Vinyl Me Please
VIBE/ Stacy-Ann Ellis

In A Digital World, Vinyl Me, Please Is Reviving The Lost Art Of The Record Collection

VIBE spoke to the guys behind Vinyl, Me Please to discuss their grassroots success and why they are the "Best Damn Record Club Out There."

There are many traits we get from our parents. Their eye color, their wit, the charming dimple planted on the side of their cheek that instantly makes their smile feel warmer. But aside from genes, if there's one gift we'd all be obliged to put respeck (word to Birdman) on, it's certainly music — the harmonious vocal and instrumental combination that evokes the most beautiful form of self-expression.

For many, their musical taste is a direct reflection of their parents. And for those old enough to remember, it all started with vinyls, the grandfather of CDs, and a record player. However, that was then and this is now. The times of carefully grasping the sides of the record with steady fingertips, operating the tonearm and needle with the sharpest precision, and slipping into a state of musical bliss without the option of fast forward has faded into history books territory. Nevertheless, the lost art is having a undeniable resurgence. From the lifestyle section of your local Urban Outfitters to your favorite artists' merchandise store, the growing demand for vinyls is being delivered at a fascinating rate. Another exciting presence in the market being Vinyl, Me Please, an independent record club that delivers record junkies the nostalgic dose of polyvinyl chloride they've been waiting for.

"Growing up during the Napster generation, if you will, I’ve always longed for a tangible connection to something. So, Vinyl really fosters that experience better than anything," says Vinyl, Me Please founder Matt Fielder. But instead of choosing what you'd like to spin on your turntables, the musically-inclined staff chooses an exclusive vinyl each month to send its customers, giving each the thumbs up as an essential to any record collection.

VIBE spoke to the guys behind Vinyl, Me Please to discuss their grassroots success, the importance of bringing vinyl back to the forefront, and why exactly they are the "Best Damn Record Club Out There."

So, of all things, why vinyl?
Matt Fiedler: The reason we started Vinyl Me, Please was to create an experience around music. Our mission is to help people explore, experience, and enjoy music on a deeper level, using vinyl as the medium. There's a nostalgic tangible nature that has a forced intentionality around it that actually makes for the best listening experience. It’s a unique discovery experience, too, because you’re not being served up something by an outlet or being able to click around and all that stuff. You have to sit with it and be with it and get through it.

Do you remember your first experience with vinyl? 
Matt: My dad amassed this huge record collection, and ironically enough, he bought one of the first commercially available CD burners. It's the pre-industrial looking recording equipment where you mount it into the wall. He used to have me take records by one and burn them onto CDs and then put them onto the computer so he could listen to them on his iPod. He'd pay me a dollar a record or something like that. You couldn’t fast-forward, so I would have to sit and listen to all of these records to ensure that the sound was transferring properly. So that was my first interaction with vinyl, and weirdly it was at a pretty young age. So when I came back around, I was already pretty familiar with the components and how it all works.
Severan Johnson: I had an older buddy in the neighborhood who was three years older than me, and I stole his Too Live Crew, As Nasty As You Want To Be. I hid in my closet and put it on my first cassette player when I was 12. I never heard anything like it. My dad had a turntable and every Sunday he cooked waffles in his underwear with music blasting. Now that I think of it is was really weird [laughs]. But I got his turntable and I tried to scratch because I heard all these cool sounds. It was this nice turntable, too. I ended up getting an a** whooping man. It wasn’t scratching turntables either. So yeah, my introduction to vinyl, trying to scratch Too Live Crew and getting an a** whooping.

Lots of times, when people look back at their favorite albums, if they really think about when they first connected with it, it’s often not the album that they would’ve picked. —Cameron Schaefer

How did you guys formulate your idea of an updated vinyl experience into a thriving business?
Matt: It all started when Tyler, my co-founder and then roommate, really wanted to get into vinyl after my dad gifted me turntables for Christmas. There were tons of records that we loved and wanted to own, but me personally, I have severe purchasing anxiety. When I walk into a record store I want them all and can never pick one.  So we thought it would be cool to create a record club that was for the new generation. We decided to focus on one album each month: something that's sort of a diamond in the rough, something that flows from start to finish, and something that's really great and probably undiscovered, that everyone will get it, and then build from there. We didn’t take any funding or financing. It was literally something we put up on Facebook, saying, 'Hey we’re going to try this and if you’re interested, put in your email address and we’ll let you know when we’re ready to launch.' In January 2013, we launched with just twelve members in our first month. Our main focus was creating product that was cool and exciting enough for those people to tell their friends. By the end of that first year, we grew to about 300 members. However, the whole concept shifted soon after doing one-on-one consulting. What we realized is that we were calling people and saying, 'What do you want to listen to? What do you want on this playlist? What should we curate for you?' And they were like 'I trust your taste, so just give me something that you think I should be listening or what you’re listening to or something new cool.' That was a light bulb moment for us because we were realized we could be curators and tastemakers.

