|More from Metro Times music staff|
Motor City Five (10/6/2010)
Awards? Bah, who needs ’em, right? They’re boring and they signify nothing, really. Shit, Alice Cooper would let his kids play in the bathtub with his gold records. And those are gold records! I mean if you win some kind of local music award, at best, if you’re lucky, you get some kind of gilded thingy that doubles nicely as a doorstop.
Having said that, here’s our own insurrection in the face of our own awards, if you will; inverted, maybe, but an attempt to capture Detroit, in all of its fucked-up glory, as it really sounds, what it really looks like. There’s obvious stuff that we eschewed, including commentary on Detroit’s Holy Trio. What more can be said about Get Behind Me Satan or Jack White except that his oddly alluring Santeria élan is a welcome change from pop chart gloss. Eminem? Hope the rehab repose works, dude. Kid? Please.
And since we’re not at all into musical segregation, we blended all the "categories" together, everything from rap and rock ’n’ roll to noise and Norteña, and we stuck primarily with 2005. What’s more, contained in these pages is roughly half of what we think is deserving of some kind of attention. For full effect go to www.metrotimes.com.
Elsewhere in this ish, we’ve included a long-overdue tribute to the Four Tops’ Obie Benson, a timely piece about a producer who fancies himself the Mayor of Detroit, some glimpses of Motor City stars with their rides (winks to Creem), plus a street rapper and a sensitive white-boy songsmith rate local records. —Brian Smith
Best hated-on emcee
It warmed our wretched little hearts to see Proof and Royce finally swallow their beef this year. But it still doesn’t mean that emcees haven’t taken more shots at Proof than at the sky on New Year’s Eve. In 2003 it was Ja Rule, in 2004 it was 5Ela, and this year good old Champtown never had a kind word for the emcee. Proof will likely go down in history as the most hated-on emcee in Detroit — even if he finishes his days relaxing poolside at his luxury condo in sunny Scottsdale, Ariz., near where the Coop and Glen Campbell play golf.
Best hip-hop indie release that topped any associated big label release
Proof — Searching for Jerry Garcia
Proof’s Searching for Jerry Garcia was one of Detroit’s top three albums in 2005. No question. So where was the artful and strident command that’s evident in Proof’s solo work (remember his killer ’90s release, I Miss the Hip-Hop Shop?) on D12’s 2004 LP World?
Best DJ to dance to at 4 a.m. and get recommendations for Spanish artisanal Manchego cheese later that same day
A legendary tastemaker who knows his acid techno and Brit pop as well as he does the cheese counter he oversees at Ann Arbor’s Zingerman’s Deli, Souffront has performed with Carl Craig, Stacey Pullen and DJ Hell, and held residencies at the defunct Zoot’s Coffee and Sardine Bar when he was still a teenager. He’s now back in the swing with space disco voyagers Ectomorph and preparing for another phase of an already prolific anti-career.
Best chick-to-dude ratio at indie shows
Holy Fire, Tiny Steps, Silent Years and Prime Ministers
Collectively, The Holy Fire, Tiny Steps, Silent Years and Prime Ministers probably get more women at their shows than most local outfits do in a whole year. It’s because their melodic, well-crafted songs are what some women imagine their fictional rockstar boyfriends would write. Nothing too heavy or threatening, OK? Or these panties are staying on.
Best female-owned record label
Raw Khemystery Entertainment
It’s a label, fully run and operated by badass women to support badass female hip-hop artists. Is such a thing really necessary in Detroit’s hip-hop community? You bet, ’cause sexism and the music industry still go hand in hand — let’s keep it real! They’ve already put out a successful mixtape, managed artists such as Miz Korona and the like, plus built up a highly impressive roster of female lyricists. Yeah, the Raw Khemystery clan can sometimes sound like two tons of estrogen on wax comin’ at ya, but it’s better than listening to a bunch of dicks.
Best local label boss with attitude
Scott Hamilton — Small Stone Records
We here at MT just adore this effusive and acidic Hamilton chap. Yes, he signs kickass 24-hour-porn stoner bands from around the globe to his rising basement-run label, which he operates with (bong) smoke-and-mirror aplomb. But what’s best is, dude pulls no punches and is often heard teeing off on local jokers and territorial pissants — the "Detroit music biz mafia" — who fancy themselves moguls, but are really just a herd of bores in need of a life. But get him in conversation and he’ll likely insult you in some sly way. He’s been called an asshole, but what’s funny is he’s accurate 99 percent of the time. Quiz him on why he doesn’t sign local bands (excepting Nova Driver, of course) and he’ll say, "Because there are no rock bands in Detroit!"
Best indie rock band
Saturday Looks Good to Me
Wherever Fred Thomas found frontgirl extraordinaire Betty Marie Barnes, he should pay the local constabulary to keep the other indie rock auteurs away from the future talent pool. (OK, we know it was Harsen’s Island, which only makes it cooler.) Between Thomas’ heartfelt-yet-flip-yet-yearning-yet-carefree band leadership, and Barnes’ lightning-rod-cool flirty-distance, SLGTM has found some middle ground between emo and irony, precious and primitive — indeed between pop and punk. This is what happens when you cast two distinct modern lovers as the frontfolk of a band of romantics. We’re lucky to have ’em at the moment.
Best news for Beethoven
We won’t go into the politics or aesthetics here of the Detroit Public Schools’ dumping WDTR-FM and its often enlightening hodgepodge of programming, from student talk to world music to activist soapboxing. But the classical music scene stands to be the big winner with the renamed WRCJ-FM (90.9) playing classics during the day — and balancing with evenings of jazz and a weekend grab bag. Eight years after the commercial classical station WQRS-FM bit the dust, the warhorses charge back. As we went to press, the programming was still via satellite, but new local hosts — old QRS hand Dave Wagner, former WDET host Chris Felcyn and local radio vet Ann Delisi — were being touted as imminent arrivals.
Best out-of-state record label for Detroit artists
A big part of California’s Ubiquity Records’ success seems to come from signing shit-hot Detroiters. To wit: Platinum Pied Pipers, Jeremy Ellis, John Arnold, Theo Parrish and John Beltran all have Ubiquity deals. Ubiquity has also released classic 12-inches by Carl Craig and Stacey Pullen, and reissued soul and funk records from ’70s gurus the Propositions, Robert Jay and the Detroit Sex Machines, to name a few. They’re all over Detroit, snatching should-be-stars and yesteryear’s heroes.
