Alice P.S: New York Travelogue
MH: After Alice’s awesome California Love Travelogue, where she travelled around the west coast meeting all manner of hip hop legends, we were stoked when she told us she’d be taking a little trip over to NYC.
‘Living on velvet… loving the same way!’
Last month I headed back out to the US, this time to hit up the East Coast for some NYC based madness. Always about to embark upon, or returning from, some exciting exploit, airports can give you the craziest buzz and are one of the best places to reflect on your life and where you’re headed. At least that’s what I do. One day I’ll fly Virgin Atlantic everywhere – but, until then it’s that strange KLM/ Delta/ Continental/ United monster all the way and around the world.
I left London Heathrow on the 21st March, and on my flight out to JFK I happened to be sitting next to a rather anxious kid called ‘Peaches’. Turns out that he was flying out to New York to surprise the girlfriend he met at Summer camp two years ago and propose (!) – my heart went out to him as he looked like he was going to hyperventilate or be sick the whole way.
The primary reason for my New York adventure was to attend and report on the ‘Sounds of the City’ conference (www.empmuseum.org/education/index.asp?categoryID=26) being held at NYU jointly by IASPM (International Association for Studies in Popular Music) and the EMP Museum. A four day long gathering of musicians, journalists and academics discoursing on the issues and themes surrounding popular music and cityscapes – speakers included the likes of ?uestlove, GZA, Chuck D, Santigold, Oliver Wang and Daphne Brooks, and attendees even included Spike Lee and funk/soul legend Mtume. Being right on Washington Square Park was an awesome setting for some intellectual stimulation and extreme musical geekery – all in all, the dense schedule was truly inspiring and exhausting!
On my first day in New York I hollered at my boy Rob Swift to see what was going down, and he invited me to a little party down at the Scratch DJ Academy. Serious scratching and mixing went down in memory of the late Roc Raida by the X-Ecutioners posse, to which the crowd absolutely bugged out – hip hop legend Grand Wizard Theodore was even in the house.
On behalf of The Find Magazine and Blue Racoon Radio I went to see Georgia Anne Muldrow and Dudley Perkins play at S.O.B.s on the 26th March – there was so much love at that show, especially when Georgia’s mother Rickie Byars-Beckwith joined her onstage for a touching family duet. Plus, Georgia has to be one of the most charismatic and likeable performers I’ve seen live – bouncing around the stage her energy is just infectious. And that’s not even touching on the girls talent.
If you don’t know who the eighties super-group Full Force are, then you need to sort that out straightaway – not only do they have their own catalogue of wondrous hits (‘Ain’t My Type Of Hype’, ‘Love Is For Suckers’), but they’re the geniuses behind the classic Lisa Lisa joint ‘I Wonder If I Took You Home’ and also played the baddies in cult film ‘House Party’ – mighty fine old-school credentials. I like to pretend that they wrote ‘Alice – I Want You Just For Me!’ just for me, and on the 28th March I had the pleasure of meeting up with Bow Legged Lou in East Village – so watch out for the full interview coming up.
An absolute highlight of my trip had to be the honour of meeting up with one of my long-time personal hip hop heroes – the crazily talented and unbelievably modest Prince Paul.
We chatted about his considerable career and all he’s been up to recently, the state of music today, humour and generally being silly down on Broadway one afternoon – so definitely look out for the full interview with one of hip hop’s greats. And listen to this ‘Horror City’ tape in the mean-time:
To mix things up a bit musically I accompanied my girl Kristina to see Of Montreal (www.ofmontreal.net) play at Webster Hall on the 30th March. Visually vibrant onstage the band put on a lively, theatrical show, and the crowd were definitely there to party which made for a pretty fun Friday night in Manhattan (even if there was a severe lack of hip hop).
Out of sheer coincidence my homies, the UK’s own Foreign Beggars, were playing their first NYC show at Webster Hall on the 31st March (two nights in a row guys), so I headed down to catch up with the dudes and see their signature raucous live performance. Having just signed to Mau5trap, the Beggars are continuing to grow in the dance arena and rep UK rap all the way. Kidkanevil-produced track ‘Palm of my Hand’ is dope so listen up.
The other main reason that I was bopping around New York for an extended period was to do some fieldwork for a research paper I’m going to be presenting on the work of Masta Ace at a Popular Music & Automobile Culture conference this Summer. So, it was super dope – not to mention invaluable – to meet up with Ace himself for lunch one afternoon out in Hoboken and chat about hip hop, cars, LA versus NYC, his days with Delicious Vinyl and so much more. Amazing views across the Hudson River were a nice added bonus to venturing across to New Jersey.
Obviously, New York is brimming with great places to eat and drink, here’s just a little round-up of spots worth hitting up if in doubt.
A regular hang-out and one place I’d definitely recommend checking out is Miss Lily’s in Greenwich Village – there’s a restaurant with a cool bar to drink at, Melvin’s Juice Box café serving up sublime smoothies, rotis, coconut water etc and a beautifully curated reggae record shop that seems to broadcast its radio show in-store 24/7(!).