What's the process of picking the record of the month like?
Cameron Schaefer: I lead that process. Ultimately, every single record is a team decision that we all listen to multiple times and debate vigorously until we decide.
Severan: Sometimes blood is shed [laughs].
Cameron: Yeah, but we first approach it by dividing up the calendar year and just saying we know we want four to five major reissues; three, maybe four new releases from smaller artists to have that element of discovery. Then, we fill the rest with what I like to call undiscovered gems – albums that maybe came out a few years ago and were great, but for whatever reason, we feel like didn’t get the attention they deserved. After I identify a few potential albums that could be our featured record, then I’ll bring it the team. We’ll all listen normally three or four times, each album. We kind of have development over time, our internal score card, the different elements that we kind of judge to think that this would be a great release for our members: a coherent narrative and something that was intentionally put together to tell a story and isn’t just some singles that’s sporadically thrown in with some filler. And above all else it has to be a great album from start to finish. So, everyone gives the records intentional listens and scores them. We’ll put it all together and see where things line up. Generally, we get down to two albums and then the debate begins, which is a lot of fun.

Would Metro Boomin’ trust would your scorecards?
Severan: I hope. I would love to do something with Metro Boomin’ [laughs]. But like Matt said earlier, we're all about the music at the end of the day. So I think there’s a level of respect in the industry when people see that and in return they trust us.

The idea of a vinyl club is nothing novel, so what separates Vinyl Me, Please from others in the market place? 
Matt: What separates us is our core values as a company, which are humanity, humility, and authenticity. We’re real people and real music fans, and we’re incredibly passionate about what we do. It starts with the music and ends with music. It’s not about being the cool startup or any of that other bullsh*t, which is very obvious in our product. The curation element is key because most of the industry has tried to move into a space where they look at your tastes and try to give you recommendations based on data, whether that’s what you’ve been listening to on Spotify or what you like on Facebook. We're different. It's not that we ignore those things; we’re totally aware of them. But we recognize that there’s lots of great music discovery that happens through serendipity and a bit of randomness.
Cameron: Lots of times, when people look back at their favorite albums, if they really think about when they first connected with it, it’s often not the album that they would’ve picked.

via member @laneydfisher #vinylme #torres #vinyl #newmusic

A photo posted by Vinyl Me, Please (@vinylmeplease) on

There's also the really cool element of artist involvement in your membership, too. 
Matt: Yeah, it’s always better for us if the artist can be involved in the creative process around creating the package. It just feels way more personal and way better because it feels like it’s coming from the artist rather than just us and the label putting our heads together. We like for them to be involved in many ways whether we want to look at maybe changing up the album artwork. Or do we want to do a new lyric booklet and have them write a foreword or a personal note to members.
Cameron: Before I started working with Vinyl, Me Please, I was actually a pilot in the Air Force. On the side I had a music blog that I was writing with a friend they got wind of. Originally it was called Vinyl and Cocktails; we would just listen to albums, make a drink, and then write about it for fun. Matt and Tyler came to me saying they'd love to have a cocktail pairing component to the monthly package that compliments and the listening experience. So, that's also another major feature we offer our customers.

You guys are based out of Colorado. What's the appeal of the city since it's not really a music hub per se?
Matt: The day before my wife and I were to get married, I got a job offer in Colorado. At that point, Vinyl Me, Please was pretty small at that point, so we took this job and sort of just moved the fulfillment to our apartment in Colorado. We weren’t like that’s where we build this business. It just all came together for us in the same way we talk about the serendipitous music discovery, it was a serendipitous experience for us.
Severan: There was actually a discussion of whether we should be in Los Angeles or New York. We actually found a lot of benefit by staying in Colorado because we were separated from the scenes. We're outside of the vortex, so much to the point that we don't get caught up in the hype.
Matt: Right. It's like having a pretty unbiased opinion because we’re not being forced in a certain direction by anybody. So you know, I think it’s something that’s special and we’ve always been very cognizant of preserving so even when we hire people, it’s like this is what we’re hear for and this is what we’re about, do you fit into that kind of culture and that mantra.

Are there any future plans for expansion?
Matt: For us it all comes down to iterating the membership, iterating the features of the membership, and making it better to be a member. We just introduced a new feature called Swaps, which for three, six, or 12-month members you have the ability to swap a featured record for something else. So if there’s a title that you’re really not interested in or you already have a copy, or issue it gives flexibility to the member and encourages that we're not being a**holes just telling you, you need to take this record. Our member store is growing tremendously, too, so we’re continuing to focus on that by adding more titles. We’ve somewhat recently started doing limited edition of 750 to 1,000 copy runs of other records. So there's unique, limited edition records like Young Thug's Barter 6 and Future's DS2 that we put in the store that are exclusive to members only.