Best milking of the 16th minute
There’s a lot of love for this band, and deservedly so. They remained calculatedly weird even after the throes of youthful strangeness had been ridden out — er, rather, kicked out. This year, the E6 tweaked the tweakable with the few bits of change left from the bottom of the irony bank. Their UK-only release Señor Smoke even had a jam called "Dance Epidemic" that would have stood up quite well in a mid-’80s Scott Baio Ro-Co flick. So, as long as there are quasi-nubile college hotties willing to drink the night away in their company, who’s to blame ’em for keeping their shoulders square and barreling through their repertoire at 3/4-packed joints from here to Chapel Hill; Russia to San Fran?
Best teen gospel rapper
Many gospel rappers are simply corned-up, hip-hop versions of TD Jakes, whose try-too-hard messages get lost in weirdly applied bravado. Then there’s 17-year-old J. Dove. His debut EP, One Step Closer, is a worthy combo of originality, beats and The Word. Word.
Best reggae sound system
Run by Ann Arbor rude boy Billy the Kid, Zuma Hi-Fi has quickly become one of the toughest sound systems in metro Detroit. As far as real reggae goes, Billy has the all of Ann Arbor on lock. And despite being a pasty white guy, the DJ — who’s known for spinning the newest and hardest reggae straight from Jamaica — seems to take Caribbean culture and his strict adherence to Bobo Shanti Rastafarianism seriously. That in itself is somewhat strange, but hey, "The Kid" can work a dancehall like nobody’s business. Seen.
Best vinyl resurrection
The Folks from Mother’s Mixer (Tuff City), the long overdue CD reissue of psych-funk black rockers Black Merda’s 1970 and 1972 LPs Black Merda and Long Burn the Fire, justified the legend. These Motor City badasses are like a soul-stirred stew of Hendrix, Funkadelic, MC5 and War, and give up some incredibly thoughtful, politically conscious lyrics to boot. Meanwhile, over on eBay, the renewed interest in the group — which still performs — sent prices of the original vinyl skyrocketing.
Best country singer unabashedly challenging the "higher the hair, closer to God" ethos
When concho-clad Music Row got their paws on the surprisingly conventional-looking Chelsee Oaks, the hits poured out. Her 2005 release, A Life Less Ordinary, was produced by some of Nashville’s serious hit-makers, not to mention, the 17-year old simply oozes LeAnn Rimes’ too-young-to-sound-that-heartbroken ’tude and Hilary Duff’s virginal pluck. She’s poised to grace CMT any day now.
Blow a kiss to Emerson, Lake & Palmer and say hello to Szymanski, Shettler & Morris, the Motor City’s first post-garage supergroup. Singer-keysman John Szymanski (Hentchmen, Paybacks), drummer Dave Shettler (Nathaniel Mayer and the Shanks, ex-Sights, etc.) and guitarist Marty Morris (Cyril Lords) are, they say, determined to bring quality music back to style, in an attempt to blow your mind. Ten points for, if nothing else, reaching.
Best Norteña and Cumbia band
This 6-piece Mexican Norteña band, based primarily in Michigan, has been killing it throughout the state, playing sold-out shows in Detroit and Waterford especially. Known for their ability to switch easily between Norteña — a Northern Mexican folklore style — and Cumbia — a more coastal tempo of music — Scorpion draws top dollar when it plays at popular venues like Los Galanes in Detroit, and is a huge draw among homesick Norteños and lovers of all Latin music.
Best worst strip club anthem
White Stripes’ "Blue Orchid"
Even after necking your third or seventh $4 Bud in an effort to shake off the heebie-jeebies of paying for a little ass-on-denim, this is still a pretty toothless groove for fine can action. Still, it does have a flower in the title, and the strippers love songs with flowers in the title. So, long live the blue-balls blues.
This longtime comely frontwoman for the Detroit Underground and perpetual presence at Nancy Whiskey’s delivers. She’s got the voice, presence and sassy confidence; a blues-belter understands command once she grabs a mic.
Best jazz band not playing "Body and Soul"
Ann Arbor-based Urban Transport has proved its worth. Trombonist Vincent Chandler, bassist Yosef Deas, drummer Sean Dobbins and saxophonist Dean Moore decided back in 2000, when the ensemble was formed, to kick convention to the curb by performing only original material composed by the members. So don’t go expecting "Body and Soul," "Confirmation" or "Birdland." The quartet has vowed to make each performance a new experience for the audience.
Best place to sing and hear "Body and Soul"
Wednesdays and Thursdays, week after week, serious singers congregate at Bert’s Marketplace (2731 Russell St., Detroit; 313-567-2030). They call out "Body and Soul" and "Good Morning, Heartache" and "Stormy Monday" and "Last Time I Saw Jeanine." They state their preferred keys, sometimes bring their sheet music. And the SBH Trio, the virtually unstumpable house band extraordinaire, swings into song behind them, creating magic more often than not. Poets and instrumentalists are welcome to these jams (this is one of James Carter’s spots to hang when he’s in town), but the singers are the raison d’être.
Best band with least imagination in Detroit
Complacent, broad, boring, insulting — key descriptors for the programming on Doug FM, Channel 95.5, and 97.1 WKRK (not counting "Radio Fever," natch). Too much Mike & the Mechanics, the beyond-obvious chortle of "phone scams," forced laughter and 3-week old Internet rumors — this is our FM workday. Of course, all three stations are in the ratings book’s top 20, so who’s really to blame?
Best pop record
Brendan Benson — Alternative to Love (V2)
You can grow up and stay true to your teenage head. Even though Benson’s third try at major label stardom is now seemingly destined to meet a fate similar to that of his previous efforts since V2 has been sold, it’s no reason to ignore the truth, beauty, strangeness and charm that oozes from the cuts on this collection. Yes, he’s still obsessed with figuring out girls, but you know what? He’s a good piece wiser, a step wittier and charmingly left-of-sane as ever — and it seems he’s been practicing an awful lot in his attic too.
Best record store clerk-producer who actually makes records good enough to forgive the indier-than-thou attitude behind the counter
His day job might be schooling college kids and vinyl nerds at Ann Arbor’s Encore Recordings, but Tadd Mullinix has grown from being another record store clerk with an ax to grind in his bedroom studio, into one of the country’s top next-wave beat-makers. Working under the name Dabrye, Mull-man has one shell-toe in the glitch-hop of Scott Herren and another in the futuristic hip-hop of J-Dilla. The combo has won him remixes for Trans Am and beat-making duties for MCs like Beans, of New York’s next-school Anti-Pop Consortium — both of which can be found on his new Additional Productions Vol. 1 on Ghostly International.
Best out-and-out art-punk ruckus
Lee Marvin Computer Arm
Is Lee Marvin Computer Arm even still together? In a way it would rule if it wasn’t. Live, LMCA was a chaotic mess of blaring trumpets, scraggly tuning and other unrecognizable shit — like a punk show seen through the haze and noise of an upended vacuum cleaner. No band can maintain intensity like that. Or can it?
