Golden era hop-hop lineup will take the stage at NJPAC for ‘Masters of Ceremony’ concert

entertainment cardLater this fall, a lineup of six hip-hop acts who saw the height of their popularity during the 90s, but have pushed their relevance and influence into the present day, will take the stage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center for Masters of Ceremony, a rap concert that will see its second staging this year.

The lineup has almost completely flipped versus the previous show, which took place this past April. That show featured Mobb Deep, Rakim, EPMD, DMX, Big Daddy Kane, Slick Rick, and Kid Capri. The upcoming November 25th show will again star Rakim, and will also feature KRS-ONE, The Lox, Ja Rule, Lords of the Underground and Black Moon.

Tickets range from $54.50 to $104.50 and are on sale now at Ticketmaster.

Portrait: Singer/songwriter Chaancé Barnes embarks on a ‘Lovejourney’ in Newark

I first met singer/songwriter Chaancé Barnes at a Newark museum event four years ago. I initially had no idea that she was a singer, but after I heard her perform “Summertime” from the play Porgy and Bess in the museum’s auditorium, I was absolutely convinced of her talent.

When we met, Chaancé was still an engineering student at Essex County College. But in the last year, she has birthed both a baby girl and a musical project. The feature below is a truncated version of our discussion about her musical journey to date.

Neo-soul artist Chaancé Barnes has the kind of voice that manages to dominate a room with its softness and subtlety. Like a number of other artists in the hybrid genre, Barnes doesn’t rely on recurring riffs or elaborate vocal expressions to grab the attention of her listeners. For her, matter-of-fact lyrics and breathy voice are enough to captivate an audience.

The Newark-born singer touts artists like Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill as favorites and inspirations, but Barnes’ combination of classic jazz and R&B is completely her own creation. Barnes began writing her own music at the age of 19 after an audition with a New York-based talent agent, the same one that helped launch 90s R&B group SWV.

“I wrote this song called F.L.Y. I don’t remember what it stood for, but the lyrics went, ‘I’m fly, I’m intelligent, I’m beautiful, and I’m eloquent.’ It was like an anthem, and after that, the floodgates really opened in terms of writing,” said Barnes.

“I started dreaming about songs and everything, but that’s how it all started. I had so much on my mind. I had so many things that I wanted to get out and say.”

After that first attempt at writing, the ethos behind Barnes’ words remains the same. Barnes’s lyrics are communal. Whether it’s the pain of heartbreak or the self-empowered stance in an anthem, listeners connect with it, and Barnes’ lyrics offer a space where they can immerse themselves in their feelings.

“I used to listen to music and wonder how these artists did that. At that time, it didn’t occur to me that I would one day be writing my own music,” said the 26-year-old mother of one.

lovejourneyIn 2014, Barnes released her first feature project, a 6 track EP titled Lovejourney. The project, a 22-minute voyage through the good, bad and ugly of love, is also Barnes’ first feature project with her partner in life and music, jazz musician Victor Gould.

The pair’s meeting reads like a Newark love story. The couple met at Skipper’s, the no-longer-operating jazz club on University Avenue, after they were both hired to perform at the same event.

“We have a pretty classic story. We went on a couple dates and after that, we just decided that we didn’t want to be without each other, and that was it,” said Barnes.

The project incorporates the pair’s flair for jazz and soul, but it is Barnes’ storied lyrics about being a young woman navigating life and love that bring the project to home base.

“I wrote a lot of those songs in my early 20’s. I was living life. I was young, confident, and I was embracing being independent and in control of the relationships I was in,” said Barnes.

Newark might have helped put the love of her life in her path, but Barnes also credits the city for inspiring her musical growth.

“I love Newark. There are so many outlets for musicians in the city and access to so many musical people. When I first decided that I wanted to pursue music, there was Skippers, there was The Coffee Cave,” said Barnes.

“Newark being such a musical place, and a place where art can thrive, has really kept me going. Before I started writing songs, I wrote a lot of poetry, and I would just sit in Newark and write about what I saw,” continued Barnes.

Barnes’s is still formulating ideas for her next project, but whatever the artist does decide to try her hand at, her voice as a storyteller will certainly shine through.

