Black Gold Road – A Black History Project

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.

BLACKGOLDROADCOVERIn honor of Black History Month and the contributions that Black artists from each of our cities made to American music, we present:


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*



“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.


howlin-wolf-1Chicago 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.


cliffordExecutively 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.


R-4636022-1370633199-6246.jpegMemphis 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.



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. 



The “Youth Driven Spaces Conference” with Ivon Harris

Hello all, DSLate checking in…

One of my best youth creators (Ivon Harris) was selected to have the opportunity to be apart of the “Youth Driven Spaces Conference” located at “The Neutral Zone” in Ann Arbor Michigan. I was able to talk with her about her experience……..

Ivon – On Sunday January 21st 2018, I along with the Notes 4 Notes area director Charity Ward had the privilege to attend the “Youth Driven Spaces 2018 Inaugural Conference”. Seeing all the youth that came out to support, and represent their organizations inspired me in so many ways. As a teen in Detroit, it exposed me to different organizations that I didn’t know were around me. I got the chance to inform others about Notes 4 Notes, while receiving feedback on how we could  make it more youth driven. In the process of telling people about Notes 4 Notes, I got the chance to express why this organization meant so much to me. We sat down with teens from Youth Records and B-side (located inside the Neutral Zone) and talked about collaborating with each other to expand Notes for Notes into our own youth record label. In the mist of the conference, towards the end, we came together to draw out a plan to create a youth music festival. We successfully came up with an outline and a pretty subtle name; “The Detroit Teen Music Festival” will hopefully happen in the summer of 2019. I am so glad that i had the opportunity to attend the conference and I’m extremely excited for the many new things to happen in the upcoming years.


The Notes For Notes Detroit studio would like to thank Ivon for being an awesome studio representative.

We Love You Ivon!!


Signing Off



Artist Perception & EP Highlight “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito

DSLate Checking in………


Here at the Detroit Studio, i had the opportunity to meet a young and motivated student by the name of Carlito Smith aka Lito.  I had the pleasure of engineering Lito’s entire EP here at the Detroit Studio and i found out that Lito had an amazing talent that most people don’t have. Introducing “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito………..


The Valley’s Untold Love Story is the tale of various obstacles I’ve encountered and realizations I have made about myself and life in the past year. I use the term “Valley” to explain where I feel my life has been leading up to now. I was on path to the mountain, but in order to get there I had to go through the low place where things aren’t as pretty. In my Valley I encountered Hate, Love, and Envy, which ultimately lead me to a place of tranquility (Tranquillo) where I was able to see the true Beauty in everything I encountered. As I stated before the Valley isn’t pretty, you will go through some things that either make you or break you, and one of those things for me was the passing of a childhood friend of mine in early 2017. At that point in my life it was hard to see the good in things, because I couldn’t understand why or how someone could take the life of a 16 year old in cold blood. After times like this I was able to extract the beauty in every situation that life threw at me. As I began to write I became more and more aware of what my purpose in life was, and as I began to walk in that purpose, doors began to open for me and I found myself transitioning from my place in the valley to a higher ground. “The Valley’s Untold Love Story” vividly depicts what I see in my mind as a young man from Detroit, Michigan. Around here everything isn’t always great and dandy, but if there was one thing i hope someone learns from this EP, I hope it would be for them to find the beauty that was placed within them, and to use that to build up others and inspire change, regardless of where they are from, what they look like, or how old they are, and to always remember there is Beauty in everything. -Lito


“The Valley’s Untold Love Story” by Lito is available on all digital media outlets.

Performance Highlight : The Detroit Parent Network

DSLate Checking in Once Again…..


On Saturday December 9th 2017, the Detroit Parent Network had a program at Cass Technical High School here in Detroit Michigan.  Im happy to announce that 3 of our kids from Notes for Notes Detroit were invited to sing an original song that they wrote at the event entitled “Lets Love”.  It was roughly 250 people there for the event, and our youth did extremely well and got nothing but positive feedback.  The Detroit Parent Network’s vision is to be a driving force by making sure positive conditions exist for Metro-Detroit children to thrive while specializing in resourceful, empathatic, dedicated and empowering values.


I wanna give a HUGE shoutout and thank you to my wonderful Notes For Notes kids (left to right) Ivon Harris, Eddie Gardner, and Lameya Appling for representing the company and the studio with class.  I am extremely proud of you all and most definitely looking forward to what the future will bring with you all here at Notes For Notes.


Signing Off



Volunteer Highlight – Dan Thomas

Photo by: Brian Sevald

DSLate Checking in Once Again!!