Best sound track
Mad Mike/Underground Resistance
Techno’s already the motoric heartbeat of Detroit, the steam that rises from the manhole covers. But the Underground Resistance crew makes that literal in Rockstar Games’ Midnight Club 3: DUB Edition, providing the beats as muscle cars and loc’d-out Escalades trade paint on a Rockstar-imagined version of our fair streets.
Best folk chanteuse
Indie folk in Detroit come with tattered eveningwear and the hard gaze of a professional drinker. Kelly Caldwell sings beautifully, a stood-up debutante with a heart like fine bone china. But sympathy’s scarce in the D, so her love songs often float like the fumes from a spilled bottle of Old Granddad. And we can relate.
Best gospel artist to turn praise to props
Give, and it shall be given unto you. Thus sayeth the Lord, and thus testifieth Fred Hammond. The man is to gospel what Jay-Z is to hip hop, in a sense. He’s highly respected in his Detroit hometown and beyond, consistently puts out bangin’ (if we can use that word appropriately) praise and worship tunes, and makes his career path seem effortless. He and superstar friend Yolanda Adams were among the few bright spots in the recent cinematic flop, The Gospel.
Best worst emcee to be stuck in an elevator with
This tubby D12er describes himself as fat and intimidating. Shit, that’s just false modesty. Doesn’t the shower cap say it all? Or maybe a couple of lines from his 2005 major label debut, Hannicap Circus, might: "I’ll bust on my li’l niece/She’s so sweet/She’s a freak/Wants me to bust right between her ass cheeks."
Best folk poet
This openly queer, Mohawk-sportin’ folk poet is one of the most skilled wordsmiths in American urban poetry. As a National Poetry Slam champ and longtime host of countless poetry venues throughout metro Detroit, BLAIR’s name is synonymous with the upper echelon of Michigan folk-urban bards. He’s a traveled gent too, who can be seen gigging constantly in San Francisco, New York and even South Africa.
Best drunk DJ in Detroit
It’s almost a foregone conclusion that around 1 a.m. every Tuesday night at Northern Lights Lounge in Detroit, DJ Houseshoes will be behind the decks, faded off of red wine and cannabis, spinning some of the best hip hop ever created. He plays old school, true school and any other school of soulful music to let crowds know they’re getting the crème de la crème. He’s unparalleled behind the decks and, somehow, the drunker he gets, the livelier his weekly performances become.
Best hammered rock ’n’ roll band/Best band to see hammered
It was toss-up between the Sights, Detroit Cobras and Porchsleeper, as all bands are, um, confirmed libation enthusiasts. But since Porchsleeper has multiple songs that include the word "drunk" in them, and they close the night with a tune about living in their parents’ garages, we figured them the clear winners. Yes, they’re passionate about beer. Yes, they adore the din created when soused. And yes, they welcome the empty bottles tossed in their direction at shows. We’ll give ’em a couple of years before honoring them with the "Best band to be spotted at bleak AA meetings" award.
Best tune that’s guaranteed to start a fight in a parking lot
Porchsleeper’s "Nineteen Seventy Two"
It’s the drunken Porchsleeper versus all.
Best techno artist giving bald Trainspotting Techno Geeks a shot at getting laid
Time was, Detroit techno was the domain of playboys like Derrick May, making such sexy, string-soaked songs as "Nude Photo." These days, Detroit techno is dance music’s AV club, a bunch of faceless blips and bleeps heavy on the "tech-" — the "no" might as well stand for "no fun." But this year, Ghostly International’s Matthew Dear put on his Audion guise to set Detroit techno athrob with Suckfish, a squishy, grimy, grinding friction-fest of a techno album devoted to, as the song says, "Just Fucking." Like Richie Hawtin covering ZZ Top’s "Tubesteak Boogie," only better.
Best argument for provincial songsters
Great Lakes Myth Society
The real Midwestern-themed pop grows on this side of the state, in Ann Arbor specifically. Great Lakes Myth Society’s sparklingly literate debut is awash in the sunlight and darkness of Michigan’s history, vitality and legend. It’s also a gem of pop, folk and Americana influences. Now, who the fuck is Sufjan Stevens?
Best local DJ to get chicks, uh, up on the pole
Booty producers used to road-test tracks at strip bars. Scroggs does it one better and actually gigs at strip bars. So maybe his Monday night at Tycoon’s ain’t just about the music — his playlist isn’t quite the progressive house fare of his WDRQ days — but he and guests like DJ Godfather play the crunked-up R&B and occasional house and booty jam to an audience guaranteed to shake their moneymakers, as they make their money. After all, when the ladies are working, wouldn’t dropping "Ass ‘N’ Titties" be redundant?
Best reason to go buy a Fela Kuti album
At Nomo shows, people sit back and relish the blissful fusion of post Afro-beat and world jazz. This 15-piece creates a lovely din that evokes images of Pharoah Sanders, Sun Ra and a future sound that no one can accurately peg. And if you’re courageous enough to catch one of their live shows — which literally feels like a revolution in progress, please wake up and buy more Fela, buy Nomo.
Best glimmer of a scene
Faruq Z. Bey and Warn Defever
In some cities, most notably Chicago, the fringe of the jazz scene meets the fringe of the rock scene in a dazzling free-fire zone. Such collaborations have been rare in Motown, but the meetings of Faruq Z. Bey and the likes of Warn Defever argue that they shouldn’t be. For instance, in the basement of Oslo earlier this year, when Bey sat in with Defever’s HNIA, the music was edgy, magnificent and sexy all at once.
Best guitar hero
So he’s better than Jack White, Danny Muggs, Jeff Grand, Ron Asheton and even onetime Frost and Lou Reed-Coop sideman Dick Wagner. He’s better than pretty much any rock ’n’ roll guitar player you can name, from anywhere. With so many from Detroit’s rock ’n’ roll factions blathering on and on about this city’s great rock legacy, why are Jimmy McCarty’s Mystery Train shows completely bereft of scenesters and hipsters who claim to be "so into the music, man"? Shit, the terribly unsung ex-Cactus, ex-Rocket man McCarty — armed only with a guitar, a strap, a cord and a small amp — can make notes hum and soar, can create tone and breadth of musical life that enter in the toes and exit out the tops of heads, leaving body hairs saluting, the spine shivering.
Best emcee you never heard of
Ann Arbor emcee P.L. made noise by acing the Ruff Ryder freestyle battle at U-M, signing to Jazze Phe’s ShoNuff Records, and is the current B.E.T Friday Freestyle champion — all the while staying completely under the 313 radar.
