Black Thought: Ann Arbor hip-hop artist Jamall Bufford addresses life's daily opera on new LP

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Jamall Bufford

Jamall Bufford is one of the most influential hip-hop artists from Ann Arbor. He has influenced many MCs in town with his quick wit, lyrical wordplay, and open-minded stances on social issues.

Previously known as Buff1, he rhymed with the hip-hop collective Athletic Mic League and later helped start the performing arts group The Black Opera. For those unfamiliar with this hometown gem, The Black Opera calls itself "rap’s first performing arts group" and the duo dress as different characters each song during their live shows. Bufford is also a solo artist and his latest album, Time In Between Thoughts, continues in pushing past the typical boundaries in usual hip-hop subject matter by exploring themes like colorism and the dangers of social media.

Bufford, who has performed with Eminem and Mos Def, performs at the Ann Arbor District Library's downtown branch on Friday, November 16, at 7 pm along with fellow A2 hip-hop artist DaG. We talked to Bufford about how Ann Arbor has influenced him as an MC, whether he’s an activist, and more.

Big, Tall & Fashionable: Michael Anthony Spearman blogs high-style ideas for everyday people

PULP LIFE INTERVIEW

Michael Anthony Spearman

Michael Anthony Spearman is The Big Fashion Guy.

As a blogger and stylist, Spearman writes his take on style trends and guides his clients on how to be dapper. And as a budding designer, he is aiming to start a fashion line for big and tall gentlemen who are in need of stylish choices.

Bred in Detroit, the style savant has been featured in various notable publications including BuzzFeed, Hour Detroit, and BLAC Detroit magazines. Spearman has been cultivating his brand for years, and with over 35,000 followers and counting on Instagram, he has plenty of people keeping up with his style.

Spearman divides his time between the Detroit/Ann Arbor and NYC areas, therefore he has plenty of tasks on his to-do list. Spearman earned his undergraduate degree in fashion design and merchandising at Wayne State University and is currently earning his graduate degree in menswear fashion design at the Academy of Art University.

We talked to Spearman about his take on body confidence, whether Detroit and Ann Arbor are style cities, and more.

Ypsilanti hip-hop producer DaG is cutting his own path in The 734

MUSIC INTERVIEW

DaG

DaG calls himself The 734 Savior. That’s a bold claim, right? Well, the man born Dion Glenn just might have the skills necessary to back the title up. 

The producer has worked with a who’s who of artists in the Midwest including Slum Village, Supakaine, Nolan the Ninja, A-Minus, and BJ the Chicago Kid. As a producer, DaG balances the hard task of preserving old school sounds with modern swag in a way that sounds relevant to today.

The Ann Arbor-raised, Ypsi-based DaG is also a DJ, spinning at events in Washtenaw County and traveling around the country. One of his most recent and notable gigs was opening for hip-hop legend KRS One at the Blind Pig this spring.

Between spinning at concerts and producing hits for other artists, DaG is also an emcee in his own right, further proving that he is a multitalented artist. From his earliest project dionLoveSwing to his most recent work, Village Tales 3, he shows his versatility in style from funk and soul to hip-hop and jazz.

With new music due this fall, DaG is ready once again to show his listeners why he is a musical force in the 734 area code. I sat down with him to discuss his vintage sound, his take on Michigan hip-hop, what he’d be doing if he weren’t a musician, and more.  

Book Covers: Live Painting with Marlo Broughton at AADL

VISUAL ART PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Marlo Broughton

Photo by Jay Adams.

Marlo Broughton, aka MarloBro, is an artist and designer whose work ranges from pop culture to social issues like police brutality to love and friendship. He's been involved with Detroit's creative scene since 2007 and steadily built his portfolio in the city’s streets and galleries. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions in the area and he works with agencies including 1XRun, Playground Detroit, and the Detroit Institute of Arts.

He’s also been a part of the creative group Finally Famous with Tommey Walker, his cousin and founder of the Detroit Vs. Everybody clothing line. This group helped drive rapper Big Sean’s artistic projects into motion and allowed Broughton to have a hand in mixtapes and branding during Big Sean’s indie career.

Lifting Every Voice: Jazzmeia Horn at the Power Center

MUSIC REVIEW

Jazzmeia Horn by Jacob Blickenstaff

Jazzmeia Horn Photo by Jacob Blickenstaff.

After being introduced, Jazzmeia Horn came onto the Power Center stage on June 28 just as casual as she could be as she let us know she was new to town.

But the command performance of Betty Carter's "Tight" that followed showed Ann Arbor to be the only thing to which Horn was new.