Lastly, what are you guys' top three albums of the year so far?
Severan: Radiohead's A Moon Shaped Pool and Car Seat Headrest's Teens Of Denial. Young Thug's Slime Season 3 was f***ing brilliant, too.
Cameron: I would say the new Car Seat Headrest as well. I really like the new Marissa Nadler album, Strangers. And then I would probably say Parquet Courts' Human Experiences.
Matt: I love the new Sturgill Simpson record. Anderson .Paak’s Malibu is amazing. We saw him at South By South West and was mind blown. Kendrick Lamar's, untitled, unmastered, I really dig that too.

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American musician Millie Jackson performs onstage at the Park West Auditorium, Chicago, Illinois, May 30, 1980.
Photo by Paul Natkin

Music Sermon: Millie Jackson - The Original Bad Girl

You know that auntie who you were nervous to bring your young male friends around back in the day because she might proposition them in the kitchen when nobody was looking? Or the auntie liable to cuss out a family member or two after dinner for something that happened 12 years ago? The one that women in your family whispered about, warning not to leave men around alone? Who your mama didn’t want you to spend too much time with, but you were always excited to see because she was entertaining and was gonna slip you a little pocket change?

That auntie listens to Millie Jackson.

Millie Jackson is not just an R&B singer. She’s a Rhythm & Blues singer. She’s card party music. Your parents having people over and you’re not allowed to come downstairs music. Working class black folks hanging out down at the VFW after a long week with some well liquor music.

She’s been called “the queen of raunchy soul” and “the Godmother of rap,” because of her signature, no-holds-barred lyrical content and her long “raps” – profanity-laced, sexually explicit stories and jokes – interwoven through her songs and live sets. Auntie Millie is part singer and part outrageous comedienne – but don’t take her as a joke. She’s a deceptively serious artist, with career highlights that went largely unnoticed because of the raunch.

In our continued celebration of bad-ass women in music for the month of March, we present 11 essential Auntie Millie facts.

1. Her Singing Career Was an Accident

One Thursday night, Millie Jackson was hanging with friends at the Psalms Café on 125th Street in Harlem. The restaurant hosted an open mic on Thursdays, and Millie was clowning a young woman for her terrible singing. Her friends bet her $5 to get up herself and sing, and she did it – even though she had no training as a singer. A club promoter in the audience offered her a gig the following week, someone saw her there and offered her more gigs, and that continued. She sung around New York and New Jersey for a couple of years while still working full time, and eventually landed a spot touring with Sam Cooke’s brother, LC. After one short-lived recording contract, she signed with funk and soul label Spring Records (co-founded by the father and uncle of Loud Records founder Steve Rifkind). She was so unsure her career would stick, she asked for a leave of absence from her job instead of quitting. It became an extremely extended leave.

Her trademark “rapping,” the long intros, interludes and dialogue breaks Millie masterfully blends into her songs and live sets, was also an accident. Millie had no formal vocal training, so she wasn’t a strong singer at the beginning of her career. When people in supper clubs and lounges would start talking to each other and turning their attention away from the performance, she started talking to them to keep them engaged. It became a key part of her artistry. Millie doesn’t just sing you a song, she tells you a story.

2. She Developed Her Raw and Raunchy Style Because of Gladys Knight

Millie and Gladys sound alike. It’s hard to hear in Jackson’s grittier songs; in those, she sounds more like Teddy Pendergrass’s voice and Tina Turner’s voice had a vocal baby. In her ballads, though, you can close your eyes and imagine Gladys. Or at least Gladys after some brown liquor. Comparisons started almost immediately in Millie’s career. It was potentially a problem– the label held back a single because they thought people would hear it and ask for a new Gladys album – so she began to separate herself from Knight with her raw sound and lyrical content.

Over time, that separation also included cursing. “Gladys started rappin’ on (“Help Me Make It Through the Night”) and I’m like ‘Ok, now she’s gonna rap? I guess I’ll just cuss,’” Millie once explained. “She’s too much of a lady to curse.”

Jackson leaned all the way into the explicit language and topics - the Washington Post called her “a veteran virtuoso of vulgarity” in 1986 - until those two factors nearly overshadowed not only her raw talent, but the fact that her songs were also technically fantastic, complete with incredible arrangements and expert live instrumentation provided by the Muscle Shoals Swampers, one of the best rhythm sections in music history.

3. She Flipped the Concept of the Concept Album

Caught Up is the concept album "Trapped in the Closet" wanted to be when it grew up.

While Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye were creating cohesive bodies of work that reflected community, racial and environmental turmoil, Millie focused on what was happening in the home. Spring Records paired the singer with producer Brad Shapiro, whose credits include Wilson Pickett and James Brown, and he took her to the famed Muscle Shoals to record with the studio’s legendary session musicians, the Swampers.

