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A Bite of the Big Apple

It’s been 13 years since I had last visited New York City. In 2001 I had the wonderful opportunity to do an interview with the Queen of HipHop Soul, Mary J. Blige for the (now unfortunately defunct) German magazine THE SOUL. Back then record labels still spent quite some money for these promotional stunts and so I enjoyed a wonderful July weekend in the Big Apple. It also gave me the chance to visit the soon-to-be destroyed World Trade Center.

So, coming back to this wonderful city was exciting. My main mission was research for a story that will be soon be revealed (just not yet), but I also took the opportunity to enjoy some of the city’s wonderful sights, buy some sport shoes, do some musical things, and… oh yes, meet people.

First things first, I arrived May 31st, and was lucky enough to able to stay with my girlfriend’s brother and his family in Upper Manhattan with a nice view over the city.

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Once I knew I was coming back to New York City, there was one particular thing on my mind; I had some unfinished business. in 2003 I interviewed DJ and Producer Prince Paul (Stetsasonic, De La Soul, Gravediggaz…) via phone and I mentioned a Remix he did in 1989 for “Good Thing” by the British Pop-group Fine Young Cannibals. Paul said “Wow, I almost forgot about that. I don’t think I even own a copy of that.” And as I thought, I would meet him to sign my copy of that 12″ on his next tour (“If you walk up to me with that record in your hand, you don’t have to say anything. I know who you are!” he said then), I wanted to step it up a bit and bought another copy of that 12″ to surprise Prince Paul with it. Fast forward 2014: I have missed Paul on his tour in 2014 and never saw a chance to meet him, but kept the records. And here it was: my opportunity to fulfill my mission. It took a bit of effort and research to finally get a hold of him via email, but we agreed on June 5th in Uptown Manhattan. And there I was at the meeting point. And he wouldn’t show for half an hour (and of course I had been 15 minutes early anyway), and there was no message either. Hm, so I thought, alright I send him a short message in case he is stuck in the meeting he mentioned, he would have before, and wait for another 30 minutes. After about 45 minutes standing on a street corner, I spotted him. And while I was so happy, that I forgot totally about waiting around, he looked at me like a little kid, that had broken daddy’s favorite soul 45: “Dude, I’m so sorry!”

But I was happy, very happy. And I could finally give him the record that I kept for him for about ten years. And it’s not an expensive record or rare or such. It’s a fun record with a great remix, and we agreed on the word “persistance”. As he was already late for the next appointment, I took my opportunity for a quick conversation, getting my copy of his “Politics Of The Business” LP signed and taking a picture.

And he said “When we meet again, I take you out for dinner, as I feel I owe you”. I said: “Thank you very much!” And he smiled and said: “I didn’t say it was gonna be a fancy dinner…”

Now, to understand, what meeting him meant to me, you must understand that I was about 13 years old when I first bought a record produced by Prince Paul and that there is a lot of memories and emotions attached to the music I listened to at that time in my life. Music was already more than a mere passion for me back then. So, when I met him, it was a bit of that young teen meeting somebody that created music, which made his days better.

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Two days later it was the Meyhem Lauren / Buckwild album release show at Webster Hall, Downtown Manhattan. My homie Icerocks (member of DXA) asked if I wanted to come, as he was DJing for Meyhem. Besides it being a nice show overall, there were some stereotypical things going on. The first two supporting acts split skills and presence. The first MC had good rhymes, no presence, the second group was very present, but had no content. Very weird. Fortunately, it changed with the next two, but (and this is soooo stereotypical) the two soundguys seemed more comfortable with rockbands. Their ability to mix a HipHop show was, well, limited like that Funk LP you were trying to find for the last twenty years…

Then it was Meyhem Lauren’s turn and everything seemed to take a turn to the better with the opening verse of his first song. Unfortunately, there was soon too many of his mates on stage (incl. the “somebody’s girlfriend” girl, who was filming with her phone at all times). Instead of making their buddies release-show pure fire by supporting him from the crowd’s perspective, it seemed everybody wanted some of his shine. The most excited people in the front row of the audience (again, very stereotypical!) were a couple of nerdy-looking backpacked white kids, who knew every word of the tracks and were going wild with every beat. Finally, some technical troubles and the strict curfew made the second half of the show less enjoyable then the opening bars promised. But maybe that’s why they say, if you can make it there…..

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And, yes, I also bought a few records. But I have to admit that I wasn’t so much for the diggin’ this time around, and looked only for cheap 45s that I had wanted for a while but I didn’t want to pay shipping for 🙂 Next time…. And I will find a way to make sure you can find Our Label Records’ 45s everywhere, when you’re in New York City…

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One other day I was invited to a rooftop party in Brooklyn and had a chance to meet some old friends from Germany and actually make new ones. It was quite a trip getting to the right address by subway and then bus. But I found out that New York people, may they seem in a rush and distanced on first sight, are very friendly and eager to help when you ask for it. In that bus I wasn’t really sure when my stop was gonna come, so I asked this lady sitting on a seat across from mine, and within a short minute the three people around us and the bus driver were trying to help me out. A very nice experience. On my way home I had actually missed the last bus and had to walk through Brooklyn for about 30 minutes before I would reach the next possible subway station. By chance, I got to see a very different part of the city, and it was quite beautiful.

I also did quite a few touristy things, taking a trip with Staten Island Ferry, going to a Yankees Baseball game, walking around Central Park, enjoying the view from Top Of The Rock (the observation deck of Rockefeller Center), and many things of that nature.

Some of you may know, that I have quite a passion for playing basketball, and in a totally different story, I was able to fulfill another childhood dream to shoot some hoops on a New York street court (and big thanks to the people that got me safe in and out of the South Bronx!). Next time I will bring the proper gear and try a bit of two on two, so that I can cross that off my list, too.

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Now, finally, I have to say that I will soon be back in New York City, meet my friends, go for a serious dig with my man Icerocks, hopefully meet some more childhood heroes, and enjoy life like I did this time around.

I love New York!

Gu

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