NEW YORK, July 31, (AFP): Rap legends A Tribe Called Quest announced Sunday they were retiring — at least from playing their native New York — as they bid a poignant farewell to late member Phife Dawg.
The group — who, as hip-hop became mainstream in the 1990s, took the music on a more artistic, alternative path — had just reunited when it was shellshocked last year by the death of Phife Dawg, a longtime diabetic, at age 45.
The surviving members, in one of a handful of shows since Phife’s passing, found an enthusiastic hometown crowd at the Panorama Music Festival where Phife was posthumously the star of the show.
Phife, whose real name was Malik Taylor, gazed down at the thousands of fans via an imposing picture of him on stage — where a single microphone symbolically stayed empty.
Rather than trying to replace Phife — whose snide one-liners complemented frontman Q-Tip to define the group’s sound — A Tribe Called Quest brought in Phife’s voice by recording.
Q-Tip — who knew Phife since they were children in Queens even though their professional relationship had rocky patches — told the crowd that Phife’s parents were in attendance and made a surprise announcement.
“This is our last show in New York as Tribe. We’ve got to honor our brother Phife,” said Q-Tip, who has gone on to a successful solo career.
The group’s last scheduled concert is in September in Britain.
Q-Tip has already said that A Tribe Called Quest’s last album, “We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service,” would be its swan song.
Released eight months after Phife’s death, the album features his already-recorded vocals as well as appearances from artists ranging from pop superstar Elton John to acclaimed younger-generation rapper Kendrick Lamar.
A Tribe Called Quest closed its set with a track from the album, “We The People…,” a plea for a more inclusive America that sharply attacks President Donald Trump’s agenda.
Q-Tip led the diverse, fist-raising New York crowd in a chant, “We the people — We are equal!” As A Tribe Called Quest left the stage, smoke billowed through an opening near Phife’s heart on his portrait.
Panorama, set on grassy Randall’s Island which lies in the rivers between Manhattan, Queens and The Bronx, was inaugurated last year by the organizers of California’s famed Coachella festival amid a boom in US live music.
Among the final day’s performers was Dhani Harrison, the rock guitarist inevitably known as the son of Beatles legend George Harrison, who put on one of the first shows of his new solo project.
Harrison, who will release his first solo album, “IN///PARALLEL,” on October 6, presented his new sound that takes the psychedelic band era as its root but updates it with the soaring whirls of indie rock.
“All About Waiting,” his first single from the album, brings layers of sonic texture to a classic rock chorus which erupts with hard-driving guitar and electronic backdrop.
Harrison, who sings and plays guitar and ukulele, earlier released albums with his band thenewno2 — which also showed an affinity for alternative rock, if of a lower-key variety.
The festival closed with Nine Inch Nails, architects of aggressive industrial rock popularized in the 1990s.
The group has seen a resurgence of creative energy, recently putting out its second EP in less than a year, “Add Violence.”
Frontman Trent Reznor, whose passion on stage is so palpable he appears to convulse in pain, dedicated a song to rock pioneer David Bowie, whom he described as a friend.
LOS ANGELES: MTV has decided to change the name of its Video Music Award trophy — the Moonman statue — to Moon Person. Network president Chris McCarthy shared the news during an interview with The New York Times published on Sunday.
“Why should it be a man?” McCarthy proposed. “It could be a man, it could be a woman, it could be transgender, it could be nonconformist.”
The announcement comes as part of a push by MTV for more inclusive awards, including the decision to get rid of gendered acting categories at its Movie & TV Awards. Emma Watson beat out Taraji P. Henson, Daniel Kaluuya, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy, and Hailee Steinfeld to become the award’s first winner.
McCarthy also announced a new series called “We Are They.” The docuseries will recount gender nonconforming youths’ coming-of-age stories. He also revealed plans to bring back “Total Request Live” or “TRL.”
LOS ANGELES: It’s been a big month in the United Kingdom for gender diversity: on July 19, the BBC was forced to declare the salaries of their top earners and, by doing so, revealed its alarming gender pay gap. Concurrently, UK Music, the campaigning and lobbying group representing the music industry in the UK, launched its second Diversity Survey, its findings forthcoming.
Said Michael Dugher, CEO of UK Music: “We need to better reflect the communities we live among. As a creative industry admired across the globe we should be leading by example and setting the bar high for every other industry in the UK.”
Tony Hall, the director general of the BBC, has committed to closing the gender gap by 2020. But in America, so far the music industry has yet to commission its own diversity survey.
The questions remain: why in 2017, are we still lacking females in leadership roles? Why hasn’t the digital revolution, which has transformed the music industry, extended to creating a 21st-century working culture, which allows for equal opportunities for all? Why isn’t this creative industry leading the way in creating diverse teams of people who will think differently, challenge the status quo and create a vibrant and dynamic business? Why does today’s music industry remain pretty much run by the same coterie as it was back in the days of Elvis?
Music acts want the diversity of their community reflected in the people that ‘work’ on their music. As one female artist said, “ I get fed up having my music worked by white, middle aged men — what are they doing with all the women?”
Research has shown that companies that employ women at all levels of their organization, from entry to boardroom, demonstrate tangible business benefits. According to studies, a gender-rich organization consistently outperforms peers that are predominately run by men.
Last month, I hosted a session at the Polar Talks in Stockholm titled “A Roadmap for Gender Diversity” and was joined on the panel by executives from Spotify and Ikea: the two companies are actively pursuing diversity and inclusion programs and achieving impressive results. Ikea now has 50-50 gender balance from top to bottom.
Both IKEA and Spotify cite the active engagement of the CEO as crucial. Daniel Ek, head of Spotify, recently said on launching gender equality initiative The Equalizer Project that the music industry should “Stop talking start doing.” Indeed, Spotify employs a Head of Diversity, based in New York, as do many other companies for whom diversity and inclusion have become key business indicators to be measured and monitored. I’m only aware of one such role in the music industry, congratulations to Live Nation UK.