Millie knew she wanted to make an album where “one song keeps going into the next song,” like a long story. Caught Up is a narrative about an affair, but from two perspectives: the first half of the album is from the mistresses point of view, the second half is the wife’s.

“We knew we were onto something (after “If Loving You Is Wrong”),” Jackson explained in an interview. “Then somebody in the studio asked ‘what now?’ And I said, ‘we finish the story. We’ve heard from the girlfriend, but what about the wife?'”

Concept albums were still new, and Spring Records didn’t know what to do with a project featuring nine-minute songs and no clear radio tracks. They brought in one of the most influential black radio DJs in New York, WBLS’s Frankie Crocker, and played it for him. He left the label with the only pressed copy of the LP so he could play “If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to be Right” immediately.

Jackson has admitted to being the other woman multiple times in her own life, but wanted the representation on the album to be “fair,” and include the wife’s experience. Her interpretation of the betrayed wife wasn’t a broken-down woman crying into a pillow, either. The songs cycled through a full range of emotions, from shock and anger to sadness, defeat, defiance and pettiness.

The label’s skepticism was unfounded; Caught Up reached No. 4 on the Billboard R&B album chart and No. 21 on the Pop chart. The success prompted a follow-up album, Still Caught Up, but the original is considered Jackson’s definitive work.

4. She Helped Turn Cheating Into an R&B Genre

Torrid affairs and adultery weren’t new topics in music, but they were relatively new to R&B. In the early ‘70s, songs about cheating – not about the aftermath, but basically celebrating cheating - were mostly found in juke joint blues and country western music, and were rarely from the woman’s perspective. “These were conversations that women had with each other on the laundromat. You didn’t hear them on records,” Millie explained in a recent interview about Caught Up. “You especially didn’t hear them on the radio.” Billy Paul, Luke Ingram, Johnny Taylor, and Millie – all singers who straddled the line between blues and soul - helped change that. By the mid-70s, adultery R&B was a full-blown subgenre, with songs like “Woman to Woman” and “From His Woman to You” (because “Woman to Woman” apparently required a reply), then later came “As We Lay,” “Secret Lovers,” and a long list of others. Songs about the wife calling the side, the side responding to the wife (the temerity!), the husband talking to the side, the wife proclaiming love to her side. It was a mess. But the songs were hits, so you might need to ask your parents and grandparents some honest questions about exactly what the hell was going on in the ‘70s and early ‘80s.

Millie’s unfiltered and uncensored take on cheating was the centerpiece of her career. “(Infidelity is) my whole repertoire,” she explained once when asked about crafting the stories for her songs. “Do you decide whether or not you want to talk about a certain part of an infidelity? Is it a man? Is it a woman? Is it both of them? Or do you want to go and start talking about what infidelity calls to life, or how it ruins a relationship, and not pertaining to anybody in particular. But, see, just like that you can write 25 songs on infidelity.”

5. Millie Was a Women’s Advocate

The primary topic of Millie’s music, after infidelity, was sex. Not making love. Sex. As in, “you got to handle this.” Like infidelity, sexual demands from the woman’s point of view was topical fare for dirty blues, not R&B.

Don’t start something you can’t finish Frustration ain’t no fun Half way lovin’ just don’t get it Stay there ‘til the job is done.

I would be remiss to not point out the breakdown in “All the Way Lover,” wherein Auntie Millie plants seeds that bore fruit for future generations, advocating for enthusiastic participation in oral sex, or what she called “parteè.”

We thank you for your service and advocacy, Millie.

With the songs hitting close to home about husbands cheating, wives kicking those husbands out, side chicks getting fed up, and calling men out to get focused in the bedroom, Millie believed she turned the male demographic off. “Men did not want my records in their house,” she claimed in an interview. “They wouldn’t come to see me live. Because I spoke truth to women, I got a reputation for being rough on men.”

But Miss Jackson would get at women sometimes, too. She took time, often, in her live show to address “saditty b**ches” who were being too lazy or too uptight to take care of business at home. This was also a form of advocacy, though, in the form of “Sis, stop bullsh*ttin.’”

Millie was a new kind of voice for women’s independence and agency. “Women loved it. I was speaking to them,” Jackson explained to her hometown Atlanta Magazine. But she was talking to women in a way some didn’t consider proper or respectable. She didn’t care. “I didn’t sell record to bougies. It was the poor people who bought my music. The women who bought Diana Ross did not buy Millie Jackson. The people in the projects understood me. I was down and dirty. I told you like it was.”

She once compared men to bad credit, which I’m laughing about even as I type this because it’s so genius and perfect that I can’t even. It’s an analogy all women understand too well – and we also understand the plot twist on the end when she gives it up anyway (Kanye shrug). She kept it real.

