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1440 Collective

Motel Connection: Song Backgrounds

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by

Summer of 2010 I was an active member of the 1440 Collective Studios. The 1440 Collective was named after it’s address which was, 1440 Gratiot Detroit MI 48207. It was also located where some of Detroit’s techno music history took place. Techno Alley is the alley way where the entrance for the 1440 Collective was. Techno alley is also the home to many of the parties, events, and techno music production of the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.

“GO” – Song blueprint with Khary WAE Frazier Vocals

“GO” – Uscita Mix featured on Motel Connection’s “Vivace” album visit to hear, buy, and experience the music

The way many American baby boomers view Detroit as the home of the Motown sound, European Generation X’ers view Detroit as the home of Techno music. The white and blue home located on Detroit’s West Grand BLVD (Motown) is to soul music, what Techno Alley is to electronic dance music.

Juan Atkins, Mike Banks, Derrick May, and Kevin Saunderson birthed techno music in Detroit, in the 1980’s. Many of the parties that founded the music took place in Techno Alley where the 1440 Collective was. Derrick May ran a studio down the street from the 1440 Collective. We met in 2009. Since our introduction he’s been supportive, and an inspiration. Derrick’s advice, and the serenity prayer, are my foundation for life. Here is the advice Derrick gave to me that encourages me daily:

“When we began making Techno music many people didn’t understand it so they didn’t like it. We loved it, and continued making it. Overtime our audience grew. It was a mix of college kids, street kids, and artists that felt the music was a culture of their own. We all felt we were on our own. As we grew older the college kids, street kids, and artists became movie producers, gallery owners (shout out to my friend and mentor Kevin Hansen of the Johonsen Charles Art Gallery), and international business people. As we all gained access to popular culture we carried our music with us.” Derrick May

Derrick May, Kevin Hansen, 1440 Collective
Derrick May, Kevin Hansen, 1440 Collective

That advice encourages me to create my music with love and integrity. When I find myself lost seeking attention, popularity, or money for my music I remember to stay grounded. If Derrick, Juan, Mike, and Kevin could create a music genre, I can create my own sound.

I met Derrick because Kevin Hansen told me he ran a recording studio down the street from the 1440 Collective. In 2007, 08, and 09 I was interested in networking with anybody I thought who had access to resources. So the summer of 2009 when I saw Derrick driving down Techno Alley I flagged him down, and introduced myself. Derrick walked into the 1440 Collective after our introduction and purchased my ‘Preaching to the Choir’ album. The next day he came back to the 1440 Collective, and gave me a review of my album. He liked some songs, and didn’t like others. Overall he was impressed with my skills as an emcee. He told me “with what you’re doing you need to get your music to Japan.” I told him I have no idea how to get a Japanese audience. He suggested using the internet, and building my network. We exchanged phone numbers, and he insisted I explore the world music market.

A year after our introduction Derrick May called me, and told me he had an opportunity. He introduced me to Motel Connection. “Wae, it’s an Italian Techno/ Rock band looking to work with a Detroit emcee. I’m suggesting you. I’m going to text you an email address, and you should make this happen,” Derrick May. After Derrick sent me this message I responded two months later. Derrick called me again to tell me I was bullshitting, and wasting time. I was musically depressed. It was many expectations I set for myself that were not reached. I found it difficult to move forward as an artist. After Derrick’s voice mail I emailed Gigi (manager) of Motel Connection.

Motel Connection is an Italian band made up of Samuel, DJ Pisti, and Pierfunk. All three are member of other Italian bands. All three are also based in Turin, Italy (interestingly enough Turin is the Italian Detroit. Turin is a city that came to prominence during the industrial age of the twentieth century now seeking a new identity). Motel Connection’s music is a mix of styles. This mix blends a sound of manipulated vocals, instruments, sound efx, and tempos to create a signature style. Motel Connection’s audience is a core following of underground Italy, Australia, and Great Britain that tirelessly stay abreast to their music. The rhythms and melodies found in Motel Connection’s sound is unlike most dance music.

