Violet Brown Told Me

Music, Movies, TV – An Insider’s Perspective

These are a few of my favorite things…


This holiday season there is something new for everyone. After sifting through the new holiday titles here is my list of some of the most entertaining and highly anticipated new titles. Here are a few that will bring your holiday get-togethers and parties to life. Whether you are sitting around a cozy fire sipping a warm holiday beverage or decorating your tree, these albums will put you in the spirit of the season.

Alicia Keys “Santa Baby” (2022)

I can’t seem to get enough of Alicia’s first-ever holiday album. This album contains one of my favorite Alicia songs of all time “Not Even The King” which is a “year-round” masterpiece. Buy it here.

Check out my full feature on this album here: Today one of my long overdue Christmas wishes has been answered… – Violet Brown Told Me

Dolly Parton “A Holly Dolly Christmas” (2022)

This is one of the best new holiday albums of the season. Dolly is joined by an impressive list of guest performers, to include Michael Bublé, Billy Ray Cyrus, Miley Cyrus, Jimmy Fallon, Willie Nelson, and her late brother, Randy. This album is another example of why everyone loves Dolly Parton. Buy it here.

Neil Diamond “A Neil Diamond Christmas” (2022)

A Neil Diamond Christmas is a newly remastered set specially curated by Neil from his 4 best-selling Christmas albums. These recordings feature Neil originals and inventive arrangements of traditional songs, spotlighting his trademark sound in a holiday setting. Buy it here.

Matteo, Andrea, and Virginia Bocelli “A Family Christmas” (2022)

This is the first Bocelli family holiday album that features Andrea and his 24-year-old son Matteo and his 10-year-old daughter Virginia. This is a beautiful Christmas album was recorded at their home as they sat by their fireplace. Buy it here.

Backstreet Boys “A Very Backstreet Christmas” (2022)

After 30 years, the Backstreet Boys have released their first-ever holiday album. This is a must have for all “Backstreet” fans. Buy it here.

Joss Stone “Merry Christmas, Love” (2022)

This is the first holiday album from GRAMMY Award-winner Joss Stone. I fell in love with the vocals of this soulful singer from her debut album “The Soul Sessions” in 2003. She has always wanted to release a Christmas album and this one was worth the wait…I LOVE IT! Buy it on Vinyl here.

Jim Brickman “A Very Merry Christmas” (2022)

I love the piano and Jim Brickman never fails to give an amazing performance. This album is the perfect mix of classic and nostalgic sounds of the season. Buy it here.

Kristin Chenoweth “Happiness Is…Christmas!” (2021)

Emmy and Tony Award-winning singer/actress, Kristin Chenoweth, brings us her first holiday album. The album shows Kristin in a festive but classy light as she rings in the best and her favorite time of the year. Buy it here.

Idina Menzel “Christmas: A Season of Love” (2019)

Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel has released an album of traditional and brand-new songs. Christmas: A Season Of Love features guests including Ariana Grande, Billy Porter, and Frozen costar Josh Gad. This new album is sure to bring friends and family together throughout the holiday season. Buy it here.

For a full selection of ALL HOLIDAY TITLES…NEW & the TRADITIONAL CLASSICS just click on over to DVD | Blu-ray | CDs | Vinyl | Free Shipping on Orders Over $25 at

“The one thing that has been a blessing since the pandemic, is learning to do all my shopping online. I save, money, time, and the stress of traveling to crowded malls”
If you are looking for special gifts, hard-to-find titles, or the HOTTEST new releases for the holidays, just type in what you are looking for or browse through EVERYTHING that is available….YES, I SAID EVERYTHING!

Now through the end of the year, you can load up on everything you need while saving money during the site-wide sale……(and don’t forget to click the 10% off coupon for even MORE SAVINGS).

For music, films and all the trendy items you need or want just click over to the Cyber Week Sale at | DVD | Blu-ray | CDs | Vinyl | Collectibles | Games | Free Shipping on Orders Over $25.