Over the past three weeks, our Detroit Studio has had the pleasure and opportunity to have Dan Thomas from the Detroit Pistons organization volunteer and teach percussion to all of our youth on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  Dan surely had his hands full.  On Tuesdays and Thursdays we have our 3rd thru 8th graders in the studio.  Those are our younger kids and they come in the studio full of energy and ready for music.  Dan took the time out of his busy schedule to come to the studio and teach all of the kids percussion and THEY HAD A BLAST!!


Dan Thomas has played percussion instruments for 10 years; with experience in marching band, classical music, and jazz band.  His main focus while teaching at Notes For Notes has been the fundamental rhythm of playing the drums.  “One of the hardest things to grasp in playing the drums is the coordination of both hands and feet playing in rhythm.  So far the kids have done a great job in learning since I’ve been apart” Dan says.  We are extremely grateful for Dan coming to the studio and volunteering his time to teach the kids.  Dan is currently heading out of town to tour with the Harlem Globetrotters and we are excited for his opportunities and we fully love and support him here at Notes For Notes. Thank You so much Dan!!


Signing Off


“The Reason Class”

Hello everyone!! DSLate checking in again!!

When i was 3 years old my mother noticed that i would love to bang on the piano that we had in our house.  She quickly noticed that i couldn’t walk by the piano without playing it.  She quickly saw the interest and passion that i had even as a small child.  So when i turned 4, she put me in private piano lessons.  I took private piano lessons for 10 years until age 14.  In high school i played for all the choirs, all the bands, and i also took music theory and production classes.  While in high school a friend of mine introduced me to (what i consider) the best DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) thats on the market.  It was called “Reason” (version 2.5).  I quickly fell in love with the software as a junior in 2003 and ever since then I’ve been a dedicated Reason user.  Ive been with Reason since 2.5, and now i have Reason 10 that was just released within a month ago.

Reason is a digital audio workstation for creating and editing music and audio developed by Swedish software developers Propellerhead Software. It emulates a rack of hardware synthesizers, samplers, signal processors, sequencers, and mixers, all of which can be freely interconnected in an arbitrary manner. Reason can be used either as a complete virtual music studio or as a set of virtual instruments to be used with other sequencing software in a fashion that mimics live performance.  The release of Reason 10 was announced on September 22, 2017 and was released on October 25, 2017. It was advertised as Reason’s “biggest upgrade” ever and features five new devices as well as a new multi-gigabyte library of sounds and device patches. – Wikipedia

Im IN LOVE with everything that Reason is capable of so here at Notes For Notes Detroit, i have integrated “The Reason Class”.  Over the next few months, while working on “The DSA Project” (check previous blog) I will be teaching my high school students all of the components thats in Reason 10.  My goal is for all of my students to be able to produce, record, mix, and master their own music efficiently by the end of the class.  Learning reason can create a lot of oppurtunities for my students to benefiting from their work financially, all the way to easily learning different DAW’s simply because of the information that was taught in Reason can be easily translated into different programs.  I am extremely excited to see all of my high schoolers learning this program.  The hit records are ON THE WAY!!


Signing Off


NFN Detroit Artist Highlight

DSLate Checking In.

Hello to all!

Today I wanted to highlight one of the Notes For Notes youth.

IMG_2492“8phy Boy Dre” is an aspiring songwriter and rapper from Highland Park, Michigan.  He’s so determined that he takes 3 buses to get to the Eastside of Detroit where the Notes For Notes studio is.  He loves to write with other kids who attend Notes For Notes and he loves to consistently learn about his craft.

IMG_4363Detroit is not an easy city to live in because of the consistent crime that happens daily, but Dre manages to rise above his environment, remain in school and still grind it out in the studio as he constantly continues to come to Notes for Notes and be an asset in the studio environment.


We are very privileged to have Dre to be apart of Notes For Notes here in Detroit.  Be on the lookout for the Notes For Notes compilation album.  Dre will be the featured artist from Detroit!

Signing Off


“The DSA Project”

Hello to All!

This is DSLate checking in!

IMG_04282 weeks ago our high school kids started checking in here at the studio.  We were very excited to start with our high schoolers and get them off and running.  The majority of our high schoolers come from Detroit’s premiere high school for the performing arts commonly referred to as “DSA” (Detroit School of Arts).

They came in excited and ready to write, sing, produce, and perform.  So on the very first day..


IMG_0121We immediately produced a brand new track with 3 of the students playing live instrumentation on it, another student engineering the actual vocal session, and about 5 other students writing together to create the very first song of the year.  They were extremely excited, so I went home thinking, “Hmmmm, what could we possibly do this year to highlight the skills and talents that this group of kids already has while also fulfilling their desire to produce and write?”