There aren’t too many good places for pizza in New York (psych!) – but one really awesome spot I’d recommend is Artichoke – signature slice works its pizza swag on a creamy béchamel sauce, artichoke and basil tip.
On these kinds of trips you always need a neat spot for brunch when you’re crazily hung-over, and Cornerstone Café in NY’s Alphabet City fits the bill nicely. Bottomless black coffee and awesome omelettes – protein solves everything, right?
And, there’s certainly an abundance of independent coffee shops in New York’s East Village – a dream for caffeine addicted writers such as yours truly – and places I found that make the grade for chilling/ working/ dosing up include: Ninth Street Espresso, B Cup Café and Ost Café.
On the emphatic recommendation of Rod Gilmore aka Spin Doctor I headed to Eileen’s Special Cheesecake in SoHo and sampled an ‘off the hook’ Pumpkin baby.
I ate lunch with Masta Ace at a rather slick spot called Zylo at the W Hotel and munched on the fanciest, most decadent panini of my life – wild mushrooms, taleggio cheese and chilli oil – definitely worth checking if you’re out that way…
And if you find yourself in Chelsea, definitely head to the Chelsea Market food concourse for an array of delis and cafes (chelseamarket.com).
One afternoon I headed out to meet with Wax Poetics editor Andre Torres in Dumbo, Brooklyn; we hit up a nice place called ReBar and whilst I find the slogan ‘A Shrine to the Art of Eating and Drinking’ somewhat scary and intense, the real ale was gooood. You also can’t beat the view of Manhattan from underneath Brooklyn Bridge. Pure Woody Allen.
A sweet spot for late night supper we discovered on my last night in the city was a place called Macao – themed around the film noir mystery ‘Macao’ starring Jane Russell and Robert Mitchum, it features deliriously dim lighting, delicious Chinese dishes and curiously eighties breaks playing through the sound system.
A fun, unpretentious bar worth partying at is Von Bar on Bleecker Street for an eclectic crowd and classic, danceable hip hop – DJ even played World’s Famous Supreme Team’s ‘Hey DJ’ for me on drunken request (which always makes a night).
I stumbled across the ‘Bruccenial 2012’ exhibition currently on Bleecker Street (March 1 – April 20), a real intriguing and varied collection of contemporary, experimental artwork being put on by The Bruce High Quality Foundation. The multi-layered space is jam packed with works of artists such as Basquiat alongside as-yet unknown names.
Having never been to the Guggenheim before, I took the green line 6 up to Lexington & 86th to finally check it out. Being displayed at the moment is the unnerving photography of Francesca Woodman – beautifully surreal self-portraiture with hella uncomfortable undertones – as well as a selection of Kandinsky’s paintings from 1922-33 and a series of awesome sculptures made from disused automobiles, entitled ‘Choices’, by John Chamberlain in the main rotunda.
Stopping off at the New Museum for the free Thursday evenings is also pretty dope for works of art with a healthy dose of humour and a buzzing, yet chilled, atmosphere.
I met an incredibly sweet Brazilian designer one day whilst mooching around Alphabet City – the brilliant Geova Rodrigues – his custom designs really are works of art, each living with a character of their own just like his delightful handmade dolls. If you’re in the area, head to his atelier shop on Avenue B to marvel at some delicate craftsmanship.
Another quirky East Village find I fell in love with was the Rainbow Music 2002 Ltd store. I have no idea how the stacks and stacks (and stacks) of used CDs and VHS tapes stay balanced in that tiny, cramped space as it feels mad perilous on the inside – like entering a hoarders attic with the sense if you touch anything it’s gonna be Kerplunk! But, there’s no denying the charm of the place – plus, the owner goes by the name ‘Birdman’ (what more could you want??).
Over in SoHo there’s a neat independent bookstore called McNally Jackson that’s perfect for wasting away hours browsing books and magazines, and even offers self-publishing services for those of you interested in seeing your work in print one day.
On a sunny day in the Meatpacking District you gotta head on up to the Highline, New York’s walkway/ park converted from an old railway track. The views are pretty spectacular and there are plenty of spots to picnic/ hang out/ soak up the badass ambience etc etc.
And obviously you gotta hit up Central Park when in NYC, but I know that really ain’t sayin’ nothin’ new (!). Spring-time has got to be my favourite time of year to visit The Big Apple – blossoms, warm weather, dope light.
Just as you feel you’re settling in somewhere, it’s often time to go home. So I’m hoping that I’ll get to return to New York in the not-too-distant future – but until then, memories of an awesome Spring-break will have to suffice for me.
It felt fittingly hip hop to run into Pete Rock at the gate at JFK (he was flying to Chicago, me to Boston) as a final send off from the US on returning to the UK, especially as this is one of my ultimate reflective, travelling jams:
And, Peaches totally hollered at me like I asked him to and guess what? His girlfriend totally said yes! Big congrats to young love xx