Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Shenseea & Nailah Blackman: Caribbean Women in Music, the Next Generation

They are the future of Caribbean music. They represent the electronic fusion of international sounds, with the pure and passionate heart of the islands. Generation next. Full of talent, and yet just beginning their careers. The longevity of our music is in good hands.

Hearing Jamaican recording artiste Shenseea and Trinidadian songstress Nailah Blackman performing together on their collaborative tune "Badishh" reminds us about everything that is wonderful in Caribbean music: the rhythms, first and foremost. Those drums! The bounce. The unique blend of voices. The infectious melodies. The familiar dialect. Those of us who love Caribbean music appreciate it because of its vibe, but rate it mainly because of how it makes us feel: ALIVE!

The collaboration of these two young women is a great testament to how the year 2017 concluded, and how 2018 is proving to be thus far. While women across the world were marching, and uniting, and collectively standing in their strength and "reclaiming their spaces" publicly, you could almost feel the shift. Politically. Socially. And now, even musically.

Females in reggae and soca music are not an anomaly, by any means. In fact, women have always played an integral part in the music's flare, development, and soul. Tracing the roots of Jamaican reggae, or Trinidadian soca back generations, we discover names that are as familiar to us now as they were to our predecessors.

Buy "Badishh" on iTunes
Melodies that were catchy in the 60s are still catchy now. Riddims that made our parents dance, are the same riddims--revisited--that make us dance now. Society has evolved and the sounds have evolved with technology, but one thing is consistent: the groove. The sensuality. The electricity that the female voice brings to the sounds from the Caribbean.

Reggae and soca have their distinct differences (and always have) but there are times when the lines are so blurred...and the classification is so irrelevant. When you hear Shenseea and Nailah Blackman performing their hit "Baddish" of the past few months, no one is concerned about what specific category the tunes fall into. As long as it's almost doesn't matter. Real music lovers don't need a category to appreciate a true, true jam.

That's what made this particular collabo of talents so special: it could have easily been a soca hit during the carnival road march in T&T...and it could groove equally as vibrantly at a street dance in JA. With the addition of the young energy and originality that these two ladies are bringing to the game, they can perform in either genre and still get ratings.


Born Chinsea Lee in Mandeville, Manchester, the 22-year-old can proudly look at her young career and know that she already has a massive hit collaboration with Vybz Kartel on her list of accomplishments. Already. After just entering the Jamaican reggae music scene in 2016. Easily winning the accolades of "Break Out Celebrity" and "Young Hot and Hype Artiste" at the Youth View Awards by the end of the year.

Even before she hit the stage and started travelling the globe, she was a familiar face among the island's promotional industry. A representative of Hennessey, Red Stripe, Magnum, and Smirnoff, Shenseea could only be heard singing in the church up until recently.

Juggling responsibilities of motherhood (she has a son named Raj) and academia, she was enrolled in College and pursuing a career in Entertainment Management just the other day. It hasn't been that long. She went from humbly taking care of her education and her child, to topping music charts and building a tour itinerary that would send her across continents.

It's no secret that Shenseea had a fast descent into stardom, and it's also evident that this is truly just the beginning of what is promising to be a lucrative career. Earlier this year, the Jamaica Star noted that this lady could be classified as a "dancehall singjay-meets-rapper" and she could surely add that her intent is to not only take over the world of reggae, but also top the international charts. Pop music is her first love, and a part of the vision for her future in music.

A former tomboy, Shenseea attended high school in Kingston, but unfortunately wasn't able to settle into a comfortable home routine during her youth. Her mother's employment--and the convenience of being able to stay with family members while her single mother worked--had Shenseea moving around frequently. Dedicated to providing a nurturing environment and lifestyle for her son, she worked hard to be a great example and to step into her greatness.

With the guidance of her manager Romeich Major. Shenseea is headed towards continued momentum. Adding Pepsi, Flow, and Campari to her repertoire of corporate partnerships, her reggae EP this year is sure to solidify her position in the Caribbean music industry. There's a magnetism to her that is unique, and an energy that will continue to push her towards being an amazing performer and young trailblazer.


She didn't have a choice. Being raised the granddaughter of Lord Shorty, the daughter of Abbi Blackman, niece of Isaac Blackman and Nehilet was only natural that Nailah Blackman would emerge as a musical force. A consummate artist, her singing only complemented by her song writing, poetry, fashion design, instrumentation, and dance. An optimist: she knows that her talents are a culmination of her experiences and lineage.

She spells the genre of her family's legacy as S-O-K-A-H, just as her grandmother did. As her grandfather originally intended. The namesake of her mother's clothing brand, and the spirit of her heritage, Nailah clings to the original spelling of the sound that has driven her career to first-time heights.

