We have some Philly soul and rap to discuss on this first day of Fall.
As Summer turns to Fall and we’re hitting the 2021’s Autumnal Equinox 2021: The First Day of Fall, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, it is that in-between where hot turns to chill, and the funk of one season becomes the foliage of another. With that, there are some deeply important Philly soul things of note as we head into Autumn in full effect.
The Return of Fugees
Tonight, for the start of their first tour in 25 years and their first time reuniting on stage in 15 years, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel – Fugees – are playing an undisclosed location in NYC as a secret start to a 12 city tour that launches in November and will play throughout the globe. Celebrating the anniversary of the 7 times platinum 1996 “The Score”, tickets for the tour go on sale September 24 at 10 am (no Philly dates, sorry), but the NYC show is in support of “Global Citizen Live”, a global broadcast event to air on September 25. And you can win tickets HERE.
I’m heading up to New York to see the show and can tell you all about it another time. But… What the hell does Fugees have to do with Philly? Plenty! Back in the day, when they were coming out of New Jersey, Philly was Fugees second home. The Philly-based Ruffhouse label was their label. Philly’s Chris Schwartz was their guru (still is, but that’s another story), and I would be lying if I said I don’t remember having lunch with Schwartz and the Fugees crew at the Spaghetti Warehouse – their one-time favorite restaurant – at the Spring Garden Street address of what is now Union Transfer. Things change. And yet, Fugees still remain holy and a reunion such as this is a nearly sacred event for the perspective of turning hip hop melodic.
Along with still being amazed by his liveliest live performance yet (after his pop up at Made in America) on Fallon last night with fellow Philadelphian Lil Uzi Ver doing their latest collab, “blue notes 2”, local activist, rapper and ATV enthusiast Meek Mill just dropped the title (Expensive Pain), final release date (First Friday, October 1) and esteemed cover artist (Nina Chanel Abney) for his upcoming fifth, full-length elpee at Atlantic.
The Passing of Sarah Dash
Philly’s mistress of soul, Patti LaBelle, has had three longtime contributors to her life and to her work: one-time manager and friend Vicki Wickham, songwriting-singer Nona Hendryx and vocalist Sarah Dash. In the early 60s, as LaBelle was finding her footing through various record labels, she hooked up with Trenton, New Jersey’s Hendryx and Dash, and became the BlueBelles, before meeting Whickham, heading to London, returning to the states, and becoming Labelle – the toast of raw, emotional R&B, rock and funk. Costumed in silver and metals before KISS, blending hard rock and soul better than Sly and the Family Stone (that’s right, I said it), the sexualized, sci-fi-driven and socio-conscious Labelle may have been known primarily for the raunchy 1974 hit, “Lady Marmalade,” but their entire catalogue – from 1970’s Labelle through to their duet album with Laura Nyro, Gonna Take a Miracle (produced by Philly’s Gamble and Huff) through to their definitive “Pressure Cookin’” and even 2008’s reunion album, “Back to Now” – is one of soul’s wildest rides.
Point is, Sarah Dash just passed away in Trenton, New Jersey where she forever made her home, just days after showing up at LaBelle’s weekend shows at Atlantic City’s Ceasars Hotel and Casino.
Where is the Philly Soul in Dash? Everywhere. Dash’s career starts with Labelle and our small local labels meant being here as much as Ms. Patti. Labelle recorded Nyro’s album with Gamble and Huff in May and June 1971, at Sigma Sound Studios on N. 12th Street (Gamble and Huff also produced chunks of “Back to Now” with Lenny Kravitz). Dash was inducted into Philadelphia’s Music Alliance Walk of Fame on Broad Steet with Hendryx and LaBelle in 2017, and on Dash’s birthday no more than a few weeks ago in August, Sarah had dinner at Patti’s house in Philly to celebrate the occasion with Hendryx also in the house.
I know. I talked to Dash the next day.
She will be missed. I still can’t get over this.