6. Low Key, She’s a Hip-Hop OG

Millie had already established a reputation for her “rapping,” which in the ‘70s meant long dialogue during song breaks, a style made popular in soul music with Isaac Hayes. Millie expanded the technique, telling full narratives that connected her songs. After “Rapper’s Delight” became a hit, her label wanted her to give the new style of rap a shot. In 1980, she recorded a track called “I Had to Say It” that she meant as a spoof of “Rapper’s Delight,” but she was spitting bars on the low. The subject: black men who start dating white women once they’re successful. It would set the timeline on fire today.

She told Song Facts in a frank 2010 interview that the song’s inspiration came unexpectedly. “I was thinking of what the next album (was) gonna be, and I had run out of things to talk about,” she shared, “So we’re on the tour bus and I’m going through Jet Magazine, and I’m saying ‘Okay. There’s Arthur Ashe – with a white woman. There’s the guy that plays Shaft on TV with a white woman. Damn, there’s O.J. Simpson – with a white woman… Somebody needs to say this. Why don’t I say this? I have to say this.” And she said it with her signature IDGAF delivery and candor.

Now I got your attention again I wanna speak to you about white girls On the arms of our black men

Millie was just playing around, but Coca Cola explained to her, when they reached out for Sprite's 1999 Obey Your Thirst campaign, that she technically held the distinction of being the first woman to cut a rap song. The campaign, “5 Deadly Women,” featured rappers Eve, Amil, Angie Martinez (remember when Angie was a rapper?), Mia X and Roxanne Shante.

Jackson makes a surprise appearance at the end of the series as The Master, and I applaud Sprite for doing their homework and including her. She was kind of an easter egg, because not many people in the spot’s target audience knew who she was on sight.

Her hipping and hopping on “I Had To Say It” aside, Millie’s been credited as the foremother of Salt-n-Pepa, Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and all female rappers who didn’t take no sh*t from the boys and unabashedly harnessed the power of sexuality in their music. She’s also been heavily sampled in hip-hop for decades: J. Cole, Prodigy, EPMD, Too Short, Poor Righteous Teachers, 50 Cent, Memphis Bleek, Lil’ B, Boogie Down Productions, Young Jeezy, Trick Daddy, Blacksheep, Cam’ron, Geto Boys, Yo Gotti, and Fat Joe have all cut Millie a publishing check.

At least three rap acts have sampled/covered her “Phuck You Symphony” alone, which I understand because it’s perfect for hip-hop – just like she is.

7. Her Live Show is Off the Chain

Millie doesn’t just give you a stage with a spotlight and some crooning (and I say “doesn’t” because Auntie still performs). No ma’am, no sir. There’s a full band, including a tight ass horn section, background singers, the whole nine. Also, she doesn’t just sing, it’s part comedy act. She’s a cross between Richard Pryor and popular ‘90s comedian Adele Givens (I truly believe Adele studied Millie).

Millie Jackson’s Live and Outrageous album is essential listening. The show’s energy is palpable even through audio. At her peak, Jackson’s concerts were regularly sold-out. She served costumes, flair, choreography, dramatics, and powerful vocals. Even as her stage show scaled down in later years, Millie Jackson live was no less of an experience. She’s also known for audience participation - if you’re sitting in her line of sight you might become part of the show. Be ready.

8. She’s a Boss

Millie Jackson is absolutely not a contrived artist. Her image is all hers, her musical choices are hers, her career path is hers. There are no Svengali stories, no tales of the label pushing her in a direction she didn’t feel comfortable with. None of that. Millie did what she wanted. Her label did try, in the beginning, to change her sound. They sped her vocals up on records so her voice would be in a higher pitch than her deep, earthy alto. But after “Hurts So Good,” they let her fly.

Millie has been self-managed her entire career. Her one marriage, at the beginning of her success, lasted only eight months because her husband tried to control Jackson and her business. “He thought we were gonna be the next Ike and Tina Turner. He thought that he was gonna tell me what to do with my life, and I decided that was not gonna happen. Case closed.”

Millie has also always maintained a large degree of creative control. She co-wrote most her songs from the beginning, and starting with Caught Up, she also co-produced her albums. And she fought when her record label tried to minimize her contribution. “I went down to Muscle Shoals to show (Brad Shapiro) how I do what I do, and co-produced the album. And when the album came out, it said ‘Album concept by Millie Jackson,’ and I hit the ceiling,” she shared in an interview. “I stood up in the middle of the floor and cussed like a banshee. And finally (Spring Records co-head) Roy Rifkind said, ‘Can we please go to lunch? You gonna be the death of me yet.’ And (Spring Records co-head) Bill Spitowski said, ‘We’ll put it on your tombstone: Produced by Millie Jackson.’”

Self-management is a choice Millie realizes probably held her back from big deals and moves that would elevate her to a higher level of stardom, but it as one that allowed her to follow her career on her own terms. In the same interview just mentioned, she explained her unconventional decision. “I write a lot of songs, and I publish them, and I go to work when I feel like it. That’s why I never had a manager; I don’t need anyone to tell me when to go to work. I know if I want to work or not.” She’s also enjoyed a normalcy that her peers who reached higher heights of fame had to sacrifice. “I like being able to go shopping for myself. I go to the supermarket and nobody bothers me. I don’t have a bodyguard. I like that. I think I live a very decent life. I’m a long way from starving, and I’m still me.”

