Sunday, June 24, 2007

The First Cut is the Deepest

L Leshaun cut an imposing figure in 1993, a tall and muscular woman in dark glasses and door knockers, standing in a b-boy stance. She entered our television studio arguing with her road manager and she remained combative for the entirety of her brief visit with us. As I prepped the television studio, I was relieved that Dre had volunteered for this one.

As I was cuing up her video, her mood shifted and things got worse. Apparently, her record label had ordered an edit of her "Ready or Not" clip, one that she wasn't aware of until that moment. She went off on her road manager again, but that wasn't enough. She called her label from the studio, and gave them some too.

Dre tried to get her to talk about a recent THE SOURCE article about female rappers, but she cut him off and vented about her label and the male-dominated rap industry. Some of her points still ring true today, as female rappers are more scarce than ever and are finding success hard to earn.

Tommy Boy and her road manger weren't the last people to learn that Leshaun didn't take disrespect lying down. Years later, when LL Cool J redid her hit, "Wild Thang," (redubbed "Doin' It") he used her voice, but left her out of the video. She wasn't cool with that and let it be known. Eventually, they recorded another song together. Somewhere along the way, I guess Leshaun learned the art of negotiation.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ray "Coach" Brown 1935-2007

I met Ray Brown when I was scouting locations for a shoot for Impact magazine. I was looking for a boxing ring and I heard that Citywide Boxing Club had a good look. It was a hollowed out warehouse, complete with a loading dock and a porta-john. It was perfect. After some negotiation, Coach let me use the space on a Sunday for a few hours, for a $100. I had pleaded poverty, but he stood firm. When the day came, he slept while we shot the promo, occasionally opening his eyes for playback. The spot came out decent and I heard it was well received at the Impact convention, which I never made it to. (That's another post.)

A few weeks later, I heard that Coach wanted to speak with me. I stopped by the gym, and after some kidding about my Alma mater, a frank assessment of my potential as a fighter, he told me what he wanted. He needed a video made about what he did at the gym. He told me how the boxing club worked, young kids paid what they could, while he taught them about boxing, giving them purpose and guidance. Then he asked me to do it for free. I told him I needed $100. Coach wasn't trying to hear that. He repeated my offer to his employees with incredulity in his voice. After a few minutes of staring and loud talk, we shook hands. I came back with my camera the following week.

After a couple of edits, he was happy with the video. I was touched by the devotion and admiration his boxers had for him. They accepted his instructions without question and carried them out with conviction. Coach told me later that he sent the tape somewhere and it was shown at a banquet where he received an award. We shook hands again and enjoyed mutual respect.

I saw Coach occasionally after that and filmed one of his fighters matches at a boxing competition. I stopped by to see him a few times, but I kept missing him by minutes. One day, one of his assistants at the gym told me he had fallen down and wouldn't be around for awhile. Several months later, I visited again and met his son. He told me his Dad was ill and seldom came to the gym. The look on his face told me whatever Coach was going through was serious. I asked him to tell his father that Craig from VCU said hello.

Last week, on the back of sports page of our daily paper there was picture of Coach below the headline Local Boxing Patron Dies It wasn't a good start to my morning.

Ray Brown may have never produced a Sweet Pea Whitaker or a Ray Leonard, but he provided leadership and direction to people who needed it. He didn't have to coach a champion to become one.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Big Shug's Real Talk

In 1996, at the Phono Booth Record Store, Big Shug gave Wavelength one of the most personal and revealing interviews we ever recorded. For some reason, we never aired it.

I'm not sure what happened. But now, 11 years later, it's time to hear what Shug, a founding member of Gangstarr, had to say.