“GO” – Song blueprint with Khary WAE Frazier Vocals

“GO” – Uscita Mix featured on Motel Connection’s “Vivace” album visit to hear, buy, and experience the music

After I emailed DJ Pisti of Motel Connection he sent me the music to two songs in a week’s time. When I originally heard the music it was a challenge to match it’s style with my own. In a month’s time I sent back both records. DJ Pisti loved the songs. Motel Connection agreed to use the songs on their next album. After touring, contracts, mixing and mastering Valentine’s Day 2013 the “Vivace” album was released. I’m featured on the songs ‘Go,’ and ‘Know.’ I love both. As an artist I found it exciting to hear how Motel Connection interpreted my recordings.

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Use to Be: Song Background

in Lyric Breakdown & Background by


In 2009 I was a business partner in the ‘1440 Collective Studios.’ The ‘1440 Collective Studios’ was a creative space located at 1440 Gratiot Detroit MI 48207 in Downtown Detroit. Conceptually the ‘1440’ could be compared to the maker space initiatives launched throughout Detroit today. The ‘1440’ mixed the creativity of public relations, music recording, music production, DJing, live band (music) rehearsals, and video production. It was innovative. The collective was founded by Nadir Omowale, Habiba Adams, Eric Campbell, DJ Major, DJ Man Power, and myself, in 2008. By 2009, Joey Spina and Davey G partnered. A host of artists, people, and tastemakers visited, supported, and conducted business at the ‘1440.’ In 2011 the ‘1440 Collective’ closed. Today it’s remembered for the parties, (musician) jam sessions, and music recordings.

the 1440 Collective, Joey Spina
the 1440 Collective, Joey Spina

In the Spring of 2009 ‘1440 Collective’ business partner, Joey Spina, purchased a Pro Tools recording module (Pro Tools is a music recording computer software and hardware brand). The day he bought the recording module he brought it to the ‘1440.’ Spina told me how excited he was about the purchase (I’ve always called Joey Spina ‘Spina’). I told him emphatically, “I’m going to be the first person to record on it!” We laughed about it. He agreed in one week we do a recording session.

Before that conversation with Spina, I had yet to record (music) in months. I spent the close of 2008, and start of 2009 performing, and promoting my first album ‘Preaching to the Choir.’ In that process I lost the drive to write, and record music. In a week of preparation I gathered my notebooks, and began writing.

Generally I write rap songs in three styles: premise, story, or slick. Premise is a style in which I brainstorm ideas to write the song. The brainstorming process is as important as the content.

In example: If I were to brainstorm the topic of Detroit Pistons, Isiah Thomas immediately comes to mind. Bringing more color to a reference, I would recall Terry Duerod. ‘In Detroit we on guard/ like the one that came town that kicked out Terry Duerod’ – example lyric unused. So for Piston fans (especially at my barbershop, Hawk’s off Schoolcraft and Southfield, what up Mike D!) it’s special. Isiah Thomas took Terry Duerod’s place on the Pistons. That fact makes the lyric clever. Duerod is one of the best U of D Titan basketball players ever. Mentioning him is symbolic to Detroit.

The story style engages the listener in a conversation as though we know one another. Finally the slick style is a culmination of lines that I wind together in rhyme schemes, patterns, consonant placement, and alliteration to give a rap character.

‘Use to Be,’ blends the style of premise and story. The recording session also featured two vocalists; Fee Graffiti, and Polka Dot. Fee Graffiti is a singer I knew for years. We met through her boyfriend Doug Greenwood who produced music for me. She graduated from MSU with a degree in communications. She was looking for vocal and studio experience. Polka Dot is a business partner to my friend Kaunn. We met upon Kaunn insisting that we should record together. When the opportunity opened up to record music, I called.

