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Nadir Omowale

My Detroit Story: 2008 Tastefest

in My Detroit Story by

In 2008 the Detroit Tastefest featured five of my favorite performers. Nadir Omowale and his Distorted Soul Band, Khary Kimani Turner (brother in name and mentor in game), Ortheia Barnes (my Godmother), Monica Blaire (another Godchild of Mama Barnes), and Carolyn Striho were all headline performers. It was one of the first times in life I knew enough performers at a big event to get a backstage pass, without a backstage pass. All the performances were special. The most memorable was Carolyn Striho’s. It was the second time we performed together, and a day to remember.

Summer of 2008 was a three month party. My friends Brandon Jessup, Kasey Sherman, Mike Willingham, and Dawon Wooden stayed out and about throughout Detroit. Kasey’s from Detroit, and has spent his adult life in Washington DC. In 2008 he managed a hotel. That Summer he spent in Detroit. Though I was home in Detroit, Kasey was on vacation, and sought out no dull moment. When I mentioned I was performing at the Tastefest, Kasey jumped at the opportunity to finally see me perform live. Kasey invited his younger brother Ian Sherman, and our mutual best friend Loren Braxton. Ian is the co-executive producer of my soon to be released “If Detroit were Heaven” album. Ian also is the best producer I work with. We challenge one another to create better music. In 2008 at the Tastefest we met for the first time.

Carolyn Striho, Ian & Kasey Sherman, Lo Braxton
Carolyn Striho, Ian & Kasey Sherman, Lo Braxton

I always enjoyed the feel of the Detroit Tastefest. It was my favorite Detroit festival. It was held in the New Center Area. New Center is relatively close to my home, and down the street from Northwestern HS where I graduated. I appreciated the mix of culture at the Detroit Tastefest. Foods, music, and people filled the streets of West Grand Blvd, Second, and Third Ave. This in memory is an inspirational sight for me. It was the only festival I’d see many people from my neighborhood and high school as an adult.

Carolyn Striho enjoyed and appreciated the chemistry we sparked on stage before. So leading up to the 2008 Tastfest she invited me to perform with her as well. I gladly accepted. I’ve always felt Carolyn’s performance is remarkable. When I share a stage with Carolyn I only look to keep the energy and passion at the height of which she performs. So for the 2008 Tastefest before a full audience cheering her own, I delivered one of my best performances. At the time Scott Dailey and Carolyn (now married) had just begun playing together. Brandon (Carolyn’s bass player at the time, now residing in Boston) and Ron (Carolyn’s drummer) kept a hip-hop rhythm that I could freestyle to (freestyle is the improvisational style of giving a rap performance while creating rap lyrics simultaneously). Carolyn joined in on the freestyle as well. On stage we went verse for verse in eight bar stanzas four times over. I believe the joy of freestyling on stage keeps my presence of mind. I also think freestyling on stage allows me the opportunity to be more responsive and cognizant to the audience. Tastefest 2008 was the culmination of both advantages I find in freestyling. Adding to my performance was the wit and showmanship of Carolyn Striho. Kasey, Ian, and Loren loved the performance. Soon after Carolyn closed out her set and introduced us to Howard Glazer.

Howard Glazer, Sherman Brothers at Mardi Gras, and Kasey, Ann, and I
Howard Glazer, Sherman Brothers at Mardi Gras, and Kasey, Ann, and I

Howard’s an old school rock and roller in spirit, energy, and action. When Brandon saw Carolyn introduce us to Howard he immediately began laughing and telling us ‘that guy’s going to keep you at it.’ The ‘it’ Brandon was referring to was Jagerbombs (Jagerbombs are shots of Jagermeister liquor and Red Bull energy drink). Howard insisted on sharing shots, and Kasey accepted. Loren, Ian, and I had two or three. Kasey and Howard finished off a fifth. As they continued drinking Howard told us stories about classic Detroit rock, and the best ways to get sound from speakers. Backstage between shots Kasey was dancing, inviting over women from the crowd to backstage, and turning backstage into a party. Eventually we filled the backstage area up to the point security kicked us out. Kasey, Howard, Loren, Ian, six or seven women Kasey just met, and I were collectively escorted out the backstage area during the next performance. We parted ways with Howard, bought tickets, and hung out with women.

Tastefest 2008 was pure Rock and Roll.

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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