Jessica Xie

Views From The Studio: Meet Producer & Songwriter Nana Kwabena

The Ghanaian producer, who’s worked with the likes of Janelle Monae and Jidenna, opens up about making the perfect groove.

Just a few days before his earth strong in March, I join producer Nana Kwabena with a few of his friends at Negril, a Caribbean eatery in New York’s West Village. After wrapping up our interview a few hours earlier, we find ourselves discussing the origins of Afrobeats -- the sound that has taken over music in recent years, thanks to artists like Drake, Wizkid and close friend and collaborator, Jidenna. As we chat, he explains how Afrobeats has a connection to Hiplife, a Ghanaian style that blends hip-hop and Ghanaian culture. But this is not the first lesson I would learn from the intriguing thinker.

Like a true leader, Nana leads most of the conversation we have as a group, a trait that pulsates through his veins with pride, thanks to his late grandfather, Chief Nana Atta Agyeman IV, who was killed during his reign in Sefwi Bekwai, Ghana. But like all origin stories, it’s best to start with the present.

Born Nana Kwabena Tuffour, the 31-year-old has racked up a number of producer credits for his work with John Legend and Janelle Monae, but his most known tunes derive from fellow Wondaland labelmate, Jidenna. The Brooklyn transplant co-produced the dynamic 2015 jam “Classic Man,” which elevated the artist into the mainstream and earned them their first Grammy nomination. He also helped create “Long Live The Chief,” which found further acclaim when it was featured on the Netflix-Marvel series, Luke Cage.

In February, Jidenna released his debut album, The Chief, filled with references to his Nigerian roots paired with political and social themes that might’ve been lost in translation by critics. The album jumps to different genres and themes like owning the party on "The Let Out" featuring Nana, falling deeper in love with "Bambi" and dismissing the opposition with "Long Live The Chief."

During our chat, Nana explains he’s not bothered by the mixed reviews The Chief received because the project resonated with those who propelled Jidenna into the mainstream. Opening the same week as Future’s "surprise" album, The Chief debuted at the later chain of the Billboard Top 40, with over 14,000 equivalent album units sold. Despite the numbers, fan commentary ringed louder than actual album sales.

“The amazing thing about hearing the general public's opinion is that while you can tell that the reviewer was just trying to connect it to the thing that they're most familiar with, the comments section [say otherwise],” he explains. “That, to me, is telling. Even your own readership disagrees with you. What does that say? Now, having said that, I do think that even in today's day and age, we live in such a popcorn culture where everything is immediate. Back in the day, when they would have great albums like Black On Both Sides or Illmatic, reviewers got to live with [them] for weeks before [a review] ever came out. And today, people drop albums out the blue, out the sky, without you knowing. Beyonce will do that. Future will do that. One day someone's going to figure out how you can drink water and you just got Future's new album and you didn't know it. But the beauty is that it did resonate with the people that we want to talk to, and it's great. In a lot of ways, it's like morse code. There's these situations where that's the little wink to all these guys across the room and then there's the others that aren't supposed to see it. Then you guys are like,‘we got each other.’”

The family vibe Nana describes is also one he shares with the rest of his Wondaland family. To understand his view from the studio, you have to respect the vision around it. Founded by Janelle Monae, the label serves as a hub for artists Roman GianArthur, Alex Belle and Isis Valentino of St. Beauty, Jidenna, Nate Wonder and Chuck Lightning of Deep Cotton and Monae herself. In an interview with Billboard in 2015, Monae explained her vision for the “revamped” label. “The label-as-family vibe is no accident,” she said. "We looked at what Puff and Jay Z have done, Jack White and Prince as well. But I'm also really inspired by strong women in business, like Mellody Hobson and Queen Latifah."

