatever I was doing and there's really no words to describe that feeling. And that sentiment was common in many of my phone calls  that a lot of the artists I was calling had seen Vol. 1 and were really emotional in their response to it. So the recruiting process from Vol. 1 and 2 were very different, in that respect.

For the debut volume of Pass The Mic, you partnered with Twitch, a streaming platform that's been continuing to gain steam. What spurred you to use that particular platform and is that partnership official?

Firstly, what I was doing wasn't possible to present to people on Instagram. I love Instagram, it's the platform I use the most, it's how I share my life and times, but there was no way I could've presented Pass The Mic through Instagram. So I was looking for a platform that allowed for a live experience, one which I could treat as a live event and there were several: YouTube, Facebook and Twitch. And Twitch seemed like a great home for the launch, their platform, their technology, their fanbase. They're extremely forward thinking and it was a great place, but it was also a partnership with the Behind The Rhyme channel. Behind The Rhyme is a channel on Twitch that presents  lots of great content having to do with hip-hop and r&b, specifically classic hip-hop and r&b, but all kinds of hip-hop and r&b. So it was a great kind of home for Vol. 1 and it worked out well, so I've chosen to host a live event for Vol. 2 there as well. And I've also partnered with Rock The Bells on this edition, they represent all things classic hip-hop so it's self-explanatory. The partnership is a no-brainer. LL Cool J and his brand represent everything that Pass The Mic Vol. 2 strives to represent, the beauty and inspiration of classic hip-hop.

The second episode of Pass The Mic aired this past Wednesday (August 5), and saw you putting the focus on the golden era of hip-hop, with legends like LL Cool J, Run-DMC and Salt-N-Pepa all appearing on the show. How would you describe your relationship with that era of hip-hop and how the music inspired you as a DJ?  

Well, I grew up in that era of hip-hop. I grew up memorizing the words of the hip-hop records of the mid '80s, late '80s, and early '90s, that was my childhood.  Hip-Hop is my first love, hip-hop is why I became a DJ, hip-hop is why I asked my parents to buy me two turntables and a mixer for my birthday when I turned ten. And these artists, the artists who I've included in Pass The Mic Vol. 2 are my true heroes. They are the artists I looked up to as a child, they are the artists I idolized as a child and to this day, I hold them up on the highest of pedestal.  They define the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I danced, the way I dress, the way I fought, they gave me identity. Without these artists, I don't really know what my identity would be. I became who I am through this music, so this volume really meant a lot to me, the last twenty-one days have been surreal.

Yeah, for sure. The reason the past twenty-one days have been so surreal is not only because I got to Zoom with all of my heroes of hip-hop, but because after we knocked out what we had to do we stayed on for another half an hour or more talking. And sometimes I'd be on with some of these artists for an hour and I'd be asking them questions and they would tell me stories and I just heard the greatest anecdotes. And sometimes with those whom I had relationships with, we talked about stories that involved me and us and those were incredibly special, for obvious reasons, but all the stories were just, like, gems. They were just dropping gems on me. I have all that footage and I hope, at some point, there is another component of Pass The Mic where I share those stories.

What would you say are three records from that period that personally resonate with you?

"Sucker M.C.’s" is a very important song to me, as it is to hip-hop culture, as it is I believe, to pop culture. "Sucker MCs," in my opinion, is the archetype of a hip-hop record. It's so brilliantly simple and it's powerful because of its brilliant simplicity. All that's on there is a kick, a snare, a clap, and rhymes. There's no chorus, it's only four verses. And if you think about it, on paper, it's the simplest hip-hop record ever made and it's just so magical because if an alien came from out of space like, 'What is hip-hop?' I would play them “Sucker M.C.'s.” So, for me, it was really important for that reason, to set off this particular volume with that record.

Another record that's really important to me is Arrested Development "People Everyday." It's not only one of my favorite hip-hop records of all-time, it's one of my favorite records of all-time, it just simply exudes joy and celebration. And Speech is not only an incredible rapper, but an incredible singer and his voice is just simply something you can feel. He's uplifting, he's truly a unifying spirit and I'm so happy he was willing to get down 'cause he really brings the celebration to this.

"Hip Hop Hooray," which closes out Vol. 2, is really important to me. As a child, I worshipped the ground Treach walked on. I thought Treach was the coolest person to ever walk the face of this earth. And Treach and Vinnie are the sweetest guys, I've known them since I was a child and they've always been really supportive of me and my career and that song is special. No matter where you go in the world, no matter what music someone loves, no matter how old they are, no matter who they are, no matter where they are, everyone sings along to that chorus and knows exactly what to do with their hands. And there's something really beautiful about that so there's no better song to end this with.

The first two episodes of Pass The Mic have been geared towards celebrating Black icons in music, across various genres. In the age of Black Lives Matter and social injustice, what are your thoughts on how music and the performance of it can help bring forth unity and healing?

I think there is no greater unifying power than music and I think there is no greater healing force than soul music. And soul music doesn't just mean r&b music, it means hip-hop, too, hip-hop comes from soul. And I think we're living in a time of divisiveness, bigotry and of separation and I think we, as humanity, can look to any one thing to uplift people and unify, it would be music. And you mentioned Black music, my life wouldn't be what it is without the music of Black artists, hip-hop and R&B has defined my life in so many ways, and not only in my career. It's my source of inspiration, it's my source of culture, it's my source of style, it's really my source of happiness. And it's through the music of soul artists and hip-hop artists that I've been able to travel the world and make people dance and make people smile.

What do you see Pass The Mic evolving into moving forward and what do you hope viewers walk away with after viewing an episode of Pass The Mic?

I hope people walk away feeling uplifted, that's it. That's the goal, to uplift. And by sharing these records in a unique way, I've been able to uplift, then I've done my job. The magic is in the music and I'm just a messenger. What do I see for the future? Well, at this point, sky's the limit. I didn't anticipate quite an emotional response from people and it's been quite overwhelming. As I said, this was a little passion project to stay creative, to connect with my heroes and to put a smile on a few faces and it turned into something bigger than I could've ever imagined. There's certainly gonna be more volumes and what the future has in store, we shall see.

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