Best metal band nobody cares about
Black Dahlia Murder
On "Magic Stick Metal Machine Tuesdays," the fantasy marquee would read: "Blast Beats meet White Belts." Word to the wise: Ignore million-watt melodic death metal like Black Dahlia Murder for too long, and it eats your liver.
Best "special guest" on a rock bill
Three parts musical wonkitude, P.A. picks up where front man Chris McInnis left his much-missed band, They Come in Threes. Heavily influenced by the Pixies and Television, the shoe-gazing trio performs live shows intermittently, but always with panache, style and grace.
Best hip-hop beefs that went unnoticed
Fallen Anglez Ent. vs. Dice and Neato
Dice says Fallen Angelz was trying to destroy his career. Neato says all he got from being an artist on Fallen Angelz was some pizza and hos. CEO of Fallen Angelz Russell Culvin says Dice didn’t understand the word recoup, and Neato was on the run from the cops. Yeah! Now, who can say 2005 sucked?
Best reason to still blame Canada
Detroit Underground and Minus
These two Windsor-based crews keep the Detroit flame alive by continuing to challenge the public and themselves. DU is made up of committed rave and beatcore freaks, led by audio-visual specialist Kero (real name: Sohail Azad); Minus is manned locally by the ubiquitous Clark Warner and spreads to Berlin, where mother hen Richie Hawtin keeps ultimate watch over Run Stop Restore (Magda, Troy Pierce and Marc Houle) and other electro-minimalists.
Best Radiohead trib-band nobody asked for
The Grosse Pointe-bred local band might as well be named Kid A-Phonic for its soaring, all-over-the-place debut, Why It Sometimes Feels Good. Singer-guitarist Pat O’Brien is a classically trained opera singer capable of that stretched-thin-by-the-existential-angst-of-it-all Thom Yorke falsetto, and what notes he can’t hit, his drummer bro Matt can. If they were Limeys, they’d be in your UK band (Travis, Starsailor, Radiohead) iPod folder. But amid the 313-248-586 garage-emo fare, they might as well be playing death metal.
Best hip-hop song that became this summer’s anthem
Black Lagoon — "Star"
There isn’t one hip-hop head in Detroit that didn’t find himself humming this song’s chorus, and the single’s melodic hustle kept club asses jiggling on all sides of the 313. In fact, Black Lagoon’s "Star" dominated 97.9 and 105.9 airwaves, which ain’t bad for a local side (let us now offer up rare kudos to local radio). Because of this, Lagoon’s debut, The Pimp Bones, sold an astonishing 10,000 copies locally.
Best hip-hop chance at one-hit-wonder status
Black Lagoon — "Star"
Remember C.O.I’s 1998 hit, "Cash Rules," or Drunken Master’s 2001 hit, "50 Players Deep"? You might remember the song but not the player. So far we’re not sure that Black Lagoon has another hit in ’em.
Next Detroit band likely to land a car commercial
Ahhh, yoof. They play sped-up Voidoid-soundin’ songs for a pittance at burned-out shitholes with none of the usual suspects. Quite possibly Detroit’s next Clone Defects. Anyone remember the Talking Heads before they went top o’ the pops?
Best ’30s backward glance
Royal Garden Trio
Actor Sean Penn has been heard on several occasions referring to his job as his "craft." But if you saw the way the humorless thespian fumbled around on the guitar in Woody Allen’s Sweet and Low Down, you’d know that his take on gypsy jazz guitar was green. Rumor has it that Universal Studios is laying the groundwork for a feature film about famed Gypsy jazzman Django Reinhardt next year; may we suggest that Hollywood forgo the big name draw this time and hire a real musician? Someone like Royal Garden trio’s guitar man Brian Delaney, perhaps. While there are a few acts around town that specialize in ’30s-era Reinhardt-Stephane Grappelli-style jazz, the Royal Garden trio’s seasoned know-how makes them a must-see.
Best Nashville torch and comely delivery
Loretta Lucas & the Larkspurs
In her spare time, Loretta Lucas makes tea for aging grandmas, clears debris from city parks, and buys beers for broke rock fans. How else to explain Detroit’s love affair with her and the Larkspurs in 2005? Oh yeah, their music: a charming mix of Nashville torch and rangy rock foot-tap.
Best emcee to spread it thin
We liken it to our "law of strawberry jam." Between engineering Purple Gang sessions, designing concert placards, and producing tracks for M1 of Dead Prez, Mike E, and the Last Poets, 23-year-old Jamaal "Versiz" May has had a difficulty finding time to follow up his smashing 2004 record, Binary Soul.
Best emcee to hold a conversation without saying, "yaknowwhati’msayin’"
When you’re a Detroit-based underground emcee who moonlights as a nationally recognized spoken-word slam poet, your vocabulary should, we live in hope, do an English teacher proud.
Best ignored venue in Detroit
Harpo’s (14238 Harper, Detroit) has long been a home for the heshers, booking loud rock notables like Lamb of God or Killswitch Engage. But ask most downtown rock-scene types about the East Side venue and they’ll shuffle their feet awkwardly. Harpo’s deserves more respect and patronage. Here’s an upsell: It’s surrounded by strip clubs.
Hottest emcees to take their sweet-ass time
Invincible and Finale
Invincible’s airtight, socially conscious rhymes, and Finale’s street-sweeping metaphorical manner, have been Detroit hip-hop mainstays for several years. They tour overseas, have been featured in national pubs, yet, no album. Pinch it off already.
Hottest hip-hop label to take its sweet-ass time
Straight Jacket Records
Sheeesh, what’s taking Champtown so long to unleash his stable of DJs, rappers, boy-bands and kid emcees on the Motor City? Walk the talk, chief.
Hottest pop band to take its sweet-ass time
Citizen Uniform Army
What? The record’s not out yet? Oh, hell. We’ll wait. No. Really. Take your time. We’ve got nothing better to do than wade through yet another batch of half-baked demos from garage-rockers-come-lately.
Best jazz label to save the day
Mack Avenue Records
Mack Avenue Records may be a small label, but it will never be accused of having a mom-and-pop mentality. Back in 1997, when Grosse Pointe native Gretchen Carthartt-Valade formed Mack, she enlisted the services of top producers and the best creative minds in the field, notably former Jazz Crusader drummer Stix Hooper and (later) Grammy-winning producer Al Pryor. They signed legends such as big-band leader Gerald Wilson and vibes player Terry Gibbs, and younger blood like saxophonist Ron Blake and trumpeter Sean Jones. Not that a Detroiter or two wouldn’t round out the label. But Valade has shown her hometown the love in other ways. She rescued the 2005 Detroit International Jazz Festival by donating $250,000, and is currently negotiating a $10 million endowment to ensure that the festival lives on.