While sitting at VIBE’s NY headquarters in an all-black get up paired with a black Fila cap, Nana describes his first creative process with Wondaland as a musical and spiritual retreat. “The focus wasn't on music,” he shared. “The first two-three weeks we were down there, we weren't really working on records, it was all about really just taking the time to find the synergy between all of these spirits. So, from Roman to St. Beauty to Janelle, herself to Jidenna, to Deep Cotton to Nate and Chuck. When you can actually find that venn diagram between all those people, when you go to make music, it just allows for you to create something that doesn't sound like you're trying. It literally just feels homegrown and organic, essentially.”

With his mind, talent and spirit leading the way, Nana opens up on finding inspiration through his Ghanaian culture, working with Jidenna on The Chief and plans to transcend his creative ear.

VIBE: How does your personal story fit into the synergy you and Jidenna have?

Nana Kwabena: Where do I even begin? You want to go into the origin story right now?

I'll start with my grandfather. He was the person that I was named after. My grandfather was a chief in Ghana, in the western region. His story was that before he became the chief of the village, he was actually a pharmacist, so people would come to him and get herbs and medicine from him–kind of the medicine man, if you will. But over time, he became the chief of his village. A chief being no different than a mayor over a district, essentially. It's like an Italian godfather kind of thing. He was a very, very principled man. He was someone that had a vision for his tribe that expanded very, very far. There's this thing called the "Great Law of Peace" in order to become an Iroquois chief. You have to possess the ability to see seven generations—seven.

There was a certain faction of his elders that were against him because they're realized they couldn't control them for their own agenda. They would make all of these allegations to have him removed. We have thrones in Ghana, we call them stools. So they would have all these allegations to try to have him go to court and have him removed from the stool. The first one they made up was allegations of him going to people's houses and taking soup off the stove to throw it on the ground, which is totally what people do, right? It went to court, was delayed for awhile, but temporarily for as long as it was in court, it had him off the stool essentially.

After the allegations were dropped, he goes back to the stool. Second time, they do another thing—make up some false allegations—same thing. He goes through this process again. The third time, he refuses to remove himself from the stool. He's like, 'I've let you guys do this enough. Naw, I'm staying by this stool. This is false. You guys are not going to be able to control me.' So he was very, very resilient and stuck with his mission's focus and the legend is that my father said there was a moment where he threw something to the ground. I don't know if it was a staff, I don't know if it was powder, I don't know what it was. But apparently, there was some moment where he threw something to the ground and a herd of bulls stampeded the meeting place. This is what legend has, this is what he [my father] was told when he was young. So, I remember hearing that story and being like, 'Wow, that was incredible.' But then fast forward, what wound up happening is that faction of elders organized a militia to assassinate my grandfather. They killed him in his palace.

I remember coming back from New York for the first time actually and having that story. We were catching up and reconnecting because we had known one another for some time. This is at a time where he had just lost his father. He was also a chief in Nigeria and he was named after his father. Then here I am with my story about my grandfather being a chief and me being named after him, and I remember connecting with him on that level.

When I found out about that bull story, I came back and told him. Then he shared with me the story that wound up becoming the intro to the album.


That’s incredible.
He's a tremendous person, a great spirit, and a great visionary. We come from families where you couldn't be an artist. You had to be a doctor or lawyer. You had to be someone that it'd look like, at least on paper, that you were the American dream. So if you wanted to be a musician, it's like, 'Why don't you just stay back in Africa and just play drums?'

Jidenna has aligned himself with social issues like police brutality and black pride. How does this affect the music you guys make?
We come from a line of studying people like Bob Marley, Fela Kuti and even MJ. These people were masters of their craft, masters of their sound, masters of their genre. But I think, in particular, they knew the way in which you could actually penetrate someone's mind and introduce them to new ideas, but you have to get them to move first.

Lately, I've been calling it yoga. Music is just yoga to me right now. If I can just get your body to just stretch and move and open itself up, then your spirit becomes open, too. So for us, we love the era, particularly in dancehall music or reggae music or roots music. Often times it'll be music you can dance to, but if you actually read the lyrics, and actually listened to what the f**k they're talking about, they're talking some revolutionary sh**.

