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October 2014

My Detroit Story: Kwanzaa

in My Detroit Story by

Kwanzaa is a celebration of African traditions and values. Dr Maulana Karenga introduced Kwanzaa to the world in 1966. The culmination of Dr. Karenga’s collective studies, travels, and understandings of African culture created Kwanzaa. Kwanzaa takes place during the last seven days of a closing the year while beginning the next (December 26 – January 1).

As a child my family celebrated the tradition by defining and conceptualizing the principles of Kwanzaa. Each day of Kwanzaa recognizes one of seven principles, which make up the Nguzo Saba. The seven principles are: Umoja for Unity; Kujichagulia for Self Determination; Ujima for Collective Work and Responsibility; Ujamaa for Cooperative Economics; Nia for Purpose; Kuumba for Creativity; and Imani for Faith. I believe Dr Karenga recognized these African traditions as most empowering for African American people during the 1960’s moving forward.

The beauty of Kwanzaa I’ve always found was that the principles are also strong values of character for all people.

In 2007 I began hosting Kwanzaa celebrations for Detroit. My original wish for the celebration was for it to become a reasoning to support Black restaurants and cultural entrepreneurs (clothing stores, art dealers, etc) for the seven days of the celebration. The first Kwanzaa event I hosted was at the Woodward restaurant in the Compuware building of Downtown Detroit. Owner William Cartwright welcomed the event. It was very well attended. It began a series of intergenerational events I’ve become synonymous with producing today.

Last year marked the fourth Kwanzaa celebration I co-produced with the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History. Museum coordinator and education advisor Yolanda Jack has worked with me to help honor the tradition overtime. Participants have included my cousin Reverend Mayowa Reynolds of Fellowship Chapel, my godmother the honorable JoAnn Watson, Elizabeth Whittaker of Nsoroma Institute, Claretha PEACE Bell, Detroit NAACP Executive Director Donnell White, Sterling Toles, Eddie Connor, and the late Brenda McGhee.

This year will mark my fifth year co-producing the celebration with the museum. One of my strongest supporters of Kwanzaa celebration, and mentor Judge Claudia Morcom passed away in the summer of 2014. In honor of her legacy I plan to recognize her for this year’s celebration. We met in 2007, and upon my invite, she attended my first Kwanzaa celebration. She also helped produce my 2009 Kwanzaa event with Yusef Shakur at the Renaissance Club.

Judge Morcom also hosted a series of Kwanzaa celebrations herself. Kwanzaa’s relationship to Detroit and Detroiter’s runs deep. Elder Paul Taylor and the Inner City Sub Center hosts one of the longest running Kwanzaa celebrations in the world. Today he collaborates with Marvis Coefield and Mama Sara at the Alkebulan Village. Also resident Detroiter and Aisha Shule/ WEB DuBios Prepartory founder Imani Humphery wrote the book “First Fruits” which is recognized by all as the most accurate text on the celebration, tradition, and foundation of Kwanzaa. Also another one of my mentors who passed away this year Chokwe Lumumba and the Malcolm X Grassroots Organization have celebrated Kwanzaa in Detroit since the 1970’s.

This year’s celebration at the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History will welcome a series of days full of activity, interaction, and engagement for all ages. The Shrine of the Black Madonna, Nsoroma Institute, and the Malcolm X Grassroots Association will all host Kwanzaa celebrations at the museum. I will co-produce my celebration for Kuumba on December 31 2014. If you and your family are interested I welcome you all to join me for this year’s Kwanzaa event.

Song Background: “It’s so Fresh” featuring Ashley Nicole

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

Most of my songs are about family, Detroit, friends, and hip-hop (I often opened shows sharing this). “It’s so Fresh” captures all of these dynamics, and more. I share names and experiences that have shaped my perspective of family, women, and cool.

I wrote “It’s so Fresh” in 2003. It was originally on my unreleased album “Mama’s Kid.” “Mama’s Kid” sampled exclusively Motown music. Upon advice from everyone I knew (especially my Entertainment Attorney Stephanie L Hammonds, Thank You!) I never released that album. Withstanding the time was the content. I’ve always enjoyed the lyrics from the album, particularly the lyrics used for “It’s so Fresh.” I feel the writing was remarkable. I always remembered the lyrics. I believe if I write a good song, I should have the ability to remember it verbatim. If I can forget a lyric, I should not use it.

Originally the song was titled ‘Baby Boy.’ It was recorded on my Roland 1880 Digital Recorder at the Track Cave Studios. The Track Cave Studios was the recording studio in my basement. The Track Cave welcomed a host of talent from Detroit. Recognizable hip-hop artists such as Off-Rip, Early Mac, Mike Posner, Supa Emcee, Danny Brown, Tone Tone, Finale, Kaunn, and a host of other acts all recorded in my basement. It inspired me to write, record, and produce more of my own music.

Ian & his brothers: Casey, Khalid, & Robb; Ian; Ashley ; Ashley & her son Ray
Ian & his brothers: Casey, Khalid, & Robb; Ian; Ashley ; Ashley & her son Ray

Working on my soon to be released “If Detroit were Heaven,” album with producer Ian Sherman, I wanted to include a song that had an offering of a past styling in which I wrote lyrics. Listening through Ian Sherman’s music I landed on the music to “It’s so Fresh.” I feel the texture of the synths and drums used capture an optimism that’s reminiscent me of the joy of my childhood. Matching this music to a story about my childhood is sonically balanced. Ian challenges me to create with a purpose. Therefore “It’s so Fresh” is one of the greatest pieces I feel I’ve made.