Gaining inspiration from various genres of music, from soca, to jazz, to East Indian, to pop music, the 20-year-old is determined to keep the original spirit of the music remain within her--as a musical education to others.

Her tracks "Sokah" and "Baila Mami" were just introduced to us last year, in 2017. Already her voice is one that is too unique to not love, and one that is original enough for us to crave it as we go forward in music. We want to hear her forthcoming collaborations. We want to see her perform. We have barely experienced the limits of the artist that is Nailah Blackman, and it is already evident that the journey is going to be one that is full of vibes, amazing vocals, and true energy.

Needless to say, Shenseea and Nailah Blackman are hotter than hot right now. And as they build their catalogs, continue to study their craft, and ascend in the Caribbean music scene and international music industry, we confidently know what legacy they are rooted in. We know where their inspiration has come from. They are two of the freshest female Caribbean artists right now--and there are dozens and dozens more that they have channeled in spirit...some of the baddest females out there:

Alicia Cinnamon
Alison Hinds
Althea & Donna
Angie Ange
Anna Fisher
Audrey Hall
Brick and Lace
Calypso Rose
Carlene Davis
Carol Gonzales
Carol T
Cherine Anderson
Cherry Natural
Claudette Peters
Dawn Penn
Denise Belfon
Destra Garcia
Diana King
Erica Newell
Fay-Ann Lyons Alvarez
Foxy Brown
Hortense Ellis
Irie Love
Janet Kay
JC Lodge
Joanna Marie
Jovi Rockwell
Judy Mowatt
Kim Davis
Kreesha Turner
Kris Kelli
Lady G
Lady Saw (Minister Marion Hall)
Lady Venus
Leba Hibbert
Lil Bitts
Lorna Bennett
Louisa Mark
Macka Diamond
Marcia Aitken
Marcia Griffiths
Michelle Sylvester
Michie and Lou Chi
Millie Small
Miss Thing
Ms Paige
Mystic Davis
Nadia Batson
Nadine Sutherland
Nailah Blackman
Naomi Cowan
Natalie Storm
Pam Hall
Patrice Roberts
Phyllis Dillon
Queen Ifrica
Queen Omega
Queen Paula
Raine Seville
Rita Marley
Rochelle B
Samantha J
Sandra Joy Alcott
Sharon Marley
Sheila Hylton
Sister Carol
Sophia George
Susan Cadogan
Sylvia Tella
Tami Chynn
Tanya Mullings
Tanya Stephens
Tonya P
Winsome B

We love them! We respect them! We honour their contribution to music, and we eagerly await the next wave of sounds, trends, and classics. We have asked Toronto's DJ Majesty to put together a special (but brief) all female reggae and soca mix, in celebration of Ms. Shenseea and Ms. Nailah Blackman in particular...and all those who graciously--and fiercely--came before them.

Listen here:

Connect with DJ Majesty here:

Inspired by the strength of Caribbean females, here's a fictional love story that was created to the backdrop of those very voices listed above:

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Chris Rock Netflix Special "TAMBORINE" Review

It was exactly 30 years ago when Chris Rock first made me laugh. He walked into a fast food restaurant in the 1988 film "I'm Gonna Git You Sucka" trying to buy ribs, and it was hilarious. Equally entertaining was his 1991 character "Pookie" in New Jack City. And how about his role in 1992's "Boomerang" or his many stand up specials? Iconic.

"Bring the Pain" (1996) and "Bigger and Blacker" (1999) brought tears to my eyes. Chris Rock was the man. He made me holler! He was so clever, and witty. His voice was unique. His jokes were hysterical. And he continued to make fabulous HBO specials up until "Kill the Messenger" in 2008...and then he stopped.

He was kinda off the radar for a bit. Still around, but not super "hot" while other guys like Chappelle and Kevin Hart were working their way up the comedic ranks. He was always great, but not always the most relevant cat in the comedy club.

Admittedly, some of his movies were less than stellar after the fire that was the 90s. There was great messaging and philosophies in the concepts of "Down to Earth" (2001) and in "Head of State" (2003). And I actually really, really enjoyed the 2014 film "Top 5," even though I didn't hear much hype before or after its release.

His TV show "Everybody Hates Chris" (2005-2009) was brilliant. Really good TV. He hosted the Academy Awards a couple of times, and won a couple of prestigious awards, Emmys and Grammys. In the words of Mo'Nique, he is a "well decorated" comedian...but in the words of me: he's a legend. Even after that down time, I never lost faith in him.

Needless to say, right? Obviously, Chris Rock is one of the greatest comedians of our time. Now when I speak of "our" time...I consider Eddie Murphy just to be on the edges of our generation. I was young enough to laugh at his stand-up specials when they first came out, but not old enough to originally catch the context or nuances. What I love about Chris Rock's latest special is that I'm old enough to be in on the joke. Maybe even too old. And that's the beauty of his humour right's right on time, and right in step.