Why do we divorce the two? Why is it such that you have to go to one place to get this or that, why can't it be that we can get both at the same exact time? So, for us, our mentality is in all this trap dancing stuff, that's cool. With afrobeats kind of coming into the mainstream, I feel like its people are slowly like, ‘Oooh, this is a little different.’ My goal is to get to the hips. Fela knew how to get it to the hips. For me, as a producer, I'm like, ‘Cool, we gotta just shift this whole thing because if I can get people's bodies to move like that, we can say whatever we want.’ Even thinking of the song “Some Kind Of Way,” if you strip through all of the lyrics and just have the melody, what remains is the beat.

It sounds just like a pop-medium record, but on that same record we're talking about, “No matter who you are, no matter what you do, no matter what religion you are, no matter what God you pray to, someone's going to feel some kind of way about you.” Why live through that lens of trying to get people to actually take you and accept you instead of just being who you are? It's just that kind of juxtaposition that makes the music magical. We just like to call it party and ponder music.

I loved the tribal aspect of the project. When I listen to the album, it feels so communal.
Yes, definitely! A lot of the records are created that way. It was similar to Eephus, so when Janelle had us come down to Atlanta, we were staying at Wondaland. And Wondaland is a wonderful place—grass carpets on the floor, grass walls, and vineyard kind of things, and they'll have wine glasses on the wall. We were sleeping in teepees on the grass. It was amazing. We did yoga everyday, we were cooking for each other. The focus wasn't on music. The first two-three weeks we were down there, we weren't really working on records, it was all about really just taking the time to find the synergy between all of these spirits.

It’s crazy because, in today's day and age, it's so common for people to be distant from each other, or create music where someone makes a beat and the producer sends it to the artist. To me, sometimes you'll hit some stuff. Most times, it's uninspired. You can tell when something has… you can tell when you listen to a Michael Jackson record, right? You would hear him, Quincy Jones and Rod Temperton. In their relationship, all the different dynamics of what they were dealing with, you could feel a spirit and an energy in the music that was unlike no other. For us, we just kind of operate the same way.

What else is the Wondaland family working on right now?
There's always secret projects. This is going to be the year of Wondaland. There's a lot of amazing music coming out of Wonderland right now, it's going to shift some things. So, I'm really, really excited about Rome, to John Arthur to St-Beauty to Janelle, herself.

Outside of that, I'm also working on my own project. Kind of a DJ-producer album. Just working with people that I've met along the way that I've really enjoyed their music. Outside of that, we're working on a short film. Going back to narration and story telling and what not. I've always been someone who loved the idea of using music to tell stories that haven't been heard before. There's this story that I co-wrote with some friends of mine, actually, here in NY and it's been around for about three years. We literally did our last shoot day on Sunday, so it's going into edit. I'm going to be doing the score for it. It's just another way for me to be able to tell different stories.

Is there anything else you want the readers to know about you?
Umm, man. Where am I at in life right now? Let me zoom out. 2017.

2017. It is the year for creative expression.
Definitely. You can't even be the same kind of creative in a Trump world. I think that in a lot of ways, it's been great. Now the goal to me is a long term strategy. When I talk about resistance, when I talk about marching, it's just that one. I think that what I really love to do and work on is what we call the 100-year plan. How do we, beyond just telling these stories, really create something that shifts? Here's the beauty of it, art is always the spearhead though. It always has to be the first thing that galvanizes people. You look at revolutions throughout time, it's the thinkers, the writers, those people that world different than the world that they're seeing. They spark the minds that come. To me, art plays such an integral role and it's real.

I think for us, and what we're trying to build, when we talk about that bridge back to Africa, it starts in the music first. But it sure as hell doesn't end there. Over time, in this story, you'll get to see the next couple of chapters. But that's where my mind is thinking about in 2017. I'm thinking about 2027. I'm thinking about the next ten years after that.