“I think that it’s our role as performers, to be honest. I don’t think that honesty equals perfection. It can come from a real raw place. I always keep other women in mind when I’m writing. I want my word to possibly be the word of any woman. I want women to be able to listen to my music and say, ‘This is how I feel.'”

Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill curates culture and mentors youth in Newark

Newark native Alfred Dill is a man who wears many hats: artist, community organizer, and mentor. But as diverse as his titles may appear, they are all an extension of his multifaceted relationship with the city of Newark.

Dill, or “King Pikeezy” as he is known to many, is what one would call a renaissance man or, in his words, a “griot.” In addition to identifying with the term personally, 32-year-old Dill stamps his latest musical endeavor, Young Griot EP, with the term as well.

“Griots were like the keepers of culture. These were people who went out and traveled and came back to the village to tell people about the stories of their travels,” said Dill.

“A lot of them were musical, so I just repurposed that idea. With all the things I’m doing I was like, ‘I’m going to be the young griot,’” he continued.

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Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill, center, wields a bullhorn at the Occupy the City rally on August 8, 2015. His daughter, right, holds a placard proclaiming “Peace” and “Love,” inscribed in a peace sign.

Dill is a graduate of Morehouse College, or “The Black Mecca,” as he calls it. His time at the historically black institution only intensified his innate inclination towards social awareness, one that was seeded during his childhood growing up in Newark’s West Ward.

“Growing up, I was just like every other teen. I got involved with the stereotypical things that were going on in the community. But being involved in different things helped me find myself,” said Dill. “I went to Newark Boys Chorus School and I was traveling a lot [with the school] from the 5th grade [on], so I was also exposed to a different lifestyle. So when I would come back home from these trips, it was like night and day.”

Performing at bar mitzvahs and black-tie events at such a young age showed Dill how far his talent could take him, and inspired him in his adulthood to pay that experience forward by cultivating young talent and encouraging at-risk youth in the city.

Enter Dill’s non-profit organization, Stop Shootin’ Music.

“Music is my forte, and I just wanted to do something positive for the community. I wanted to use music to bring some positive energy to at-risk teens,” he explained.

The organization, which functions as a collective of Dill and his friends, brainstorms creative community events to keep teenagers engaged and off the street. “We want to make it popular to be positive, you know?” said Dill.

A scroll through the group’s Facebook page will surface a public service announcement from 2013, in which Dill implores community members to attend a Toy Gun Exchange program organized by the group. Children and parents are expected to exchange toys that promote violence for basketballs, books and other positive material. Then-mayoral candidates Ras Baraka, Shavar Jeffries, and Anibal Ramos, among other Newark notables, make cameos in Dill’s video to promote the event.

With branded gear, engaging events and musical stylings that are sure to pique the interest of millennials, Dill wants to show that positivity, community involvement, and fun aren’t mutually exclusive.

“I want to be the balance. I want to use my music and my talent to stir the community in a good way,” Dill said.

Dill’s youthful foray into this realm was somewhat accidental. After a happenstance meeting with then-mayor Cory Booker, Dill became actively involved in the “Fathers Now” initiative. The program helped prepare young black men for fatherhood and ultimately an active role in the community. Dill excelled in the program, and was honored with the title “Father of The Year.”

fathers nowDill, center, shakes hands with Lavar Young, then president of the now-defunct nonprofit Newark Now, at the Father’s Now awards ceremony in 2011. Educator Dr. Steve Perry poses on the right.

“I saw how people were responding to me after I got involved [in the community]. It was a great feeling to be recognized by people for doing something good. It showed me that you don’t have to be on the street for the community to recognize you,” said Dill.

Dill’s musical endeavors are laced with the same awareness that is alive in his activism. During a performance at the weekly Co-Lab Open Mic at downtown Newark’s SEED Gallery, where Dill is a curator, Dill’s evocative words and spirited performance permeated the room. He delivered charged lyrics with deft movement, while eliciting responses from the crowd ranging from vigorous head nods to claps and brows furrowed in deep thought: all an affirmation that his audience identified with the stories Dill told.

“I want people to say, ‘I’m thinking when I’m listening to Keezy,’” he explained.

Dill uses the city’s storied and varied history with everything from art and music to crime as the building blocks of his work. In one of his recent videos, Young Renaissance, viewers get a glimpse of Newark’s downtown area, with the city’s infamous arcade making an appearance.