The chorus for “It’s so Fresh” was originally written for a song I was making with Lola Damone. We drafted a series of songs in the summer of 2012 (Lola, if you’re reading this we still need to do a 5 song project ASAP). One of the best ideas to come from these drafted songs was the idea of playing with old hip-hop sayings hence: fresh; dope; flyy; phat; and def. These adjectives are dated, but match my childhood in which the story I’m telling takes place (though I still use flyy … I’m a fan of Ron O’neil). That foundation matched up to create the chorus for “It’s so Fresh.”

Soon after writing the chorus I invited General Population band vocalist Ashley Nicole to sing the chorus. She delivered an amazing performance which is what you’re hearing. One of the best things about the performance was Ashley brought her son Ray to the session as well. I always feel children are the best ears for music. Ray loved “It’s so Fresh.”

WAE Music: “It’s So Fresh” featuring Ashley Nicole

in WAE Music by

It’s So Fresh featuring Ashley Nicole

Vocals Recorded at John Brown Jr. Studios by K. Frazier, Vocals performed by WAE and Ashley Nicole, Lyrics written by K. Frazier, Music Composed and Produced by Ian Sherman

It’s So it’s So it’s So Fresh
It’s Dope it’s Fly it’s Phat it’s Def
… Sounds So Marvelous
Your ears are mine just be my guest
It’s So it’s So it’s So Fresh
It’s Dope it’s Fly it’s Phat it’s Def
… Sounds So Marvelous
Your ears are mine just be my guest

Verse 1
Growing up I had it good from my father and my mother
My big sister Dara and I was little brother
Motherdear was always round’ she was my favorite grandmother
Though I still love my Granny she would watch us in the summer
That’s when family was my friends the only 1’s I talked too
Raised me up’, fed me up, bathed me down and fought too
Got too much attention wasn’t young I was the youngest
Out of nine grandkids .. got the most loving
From no job retired pay/ They could baby sit me
I sat around all day and heard the stories they say
From uncle who? Aunt what? and cousin huh?
Coming over making plates and talking Southern talk
I was the baby boy I was the pride and joy
I got spoiled with the love cause I ain’t need no toys
And that was way, way back in the day
When life was fun things were cool those were the best of my days

Verse 2
I got a family full of women/ Each and every 1 different
But they all fed me up full of hugs and kisses
From Aunt Shirley number 1 to Aunt Shirley number 2
To trough my Aunt Mattie Aunt Francis and my Aunt Ruth
… these was my true teachers how I learned life lessons
Cause without my Aunt Shirley wouldn’t have a street presence
And without Aunt Darla wouldn’t know of true blessings
And Aunt Mattie show me that some people stay stressing
While my fine Aunt Avis always kept it the freshest
From her hats down to her dresses always left an impression
And they taught me whole life cause I learned men too
How they chew you up and spit you out after they befriend you
How the lies of a man can truly start to get you
And learned women as I watched and that was real too
drama saw the crying saw heartache and pain
Learned to listen learned to watch learned to learn the game

Verse 3
Older Cousins was the coolest ever/ Swear no 1 could do it better
LL, Moe D, Kwame or Salt and Pepa
Could step to my cousins in they Prince’s purple pleather’s
And a name charmed necklace
And a Dobbs with the feathers
With a jheri curl juiced like I-hop breakfast
And some kangaroo kicks just to put it altogether
Cause you couldn’t tell me that my cousins wasn’t cold
Made me want to be a teen and just stay that old
And my cousin Leon had 1’s and 2’s
Saw him doing hip-hop and it was so cool
To me he wasn’t Leon but DJ R2
And that’s 1 big reason why I do what I do
Right through him me and hip-hop got introduced
So the more that I listened the more the love grew
Seeing scratching seeing mixing seeing flipping the faders
He made Gemini’s like Techniques swear he was the greatest

Family October 2014

in Coming Attractions by

Detroit is Different is such a success. Due to all your support it’s moved forward progressively. I’ve received calls, emails, and comments of appreciation. It’s been so much fun sharing my perspective of Detroit. This is a love I’m eager to develop.

This month’s theme is ‘Family.’ Also it’s my mother’s birthday month. She’s the ultimate Detroiter to me. Born and raised here, Central HS graduate, and committed Detroit advocate.

As a hip-hop artist most of my music is based around my family. I attribute most of my character, decision making, and thought process to my family. My love for hip-hop is directly connected to my cousin Lumumba Reynolds (audio/ video director of Fellowship Chapel in Detroit MI) start as a hip-hop DJ. This month I share some of what I’ve learned from them all along the way from my family.

MAY 2014 Detroit is Different ‘Family’

Detroit is Different content is released weekly on Tuesdays & Thursdays



THUR OCTOBER 9, 2014/ MY DETROIT STORY: Kwanzaa 2013





THUR OCTOBER 23, 2014/WHAT IF: State Fair continued

TUES OCTOBER 28, 2014/WAE MUSIC: “It’s So Fresh”


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