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Courtesy of DubShot Records

Boomshots: The Unstoppable Rise Of Dre Island

"We rise to the top," Dre Island sings on "We Pray," his massive collab with Popcaan, "cause we know what it takes."

Building on that theme of musical and spiritual elevation, the multi-talented musician—singer, deejay, songwriter, producer, and pianist—has just released his debut album Now I Rise. The project features the aforementioned "We Pray" as well as crucial collaborations with the likes of Jesse Royal and Chronixx. "Ah mi family dem deh," says Dre Island, who has toured Europe backed by Chronixx's band Zincfence Redemption. A graduate of Kingston’s Calabar high school—alma mater of both Jr. Gong and Vybz Kartel—Andre Johnson aka Dre Island is a living link between the vaunted “roots revival” movement and the sound of the Jamaican streets.

“The revival is really within the people," he says. "Reggae music never stop. Reggae artists always been touring. So it’s just the people’s awareness.” During a time when reggae and dancehall stand at a crossroads, Dre Island has emerged as one of the few artists capable of bringing together dancehall vibes and the ancient roots traditions—not to mention outernational connections like "People" his collaboration with UK talents Cadenza and Jorja Smith. “An island is a small land mass surrounded by water,” the artist told Boomshots correspondent Reshma B in their first interview. “But if you read further it’s also a place where you go to find yourself.”

Released through a joint-venture partnership with New York-based DubShot Records and the artist's own Kingston Hills Entertainment imprint, Now I Rise is a 13-track set that includes the hit single “We Pray” featuring Popcaan, “My City,” as well as the recently released “Be Okay” feat Jesse Royal. Never-before-heard tracks include “Days of Stone” featuring Chronixx and “Run to Me” featuring Alandon as well as tracks produced by the likes of Jam2, Anju Blaxx, Teetimus, Winta James, Dretegs Music and Barkley Productions. The artist is now managed by Sharon Burke, founder of the Solid Agency in Kingston, Jamaica. Earlier this month, Dre Island premiered the official music video (directed by Fernando Hevetia) for the last song on the album, “Still Remain.”

“This album speaks of arising, growth, new beginnings and emerging from the ashes," Dre Island states. "At this time, these are all the things we need based on what is happening right now. The truth is, since 2015 I have been advertising that the album is coming. It has been five years and the time is right. As an artist and person Dre Island move different. I embrace Rasta and this way of life, but I am not part of any group like Boboshanti or Twelve Tribes. Everything I do is inspired by the father. I am moved to drop this album at this time because I am divinely inspired to do so. When you look at a song like “We Pray” I can take no credit for a song like that. Yes I wrote the lyrics and built the rhythm and I voice the track, but it's a prayer, not just a song so how a man fi tek credit for something that come from above.”

Dre Island and Boomshots have been linking up from early in his musical journey. During a recent trip to New York City, he sat down with Reshma B to speak about the new project and his unstoppable rise. Check the reasoning:

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Carlos Perez

Anuel AA Breaks Free

In 2015, an entourage of close to 30 men drew guns among one another during a traditional Christmas parranda in Puerto Rico. The scene turned into something straight out of a movie when a pair of gangsters clandestinely attempted to kidnap local rapper Anuel AA. After a brief scuffle and flagrant shouting match, however, the man born Emmanuel Gazmey Santiago went on to finish the evening’s holiday spree in the boisterous company of his loyal posse.

Months later, after ushering in the new year on a promising note by featuring on one of Latin trap’s first global hits – De La Ghetto’s sex anthem “La Ocasion” with Arcangel and Ozuna – someone delivered Anuel AA a divine premonition of sorts: “If you keep talking about this stuff in your songs, something really ugly is going to happen to you.”

A Puerto Rican music legend, Hector “El Father” of reggaeton-turned-son of God, paid Anuel a visit to share his foreboding message. “He and I did not know each other,” explained Anuel, who prides himself on waxing poetics about the real-life experiences Hector was concerned with, “but God spoke to him and Hector felt he needed to reach out to me. When he warned me, he said it with so much conviction that he even cried.”