I can appreciate that Chris Rock has grown as a man, and matured as a comedian. He's established a distinct voice as a cultural leader, and even a political figure to a certain extent. His opinions are interesting, his perspectives are sought after. And in his/our "old age"...his humour is now well-defined.

TAMBORINE is the name of the Netflix special that blessed him with millions and millions, and blessed me with some laughter. In fact, since its February 14th release, I've already watched the special twice. This one in particular has resonated with me.

He covered the regular current affairs like pop culture, the odd political climate banter, went into details of fatherhood as a Black man, and the unfortunate unraveling of his marriage in 2016. It was traditional...and it was personal. And I loved every minute of it. I thought it was a tightly written and well executed "stand up routine".

Live from Brooklyn, where Chris Rock was raised (although born in South Carolina), the 53-year old comedian was honest about his position right now. As a seasoned entertainer. As a father to Black children. As a husband, as a single man, and as a wealthy man. The honesty, and introspection is what made this special...well, special to me.

I remember Chris Rock as being loud, and wild, and you never knew what he was gonna say. Unpredictable and such. Images of "CB4" and some of his antics of the past weren't really a concern. He is still outspoken and hilarious...but not with the same reckless abandon that he once had. I trusted his words to be significant...and even when they were slightly off-colour...I knew that there was a bigger message that would be reinforced as a result.

I respect his opinion. I loved to hear his perspectives. I laughed even the second time around when I caught new angles to what he was saying. It was so reflective of the culture, and the growth of the culture...a culture that he was a part of, and a culture that he helped to create.

In conclusion, I just love to see the culture grow. I love to see the same faces that we watched 30 years still on screen doing what they do best. I enjoy watching the growth of their careers, and how they handle adversity. It's interesting to see the ways in which they master their art, and how time and perspective and culture shape the way they deliver their gifts. All of this made watching TAMBORINE extremely enjoyable for me. But it was Chris Rock that made it almost magical, because I felt like he's BACK and not even trying to fade away from the stage. He's going to ride this career out to the fullest, staying on top of his game, and I'll be here every step of the way to watch and laugh out loud. With appreciation.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

SOAR by T.D. Jakes: Book Review

T.D. Jakes has been a huge source of motivation in my life. Like, huge. What started out as a casual reading or casual viewing of his messages, has now turned into a necessity in my life. He is the spiritual voice that speaks directly to me and interprets The Word in a way that I appreciate, understand, and process with thanksgiving.

I've read a many of his books in the past, and have never been disappointed. I watch his weekly service from The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas and love the way he preaches and his communication style over all.

When his latest book "SOAR!" was released in October of 2017, I made sure to get myself a copy. It is a welcome addition to my e-library (this was officially the 6th book purchase I've made through a Kobo e-reader I've had for about 6 years...I'm still trying to get down with the technology), and something I'll most definitely refer to again in the future.

The premise: being an entrepreneur, but doing it in a way that is in alignment with your spiritual vision. "Build Your Vision from the Ground Up" is the tag line, and it is a helpful tool to any Christian...or anyone starting, maintaining, or running a business.

What I love about Bishop Jakes is that although the book is framed in a spiritual context, the lessons are practical and easy-to-apply to the business process for ANYONE who happens to read this book. I would recommend it to anyone who is starting a business, or thinking about starting a business. I'd suggest that anyone currently running a business also take a look at these words for inspiration and very, very helpful and practical tips.

I trust this advice, because I've witnessed T.D. Jakes transform from a southern man of the church, to an international multi-media mogul. And I haven't seen him compromise himself or his beliefs...not one bit. He understands how to communicate his messages, he has evolved with technology, and adjusted his strategies to complement the current social climate.

I've seen him in tears on a pulpit, bringing congregation members to dance in the aisles of their church in joy and revelation. I've seen him posing in skinny jeans out on the streets of New York. He is as versatile as the business climate, and yet his message is as consistent and truthful as it is full of impact.

Some of my favourite points he raised:

* Catch a vision of your destination!

* While imitating those who have gone before you is crucial to your success, knowing how and when to innovate and blaze your own trail is just as vital!

* If you want to shift from expending energy trying to get off the ground to actually flying as an entrepreneur, then you must identify your motivations!

It's a great read. An informative read. An inspirational read. An easy read. I appreciate the words he has written, spoken, and facilitated, and look forward to his next literary project and/or film...television show, etc. He is the consummate businessman, and a great role model in this context, and many others.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

My Books Aren't For Everybody...But I Believe in Them

It's Black History Month. The time of year where Black creatives, academics, and historians, families, and students, and legacy, and public figures are acknowledged with great regard. They are honoured. They are celebrated. They are invited to spaces that are somewhat difficult to penetrate, oftentimes, during the rest of the year. But this is THEIR time. Everyone's time. Our time. We get to be even more unapologetically Black than we usually are! So we cherish it...regardless.