Best fringe-dwelling punk
Cotton Museum/Odd Clouds
Welcome to the frange de la frange. Cotton Museum and Odd Clouds represent Lake Orion’s Tasty Soil collective. They envision graceful unions of Little Tykes xylophones and screeching mixing boards, they preach in honor of a Detroit Art Space in the sky, and they’re happy to get your weird on for you, pussy.
Bob Seger — Smokin’ O.P.’s (Capitol)
With its smoky organs, barroom boogie guitars and rhythms, Smokin’ was a transitional record for Seger; it ushered in the Silver Bullet Band era just as his sound grew larger with the crowds — both here and nationally. This gave diehard Seger fans cause to rejoice this summer. Now, where is the Back in ’72 re-issue?
Best mixtape DJ
His Bling Free series is classic and his Certified Bangers comps are equally impressive. In a nutshell, Graffiti’s scratching abilities are superb, his exclusives are ridiculous, and though there is plenty of mixtape comp in Michigan, DJ Graffiti is still king of the court.
Best indie band/label
Let Saddle Creek get all the publicity — at the end of the day they’re still stuck in Omaha. Our own band collective is Suburban Sprawl, and the Javelins call it home. They bring indie rock love one angular guitar note at a time, and write hooks with brighter eyes.
Best local R&B artist Europeans cream over
Amp Fiddler’s brand o’ funk and neo-soul shown on his 2004 Waltz of a Ghetto Fly had him doing great business at theaters in Europe this year. But he can barely get arrested in Detroit. What are we, surprised?
Best record store
Car City, Memories and Melodies, Young Soul Rebels, Record Time, Encore, Harmony House, People’s, Buy Rite Music, Stormy, Submerge, Damon’s, Record Graveyard, Strictly Roots, Wazoo, Wendell’s, Neptune, Flipside, Detroit Threads, Rock-a-Billy’s, May’s, Off the Record, Desirable Discs, and any indie shop we overlooked
Shit, if you operate an indie store in this climate, you deserve praise. Look, downloading blows; for one thing a song off iTunes sounds way, way, way, way worse than any vinyl or CD or DVD. So forgo Amazon, frequent your local record store and buy their vinyl, CDs, SACDs and DVD-A’s (preferably used).
The Superfan Award
Fandom comes no more heart-on-sleeve than with Hamtramck’s Steve O. If you’re a minor rock scene Shirlebrity, you’ve been interviewed by Steve in a local dive as he brandishes his trusty thumb microphone. If you’re a casual consumer of local sounds, you’ve probably wondered who that fireplug-thick, Coke-bottle-bespectacled, grinning-from-ear-to-ear superfan might be. Either way, dude radiates the kind of full-throttle love that makes the sometimes (hell, often) obliterated, vain and tawdry bar music scene feel like something more than people looking to impress one another.
Best overlooked emcee who made the biggest come-up in 2005
Formerly OneManArmy, this guy One.Be.Lo outgrew Binary Star, has become a standout on Subterraneous Records, and his debut album, S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M., was called "extra fucking terrific" by XXL magazine’s Chairman Mao. Add to that a swelling underground and online buzz, and One.Be.Lo is slithering up the proverbial drainpipe.
Best gospel-tinged crossover
Kem marched his way to stardom singing a brand of love music that wedges itself somewhere between R&B and jazz without calling either genre home, and sneaking in the occasional nod to God. The result? Two gold albums. And he’s hitting people’s hearts, bras, panties and souls. We don’t know if those things mesh, but it feels right.
Best follow-up R&B album
Tie — Dwele and Kem
Kem and Dwele set a standard for style, content and success, and overall smooth and graceful élan, with their 2004 debut albums. In 2005, both released sequels. Dwele’s Some Kinda… elevated his neo-soul to greatness. Kem’s Album II brought us the same kind of jazzy grooves and ballads that had so many people cooing face-to-face, straight into the bedroom.
Best aural fetish
There’s undoubtedly a Web community for every fetish known and unknown, from toothing and sploshing to watching women smoke. But if the Internet closed tomorrow, the freaks would still have Adult. Fetishistic, mechanistic and surprisingly bootylicious, the Detroit trio is all that dirt and naughtiness downloaded into irresistible electro-punk slink.
Best neighborhood high life
The Belmont Bar
The Belmont (10215 Joseph Campau, Hamtramck) has it all: An oddball layout that effectively separates minglers from music fans, cheap PBR and a jovial atmosphere touched by the true eclectic weirdness of its surrounding neighborhood. From gong shows to punk-rock aerobics, up-and-comers on weeknights to scene stars when the week ends, the Belmont canvasses the bar-life entertainment waterfront. When it’s packed, it’s the scene, man. When it’s half-full, it still feels like a place where you could lose an evening and still not regret it in the morning.
Best parking lot fight song
Loyalty — "We Get Crunk"
"Who get Crunk? We get drunk, wild out tear the club up, ’cause we don’t give a fuck!" A couple of hits off that joint and your bare knuckles might be smashing against some poor sap’s cheek at 2 a.m. in a Royal Oak parking lot. In all fairness, Loyalty has successfully adopted the Southern bounce, Detroit style. Start chillin’.
Best reason for early eggnog hurls
X-mas is in late October, according to select song selection at WNIC-FM (100.3).
Best blog that combines Detroit attitude with whack electronics and space-goth fashion
If you want to find out about the fabulous party you missed last weekend, or listen to samples of toy instruments played by Bethany Shorb of God and his Bitches, you should cruise here often. Highlights: a picture of her screaming pussy — actually a Smartronics Animal Quartet piano — and a teaser link to Cyberoptix, which Shorb describes as a "baroque ornamental burnout" custom clothing line ready to launch in 2006.
Best proof that rappers need DJs more than the other way around
After a three-year stint touring with Xzibit, DJ Invisible started getting bookings on his own. A quiet year later, he’s spun in places like Japan, Chile, Argentina and Puerto Rico. Billing? Why, he’s Xzibit’s DJ, of course. The title earns him a travel per diem, pay for the gig, and enough frequent flyer miles to cop free flights for every member of his family.
Best genre switchover
Company of Strangers
The $7-Guinness crowds over at Dick O’Dow’s in Birmingham can drop the fake Irish accents for a while, as Company of Strangers has moved on to twang. Known best for their traditional and contemporary Celtic offerings, the band made an unexpected tilt toward bluegrass. Sure, the basics were already there, but who would have thought that one of D-town’s favorite purveyors of Irish music would become — by far — one of the finest country music acts around? All apologies, Paddy, but Cletus is in town.