Having forged a legacy of his own as one of the key trailblazing reggaeton entertainers of the ‘90s who later signed a deal with JAY-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records, Hector – now a devoted Christian – understood life imitated art when it came to Anuel’s lyrics.

“My lyrics talked a lot about God and the devil, so when he told me that,” Anuel continued, “I knew I needed to make some changes. Those themes, good versus evil, they were my mark and what separated me from the rest.”

On April 3, 2016, just two weeks after meeting with Hector, Anuel was arrested and held in Guaynabo’s correctional institution on charges of illegal gun possession. Following his biggest musical break yet, just as he was touching the cusp of international stardom, a court judge sentenced Anuel to 30 months in federal prison without bail.

Raised east of San Juan, in the Puerto Rican city of Carolina, Anuel AA has a lot in common with many of my favorite MCs: he’s charming, resolute, and lyrically gifted, yet marred by a criminal past, complicit misogyny and the constant struggle between right and wrong. “I had no choice but to carry those weapons with me, because of the issues I had on the street,” the rapper said to VIBE Viva over the phone, while quarantined in Miami. “I thought to myself I’d rather be locked up than found dead.”

Indeed, Anuel had evaded his probable demise when he was nearly abducted and landed right behind bars months later, fulfilling a prophecy that cost him both his freedom and a flourishing start at the tipping point of trap music en Español. “I was being forced to reckon with all the bad things I had done for money in the past,” Anuel expressed, regretfully. “I started reading the Bible for the first time and realized that my talent and blessings came from God, not anywhere else.”

Anuel had begun to take music seriously around the same time his father, José Gazmey, was laid off from his coveted A&R position at Sony Music. With his back against the wall, a scrappy Anuel left home at 15 and began to engage in felonious activity to help provide for his family and finance his music endeavors.

Like many rappers on the island, Anuel was influenced by popular culture and trends on the mainland, most discernibly by contemporary trap. Anuel understood the genre’s synonymy with street life and the drug enterprise and immediately took to Messiah El Artista, a Dominican-American rapper VIBE profiled for championing Spanish-language trap music all over New York.

“I figured if Latin trap was doing well in New York, it was for sure going to pop in Puerto Rico,” said Anuel, who had signed with the Latino division of Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group the year prior to his arrest. “I spent about a month in New York before I returned to Puerto Rico. Then I started to release all the songs I had, one by one, and they began to gain popularity.”

While artists like J. Balvin helped breathe new life into the reggaeton genre in Colombia, Anuel wanted to spearhead a movement in Puerto Rico with a sound all their own. “I recorded the ‘Esclava’ remix with Bryant Myers and it might not have taken off worldwide, but it became a huge trap song in Puerto Rico.”

Akin to the heydays of reggaeton, an Afro-Caribbean genre-fusing hip-hop and reggae that originated in Puerto Rico, trap music was considered lowbrow and was heavily criticized for its vulgarity, violence, and explicit lyrics. Puerto Rican critics and artists alike had very little faith in the music’s potential and therefore denounced it. “DJ Luian, who is like a brother to me, couldn’t understand why I wanted to put all my energy into music that none of our artists wanted to sing.”

“Reggaeton went dormant for years,” he continued. “It was necessary to make trap music, because it felt like reggaeton was stuck in another era.” A self-described student of the late and oft-controversial Tupac Shakur, Anuel thought reggaeton had reached its pinnacle and believed Latin trap would be its successor.

Songs like “Nunca Sapo,” where Anuel channels Rick Ross’ Teflon Don ethos and spits a grimy slow-tempo flow over a sinister 808-laden instrumental, helped put a face to Anuel’s little-known name in the US. On cuts like Farruko’s “Liberace,” Anuel speeds up his delivery for fun and plays on the “Versace” rhythm popularized by Migos, who all hail from Atlanta—the widely credited birthplace of trap music.