This Friday we celebrate our Veterans


In my household, we love, respect, celebrate and honor our Veterans. Both my partner (Carla) and I had father’s that served in the military. Carla serves Veterans every day as a devoted and caring health care worker at the V.A. hospital.

When I have had the honor to meet some of the many Veterans that Carla has cared for, they have told me beautiful stories about their service, love of their country and their military brotherhood. We always stop to talk to Veterans when we see them and offer assistance when we can.

When a new military film is released we see it as soon as we can. Neither one of us enjoy violent movies but we do like understanding what these brave men and women have gone through while fighting for and protecting our freedom and our country.

Today while browsing the titles that are featured on for their site-wide sale I was drawn to the Military films. I prefer films that depict real stories and are often emotional. War and Military films are set in various times throughout history. The atmosphere may be different depending on the era, but the brotherhood of the soldiers remains the same through every branch of the military and through every war or conflict.

Once again, I THANK all veterans and those currently serving our country for your bravery and protection of our country. I also thank the families that that stand behind their loved ones and wait patiently for them to return from their duties and missions.


These films and a full selection of military films can be found on I have included links to my personal favorites that include full descriptions of the films as well as the trailers.

Saving Private Ryan / Winner of 5 Academy Awards

Buy it here

Thank You for Your Service / This a moving film starring Miles Teller.

Buy it here

Megan Leavey / Based on a true story of a female Marine corporal (Purple Heart recipient) and her bond with a military combat dog.

Buy it here

American Sniper / Award winning film starring Bradley Cooper

Buy it here

Zero Dark Thirty / Academy Award Winner

Buy it here

Lone Survivor / Award winning film starring Mark Wahlberg

Buy it here

The Hurt Locker / Winner of 6 Academy Awards to include: Best Picture and Best Director

Buy it here

Black Hawk Down / Winner of 2 Academy Awards

Buy it here

Platoon / Academy Award Winner with an All-Star Cast

Buy it here

Dunkirk / Winner of 3 Academy Awards

Buy it here

Red Tails / Powerful story of the Tuskegee Airmen

Buy it here

Good Morning Vietnam / A lighter look including the comedic genius of Robin Williams.

Buy it here

Here is a historical fact about Veterans Day and why it is tied to a specific time on November 11, each year.

The day of recognition was first called Armistice Day. On November 11, 1918, at 11:00 am a cease-fire or armistice took place in Europe during World War 1. President Woodrow Wilson said that the armistice anniversary deserved recognition and on June 4, 1928, congress passed a resolution to make it a legal holiday and it was in 27 states. In 1938 November 11 was made a legal holiday. After World War II the act was amended to honor veterans of that war as well as Korea. In 1954 the name was changed to Veterans Day.

Wishing all of our Veterans as well as those that are currently serving our country a beautiful…..11/11/2022

Today one of my long overdue Christmas wishes has been answered…

Alicia Keys first-ever Christmas album is finally here!

Back in the day, I was a music buyer for a large chain of music stores, and I had a good relationship with music mogul, Clive Davis. So, his record label often shared new music with me very early before the actual release dates. If I was able to spend time with the music and loved it, I would be more likely to place a huge order for my stores.

It was 2001 and I was given an album from a brand-new artist named Alicia Keys. I was told that she was a singer, a song writer, a classically trained pianist, and she was also composing songs at the age of twelve. At fifteen she signed  her first recording contract, but Alicia did not fit into any specific genre of music that was popular at the time so the label wanted her to re-work some of her music to fit in with what was currently being played on the radio.

Alicia was unique and she already had a vision for her music and career, and it did not include changing anything.

She was able to get out of her contract and to look for the perfect label to release her music. At the time, Clive Davis was the head of Arista Records which was a label that he founded in 1974. Clive signed many important artists and super-stars to Arista, but there was one that became iconic and that was Whitney Houston. She went on to becomes one of the BIGGEST pop stars of all-time.

It was 1998 and a seventeen-year-old, Alicia Keys found her way to a meeting in the office of Clive Davis. She performed for Clive and was signed to Arista Records.

Alicia felt that she finally found the man and the label who understood her as an artist, her music, and the career she envisioned for herself.