Dill said he hopes his love affair with Newark will one day manifest into a tangible space where he can continue to do the work he’s doing now, but on a larger scale.

“I would like to create a community center, but not just any community center. With everything that’s going on in Newark and the resurgence of the art community, I want to create a space for kids where they can get a balance of education and art,” said Dill.

“When I was growing up, we didn’t have that. You got off the bus after school and you went home. I don’t want that. I want to do something different.”


All images provided by Alfred “King Pikeezy” Dill

Scene: Co-Creating in Newark at Co-Lab Open Mic

Work by Newark artists line the exposed brick walls of Seed Gallery, located on the third floor of a Market Street walk-up downtown Newark.

But Seed doesn’t just showcase the work of Newark’s visual artists. At 8 p.m. every Tuesday night, Newark-area singers, instrumentalists, spoken word artists and rappers trudge up the gallery’s steep and narrow stairs, some with instruments in tow, to participate in Co-Lab, an event that is parts open mic, art show, and concert.

seed gallery tableau

Above: A sampling of Co-Lab’s weekly flyers

Seed Gallery founder Gizem Bacaz describes the weekly event as “a fusion of different vibes, all created by chance.” Since the gallery’s inception in 2007, Bacaz and her team have used the space to encourage local artists of all genres to showcase their work. Co-Lab is a weekly manifestation of Seed’s mission.

“Seed is not your cookie-cutter art gallery,” said 33 year-old Bacaz before last week’s open mic. “It’s more involved, and there’s more life to it.”

In addition to their gallery setting, the key appeal of the Co-Lab open mics is that audience members and performers can’t predict how the evening will take shape. Instead, both parties co-create the show as it goes along.

This particular night, dim lights and the seductive sounds of R&B set the tone for the evening as performers take the stage. The mix was eclectic: soulful musings about natural hair in one performance; stories culled from the streets of Newark and reenacted on stage in rap form in another.

“What happens at Co-Lab is the turning of your life into art. That’s really what it’s all about,” said Bacaz.

Co-Lab is intended as a safe space where the line between art and life is blurred and where artists find themselves dissecting history, politics and society in the name of performance. According to Bacaz, this differentiates Co-Lab from any other open mic on the scene.

“Co-Lab isn’t just an open mic, it’s a full fledged experience,” Bacaz concluded.

Newark Black Film Festival and Youth Cinema summer series to begin in June

The Newark Black Film Festival will kick off its 41st season on June 24 at the Newark Museum with the film “Half of a Yellow Sun,” based on the novel by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

Youth Cinema, the accompanying summer-long series of free children’s features and short films, debuts on July 6 at the Newark Public Library and July 8 at the museum.

The NBFF is the longest running festival of its kind in the country, providing a forum for emerging writers, directors, producers, performers and patrons of the black cinema since 1974.

The films that are shown reflect the diversity of black experience in America both past and present. Each film selection encompasses a wide range of cinematic forms from documentary to avant-garde.

“Organizations like the Newark Museum have a long history of uniting and strengthening our communities and contributing to New Jersey’s cultural vibrancy,” said NJ Bank of America President Bob Doherty, a NBFF sponsor.

Screenings are free, but seating is limited and available on a first-come, first-served basis. All NBFF screenings begin at 7 p.m at the museum. All Youth Cinema screenings will be held Mondays at the Newark Public Library at 10:30 a.m., and at the museum on Wednesdays at 1 p.m.

The schedule for the NBFF and Youth Cinema are as follows:

Newark Black Film Festival Schedule

June 24 – Half of a Yellow Sun
Twin sisters from a wealthy Nigerian family take wildly different paths in life, but both become swept up in the struggle to establish Biafra as a republic while preoccupied by their romantic entanglements and betrayals. Opening reception: 5:30 pm.
Speaker: Biyi Bandele, filmmaker. Host: Mary Sue Sweeney Price.

July 1 – Clipped Wings, They Do Fly
Billy Ray suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder, compounded with Schizophrenia, and finds himself on trial for murder, a crime which he does not remember committing.
Speaker: William Michael Barbee, writer. Host: Wilma Grey.

July 8 – Through a Lens Darkly: Black Photographers and the Emergence of a People
A film that explores how African American communities have used the camera as a tool for social change from the invention of photography to the present.
Speakers: Thomas Allen Harris, director, producer and writer; and Deborah Willis, producer. Host: Richard Wesley.