For Anuel, whose life mantra “real hasta la muerte” is now a famous hashtag, music aspirations had little to do with radio play. Anuel, 27, was largely concerned with dominating the digital space, especially while incarcerated. Despite his arrest, he continued to release music from behind prison walls while his team fed his massive following up-to-date content.

Hear This Music CEO, DJ Luian heeded what Anuel was trying to accomplish and began to work with Bad Bunny, the Latin Grammy-winning artist and star voice of the current Latin trap movement. “When I was locked up, Luian helped develop Bad Bunny and he basically became in charge of keeping trap alive while I was away,” said Anuel, who ironically came under fire recently and was accused of throwing shade at Bad Bunny for the video treatment of “Yo Perreo Sola,” in which the rapper-singer dresses in drag as a stance against toxic masculinity.

“I couldn’t believe something like this was going viral,” Anuel interrupted anxiously before I could expound on a question concerning their relationship. “It looked like it was something that was edited or put together to make my Instagram posts read that way. I immediately texted Bad Bunny about it and he was like, ‘Don’t worry, people are always going to be talking sh*t.’”

Anuel considers Bad Bunny a genius at what he does and maintains that despite not knowing each other very well, he and his fellow compatriot are friendly collaborators with a working rapport: “When he and I do a new song together, what will people say then?”

Today, the collective jury will reach a verdict upon listening to Anuel’s newly-released sophomore studio album Emmanuel, where fans will find a track titled “Hasta Que Dios Diga,” a sultry, mid-tempo reggaeton number. Fans can expect to hear a star-studded project riddled with guest features, including Tego Calderón, Daddy Yankee, Enrique Iglesias, J. Balvin, Ozuna, and Karol G, to name a few.

Discussing life during a global pandemic, Anuel spoke fondly of his partner-in-rhyme, Colombian singer-songwriter Karol G. “She’s the love of my life. She’s been there with me through the good and bad. People who really love you are the ones who stand firm by you when things are bleak. In my toughest moments, Karol was there. She’s shown me how to be a better man,” he gushed.

“Karol comes off as super feminine—which she is, but Karol also has a really tough masculine side,” Anuel laughed heartily on the other end of the line. “She rides motorcycles and likes taking them up these crazy hills. She rides jet skis too! She’s like a dude, haha. We work well together and we give each other advice all the time.”

The pair are making the most of quarantine life in South Florida, releasing a self-directed and self-shot music video for their joint single “Follow,” a reference to flirting over social media in the era of social-distancing, the idea that shooting one’s proverbial shot can lead to a budding romance.

On July 17, 2018, Anuel dropped his debut studio album, Real Hasta La Muerte, hours before he was released from jail. By September, the RIAA certified his introduction to the game platinum, garnering the attention of Roc Nation artist Meek Mill. When the Philly wordsmith released his fourth studio LP in November of the same year, followers were geeked to learn Anuel had earned himself a place on Meek’s highly anticipated Championships album with “Uptown Vibes.”

I always wanted you and anuel aa to make a track together bc i feel like he’s the meek mill of spanish trap , how was it working with him ?

— Nagga (@naggareports) December 17, 2018

“Recording with Meek Mill for me was like when Allen Iverson played with Michael Jordan for the first time,” Anuel said, singing praises about their first-ever partnership. “I’m a huge fan of Meek; when his music took off I was still in the streets, so I related and identified with a lot of the things he was saying.”

“Meek doesn’t understand a lick of Spanish,” he mused in jest, “but he’s always with a bunch of Latinos. When I speak to him he says, ‘I don’t know what you’re saying, but my Spanish [speaking] ni**as tell me you be talking that sh*t!’”

Anuel leveraged his knack for storytelling and released “3 de Abril” earlier this year, an emotional freestyle about the day he was arrested and a graphic snapshot of his trials and tribulations.