Performance as Art: The Black Opera at Top of the Park

MUSIC REVIEW

The Black Opera

You know you're onto something unique when you can count both Deepak Chopra and Snoop Dogg as fans.

The Black Opera, an alternative hip-hop group formed in 2011 in the Ann Arbor area, performed at Top of the Park on Tuesday, and from the moment the duo took the stage they had the crowd on their feet dancing, laughing, and enjoying the hard-hitting beats from the gritty group. The Black Opera was happy to be home and MCs Magestik Legend and Jamall Bufford showed it in each enthusiastic rhyme.

Dubbing itself “rap’s first performance art group,” The Black Opera began its set wearing striking white masks and proceeded to change portions of their outfits after each song to add new vibes and visuals. Videos played behind them with imagery ranging from the decorated streets of Detroit during the song “Beautiful City" to the Flint water crisis, and messages like “We Are One” and “Forever We Rebel” were splashed across the screen multiple times as a recurring theme of activism.

Real Love: Beverly Jenkins writes romance fiction to tell African-American history

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins wants to challenge your thoughts about romance fiction.

When her first book, Night Song, was published in 1994, there wasn’t a market for romance novels featuring people of color, and many African-American-focused novels centered on slavery. But Jenkins continued to pursue her vision of highlighting the love stories of black people, often set in the 19th century. Now, 37 novels later, the Detroit-raised Belleville resident is a superstar in romance fiction.

The prolific writer earned the celebrated Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017, further cementing Jenkins' status as a legend in the romance market. But Jenkins isn't just about love stories. She has said she wants to show how black people in America have “turned their lemons into lemonade,” and Jenkins continues with her mission to educate folks about African-American history with her emphasis on Juneteenth, the holiday that commemorates the end of American slavery on June 19, 1865.

On Monday, June 18 at AADL's Malletts Creek branch, Jenkins will present "The Historical Background of Juneteenth" from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm. During this event, Jenkins will talk about, educate, and celebrate this milestone in American history.

I had the pleasure of speaking to Beverly Jenkins about her literary influences, if men read her work, and the importance of providing love stories featuring minorities.

Musical Religion: Corey Strong reflects on the spiritual power of songs

MUSIC PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Corey Strong

Corey Strong is a classically trained adult contemporary/pop singer and songwriter with a rich baritone voice. He has released two albums so far -- Believer and It’s Christmas -- but Strong recently underwent a musical transition, from singing inspirational music to transferring over to the pop market.

Strong, who's a longtime friend, performs at the downtown branch of the Ann Arbor District Library on May 30 at 7 pm. I sat down for an interview with the multiple times nominated Detroit Music Award artist and we talked about many things, including his new single, Moments, which features the songs "Bring Him Home" and "Baby Mine." 

Loud and Clear: Marcus Wicker's socially conscious "Silencer" poems are anything but quiet

WRITTEN WORD PREVIEW INTERVIEW

Poet Marcus Wicker and his book Silencer

Marcus Wicker's poetry doesn’t mince words. He keeps it real.

Mixing hip-hop rhymes with poetic prose, Wicker's books deal with tough topics such as racism, classism, and police brutality -- subjects American society swiftly tries to hide from. Wicker, an Ann Arbor native, challenges those in power with every phrase he puts on the page. 

A Pushcart Prize winner and two-time NAACP Image Award nominee, Wicker received fellowships from Ruth Lilly and Cave Canem to name a few and has written articles that have appeared in The Nation, Oxford American, and Boston Review. He currently teaches in the MFA program at the University of Memphis and is the poetry editor of Southern Indiana Review.

All accolades aside, the most impressive things about Wicker are his ability to call readers to action and his ability to mix modern communication and hard-hitting wit within his work. He even injects humor as a great contrast to the serious topics. 

Beautiful Blend: Emerson and Calidore String Quartets at Rackham

REVIEW MUSIC

Emerson and Calidore String Quartets at Rackham

The legendary Emerson String Quartet (above) was joined by the Calidore String Quartets at Rackham Auditorium for octet performances in addition to their usual foursomes. Photo by Lisa Mazzucco.

Classical music fans clapped in high anticipation as the Emerson String Quartet walked onstage at Rackham Auditorium for its UMS concert on Thursday, Oct. 5. But it wasn't just the four-decade-old Emerson ensemble for which the audience was excited; fans were also eager to hear the Calidore String Quartet, a newer ensemble that hooked up with its mentor group for this concert, including performing as a blended octet.