Today’s post comes from Ali Elabbady, who … well, this talented local musician actually does a stellar job of explaining how this particular collaboration came about, so I’ll just hand over the post directly! Enjoy!
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Hey everyone, I’m Egypto Knuckles aka Ali Elabbady, producer and CEO for Background Noise Crew. Long story short (or vice versa), Sally and I met at Giant Steps 2012 at the Guthrie, and although we didn’t form an immediate connection, I reached out to her via Twitter after recollecting one of the instructions I received at Giant Steps, which was to work with people outside of my industry. That would also be my passion: Music. So you might ask, what the heck am I doing writing a post for Already Pretty?
Well, it all started when I started ruminating how to reach out to people outside of my industry, or try to draw myself closer to people outside of my industry through my existing passion. Then it hit me: “Album art.” I proceeded to tweet Sally with my idea, and we went with it. As you’ll notice, there’s a common theme here of women commanding power within an industry that tends to oversexualize and create distorted images of women. What I’m presenting here is not only album art that offers powerful images of strong women, but also reflects the adversity that these women may have faced while participating in the music industry and illustrates what they did to revolutionize it. So here they are: Seven albums, seven songs, which allow you, the reader, to delve a little bit and learn the story behind each person/band and their music.
When folks first saw Queen Latifah, MTV was in its 8th year and many of us were caught up in finding our favorite shows to watch like”Remote Control” or even “Headbanger’s Ball.” But as a youth myself, I was caught up in the heyday of “YO! MTV Raps” with Fab 5 Freddy, and made a ritual of staying up past midnight every Friday to enjoy it. So imagine my surprise when I saw this video for the first time, especially seeing Queen Latifah and Monie Love wearing what was a hybrid of traditional African garments mixed with pantsuits. They were definitely ushering in something that hadn’t been found yet: A voice for women in Hip-Hop. In terms of the album cover for “All Hail The Queen,” the pose seems rather simple, but the album is a powerful force of nature within Hip-Hop and is still considered influential to this day.
If you’re not familiar with Martha Wash, I can’t necessarily blame you. But whether you knew it or not, you may have been an early supporter of her music. She was part of a duo known as Two Tons of Fun, which would later be changed to The Weather Girls, and they spawned the famous hit that’s been ingrained in our memory, “It’s Raining Men.” Afterwards she went on to supply vocals on notably huge club hits. She was responsible for delivering lead vocals on Black Box’s hits “Strike It Up” and “Everybody Everybody”, as well as four other cuts on Black Box’s album, “Dreamland.” She might be the most known unknown for providing lead vocals on C + C Music Factory’s chart-topping, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).” However, she’s part of this list because she was dogged by the record industry because of her size, and she was so infuriated that she sought litigation and won to have her work credited. In the process, she took a recording contract with RCA to put out her own solo debut, which had this #1 hit, “Carry On.”
“I’m Going To Live The Life I Sing About In My Song”
The World’s Greatest Gospel Singer (1954)
Mahalia Jackson is known throughout the world as one of its most revered Gospel singers, and with good reason. Her stirring voice moves people, and even with the first official record she did for Columbia Records, the folks she wowed couldn’t even absorb all the material she’d recorded. However, it was this song in particular that still stands as a mission statement of her life’s work, and a testament to the true talent she possessed. Mahalia was widely criticized by purists for “bringing jazz into the church” along with blues elements which occasionally included foot-stomping and hand-clapping. But there was no doubt or uncertainty about the talent she brought to the world. This song proves what her life’s work was, to those who detracted early to her work and to all listeners.
“A Rose Is Still A Rose”
A Rose Is Still A Rose (1998)
While this album was Arista’s attempt at giving Aretha a fresh new take with younger folks, she didn’t really need it. After all, when you look at her catalog, this album was her 36th. Many folks how the album would fare when such names as Lauryn Hill, Sean “Puffy” Combs, Jermaine Dupri, and assorted critics and fans alike began voicing concerns, especially when she’d attempted a similar project in 1986 to mixed results. Regardless though, Aretha began singing as if she had some newfound life in her and spawned a hit with the title track, which is about an older woman giving a younger woman advice on relationship and self-identity issues. While it was the lone music video from the album, it was still the most powerful.
“Rolling In The Deep”
Adele doesn’t tend to hide behind mystery, and if any song is a perfect example of her transparency, it is “Rolling In the Deep.” This is not only a powerful song but also a powerhouse of a hit, which put Adele at #1 for several weeks on Billboard, and as of last tally, helped her sell over 12 million copies of the album. She has broken many records when it comes to sales and awards, but it was the emotion of “21” that spoke to a lot of people, and much of that was attributed to this single which seemed so inescapable, but also so right. Adele is a woman who’s still very much in control of her image, citing in several magazines how she likes to eat fine foods, and she still looks awesome, and is very much a woman in charge of her own destiny. While it remains unclear when we’ll get another album from her, the fact remains that she’s already accomplished what very few have.
“Me & Bobby McGee”
Recorded before her untimely death at the age of 27, Janis Joplin’s fourth and final album for Columbia was both haunting and harrowing. However, “Pearl” was a monumental feat in and of itself. She recorded the album with The Full Tilt Boogie Band, and all of the songs written for “Pearl” were personally approved by Joplin. Aside from that, she had quite a few collaborators outside the band, but it was the song “Me & Bobby McGee” which remains her best vocal performance to date. The song was written by Kris Kristofferson and Fred Foster, which almost seems like a match made in heaven once people hear the tune and its intricate story.
“It’s Too Late”
Before Adele took the title, Carole King’s sophomore release, “Tapestry” was widely recognized for staying atop the Billboard charts for 15 consecutive weeks, and widely considered one of the best selling albums of all time with over 25 million copies sold. That’s no easy feat, especially for Carole King, who was both a singer and a songwriter. But regardless, she created a timeless masterpiece especially with the beloved song “You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)” used in many a television ad and, of course, covered by Aretha Franklin prior to Carole King singing it herself. However it was her tune “It’s Too Late” that was the highlight of the album, its progressive chord structure adding more and more to an emotional and harrowing tune of love lost.