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How the Daughter of Wu-Tang’s RZA Started Singing Country Music With Her Mom

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Back in 2014, Tekitha Washington would host electrifying jam sessions where she’d invite musicians, poets, rappers and visual artists to her home for a night of creativity and collaboration. For her daughter Prana Supreme Diggs, those nights were a chance to sing alongside a group of dynamic artists. One evening after the mother and daughter wowed guests with some freestyling, the younger performer had a thought: “‘What if we sang and wrote our own songs together?’” Diggs recalls asking her mother.

Washington immediately shot down the idea. But Diggs — Washington’s daughter with Wu-Tang Clan’s de-facto leader RZA — wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Well aware of how challenging the music business could be for young girls, she figured working with her mother would be ideal. “I felt like if I wanted to do music, or if I wanted to be in the arts, no one would better protect me than my mom,” Diggs says over Zoom from her family’s dining room. “And she’s not a stage mom. She’s not trying to live vicariously through her child.”

The mother-daughter duo didn’t rush their collaboration. Washington, a longtime vocalist for Wu-Tang Clan and solo artist, doesn’t venture into projects half-heartedly. “She’s like, ‘We’re not gonna do this as a hobby. You want to do this, then we’re gonna do it to the best of our ability,’” Diggs says.

Eventually, they landed on the moniker O.N.E the Duo. The initials represent the words “observant, noetic, effervescent,” traits synonymous with Washington and Diggs’s energy. When it came to crafting music, Washington wanted something that would “be a complete departure” from her work with Wu-Tang Clan and in hip-hop and R&B. That’s where country music and Americana came into play.

The idea was that listeners should be able to see them independently of their family and of past musical connections. “I thought the best way for us to approach the creative was going to be super organic, very acoustic,” Washington says. She envisioned incorporating instruments like guitar, mandolin, live drums, and upright bass, plus finding producers outside of her New York and Los Angeles “clique.”

Nashville instantly came to mind. Washington reached out to producer Bar None (Lecrae, Rick Ross) to get a feel for the live music scene and how her project with Diggs might fit within the town. What followed was a week-long trip to Nashville in summer 2015 during which Washington and Diggs had their first co-write — a session with country singer Rebecca Lynn Howard, her husband Elisha Hoffman, and Bar None. The song they wrote, “Love Will Break ‘Em Down,” effectively launched O.N.E the Duo.

But the Music Row style of co-writing required some adapting for Washington; with hip-hop and R&B, she was used to locking herself in a room and writing whenever she felt inspired. “Making that transition here has been really eye-opening actually, and challenging for sure,” she says. While she isn’t “an advocate of forcing creativity,” she enjoyed opening herself up to a different process. For her, it’s enabled more thoughtfulness and collaboration. “You’re not going to get that alone,” she adds. “You’re just not.”

The fully-actualized version of O.N.E the Duo was a slow burn. It wasn’t until 2020 that they created the infrastructure for the group, hired management, and began courting publishers and labels. In March 2021, they signed with the Nashville indie Visionary Media Group.

O.N.E the Duo’s debut single “Guilty,” a soulful, twangy tale of justified revenge, came out in September and was commissioned by RZA for the Hulu drama Wu-Tang: An American Saga. They followed it up with the redemptive “River of Sins” in December and are predicting a summer date for a longer release, be it an EP or full album.

Along the way, their country journey has made Washington and Diggs fans of genre-bucking artists like Chris Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Kacey Musgraves, and Miranda Lambert. “Listen, I stan Miranda Lambert,” Washington says. “​​We had to start listening. It was the right thing to do to pay homage and make sure that we are understanding the genre that someone else has said that we’re a part of.”

As two Black women working in country and roots music, O.N.E. the Duo feel the additional weight of being activists and they’re adamant about having people of color on the label side and in management. “The responsibility falls on artists who are in any marginalized community to be [an artist] and be an activist,” Diggs says. “It’s like a requirement.”

Though she didn’t grasp it at first, making music with O.N.E the Duo demonstrated to Washington how much country music she had actually digested throughout her life. “It’s almost like you don’t notice you know something because it’s not in the framework of what you would think anybody in Black culture would be into,” she says.

She also learned her family — particularly her father and maternal grandmother — loved country music. “When we started this project together, my auntie Angie called me and was crying after I had sent her some songs,” Washington recalls. “She said, ‘You know, [your] mom would be just thrilled about this.”