9. She Can Sing Anything

Jackson has half-joked often in her later interviews that people don’t pay attention to the more diverse aspects of her catalog.

“If you listen to Millie Jackson on the radio, you ain’t gonna hear nothing but ‘Back in Love By Monday,’ ‘Hurts So Good,’ and ‘If Loving You is Wrong.’ Like I haven’t made any more songs,” she once complained. “I’ve got thirtysomething albums, only got three songs to be played!” Well, a lot of her songs aren’t exactly radio-friendly, but she’s right. With the expansive discography she has (Millie kept recording until 2001), the cheating songs and the raunchy songs are most popular and well-known. Ironically, while critics bemoaned her resistance to growth over the years, she quietly released two country-inspired albums and a rock-inspired album, in addition to more weighted material. “I write a lot of meaningful songs, but nobody ever heard them,” she’s said. “Because in my case most people would rather only listen to infidelity.”

Her very first single, in fact, leaned more towards the social commentary that ‘important’ soul artists were embracing at the time.

Millie has always said she didn’t want to be a crossover artist, but she didn’t want to stay in an R&B lane sonically, either. Millie always wanted to explore rock and country. “Rock and roll is my spirit, really, but nobody cares,” she shared in a conversation about her lesser-known music. “Tina Turner came through and (everyone) forgot about that.” We’ll get to Millie and Tina in a minute.

Because of her willingness to explore a wide range of music, Jackson’s cover song game rivals that of Luther Vandross. Starting with Luther Ingram’s “If Loving You is Wrong, I Don’t Wanna Be Right,” Millie has put her stamp on hits from Prince, Toto, The Stylistics, even country artist Merle Haggerd. Jackson released her version of his hit “If We’re Not Back in Love on Monday” less than a year after its release, changing the title to “If You’re Not Back in Love by Monday,” and switching up the song from a story about a husband wanting to work it out with his wife, to a mistress encouraging a husband and his wife to try and reconcile.

10. She Intentionally Didn’t Seek Crossover Success

One of the reasons Millie is damn near an obscure artist given her long career and tremendous output is her is because she stayed in a blues and R&B pocket – on purpose. “I was never looking to become that crossover pop star,” she once explained. “Let white folks cross over to me.”

Critics searched for explanations over the years why such a talented singer with Muscle Shoals production wasn’t reaching the pop stardom soul singers like Gladys, Aretha and Tina had achieved, and they usually blamed her language and lyrical content. In 1977, the New York Times opined “…with just a bit more attention to hooks, she could have consistent hits. That wouldn’t constitute selling out, if she’s worried about that, and it would help convey the underlying seriousness of her art to a broader public.”

But Millie was happy to fly under the radar. It gave her more freedom. “When you had all the problems with profanity in the music, nobody mentioned me. The senator’s wife never knew I existed. So I didn’t have to go to Congress.” Jackson was talking about the 1985 congressional hearings spurred by the Parental Music Resource Center, an organization founded by Tipper Gore after she purchased Purple Rain for her daughter, and “Darling Nikki” made her clutch her pearls. Most remember the hearings for the eventual result of Parental Advisory warnings on albums just as rap was emerging, but pop artists were the initial target. Prince, Madonna, Frank Zappa, even the Mary Jane Girls were in the roundup. But not Jackson. “Nobody mentioned my name. Nobody knew I was doing it. I didn’t have to deal with any of that.”

She did enjoy some pop success with Caught Up, but her biggest potential moment for a breakthrough was a 1985 duet with Elton John. Pop/soul duets were in fashion, but though the single was a moderate success in the UK, it never broke in the US.

11. She Has (Possibly One-Sided) Beef with Tina Turner

The two contemporaries Jackson has most been compared to vocally are Gladys and Tina – for example, Elton John approached Jackson for “Act of War” after Tina declined. Millie adores Gladys and counts the fellow Georgian among her favorite vocalists, but there’s something about Tina that just doesn't sit right with her. It’s unclear what the source of her dislike is, but I suspect it’s centered around Tina entering and dominating the rock/soul space as a solo artist just as Millie was plotting a move in that direction.

Jackson did finally record her rock-inspired album, titled Rock n’ Soul, in 1994. She told her audience at a Howard Theater show in 2012 she made the LP because “I wanted Tina Turner to know she wasn't the only black bitch to sing rock’n’roll.”

But then, according to Millie, Tina jacked her single. “I recorded (John Waithe’s) ‘Missing You,’ and I was all excited about it, it was gonna be my next single. And the guys at Muscle Shoals said, ‘Boy you got the song out quick! I heard it at a truck stop.” And I’m trying to figure out how in the world did they hear my song when it won’t be out for two week. And of course, it was Tina Turner, and we had to pull the single and come back with a different one.”