The Every Dog Has Its Day Award
They got licks. They got looks. They got a leader in Kenny Tudrick who’s a rockstar perpetually waiting in the wings, amped on keen life-bitten observations, with beat-up guitar and backup gang in tow. They got pedigree (and ready puns in spades for critics, come to think of it). So why haven’t these exiles hit mainstream? Like any great rock ’n’ roll band, their live shows are hit-or-miss, but when they hit, it’s goosebump city, chief. Will this dog ever hunt?
The Squeaky Wheel Award
This one goes to inappropriately named rapper Hush who’s been burping up beef for years. The prize for his interminable blue-streak bitching? Hush this year released his Geffen Records debut, Bulletproof, and enjoyed national TV exposure on The Contender. But the most glaring indication of Hush’s dreams coming true — though his record is so far a stiff — has to be his shiny H2 Hummer.
Best artist not cramming himself down your throat or throwing punches
Dwele would never admit it, but he must laugh at cookie-cutter R&B singers who are tripping over themselves to throw the latest slang, the latest superficial fare, into their songs. While Dwele’s road to international popularity hasn’t been easy or hasty, he sticks to a formula that’s tried and true — he’s himself. Luckily, Dwele is simply inherently gracious, inherently cool.
Best-suited electro new wave
Team Dorkwave’s monthly parties are a blur of warm Jäger, Georgio Moroder, Saran Wrap hot pants and atrocious dance moves. "Stop the madness!" Corktown Tavern said, and tried to burn itself down. But Dorkwave endured, and continues to endear. They’re as cool as Rupert "Stiles" Stylinksi surfing on a van.
Best jazz ivory-tickler for all occasions
Not many pianists have accompanied jazz vocalist Anita O’Day one night, then turned around the next to jam with avant-garde saxophonist Charles Lloyd, then hopped a plane to Vegas to gig with singer Paul Anka. Pianist Tad Weed has. In fact, this piano virtuoso gigged 12 years with the Vegas sensation before returning home to teach and front an experimental jazz collection called Freedom Ensemble. These days, Weed leads the Wednesday night jam session at Baker’s Keyboard Lounge.
Best ambassador of love and hate on the bootygrabbing dance floor
The new LP, Detrevolution, is a stunner: a 21-track journey into the center of the heart and mind of a gay, black humanist, told with laughter, tears and steely eyes glaring at those deserving of his scorn. But in the end, Carl’s music is all about love, in every wild, quirky, wonderful form.
Most ethno-musical techno cat Submerged on the Boulevard
Recording under the name DJ 3000, this Hamtramck native with Albanian roots skillfully fuses Yugoslavian village folk traditions with hardcore underground tech-beats from the Detroit streets. Just returned from dates in Germany, Juncaj’s track, "Merchant of Identity (The Market Place)" will appear on a forthcoming Underground Resistance comp on Submerge, with a new DJ 3000 LP ("Migration") scheduled to drop in 2006.
Best backdated hard-rock band reunion(s)
The clubs are still packed, the wrinkly ’80s metalists still adore ’em, David Black is still a guitar hero, and the Marshall and Ampeg stacks are still loud. Still.
Best kids-first band(s)
Candyband vs. the Mydols
In the race for top honors in the "My Mom’s Cool" derby, both of these bands are too busy tripping over themselves making sure they strike the right poses to notice that neither are playing music that’s especially appealing to, you know, kids. It’s cool that both have been on national TV in the last year and all, but what good does it do when it’s part of a nonstarter trend? In the pursuit of the actual infectious gold shimmer that marks all painfully addictive kids’ music, the Candyband’s sugary take on punk rock gems is simpler and, by many accounts, more resonant.
Best career 360
Nikki D, aka Kalimah Johnson
In the late ’80s Nikki D was opening for EPMD, MC Lyte, and Chuck D, full of promise with her popular single, "Work that Sucka." Now she’s known as Kalimah Johnson, an award-winning activist, abuse counselor and poet who released her spoken word debut CD, DatsWhatImaDu, earlier this year.
Best teen hangout masquerading as a rock club
Evidently the Shelter (431 E. Congress St., downtown) is Detroit’s exclusive home for weepy emo-core ’tween-baiters with Multiple Name Disorder. You know, like Autumn Bleeds in Daylight, or My Friend Flicka’s Funeral. Shelter’s doesn’t appear to be a rock club anymore; more like the Peach Pit with a teenage Dr. Phil as emcee.
Best jazz organ grinder
Organist Gerard Gibbs quit a lucrative gig as a city of Detroit architect to pursue his only love — wailing away at the organ. And it’s paid off big-time. Gibbs has two successful albums in record stores — To B or Not To Hammond 3 and Livin’ and Learnin’. Since saying bye-bye to the municipal gig, Gibbs has worked steadily on Thursday nights at Flood’s, has toured and recorded with the James Carter Organ Trio (check out Out of Nowhere: Live at the Blue Note, on the Half Note label), the smooth jazz ensemble Pieces of a Dream, saxophonist Marion Meadows, and has been a popular attraction at the Detroit International Jazz Festival. Instead of building big-city landmarks, Gibbs is busy playing with his big organ.
Most invisible, uncommunicative tech-house innovator who doesn’t give a shit
This rising underground Detroit star produces limited-edition vinyl tracks on his own FXHE label, and released the full-length "Just Ask the Lonely" to wide acclaim in Germany and the UK, where Boomkat called it "raw, primitive, atmospheric, incoherent — one of the most exciting and un-formulaic techno albums in ages." So what if he’s a paranoid son of a bitch who won’t talk to anybody?
Best hip-hop label
Barak has managed to stay afloat over the years and build up some of the most recognizable hip-hop groups in Detroit. The in-house production team of Black Milk and Young RJ is rock-solid, and with a respected line-up of Slum Village, B.R. Gunna, and Phat Kat aboard, this powerhouse indie can’t go wrong.
Best music for a Motown second line
Charlie Gabriel and Marcus Belgrave
Saxophonist Charlie Gabriel was born to a long line of musicians in the Crescent City before coming to Detroit in his youth. Trumpeter Marcus Belgrave grew up in Pennsylvania, listening to Louis Armstrong on the radio and falling under his spell. With Gabriel’s encouragement in the roots act they’ve developed, Belgrave seems not just to blow and sing in Satchmo’s voice, but to channel something of his spirit as well. The saints do march in.
Best electronic vocalist
This portly keyboardist-vocalist has been tearing up dance floors in Detroit with his signature sound, both as a singer and producer, for more than a decade. His continued vocal work with house and broken-beat gurus Recloose and John Arnold has made him a sought-after vocalist in the electronic world — but he’s still rooted in Detroit. You can catch him every Wednesday leading his own soul-house fusion band, Painted Pictures, at Fifth Avenue in Detroit.