But Washington and Diggs stress they don’t want to fit into any country music mold: They’re writing songs and recording music that authentically represent them. “When we’re in these rooms,” Diggs says, “we’re not compromising our Blackness. It’s our culture.”

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Cardi B and Fat Joe Step in to Help Victims of Bronx Fire

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Cardi B and Fat Joe represent for the Bronx in a major way.

Only 9 days into the New Year, a high rise fire would strike an apartment building at the Twin Parks North West in the Bronx of New York, killing 17 people. Sadly, 8 of those individuals would be children.

Overall, 44 people were injured from the fire and many took to social media to ask for help as many are houseless, some are even the last of their family following the deadly fire.

After hearing the devastating news, Cardi B stepped in to help cover the cost of funeral and burials for the victims of the tragedy. “I cannot begin to imagine the pain and anguish that the families of the victims are experiencing, but I hope that not having to worry about the costs associated with burying their loved ones will help as they move forward and heal,” Cardi B stated.  “I send my prayers and condolences to everyone affected by this horrific tragedy.”

Cardi B speaks on the deadly Bronx fire that happened on January 9th, taking the lives of 17 people and sending many more to the hospital. She also names other artists that are also helping the victims like Fat Joe, Remy Ma, Dream Doll, Brooklyn Johnny, Hot 97 & Power 1051. pic.twitter.com/9LaQ0jhQ4J

— Bardi V | 💎 (@imcardivenomb) January 19, 2022

Cardi B will be partnering with The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to cover the expenses for the families.

Along with Cardi B, Fat Joe would also collaborate with The Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City to provide a relief fund for victims who were impacted by the fire, getting support from Roc Nation who posted the link to Joe’s aid on their website.

“No matter where I go in the world or what I achieve, I could never forget my community,” Fat Joe stated. “I had to react, but I couldn’t do it on my own.” Fat Joe’s efforts raised 1 million dollars along with the help of other celebrities such as Jay-Z and Dj Khaled.

Although Fat Joe raised 1 million dollars, the “Lean Back” rapper shared with Pix11 that he plans on continuing to do what he can to support the victims of the Bronx fire.

“We have so much more to raise,” he stated. “These people have real lifelong issues with emotional [and] mental distress.”

Our hearts and prayers are with the victims of the tragic Bronx fire.

Check out the video below to hear Fat Joe’s explanation as to why he felt he needed to get involved.

Anyone interested in donating to help the victims of the fire can click here.

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‘Payola Is Illegal’: Lawsuit Revives Pay-for-Play Accusations in Radio Industry

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In March 2020, Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong released a cover of “I Think We’re Alone Now,” hoping to offer a small measure of comfort to a pandemic-stricken world. “I figure if we have to spend this time in isolation, at least we can be alone together,” the singer wrote on YouTube. The familiarity of Tommy James & the Shondells’ original combined with the sweet sentiment created an unexpected hit — Armstrong’s cover cracked several Billboard charts and earned radio play in both the Rock and Adult Top 40 formats.

But that May, Steve Zap, an independent radio promoter, texted an employee at a station he has worked with to reduce the single’s play count. “I hate to do this but Billie Joe needs to go down,” Zap wrote. “They said they aren’t working it” — apparently meaning the record label wasn’t actively pushing the song — “and not paying bills… If we take down, let’s see if they are all of a sudden working it?” Based on a later follow-up text from Zap, this tactic appeared unsuccessful: “Billie Joe down and they never paid a dime.”

In 2020, Rolling Stone obtained a trove of Zap’s texts, several of which explicitly refer to payments in money or goods to radio stations in connection with airplay. (“Please put Rua into 50 spin rotation,” the promoter wrote to a radio programmer, referring to the pop-rock trio. “I can use the billing.”) Zap vehemently denied any wrongdoing, acknowledging in a statement at the time that he had channeled “certain promotional support” to one radio station, but insisting that support wasn’t linked to spins, and that his operations were above-board.

Last year, a court battle between other players in the radio industry unearthed documents that hint at the large amount of money that can move between Zap and the stations he works with. Records produced in the lawsuit identified more than 130 “payments by Steve Zap in 2020 alone — totaling over $300,000” to help cover bills for Royce International Broadcasting, which then owned three radio stations. According to court filings, Zap also allegedly acknowledged that he had been paying “a budget set at $200,000” annually for those three stations — the Bay Area’s KREV, Palm Springs’ KRCK, and Las Vegas’ KFRH — for “several years” running.

