Shuggie Otis

Irony is a part of life. Though the music business may at times have nothing to do with "real" life, irony is a part of the biz. Just ask singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis. Shuggie Otis, for those not familiar with him through David Byrne's heroic disinterment of his 1974 album, Inspiration Information or through his authorship of the wonderful Strawberry Letter 23 - is the son of legendary R `n' B bandleader Johnny Otis. A musical prodigy he was playing with his father by the time he was 13 and from the word go displayed an uncanny mastery of the blues guitar. He wrote "Strawberry Letter 23," a gold single for the Brothers Johnson that went to number one R&B and number five pop in spring 1977. George Johnson was dating one of Otis' cousins who gave him a copy of Otis' 1971 Epic LP, Freedom Flight. Immediately, Johnson liked "Ice Cold Daydream" and "Strawberry Letter 23." The duo recommended it to their producer, Quincy Jones, and recorded a cover version that sticks pretty close to Otis' original version of "Strawberry Letter 23." By the time "Strawberry Letter 23" was a million-seller, Otis had been dropped from Epic three years earlier. The 24-year-old guitar virtuoso was sure he would get a new record deal. Ironically, the record executives would be impressed that he wrote a million-selling song, but they weren't interested in anything else he'd done. Disillusioned, Otis dropped out of the music business before returning to it in the late `80s, playing with his father, Johnny Otis' band. Later the axiom "good things come to those who wait" took effect. Spurred by sales and critical kudos of reissues of his 1974 Epic LP, Inspiration Information, from Sony Music Special Projects and David Byrne's Luaka Bop label, Otis performed "Strawberry Letter 23" on May 2001 appearances on Conan O'Brien and David Letterman. Though in recent years he has chosen to remain out of the spotlight, he continues to be revered through musical circles, as evidenced by his 2009 performance with Mos Def in LA. Feb 2013 sees the re-release of Inspiration Information via Sony distribution, complete as a double album package with a set of sought after unreleased masters. He will perform his first live dates outside America in over 20 years.

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People Get Ready

The Brooklyn-based People Get Ready is Steven Reker, Luke Fasano (ex-Yeasayer), James Rickman (ex-Lizzie Trulie, ex-Slow Gherkin), and Jen Goma (A Sunny Day in Glasgow). In 2006 Reker moved from Arizona to New York City, finding work as a dancer and guitarist on David Byrne's 2008-09 tour, as a composer in Yasuko Yokoshi's recent dance work, and as a choreographer for Miranda July's film The Future.2009 marked the debut of People Get Ready in a performance at The Kitchen's Dance and Process series designed to pay homage to both sides of Reker's creativity. The band's distinct brand of vivid electronic pop bursts with energy, propelled by swirling and swelling harmonies, hard-to-shake melodies and high-energy rhythms set to a vocal ebb and flow led by Reker but harmonized and intensified by the entire band.

Their self-titled debut album was recorded by emerging composer/performer/producer Jherek Bischoff in the summer of 2011 at Denniston Hill, a 100+ year old farm house in upstate New York. The farm house was transformed into an artists' retreat by a group of friends from the East Village who forged their bonds during the 1990s -- and the space was re-transformed by Bischoff who trucked two suitcases of gear to this remote location, recording them across three rooms of the house, including a ceramic-tiled bathroom with some lovely natural acoustic properties.

If there's one quality that makes People Get Ready distinct it's their unique ability to re-define what a band is, to blur boundaries, and to forge continuing creative bonds with the formidable list of artists whose paths they've crossed. i.e. One of Denniston Hill's founders, the painter Julie Mehretu, has provided cover art for their album; the band's music has found coveted slots on playlists curated by Byrne and July; and they've shared stages with the likes of Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr, TV on the Radio's Tunde Adebimpe, !!! and the who's who of Brooklyn artists selected for Aaron & Bryce Dessner's scene-defining Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival at BAM.

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The elusive artist Ofei released his debut track ‘London’ via his own site to industry fanfare. With rumours of a label fight over the release of his EP dropping later this year and sketchy virals of new tracks being leaked from his site at random, Ofei definitely makes for an unorthodox, captivating character.

Producing, arranging, composing and performing everything himself, initial comparisons can be made to the considered, rough jazzy production of Ninja Tune combined with a thoughtful, soulful R&B slant. Unwilling to venture more about himself, he’s made an exclusive mixtape for us to get to know. If the video to ‘London’ is anything to go by, he digs Sun Ra and is pretty vexed about the state of the economy – which makes for a pretty exciting combination in anyone’s books.

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Joshua Nelson

You may have never heard of “kosher gospel” music before, but the inspirational performances of Joshua Nelson, the creator of this style, will surely call out to your soul. Nelson has performed around the world, for Presidents, congregations, major music festivals—and for Oprah, who named him a “Next Big Thing.” Whatever the venue, Joshua Nelson, the Prince of Kosher Gospel, brings people—and cultures—together in joyous song.

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DJ Kool Herc

Considered by many to be the “first hip-hop D.J”. In the early stages of hip hop music, DJ Kool Herc brought his sound system to block parties in the Bronx and began playing the brief rhythmic sections of records which would become known as “breaks. Using the two-turntable set-up of the disco DJs, Kool Herc’s style led to the use of two copies of the same record to elongate the break. This breakbeat DJing, using hard funk, rock, and records with Latin percussion, formed the basis of hip hop music. DJ Kool Herc’s music along with his announcements to his dancers, called b-boys and b-girls, helped pave the way to what everyone now knows as rapping.

DJ Kool Herc @ Myspace »

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