“I did things without caring about the consequences. I thought I was a man because I was street smart. Now I know what it’s like to lose everything, so I wanted to talk more about my life and the experiences of me and my family,” Anuel described the inspiration behind the song.

Following the release of “3 de Abril,” Anuel again turned hip-hop heads when he and Lil Pump shared a fiery audiovisual for their collaborative effort “Illuminati,” stamping Pump's first new song since summer 2019. This year, Anuel also has songs with Colombian pop empress Shakira (“Me Gusta”) and with the late Juice WRLD (“No Me Ames”).

Albeit Anuel and Juice WRLD never got to meet in person, Anuel learned about the Chicago rapper from listening to his singles on the radio in jail. “The same year I won Billboard Latin’s Artist of The Year award, Juice WRLD won New Artist at the American Billboard Awards. We ended up recording the song after that but held off on releasing it for a bit because he and I had respective singles coming out at the same time,” Anuel explained.

“By the time we were finally ready to premiere it, Juice WRLD had passed away. We were never able to record together in person, but at least we got to feature him on the video. I know the tribute gave his fans and family some needed strength.”

Less than 30 minutes have gone by and already I am forced to wrap my conversation with Boricua’s burgeoning superstar:

Anuel, explain “real hasta la muerte” for me. Why exactly is this mantra of yours so important? 

“I can’t betray anyone. I don’t know what it’s like to really betray someone. I’m very loyal to my circle, my family, and those I hold close to me. Being real is what keeps me humble. It doesn’t matter how much money I make or how much I accomplish. What’s critical is staying real to myself and keeping my feet on the ground. That’s what helps keep me going.”

This interview was translated from Spanish to English and has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Exclusive: BBD's Mike Bivins And Ricky Bell Speak On Funk Fest 'Garage Concert Series' And George Floyd's Murder

The early '90s wouldn't be the same without Bell Biv DeVoe's style of hip-hop, smoothed out on the R&B tip with a pop feel appeal to it. Even as a stark departure sound and style-wise from their New Edition group days, BBD  literally ushered in a new tint to the already hot sounds of Teddy Riley's "New Jack Swing" of the mid to late '80s. Their universal party anthem single, "Poison," cures any wack wallflower growing jam and will forever be the barbeque favorite of your aunt and uncle to sprain an ankle to while dancing.

So today, May 28th at 9 pm EST on, it's only right that the crew known as BBD brings that same energy to the comfort of our homes, with "The Garage Concert Series" during these quarantine times via a streaming deal with the 19-year-old urban music festival, Funk Fest. The series is billed as a jam session that comes to you with the flavor of a bare-bones home garage performance that gets to the organic feel of the music. Joining BBD in this landmark event will be recent Verzuz social media battle stars, Jagged Edge.

Tonight's festivities will be in honor of aiding those in need through the newly created charity by the trio named BBD Cares. This community initiative focuses on the seniors of Laurel Ridge Rehabilitation Care Center in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. Proceeds from the moderately priced pay-per-view performance will go to those impacted by the grip of Covid-19. "We’re proud to launch the Garage Concert Series and our BBD Cares effort to raise money and awareness during a time when our communities, our culture, and our society need healing," said Ricky Bell.

Both Mike Bivins and Bell spoke to R&B Spotlight founder, Cory Taylor for VIBE on ZOOM to detail the idea and plans for the Funk Fest and Garage Concert series, as well as expound on the turbulent times we are currently experiencing in society. While explaining how hard things are to bare, music being an outlet helps in healing and this digital event looks to continue to flourish in expanding that notion. “The Garage Concert Series, which we conceptualized and named after other culture-shifting brands like Amazon and Microsoft that started in their garage, is our contribution to the global community,” states Bivens.

Be sure to watch their interview with us and log on to at 9 pm EST for a blast to the past of good music for a great cause. Ronnie DeVoe sums it up best, “our goal is to continue to spread the love while raising money for those who are most in need.”

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