Most exciting trend to watch on the underground dance scene
The new nu-wave of integrated Detroit house
The party is black, white and all in between. The girls are coming in threes and fours ready to lead all reluctant wussies (uh, men) into temptation. Heading the charge: Sunday Night Rehab at Agave, Deep Groove at The Hub, Three Chairs at Oslo, and the new Jackit Required bi-monthly event at Corktown Tavern.
Best scary metal band for any occasion
"The heavy metal horror show" of Halloween can still be a treat after more than 20 years of frights. Taking their stage cues from vintage Kiss and Coop — while channeling classic Detroit rock ’n’ roll — this plodding combo continues to distress and disturb (but maybe not for the intended reasons) rock crowds still hungry for metal of yore.
Funkiest East Sider who tripped into P-Funk’s Mothership as a tot and never came down
Guitarist-producer-arranger-DJ Maurice Herd started spinning street parties before he was 10, inspired as much by the Beatles’ George Harrison as he was George Clinton. He DJs Wednesdays at Fifth Avenue Downtown when he’s not in Europe as part of Kenny Dixon Jr.’s touring Mahogani project, or supporting his own splendid 2004 rockin’-soul full-length, Dreams.
Best drawing band with no press
Natives of the New Dawn
These cats formed less than two years ago. Today, this hip-hop-rock ’n’ roll mash-up can pack a large venue (like the Emerald Theatre) by word-of-mouth. Girls know their lyrics and shimmy stagefront; dudes drink and jump. But the most telling sign of a popular Motor City band is the number of doughy suburban white guys with belt-clipped cell phones in the crowd. They populate New Dawn shows in force, nodding their heads out of time, packed along the back bar.
The Road Scholar’s Award
East Coast, West Coast, London, Paris, Glasgow: The Sights take the road nice ’n’ sleazy. Since The Sights came out earlier this year, the trio’s been filling the time between inhales of Coke and whiskey with flurries of tour dates. The great thing? They give their floor gigs in the Garden Bowl the same fury they do as the support act for Robert F’ing Plant in Ireland, or at L.A.’s prestigious Wiltern.
Best outta nowhere comeback
What with the release of the career-retrospective compilation The Folks From Mother’s Mixer (Tuff City) comes proof positive that there was a planet between Hendrix and Clinton in the Black Rock Galaxy population — VC Veasey, Charles and Anthony Hawkins and Tyrone Hite, aka Black Merda. Hite has passed on, but the remaining members of Merda emerged to hit the festival circuit this past summer and stunned some unsuspecting ears by raining searing, funky and tough licks and grooves on those who knew what they might be in for, but dared not hope the band would match its past power.
Best jazz promoter without a club
His biggest shows draw more than 150 people, a good show is about 50, and his last show had an audience of 25. But Pat Frisco hasn’t been at it since 1997 for the big crowds or the big bucks. A school social worker by day, Frisco passionately believes in the half-dozen or so artists he presents annually, from Steve Lacy and Sam Rivers (probably the biggest names) to the multi-instrumentalist Cooper-Moore (who pulled the 25 listeners a couple of weeks ago). The venues vary, from halls at Henry Ford Community College to the Bohemian National Home in Corktown. But the adventurous aesthetic and the dogged persistence remain the same.
Best records of 2006, already
The Fags; the Deadstring Brothers
A Fag let us hear their 2006 major label debut (Sire) and it’s a power-pop masterpiece. And the Deadstring Brothers’ Bloodshot debut, Starving Winter Report, is a thing of warm and graceful beauty. Look for both records in the first quarter next year.
Best human Google for jazz info
The word in the jazz community is if you need to track down information on some obscure local or international jazz musician, or if you want to know how many albums Eric Dolphy made with John Coltrane, call jazz historian Jim Gallert. He’s a lanky, 165-pound walking jazz encyclopedia. The co-author of Before Motown: A History of Jazz in Detroit, 1920-60, Gallert absolutely loves the music and the people who make it. He’s been involved with various organizations dedicated to bettering the quality of life for local jazz musicians. For example, he was instrumental with a program designed to help jazz musicians obtain adequate health insurance. Gallert is a tireless supporter and advocate of jazz music.
Best born-again rock club
The spirit of legendary Hamtramck glory-hole Lili’s 21 lives on at the Painted Lady — the murky club nestled away on Jacob in Hamtramck’s south end. The Lady gets many finger pistols for retaining Lili’s rock ’n’ roll tradition.
Struggling talent who confirms that the music industry is too lazy to concern itself with real creativity
You’ve not heard of Monica Blaire? She’s a rare quadruple threat who sings like a dream, raps her ass off, and writes bomb songs with inventive twists. Plus, she’ll get onstage alone and outperform entire choreographed crews. Still, the ex-pat of the PAJAM production camp has yet to catch a break. Maybe it’s because getting Blaire to the masses takes thought and savvy.
Best contrarian record label
Small Stone Records
You know how Detroit has this whole "street rock" brand thing going? Small Stone earns its props by steering clear of anything that reeks of hipster cred, thrift store fashionistas and other ephemera of the trend-chasing, conspicuous cool-consumption of the downtown milieu. Instead, the label’s assembled a lineup of big and muff-loving, sludge-kicking, low-end worshipping, hirsute dudes and dudettes from the hinterlands and metropoli around the U.S. and abroad. They used to call it stoner rock. They might still. Either way, SS is a welcome anomaly.
Best turntablist combo
Stacy Pullen and Ryan Elliot
Stacy Pullen and Ryan Elliot are homegrown DJs Detroit has to share with the rest of the world, but at least when they’re spinning in the angled, beveled-wood depths of Oslo, it feels like their skills are ours alone. Vintage boom, scratchy microtechno — suss out that dance floor behind the bar.
Best Americana band
Great Lakes Myth Society
Bands like GLMS are born, not made. Mutual passions have to merge with years of brotherhood, fart jokes and geography-specific references. But short of taking bold shots at poetry, beauty and the magic of your Mitten State surroundings, all that camaraderie means squat. GLMS is confident enough to go for the gusto in such missions, and talented enough to hit the mark, with tunes of soaring harmony, haunting scenery and lived-in portraits that ache with detail right down to the worn elbows of an old comfortable flannel on a late Novermber night in Ishpeming.
Best record store to find everything from over-heated psychedelic music from Sao Paulo to chilled electronica from Hamburg
Yes, there are other record stores where you can get your electro-beat groove thang on (check Record Time in Ferndale and Roseville for more Detroit flavas; and Windy and Carl’s Stormy in Dearborn for space and psych-folk jams), but where else can you find entire sections devoted to weird-beautiful dance labels like Festplatten, Muzik Krause and Trapez? Nowhere, man.