Fee Graffiti, Kaunn, Polka Dot
Fee Graffiti, Kaunn, Polka Dot

Recording was fun. Spina had the studio set up with three open microphones. The only headphones for the sessions were used by Joey Spina. I rapped short segments of songs. Spina played along finding chords to match. When we agreed upon matching chords, I’d arrange a hook with Fee Graffiti, or Polka Dot. In two hours we recorded seven songs. The most notable songs of the seven were ‘Teddy Bears Tied Up to Trees,” and “Use to Be.”

After the session was wrapped up we shared shots of Bourbon (Spina always drank Bourbon). Two weeks later Spina gave me the sessions. I placed the ‘Use to Be’ on my ‘Notes of an Artist and Activist I’ album.

The recording is very special to me. ‘Use to Be,’ has a blues feel and I LOVE BLUES. The characters, personal relationships, and essence of Keb Mo, John Lee Hooker, and a host of others capture my imagination. I’ve always felt the hip-hop experience is as interpersonal to me as Blues. I also appreciate the manner and style it changes dependent upon the mood of the artist. “I can’t stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain’t music, it’s close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music,” Billie Holiday. That’s one of my favorite quotes from one of the most powerful voices to be recorded. RIP Lady Day.

Song Performed by Khary WAE Frazier
Music Played, Composed, Arranged and Produced by Joey Spina
Lyrics by Khary WAE Frazier
Song featured on the Notes of an Artist/ Activist I Album 2008


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2009 Detroit Music Awards

in My Detroit Story by

I currently work for the Michigan Citizen Newspaper. When I began working for the Michigan Citizen in 2007, Detroit was different (no pun intended). While working at the Michigan Citizen I met Nadir Omowale. Nadir is a Detroiter by way of Tennessee. At the Citizen he developed web content. At night he made music. When we met he was preparing for a European Tour. I was interested in hearing what led a promoter to book him internationally. I found out fast. I was taken back by Nadir’s talent. His abilities in song arrangement, writing, and vocal presence are excellent. Naidr’s talents have earned him a host of awards, accolades, fans, and my support. So when he asked me if I was interested in attending the 2007 Detroit Music Awards, I hoped on the opportunity. The 2007 Detroit Music Awards was a great experience. I felt I discovered a cultural scene. For the first time, I met, and shared conversations with Funkilinium (Flint’s best party band), Malik Austin (production legend), Emily Rogers (best bass player I know), and Paul Miles ‘the Blues Man’.

Mayaeni & Nadir, Malik Austin, Nadir, Myself, Chef (of Funkilinium), Paul Miles
Mayaeni & Nadir, Malik Austin, Nadir, Myself, Chef (of Funkilinium), Paul Miles

I connected with Paul so much we agreed to trade shows. Paul performed at my album fundraiser at Malik Yakini’s Black Star Community Bookstore. I performed for Paul’s benefit show at Memphis Smoke (Memphis Smoke was a bar in Royal Oak MI that featured live music. From 2006 – 2011 it was one of the best stages to perform on in the area for sound quality and audience). I accepted Paul’s offer to perform at Memphis Smoke thinking it was small. I was wrong. Paul Miles is beloved throughout Metro Detroit. His music, jokes, and interpersonal demeanor have provided him a loyal following. Paul’s likeable. I took the stage at Memphis Smoke as the only rapper in a packed house for blues and rock. I didn’t know what to expect. During the intermission Paul introduced me to the band. This was the first time I met Joey Spina. Spina was attempting to prepare an arrangement for our set. I told them, “if I freestyle, that’s what we all do” (freestyle is an improvisational way of rapping, choosing the subject, words, and rhymes with little or no pretense). We KILLED THE STAGE. It was one of the best crowd responses I’ve ever gotten. We performed two songs, and encored one.