With all this greatness, it drives me to look internally and wonder about my chosen contribution to Black history/present/future and cyberspace. My books. My writing. My stories. My legacy. My Urban Toronto Tales.

I'm reminded of the Black literary GREATNESS in Canada, particularly each February. I have their books on my shelves. I listen to them speak, and read their words. They are the reflection of our ancestors that we are proud to be affiliated with: intelligent. Reflective. Passionate. Articulate.

I honour them.

I respect them.

I often envy them. Their words are poetic. Descriptive. Lyrical. Literary. Complicated.

It is in their literary greatness, that I am reminded that what I am writing (fiction-wise) is not that. Not at all. To an aristocratic reader, my words will seem infantile and/or uncultured. My plots: unchallenging. My language: common.

Acknowledging that I have now been a serious writer for the majority of my life, with no possible way of stopping...I realize that this may eternally be my style of writing. Common. Conversational. Riddled with slang and colloquialisms. Unbalanced and straightforward. But I also realize that this is how I enjoy capturing my generation. Whether it was my generation, as experienced in 1992...or my generation now, in 2018, I enjoy the every day conversations. I love the common locations, and banal activities. The stereotypical life patterns. The raw dialogue.

I have classified my writing as urban fiction. In my heart I know that these stories are my love letter to the city of Toronto, and to the developing urban culture that I am fortunate enough to be a part of. In a unique position to be first-generation to this country. Influenced by the cultural traditions of another land, yet responsible for excelling and maintaining a lifestyle fit for Canadian reality. Teaching and nurturing the next generation of minds, and being able to witness this progression from all three perspectives. It's wonderful.

Just as it is. Life: just as it happens. People: just as we remember them. I sometimes can't decide if my writing is actually quite horrible...or if it's low key acceptable. I'm human. I question it often. But I do know that I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to tell the stories of what I see, hear, and feel around me, and I get a joy and satisfaction from putting the words together that only another writer would understand.

These books are most definitely not for everybody. I can unequivocally guarantee that many well-read literary folks would 100% not endorse, approve of, or even turn to the second page of my books.

I can also hope that there are at least a few people in the city that have fun reading these pages, because the stories are unapologetically interpretation of us. In February. In March. In 2018. In 1995. I wanted to be able to remember us exactly as we were. I believe so strongly in the power of representation, and recognition...acceptance...that I can only hope that the mere familiarity of the characters and scenarios, and smiles of reader recognition and nostalgia are enough to make the printing of them worthwhile.

There's nine of them--the Urban Toronto Tales--and I've poured my heart and soul into them over the past 25 years. I started the first Tale when I was 15, and I haven't stopped writing them since...

VIDEO LIGHT - A story about a west-end dancehall princess turned Scarborough "housewife."

REQUEST TO REWIND - A fluffy, reclusive young photographer from Markham meets the city's top DJ and top club promoter and is unexpectedly thrown into a love triangle with these brothers.

FIRST YEAR - A teenage couple from Malvern leave home to attend a "fictional" university in Windsor, where their commitments and characters are put to through their first adult challenges.

FRIENDS WITH BENEFITS - A college actress struggles with monogamy, and is put into a complicated choice between her career, her love life, and potentially settling down.

EIGHTEEN - An adolescent tale about biracial triplets who leave their hometown of Windsor, Ontario, to start junior high in Toronto, anxious to grow up (needless to say).

THE WAY WE USED TO BE - A collection of eleven short stories about the drama and relationships experienced by most teens during their high school journey, however, these teens are still carrying pagers: it's the 90s.

THE HOOK UP - Four short stories about twenty-somethings looking for love in Toronto, in the late 1990s and 2000s. They have cell phones now.

CARNIVAL SPOTLIGHT - In a follow up to "Video Light," the characters are introduced to the exciting world of Toronto, Carnival...and the unexpected bacchanal threatens their union.

I WISH I NEVER MET HIM - Female cousins (in their late 30s) travel together to Cancun for a vacation, to reevaluate their current relationships and past heartbreaks through a series of conversations and journaling.

Those books are my heart and soul. It is my hope that the also represent the heart and soul of Toronto...from an "urban" cultural perspective.

They're all on sale. All the time...with a boost during Black History Month. It never fails.

And as technology has progressed, so have I. As my skills have improved, so has the content, and editing. They are a reflection of our wonderful city, our wonderful culture...both the urban culture and the Caribbean culture. They are a snapshot of a moment in time.

These books capture collective memories. And I believe in them. Still.

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.