From Detroit to New Orleans, each city in our team’s region offers something integral to American music by way of their artists, sounds, genres, record labels and history at large. Not only were Black artists in Detroit, Chicago, Nashville, Memphis and New Orleans creating world changing music during some of Black America’s most troubling times, they were also responsible for the creation of distinguished and acclaimed genres and musical movements that gave the outside world a glimpse into the beauty of the Black experience, and gave our inside world hope, joy and strength to carry on.
BLACK GOLD ROAD
A collection of songs and sounds that go down the road of some of the most essential cities to Black music and explore the history, impact and beauty of music inspired by our home towns of New Orleans, Memphis, Nashville, Chicago and Detroit.
*Scroll to the bottom of post for Soundcloud playlist of Black Gold Road*
DETROIT – “WHAT’S GOING ON”
“What’s Going On” is one of Marvin Gaye’s biggest hits. Marvin Gaye was one of the original artists of Berry Gordy’s Motown– which was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1959 after droves of Blacks migrated to Detroit for job opportunities in the automobile industry- giving Detroit the largest population of Blacks in the country. Motown became first Black-owned record label to reach widespread acclaim- achieving more than 180 hit records worldwide and launching global artists like Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Temptations and Michael Jackson. Because of Motown’s unifying impact on such a segregated country, Detroit is said to have created “The Sound That Changed America.” “What’s Going On” was the perfect song to remake right now considering the division in our country and recent school shooting in Florida. Every youth that participated in the creation of this track enjoyed it thoroughly. We hope it lifts your spirit like it did ours.
CHICAGO – CHICAGO BLUE SOUL
Chicago Blues was born following the great migration of African Americans from the southern US to the industrial cities of the North. This population included working class people and musicians as well. The specific Blues style found in Chicago evolved from street musicians who played dense areas for tips and to mingle with fellow musicians. This track, produced at the Notes For Notes Chicago studio, reflects characteristics of modern South Side Chicago Hip- Hop. It includes Drill, a subgenre of Trap music whose gritty and realistic undertones hold threads to the classic Chicago Blues sound. Not only is the sound of old school Chicago deeply ingrained in the new generation of music, but also its attitudes and spirit of humility and hardwork. “Chicago Blue Soul” includes samples of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Shake For Me,” an excerpt from a 1966 interview with Howlin Wolf, and Gene Chandler’s “A Song Called Soul.” These artists recorded with Chicago record labels Chess Records and Constellation Records, which specialized in Rhythm and Blues.
NASHVILLE – THE DREAM
Executively produced by youth producer, IV, “The Dream” is your Trap cliff notes to your annual Black History Month lesson. Featuring rappers Lil Spittii and Eric, the track features a Clifford Curry sample of his song “Ain’t No Danger.” Curry was a notable R&B and Soul musician active in the Nashville music scene from the late 50s up to the late 90s. The Nashville Scene called him Nashville’s R&B Hero. Nashville’s historic Jefferson Street, which connects its two Historically Black Colleges Tennessee State University and Fisk University (and ironically connects our two N4N studios in North Nashville), was a haven for Jazz and Blues music. During the 50s and 60s, you could find a Jazz or Blues club on every corner of Jefferson Street. Artists like Etta James, Jimi Hendrix and Hank Crawford spent some of the earliest years of their careers developing their sound, creating, and performing right here in Nashville, Tennessee. This fresh take on a historic track is the perfect soundtrack for highlighting the amazing accomplishments of Black Americans past and present.
MEMPHIS – WILD FLOWER
Memphis is home to the legendary Beale Street and has also been deemed “Home of the Blues.” By the 1900s, Beale Street was filled with clubs –many of which were owned by Blacks– where you could hear Blues music being performed by some of America’s most noted musicians such as B.B. King, Howlin Wolf, and W.C Handy. The Blues was created on southern plantations as slaves, ex-slaves and sharecroppers sang about their sorrows. Blues influenced musicians worldwide and certainly made its mark on Memphis artists like Isaac Hayes. “Wild Flower” samples the Memphis/Stax Records legendary artist Isaac Hayes and his hit record “Walk on By.” The beat was created by our New Orleans program director (Thanks Justen!) and many of the lyrics are inspired by the movie Black Panther, which debuted in theaters last weekend. The lyrics are also inspired by the Civil Rights Movement and significant historical events of the movement that took place in Memphis such as the Memphis Sanitation Workers’ Strike, Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech, and the great leader’s assassination at Memphis’ Lorraine Motel in 1968.
NEW ORLEANS- BY ANY MEANS
Marching bands and Second Lines made up of predominantly brass instruments and driven by robust horn sections are a huge part of New Orleans’ culture and the Black population’s contribution to it. From high school and college events to parades during Mardi Gras season, marching bands can always be heard –filling the air with the essence of New Orleans culture. New Orleans is considered to be the birthplace of Jazz music and the city’s musical legacy is recognized worldwide. African influence on the city’s music traces back to Congo Square, where slaves would congregate to play music on Sundays. In “Any Means Necessary,” one of New Orleans most elite marching bands, St. Augustine High School marching band, was sampled and paired with Hip-Hop beat made by Prosper Jones. Youth artist Lance is also featured in true New Orleans fashion, expounding on his connection to Malcolm X’s approach to achieving equality.