July 15 – Love Always, Eartha
A frail little girl is hopelessly abandoned by her mother and thrown into a world of abuse is rescued by an aunt, moves away to New York City and becomes that talented woman known as Eartha Kitt.
Speaker: Dierdra McDowell, writer and producer. Host: Ralph Waller.

July 22 – Roots of My Heart
Gloria Rolando’s film about an AfroCuban woman who seeks her roots through her family history of old photos, newspaper clippings jealously guarded by her grandmother.
Speaker: : Yesenia Selier, performer, researcher and teacher; and Ben Jones, artist. Hosts: Gloria H. Buck and Ben Jones.

July 29 – Alice Walker: Beauty In Truth – New Jersey Institute of Technology
This documentary tells the compelling story of an extraordinary woman’s journey from her birth in a shack in the cotton fields of Georgia to her recognition as a key writer of the 20th Century.
Speaker: Pratibha Parmar, filmmaker; and Shaheen Haq, producer. Host: Lisa Payne.

NBFF Youth Cinema Schedule

July 6 and July 8: Ages 4-12

  • Not So Fast, Songololo
  • Elizabeti’s Doll
  • Garrett’s Gift
  • Obara & The Merchants

July 13 and July 15: Ages 4-12

  • Burkina Faso: The Tyrant and the Child
  • Cliques, Phonies & Other Baloney
  • Chato and the Party Animals

July 20 and July 22: Ages 4-13

  • Ellington is Not a Street
  • The Frog Prince
  • Koi & the Kola Nuts

July 27 and July 29: Rated G

  • Happy to Be Nappy & Other Stories of Me
  • Ruth Law Thrills a Nation

August 5: Ages 5-12

  • Robots

August 12: Ages 5-12

  • Kirikou and the Sorceress

Featured image courtesy of Newark Museum

Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center this Mother’s Day Weekend

The McDonald’s Gospelfest returns to the Prudential Center Saturday, May 9, 2015. Produced and directed by Emmy Award-winning Producer A. Curtis Farrow, Gospelfest is a talent competition and concert that features the wide-ranging abilities of its performers.

Kicking off at 3 p.m., the competition includes rising stars competing in a variety of categories, including Soloists, Youth Choirs, Adult Choirs, Praise Dancers, Steppers, Singing Groups, Gospel Comedians, Gospel Poets and Gospel Rappers. Previous Gospelfest participants have gone on to successful careers in entertainment, including the Bishop Hezekiah Walker.

Walker will perform at the gospel concert that begins at at 6 p.m., along with other top choirs and performers including Ricky Dillard, Bishop Hezekiah Walker & LFC, Mighty Clouds of Joy, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Mississippi Mass Choir,  Cissy Houston, The Clark Sisters, and a special performance by Faith Evans.


Tickets to Gospelfest are on sale now and can be purchased at Prudential Center’s Box Office or via Ticketmaster at 800.745.3000 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.

Stevie Wonder announces “Songs in the Key of Life” tour to play Newark

Legendary singer, songwriter, musician and producer Stevie Wonder has announced an extended run of dates for his “Songs in the Key of Life” tour due to popular demand. Wonder will bring the critically-acclaimed performance, which is a live adaptation of the iconic Songs in the Key of Life album, to Prudential Center on April 14th.

Rolling Stone declared that “the show is possibly 2014’s greatest testament to the limitless potential of American music itself,” while Billboard stated that “the music still resonates” and that Wonder provides an “electrifying concert… and had the audience roaring and standing on its feet.”

The tour’s initial run kicked off November 6, 2014 at New York City’s Madison Square Garden and concluded on December 5, 2014 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, CA, after stops in cities such as Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta and Seattle.

Throughout his career, the celebrated singer has amassed 49 Top 40 singles, 32 #1 singles and worldwide album sales of more than 100 million units. He has received 25 Grammy Awards, an Oscar, and a Golden Globe; is an inductee into the Rock and Roll, Songwriters’ and NAACP Halls of Fame; and is the youngest recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors.

General tickets will be available beginning Saturday, Feb. 14 at 11 a.m. Eastern time.