Me performing at Memphis Smoke, Joey Spina, 2009 Detroit Music Award logo
Me performing at Memphis Smoke, Joey Spina, 2009 Detroit Music Award logo

The next day Paul called to thank me. He also told me he submitted my name to be nominated for a Detroit Music Award in 2008. I didn’t care, because I didn’t think I’d win (Nadir explained the nomination process to me, and I gave up hope). Detroit Music Award nominations have a two tier selection process. All nominees are voted upon by the general public through ballot submissions online. I’m so internet lazy, I didn’t vote for myself. So in 2008, when I made the second tier of balloting I was surprised. Naturally, in 2009 I had full intentions on voting myself. Once again, I was so internet lazy, I didn’t vote for myself. Shockingly, enough people did. I won a nomination in 2009 for Outstanding Hip-hop Artist/ Group at the Detroit Music Awards. Joey Spina called to congratulate me. This was before I knew. I rushed to the Detroit Music Awards website and shouted over the phone “THAT’S WHAT IM TALKING BOUT’ BABY”. Spina started laughing hysterically. I believe my nomination was directly linked to the Paul Miles benefit show. In life I’m coming to find from moment to moment a transcending path, perspective, and presence is always available. During my performance at that Memphis Smoke show, it was. I was present in thought and action. I carried myself, the band, and the crowd. I was afforded another benefit as well. Many Detroit music tastemakers witnessed the performance. Ecstatic and proud of my nomination, I thought I needed the perfect date as my guest to the awards. I asked Lauren Stovall (I’m pictured above the article with Lauren at Union Street). She accepted. Lauren is the daughter of Tony Stovall. Tony is the co-owner of Hot Sam’s Clothing. Mr. Stovall has been a supporter of mine for years. He introduced me to Lauren in 2008. I couldn’t wait for the right opportunity to go out with her. The Detroit Music Awards was it. When we met she was a FAMU graduate looking to apply her business knowledge to Detroit fashion. Lauren’s realized her goals. Today she specializes in retro clothing, styling, personal shopping, and exotic looks. She’s often a guest on Detroit TV’s WDIV ‘Live in the D’ (it’s a Detroit version of Regis & Kelly). Arriving at the Awards was fun. As a nominee I was given more access to the Fillmore Theater. I’m sure Lauren was bored out her mind. I walked around back stage talking to artists. Stretch Money (and all of Hot Lava Records), Carolyn Striho, Emily Rogers, Liz Larin, Thornetta Davis and a host of others all greeted me with congratulations. Two years ago I only knew Nadir. That night I felt like the Fonz. I knew everybody at the awards. Lauren and I eventually went to the balcony to have a conversation. I knew people up there. Too bad I didn’t know enough people to actually win the award.

David Nefesh, Djallo Djakate, Myself, Tony WoJamm Womack, Bobby Murray, Karen Vesprini
Light Show Bob, David Nefesh, Djallo Djakate, Myself, Tony WoJamm Womack, Bobby Murray, Karen Vesprini (photos by Richard Blondy a great supporter of all Detroit Music)

After the award show I went to the after party I co-hosted at the 1440 Collective (the 1440 Collective was a multimedia studio run by Nadir, Spina, Davey G, and myself). That night Davey G’s friend Light Show Bob set up his rig in the 1440 Collective. Light Show Bob’s rig is a stage lighting set with colors, strobes, discos, and blinders all controlled on a keytair. Light Show Bob played notes that would trigger different lights to flash. His rig was powered by a trailer. I walked into the after party ready to rock. I stormed the stage at midnight. I was accompanied by David Nefesh, Djallo Djakate, Tony WoJamm Womack, and Light Show Bob. I called out vocalists and musicians to join the jam. Karen Visprini, Ken Murphy, Ras Kente, Nadir, and Emily Rogers all made their way to the stage. The 1440 was full of creativity. Music was the art we made. In retrospect I gathered confidence from my 2009 Detroit Music Award nomination. I struggle to believe in myself at times. Often I’ve given half effort to avoid a reality of failure. Therefore, being appreciated for something I enjoyed was encouraging. It was inspiring to know that an audience I thought would not like rap, embraced me. Since then I’ve challenged myself to be prepared to rap over any music genre, tempo, or style. Some of my biggest opportunities have come about through collaborative visions. FYI: I was also nominated for a Detroit Music Award in 2010 for Outstanding Hip-hop MC WAE Music A- 5-6

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