That was in the ‘90s, but Millie was throwing subs at Tina in the ‘80s. Jackson’s 1988 album The Tide is Turning included a song called “You Knocked the Love (Right Outta My Heart).” Listeners will easily hear the Ike and Tina influence in the song, but the track, a song about a passionate love turning into domestic violence, was a shot. “I did that one messin’ with Tina,” Jackson admitted in 2010. “It was about Ike and Tina, and the proceeds for that are supposed to go to battered women. But I didn’t call any names.”

After Millie stopped recording in 2001, she didn’t retire. She spent 13 years hosting a drive time radio show, continued to tour (when she felt like it), and wrote and produced a stage play based on her album Young Man, Older Woman which toured successfully for four years.

Now she’s posted up at home in Atlanta, and a few years ago she was working on a reality show concept for her family (please, contents gods, let this happen while she still has the capacity to do it).

But Millie should be out here at these awards shows and tributes with her contemporaries. She should still be mixing it up with younger artists who emulate her energy without even realizing it (she loves Rihanna, by the way). Auntie Millie is deserving of far more recognition and praise than she’s received. Not just for her outrageous and explicit music and performances, but as a complete artist: as a writer, a producer, a businesswoman, a creative, a pioneer. Alladat. Just because she didn’t go the route of No. 1 hits and stadium tours doesn’t make her any less accomplished. Respect Millie Jackson’s gangster.


#MusicSermon is a weekly series by Naima Cochrane that highlights the under-acknowledged and under-appreciated urban artists and sub-genres from the '90s and earlier. The series seeks to tell unknown and/or forgotten stories that connect the dots between current music, culture and the foundations of the past.

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Opinion: The College Cheating Scandal Proves Mediocrity Is The Dominant White Gene

There are two ways one can look at the recent college cheating scandal: You can choose to view it with a water is wet kind of amazement. The cutthroat world of Ivy League acceptance has been fraught with bribery and legacy admissions for years, so actresses Felicity Huffman, Full House’s Lori Loughlin, and 48 other business leaders cutting checks so their child can cut in line isn’t surprising. It’s the American way. (Depending on the complexion of the American, of course.)

Or you can view it for what it is: well-to-do white parents knowing their child isn’t good or smart enough to gain admission into the country’s top schools on their own, so they foot the bill. That’s correct, your mediocrity can’t cut it in the real world unless you sandwich it with your parent's money and your unearned whiteness.

Tuesday morning (March 12), breaking news revealed Huffman, Loughlin, and others paid up to $6.5 million in bribes to secure placement at Yale, University of Southern California (USC), Stanford and other top schools.

Orchestrated by William Rick Singer, the former head of college admission prep company The Key, parents would make handsome donations and Singer would ensure their child’s academic future in one of two ways: After payment was made to a secret account, Singer would either phone a Division 1 coach to secure an athletic credential despite the child not playing the sport.

Loughlin and her fashion designer husband Mossimo Giannulli allegedly agreed to pay $500,000 for their two daughters to be recruits for USC’s crew team. To bolster the “admission” photos of the couple’s children on a rowing machine were sent.

Haters will say it’s photoshop...well, because, it was.

Or parents would pay between $15,000 to $75,000 for Singer to arrange certain exam proctors look the other way while 36-year-old Harvard Alum Mark Riddle aced the test. Riddle, who’s described by law enforcement as “just a really smart guy” faces several charges including conspiracy to commit mail fraud.

Several coaches at elite schools, two SAT/ACT and college administrators, and an exam proctor all face federal fraud charges.

But yes, let’s talk about how Affirmative Action is the real culprit.

Education has long been a battleground in this country with white people (remember the Abigal Fisher case?) yielding the best the world has to offer, while slaves had to teach themselves to read by candlelight. Then activists and parents lose life and limb just so their child can be in the classroom with white peers during the civil rights movement.

Fast forward a few decades, minority students met with microaggressions by their white counterparts have long had to deny the belief they only merited a spot at a top tier academic institution via an athletic scholarship. Meanwhile, one student’s parents reportedly made a $1.2 million payment to get into Yale, and magically their child is a soccer star despite never kicking a ball.

America is in love with poverty, struggle, and strife. It appropriates our rhythm and fetishizes our blues. The land of the free and home of the brave has built dilapidated communities for its black and brown citizens and loves to tout success stories as proof “hard work” and “dedication” means you too can achieve the American dream. That all it really takes to gain acceptance into an Ivy League school is a “can-do” attitude and a little elbow grease.

Actually, it has nothing to do with elbow grease or a tenacious attitude. It has everything to do with students not being good enough and mommy and daddy making it all better with their money, fame, access, and influence.