TiqIQ December entertainment forecast: Arena ticket prices in Newark

The second half of December will bring a number of big events to Newark’s Prudential Center. A mix of sports and music will be among the demanded events for the remainder of the month on the secondary market.

According to TiqIQ, the most expensive event at Prudential Center through the end of the year will be a December 29 game between the New Jersey Devils and the Pittsburgh Penguins. That average price for the game is currently $172.96 on the secondary market with a get-in price of $56 The game will be the second most expensive Devils home game on the secondary market, following only the home opener against the San Jose Sharks on December 18. That game had an average price of $177.52. The game against the Penguins will also be 84% above the average price for the next most expensive game in December against the Washington Capitals on the 20th.

For the holiday season, Trans-Siberian Orchestra will be playing two concerts on Sunday, December 21. The shows, one at 3pm and one at 8pm, will include The Christmas Attic album in it’s entirety, which the band has not done before in concert. Some of the songs on the album have never been played before live. The other part of the show will be TSO’s more iconic songs. The 8pm show is currently the more expensive showtime on the secondary market with an average price of $146.34 and get-in price of $55. The afternoon show has a lower average price of $138.25, but a higher get-in price of $60.

On New Year’s Eve, Seton Hall will take on St. John’s in one of the biggest local college basketball games. The average price for the game is currently $88.34 on the secondary market with a get-in price of $30. The game is third most expensive home game for Seton Hall behind a game against Rutgers earlier in the month and a February 10 game against Georgetown, which currently has an average price of $106.29.

Below are the prices for the top December events on the secondary market.


 Buy tickets smart. Purchase tickets for Devils games and other Prudential Center events on TiqIQ.com.

The third annual Unity Day Festival on Avon Avenue is on September 6. And they’ll attempt a Guinness World Record

In just over a week, the third annual Power Of One Unity Day Festival will kick off on Saturday, September 6, at 10 a.m. on Avon Avenue between Treacy Avenue and 14th Street.

The Unity Day festival was originally organized in 2012 by a group of ministers, including Minister Marvin Cratch, after a bullet pierced a window of the Good Samaritan Church. The festival was a plea to change the community and end the violence on Avon Avenue, even for just one day. The organizers say 4,000 people attended that first Unity Day festival.

Since then, the event has grown to feature numerous artists and performers. Liz Black, a popular radio personality at New York’s 107.5 WBLS, is now hosting the event. And the festival spurred the creation of the Power of One 3C Foundation, which aims to further enhance the relationship between the church, the community, and the city.

“The goal is to entertain, educate, and enhance,” said Minister Cratch. “We believe that when everyone works together within the community, we can address problems and deliver outcomes that are not easily or effectively achieved by working alone.”

The organizers say the objective of bringing the community together through the annual Unity Day Festival is made possible by the effort, donations, and support of individuals and the community. The event itself is comprised of live entertainment, music, comedy, vendors, food, dancing, prayer, and a scavenger hunt, all at no charge. Volunteer registration for the event is still open on its website.

And this year’s Unity Day could go down in the record books, literally. One of the events scheduled for Unity Day 2014 is an attempt to make the Guinness World Records by organizing the world’s largest praise dance.  The praise dance being attempted is the "Christian Walk", a dance performed to gospel musician Darren “Deac” Edwards’ song by the same name. (If you’re not familiar with the dance and would like to “get walking”, check out the video below, or see it here.)

Local hip-hop artist Shakespear is a finalist in the Underground Music Awards

Local rapper Shakespear has been nominated for "Most Dynamic Solo Artist" in the 11th annual Underground Music Awards. The winner of the category is determined by the number of online votes the artist receives.

The awards draw from a national pool of independent music and music-related talent, including hip-hop and R&B artists, plus writers, producers, DJ's, and journalists. The event itself will take place on September 21, and include the awards, performances, and seminars. As in years past, this year's awards ceremony will be held at B.B. King Blues Club and Grill in Times Square.

The other artists nominated in the category are Cozz, Termanology, Mic Handz, D Chamberz, Oun P, and Kur. Voting opened this past Sunday, August 10, and runs through Friday, September 10. The voting page for the Dynamic Solo Artist award is available on the UMA's voting page.

Learn more about Shakespear at his website, iamshakespear.com, and on Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

Updated 8/14/2014:

Shakespear just released a new track commenting on Michael Brown's killing:

Image: iamshakespear.com