IMG_0085BINGO!  Thats when “The DSA Project” idea came to me.  “The DSA Project” is a compilation album that will highlight the talents of every student that comes to Notes For Notes from DSA.  Each student will have their own individual song on the project that will be produced and/or written by the DSA students individually.  When the album is fully finished, we plan to have album release concert in the auditorium at DSA which will be marketed and self promoted in the school by the DSA students who produced and wrote the entire album here at the Notes For Notes studio.

We are extremely excited about the album and our target date will be right around Valentines Day 2018, so be on the lookout.

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing: “The DSA Project” brought to you by Notes For Notes Detroit.

Signing Off…


My First Blog (Humbled and Excited)

Humility is a modest or low view of one’s own importance.

Excitement is a feeling of great enthusiasm and eagerness.

I’ve never been more humbled and excited  in my life than what I’ve experienced so far from working with Notes For Notes. My name is Dustin (DSLate) Slater and I am the new Program Director at the Notes for Notes Detroit Studio. I’ve been with the organization for almost 3 months now and what I’ve experienced has been life changing. These past few weeks at times I’ve had individual sessions, group sessions, and also more of a class setting of 13-20 kids all at once simply because of the overwhelming amount of students that signed up for music this year. I know I’m only supposed to have a set number of students but I hate the look on a child’s face when I have to turn them away from what they so passionately want to do.

SO I SAY “COME ON IN!”, and we have a blast.

Last week I had the opportunity to work with Jeremiah and Connor.


Connor is a junior who drives about 45 minutes from Pontiac Michigan just to come to the studio and volunteer. Jeremiah is a 7th grader whose love for creating music inspired me in ways unimaginable. These 2 students/creators come from 2 totally different backgrounds and still without any effort they came together and wrote a hook to a pop track that I loaded up in the digital audio workstation (DAW) Reason 9.5.


What came next after Jeremiah heard himself recorded on the actual song almost brought tears to my eyes.  After Jeremiah went into the booth with the help of another student…


Jeremiah sang his hook and then put the headphones on his writing partner’s ears to get her approval. Jeremiah then came out of the booth and heard his voice recorded on a song for the first time in his life and immediately the biggest smile you could ever imagine came across his face and he immediately lifted his hands up and started dancing to the music. At that point I felt like that was validation for me. I realized that I was working a job that gives me the opportunity to not only make a life long lasting impact on a child, but I was helping to change the world through music and expression.

This heartfelt moment was kind of the launching pad for me here at N4N. I promise to do my very best at impacting these kids on a daily. I honestly don’t consider what i do at this studio a job. I consider it as a privilege and passion to impact lives especially to this new generation of creators.


Signing Out With Love,



From Motown to the Big Easy

As a performing/recording artist who has always made it my personal mission to empower youth in creative, after-school program settings,

Notes for Notes is the perfect collision of two worlds that I always hoped to exist fully within.

So, naturally, working in my initial position as a program director in the Detroit studio was like a dream come true. I not only had a space and platform to create music everyday, I had the opportunity to do that work with youth from my hometown- from a community that is so precious to me.

Soon after I got my feet in the ground at the Detroit studio, I gained the opportunity to work with and travel to the Memphis, Nashville and New Orleans studios as an area director. As if Detroit’s musical legacy of Motown wasn’t enough, I would now have access to the youth artists creating in the cities where Country, Jazz and Blues were birthed!

Check out some photos of the amazing youth I’ve encountered creating/performing, and our awesome program directors doing what they do best in their cities and studios during my travels!

First, gotta show love to Detroit – my home studio. Here’s some of our amazing youth from the S.O.N.G project after a long and successful recording session. 

An impromptu lesson with Memphis guitarist David.

Enjoying Taylor Gayle’s set of originals at the BMI showcase in Nashville.

I’m a fan 🙂

Making friends with aspiring rappers/producers Monte and Tae in our South Nashville studio

South Nashville program director, Cam, teaching Monte and Tae production fundamentals.

Sitting in on a session with Nashville North program director, Will, and youth rapper King Lil C’Jay

Our Nashville East program director co-writing a song with Eric during a Songwriter’s Workshop

Youth artists ZuZu, Keeven and Tae presenting their song at a Songwriter’s Workshop in Nashville

Needless to say, visiting cities across the country with an immensely rich music history and working with the youth creating from their legacies is the icing on the cake of an already sweet situation 😉