Best label-creating genre-bending music that’ll never sell north of M-59
Sam Valenti IV’s empire, made up of gifted misfits like Dykehouse, Skeletons and the Girl-Faced Boys and Todd Osborn (not to mention international snootlegs Matthew Dear and Tadd Mullinix), is the best thing to happen to regional sonic-pop art since the blistering acid tech-house/abandoned factory scene captured the world’s imagination in the 1990s. Stylistically different, but as significant.
Best graffiti crew
Leather Jackets is definitely "getting up" more than any other graf crew in Detroit. Love it or hate it, rebellious art is part of Detroit’s cultural history now, and Leather Jackets are the kings of the scene. Comprised of local graf artists Money, Rodeo, Eggs, Far and others, Leather Jackets has throw ups on just about every abandoned factory and remnant of Detroit’s glory years. Stylistically, they may not be the most captivating crew, but their ability to make statements tagging impossible locations is flat-out impressive.
Best DJ to get you laid
Whether you’ve caught him at Oslo spinning funk, on stage with Slum Village or at the Detroit Contemporary playing some of the rarest baby-making music on the planet, it’s almost guaranteed that your ratio for getting laid is always favorable when DJ Dez is behind the wheels. Frankly put, the music he plays makes women and men drop their drawers. And there’s something about seeing the large-and-in-charge DJ at an underground party, spinning rare grooves, soul, and Afro-Cuban music at 3 a.m. that makes bringing a 6-pack of jimmy-hats highly recommended.
Best jazz pianist
Teddy Harris Jr.
This posthumous award goes to a man whose legendary status on the grandstand at Bakers Keyboard Lounge made him an icon both locally and around the country. He was the quintessential relic of Detroit’s bebop generation, a composer for Motown greats Jackie Wilson and the Supremes, plus a mentor to scores of up-and-coming jazz musicians throughout the local area. Known for his almost regal status at Baker’s every Wednesday night, Harris is easily the greatest jazz pianist Detroit has ever produced. And though the longtime composer died earlier this year at the age of 71, his contributions to the Detroit jazz scene over the past 50 years may never be surpassed.
Best "don’t call it a comeback" after a breakup
Fans mourned when hip-hop crew Funktelligence broke up late last year. Mike, Jackson, and DJ Haircut didn’t — they formed Now On and haven’t looked back. They ripped it at the Electronic Music Festival, on stage with Talib Kweli, and their debut album From Now On, cemented as a force this year in Detroit hip hop.
Best hip-hop biz suit to fight the good fight
His New Rising Sun promotional company gave us the Motor City Hip-Hop review, The Revival, The Peace Jam, and the Million’s More Movement Rally. Khalid El-Hakim also manages the group 3rd Eye Open, books gigs for the Last Poets, is overseeing a comp featuring Dead Prez and Common, and is the vice-president of Iron Fist records.
Best jazz gun-for-hire
Ask around town for the hippest and most sought-after brass player, and nine out of 10 times trumpeter Dwight Adams’ name pops up. Just 10 years ago, Adams was a diamond in the rough. Now he’s talked about with the same enthusiasm as Nicholas Payton, Roy Hargrove and Jeremy Pelt, all of whom have the high profiles that go with the backing of major and mid-sized labels. Adams has performed or recorded with artists as diverse as James Carter, former Charles Mingus drummer Doug Hammond, bluesman Johnny Bassett, and Stevie Wonder. He has crafted a voice that can be as aggressive as an excavator chewing up the earth — or as gentle as snow melting on cotton. He just needs a record and a push.
Best Holy Hip-Hop Group
The Mad Prophets
This trio of gospel rappers out of Detroit impresses with its ability to fuse spirituality with street-life and still sound legit. It’s ain’t easy giving shout-outs to Jesus and still be respected by teens in the hood, but this group does it. Consisting of emcee’s Quan, Temple, and Steel Will the Warrior, these micr pugilists are all gifted lyricists, well versed in the ways of the streets. They’re hip-hop evangelists that aren’t corny. While plenty of praised hip-hop artists are rising in the Motor City, Mad Prophets offer the most authenticity.
Best Celtic Band
This gifted Ann Arbor quartet is a riot to watch half-crocked on Irish whiskey. They’ve made a significant splash in the Celtic music scene over the past few years playing zany shows that combine jazz and folk with more traditional Irish instruments like the pipes, fiddle, and fife. Drifting between jaw-dropping jigs, to cross-cultural medleys that make drinking Irish car-bombs all the more appealing, Millish has created a healthy buzz in the trad music scene, but is still smart enough to keep their sound progressive.
Best Community Record Store
People’s Records and Collectibles
This dimly lit haunt on the fringes of Detroit’s Cass Corridor has everything you need for funk, jazz, rare grooves, hip-hop, electro-clash and plenty of other genre’s that make geek vinyl drool. It’s also crucial that their wares are marked at bargain prices, though they do sell high-end rarities. Gracious owners Brad Hale and Lauren Bruyninga, have been known to reduce prices on the spot and are a wealth of information when it comes to wax. Collector’s come here from all over the world.
Best Caribbean Record Store
With the newest and truest reggae albums out of Jamaica lining the walls of this slender shop on Detroit’s Westside, Strictly Roots has the local area on lock when it comes to dancehall, soca, and calypso music. They’ve got books, records, and are virtually a one-stop shot for anything pertaining to Caribbean culture. They’re a wealth of information on all things Pan-African, plus they’ve been operating a wicked reggae sound system at Trenchtown for years.
Best Arena Sports DJ
Steve Conway (The Palace)
Considering how crunk most Pistons games have been lately, it’s easy to designate Steve Conway at the Palace as the best Arena Audio Engineer in the state. Let’s face it: Tigers games are too slow, Lions games are too predictably depressing, and the Red Wings are way too stuck on classic rock for there to be much competition over there. Meanwhile, Conway makes The Palace feel like a well-lit nightclub during every Pistons game. It’s not easy to please over 22,000 fans nightly, particularly with a metro area as diverse as the Motor City’s, but Conway pulls it off.
Best Hip-Hop Band
Black Bottom Collective
In a city like Detroit, the honor of being the best hip-hop band is heavily contested. But BBC is still ahead of all crews with a DJ that also works for Xzibit, skilled, big-lunged and lovely background singers and poet who understands community and hardship.
Writing: Brian Smith, W. Kim Heron, Johnny Loftus, Chris Handyside, Eve Doster, Jonathan Cunningham, Khary Kimani Turner, Keith Owens, Kahn Davison, Hobey Echlin, Charles Latimer, Ricky Phillips, Fred Mills and Walter Wasacz.
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