Aunt Becky’s kid can’t compete with 17-year-old Mekhi Johnson from Baltimore who earned acceptance into all eight Ivy League schools. Felicity Huffman’s offspring can’t go bar for bar with Michael Brown from Houston’s Third Ward who worked tirelessly to get into Stanford and not only got into the university but 19 others, including Harvard, Yale, Vanderbilt, and Johns Hopkins.

Yes, boys and girls, unlike Brown’s namesake our children are deserving of the best and not just being shot down in the middle of a Ferguson street.

The brilliance is in the black and browness and your kids just don’t have it, but what you do have is power and you wield it sans grace. In 2011, Kelley Williams-Bolar was sentenced to 10 days in jail and three years probation for sending her children to a better school district in Ohio.

And if we’re not jailed for wanting better, we’re scrutinized for doing better. So while it’s ordinary for a white student to score high on a standardized test, Florida high school student Kamillah Campbell gets flagged for her 330 points SAT increase despite hiring a tutor and studying the Princeton Review Prep book seven months after initially taking the test.

Your privilege is putrid. Your hypocrisy makes my stomach turn. Your inability, as scripture notes, to see the plank in your own eye, has left you blind to your vile ways. How dare your child be so mediocre and you still deem it fit they deserve excellence?

The investigation is still open and law enforcement officials haven’t found evidence that support’s the idea one parent’s bribe may have bumped another student out of admissions. It’s also unclear if the students will have any legal actions taken against them.

I suspect the money that got the parents into this mess will be the money that will get them out of it. The rich stay rich the poor continue to struggle and the world goes round, right?


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Anderson .Paak Talks #LoveThyBar And Upcoming 'Ventura' Album

Anderson .Paak may be headlining gigs at major venues around the world, but he’s never lost the essence of an intimate show. For anyone who’s ever attended a .Paak concert, you know the entertainer provides his fans with an inclusive and warm experience filled with call-and-response segments and even an instrumental solo. His inviting presentation, whether it’s onstage at Madison Square Garden or a tent show at Coachella, is most likely why he was tapped for #LoveThyBar, a new partnership with Jameson.

#LoveThyBar seeks to preserve and celebrate the local bar scene. As a part of the campaign, .Paak shot a 30-second PSA in his hometown of Oxnard, California, making a case for why people should support bars, especially those that celebrate emerging artists, good conversation, and, of course, thirst-quenching drinks. In celebration of the neighborhood cornerstones, Jameson has pledged up to $1 million for consumers to try the brand’s beverages. While touring in Europe for his latest album, Oxnard, Anderson spoke to VIBE about his stint performing in bars, asserting that he never forgot about those early days.

Growing up, he and his crew would play multiple gigs a night, sometimes getting paid in food. But what he gained from those early days was even more valuable. “It was a hard thing to do to get in music,” he admits. “I learned how to rock a crowd and getting out there and socializing and rock with people, and that was it. We played hours and hours and hours. Now, when I’m with my fans you can tell that intuition and we have a natural reflex that people think they can pay for but they really can’t. Those bars helped us develop those reflexes and intuition and help get our foundation together.”

It isn’t hard to see that .Paak’s energy is contagious. Fan videos show a unique electricity that would be impossible to fake. And it will likely multiply as his tour continues; his European trek coincides with the Apr. 12 release of his Ventura album — a follow-up to 2018’s Oxnard and what .Paak compares to the final stretch of a long journey. “It’s like one album (Oxnard) you could listen to if you’re going to the city, and the other one (Ventura) you can listen to on your way back,” he explains.

Ventura, he says, will also pay homage to the greats—Outkast and Notorious B.I.G. to be specific. “It’s one of those crazy things where you need some chill stuff, something that’s soothing but also still got that bop to it,” he continues. “[Oxnard and Ventura] are both very ambitious albums… I love being able to put them in different contexts. I was able to do that with this album probably the most and at the same time, kind of an ode to Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (OutKast, 2003) and albums that really molded me, Life After Death (Notorious B.I.G, 1997) and the era I come up in. Just having such a creative spurt. I don’t know when it will happen again, but I feel like I got that off on this one.”

.Paak notes that he worked with nothing but “icons” on the forthcoming album, including Dr. Dre who he says gave him ample space to have fun and put his soul into it. There’s a little more time on the clock until his album drops, but the #LoveThyBar partnership will continue all month long. Until March 31, Jameson will offer a rebate on its drink in select U.S. states. To claim the rebate, consumers can order a Jameson cocktail at their local bar and submit an image of their receipt or visit for more information.


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thanks u Andy for this amazing time🏖. Keep sharing ur talent and people will finally consider u as the best one! #drummer #zenith #andersonpaak #hiphop #show #paris #lavilette @anderson._paak

A post shared by Blaise Aly-beril (@krumpyblaise) on Mar 14, 2019 at 2:06am PDT

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