Speaking on behalf of his companies Z-entertainment and Artbeatz, Zap said in a statement that he “has not, did not, and never will participate in payola, and maintains full compliance with the FCC and regulations of the record industry.”

Zap went on to call Rolling Stone’s previous article describing his business practices “reckless misreporting” and “unsubstantiated hatchet job reporting.”

Independent promoters like Zap are a longtime feature of the radio landscape. Some in the music industry liken their role to “consultants” or “lobbyists”; third-party boosters hired to use their connections to persuade program directors to add songs to playlists or give them more spins.

When the New York Attorney General’s Office investigated the radio industry in the 2000s, however, it took a different view, describing them as “middlemen” enlisted to “act as conduits for delivery of the labels’ ‘promotional support’ to [radio] stations, and help perpetuate the fiction that this support is not actually being delivered by the labels in exchange for airplay.”

“There are people that add value, that have true relationships, that you can use to complement your efforts” to get a song on the airwaves, says one label promoter. (Sources who spoke for this story did so on the condition of anonymity, fearing retribution.) But radio veterans say some independent promoters establish exclusive relationships with stations and demand “a toll” in exchange for airplay. “When you just have to pay a gatekeeper? It can become very costly,” the label promotions executive adds.

Following the New York Attorney General’s investigation, any “promotional efforts” linked to spins were regulated by the music industry. The major labels agreed to “not use … [contests or giveaways, commercial transactions, advertising, artist appearances and performances] in an explicit or implicit exchange, agreement or understanding to obtain airplay or increase airplay.”

Independent promoters were not initially embroiled in the dispute between a slew of labels and Royce International Broadcasting. But a judge put owner Ed Stolz’s stations in the hands of a receiver — a third-party custodian with extensive media experience — after a jury ruled that Royce had failed to pay licensing fees for some of the music it played. And as the receiver, W. Lawrence Patrick, prepared to arrange a sale of Stolz’s stations, he dug into their operations and discovered that they had been getting sizable payments from Zap.

“If I were on the stand, I would say it appeared that Steve was influencing what songs were being played on the radio,” Patrick tells Rolling Stone. “And it also appeared that Stolz was having Steve pay most of the bills that stations were incurring.”

Patrick and his legal team broached the transactions with Zap. The promoter claimed “that this arrangement came about because Stolz threatened to refuse to play any of Zap’s clients’ songs on the stations without [payment],” the lawyers alleged in a court filing. They argued that “whether Zap was a willing participant in this payola scheme, or was simply coerced by Stolz, is immaterial. Payola is illegal unless the pay-for-play is explicitly announced.”

“Steve kept saying, ‘I have to do this, I have to pay these bills,’” Patrick says. “And I said, ‘why?’ And he said, ‘[Stolz] won’t play my music.’ So you’re basically buying your way on to the station, and that’s not right.”

In a subsequent hearing, the Royce owner offered a very different explanation for his financial arrangement with Zap. “The status of an independent promoter in the industry is to serve as the contact point between a programmer and the industry, and that programmer then provides a listing of the musical performances that are played over a given station in that week,” Stolz testified in court.

Rolling Stone read this statement to a label promotions executive; his skeptical response was, “that’s definitely not the whole story.” “No label needs to pay an individual to find out what a station is playing — there are monitoring services that do that digitally,” adds another radio and record industry veteran who has experience with independent promotion practices.

“In a normal relationship, the label or artist manager would pay a promoter for their service, and the movement of money ends there — it’s just work-for-hire,” the veteran continues. “If money is making its way to a radio station, or vendors of that radio station, something very different is occurring. In that case, the independent promoter actually has an exclusive relationship with the radio station. The ‘promoter’ inserts itself as a gatekeeper between the station and the label and charges for access to the station’s airwaves.”

Either way, Patrick and his lawyers did not buy Stolz’s explanation. They pressed the station-owner with follow-up questions in court: “When was that [play information] transmitted to Mr. Zap?” Stolz had “no idea.” He ducked another question about his connection to the promoter, but Patrick persisted.

“Isn’t it true that Steve Zap is paying bills or infusing cash into your company in exchange for airplay for songs that he is promoting through his company?” Patrick asked during the court hearing. “Absolutely not,” Stolz replied. (Stolz’s lawyers did not respond to a request for comment.)

Court documents filed in the Stolz case referenced Rolling Stone‘s previous reporting on Zap’s 2020 texts, which provided a rare insight into the carefully targeted mechanics of radio campaigns. In those messages, the promoter frequently discussed adjusting airplay to help labels achieve chart goals, often by taking away spins from one artist higher on the chart and assigning them to a lower-ranking act.

In March 2020, Zap texted, “can we … spike Maren Morris. 1 week only and [then] Dua lipa can get in.” Two weeks later, he followed up: “Please make sure Dua Lipa goes to super power and maren comes down a bit… Give a 50 spin difference.” (A song in power rotation is one of the most played at a station.) Unsavory as this track-flipping seems, there’s nothing illegal about shifting plays from one artist to another as long as it’s not linked to some payment in money or goods.

Zap’s texts also offered a window into the fractious communications that occur behind the scenes as labels compete for positions on charts that few listeners are actually aware of (AAA and Adult Top 40 are hardly household names). Even as the promoter worked with the record companies, his texts indicated frustration with his label counterparts. “Going to make [P]atty beg for increase” in spins for a Lewis Capaldi song, one text read. “Wendy crying about Backstreet Boys,” Zap wrote. “… She can’t save it but whatever.” “That record isn’t a hit and Pete isn’t cool,” Zap texted at another point. “Don’t play [the song] so much.”

The radio press all but ignored Rolling Stone‘s reporting on Zap’s messages. Perhaps that’s a sign that the behavior described in his texts is so commonplace it does not rise to the level of news in the trades. In his recent statement, Zap said that “his promotion activities on behalf of various record labels and musicians [are] standard in the industry, and completely permissible.”

When Zap’s name came up multiple times in court documents filed in the Stolz brouhaha, the radio publication All Access — which did not reply to a request for comment — initially wrote an article citing the promoter by name: “Patrick charged that Stolz lied about payments from promoter Steve Zap that Patrick has characterized as payola/plugola.”

Zap’s name was later removed from the article, replaced with “a promoter.”

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Ghislaine Maxwell Is Using Questions About a Juror’s Sexual Abuse History to Ask for a New Trial

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On Wednesday night, just before the filing deadline, Ghislaine Maxwell’s lawyers submitted a motion for a new trial, aiming to dismiss her December conviction on sex-trafficking charges. Maxwell’s defense initially requested a new trial and indicated they would file a motion to that end earlier in January, after a juror revealed to a reporter that he may have omitted pertinent information during the selection process. On Wednesday, they filed the motion under seal and asked that all submissions be sealed until U.S. District Judge Alison Nathan makes her ruling.

“Today, counsel for Ghislaine Maxwell filed her Motion for a New Trial (the “Motion”) and accompanying exhibits under seal,” said a Jan. 19 letter from attorney Bobbi Sternheim to Judge Nathan. “For the reasons set forth in the Motion, we request that all submissions pertaining to Juror No. 50 remain under seal until the Court rules on the Motion.”

Maxwell’s closely watched sex-trafficking trial began shortly after Thanksgiving in New York’s Southern District, where the British socialite stood accused of helping procure underage girls for the late financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. Throughout the monthslong proceedings, four accusers shared intimate and graphic details of abuse they’d endured during their teenage years by Epstein and how Maxwell had groomed them for it and, at times, participated. Recounting their experiences, they often wept on the stand. On Dec. 29, the Maxwell was found guilty on five of the six charges she faced, including enticing a minor to travel to engage in illegal sex acts and sex trafficking a minor. 

Now, a post-trial interview threatens those results. Days after the verdict was announced, a juror, released from his obligation not to talk about the case, gave a celebratory interview to The Independent in which he discussed convincing fellow jurors to believe survivors of sexual abuse by sharing his own experience as an abuse survivor during deliberations. “This verdict is for all the victims,” said the juror, who identified himself by his first and middle name only, Scotty David. 

Unfortunately for the security of the verdict, however, Scotty David also revealed to the press that he could not remember being asked about his experience with sexual abuse during jury selection, either on the 51-question jury questionnaire — which included a question on whether you or any friends or family members have been the victim of sexual abuse or sexual assault — or during follow-up questioning known as voir dire. The possibility that he’d lied during the selection process and then gone on to play an influential role in deliberations was enough to trigger this motion for a new trial by Maxwell’s defense. The prosecution has until Feb. 2 to respond. On Thursday morning, the judge had not yet addressed to the request to seal all submissions related to the juror.

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