The majority of record labels looked for artists that had clear radio hits. Clive was blown away by the talent and artistry of Alicia Keys. He felt that even though Alicia was different from everything on the radio at the time, that radio would be driven by her profound talent and potential popularity to give her radio airplay (and as usual Clive was right)

Clive was known for finding distinctively unique talent and Alicia seemed to have it all, including wholesome beautiful looks.

In 2000, Clive founded another new record label that he named “J Records” after the first letter of his middle name, which is “Jay.” Alicia followed Clive to his new label where everything would start moving towards the launch of her debut album.

Of course, Clive always knew which tastemakers to give his new music to. So, he gave Alicia’s album to a few influential music store buyers, critics, and radio programmers. He also had listening events to preview her music and talent. Clive also gave her album to the most popular talk show host on the planet, Oprah Winfrey. The power and push of the Oprah Winfrey Show was a game-changer for a new artist, for authors, actors, films , books, and any product that she decided to mention.

Upon hearing Alicia’s song, Fallin’ Oprah produced an entire show to highlight “Women Who Sing”. That legendary episode featured Jill Scott and India Arie who were emerging as the hottest new neo-soul singers and songwriters at the time. The show also featured one new artist that would be releasing her debut album the following week….ALICIA KEYS! After the Oprah episode aired all of the ladies experienced astronomical sales. And since Alicia was new, everyone was waiting anxiously to purchase her first album on June 5, 2001.

Alicia Keys and J Records soared to the top of the charts with their inaugural release of “Songs In A Minor.”

Alicia was a prodigy that sang, wrote, arranged, and produced all of her music. There was only one song on the album that Alicia did not write, and it was penned by none other than Prince.

The album “Songs In A Minor” debuted at number one and within three weeks the album was certified as triple platinum for sales of over three million copies. The album has now sold over twelve million copies and was certified as a “Diamond” release when ten million copies were sold.

“Songs in A Minor” has also been added to the National Recording Registry. It qualifies to be preserved for all-time based on its “cultural, historical or aesthetic importance in the nation’s recorded sound heritage.”

Once again, with the release of Alicia Keys, Clive Davis changed the course of music and opened the door for more unique and soulful singer songwriters who could also play instruments. The artist H.E.R. has said that Alicia Keys is an inspiration to her own music and career.

Alicia Keys blended soul with classical music and she defied all odds and genres to become Clive Davis’s next Superstar.

Alicia Keys helped to propel J Records into the stratosphere and Clive Davis and his “J Records” was just what Alicia Keys needed to sky-rocket her career in record time.

I was fortunate and privileged to have a front row seat to the launch and explosion of her career. Her first eight albums have collectively sold more than 65 million copies. Alicia has also won numerous awards to include 15 Grammys.

Today Alicia Keys is releasing her ninth album and one that is long over-due……

Her first ever holiday album, “Santa Baby”.

The album was recorded while Alicia was on her sold-out European tour over the summer. The album features seven reimagined holiday classics, as well as four brand new original songs that she wrote.

Here is what Alicia had to say about “Santa Baby”

“I picked each song based on my all-time favorites and I wrote the new ones based on real holiday emotions and stories. The holidays are such a beautiful time to slow down, be with the ones you love and make meaning! Santa Baby is definitely going to be the perfect holiday soundtrack. I can’t wait for you to fall in love with it.


As the days get shorter and the cold weather comes creeping’ in, I can’t think of a better album to set the holiday mood and to cozy up with.

I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS and I LOVE ALICIA KEYS so along with many of you I will pick up my copy here today.

Alicia Keys: Santa Baby on

And now through the holidays you can pick up all of Alicia Key’s music and videos and get them on sale.

In fact, feel free to load up on all your own favorites and those perfect gifts for the loved ones in your life because ………EVERYTHING is ON SALE!!!

Don’t forget to sign up on their mailing list to receive even more discounts and special sale offers all year round.

JUST A THOUGHT…..about Halloween

I don’t know about you but in these times of inflation and especially with the high price of gas, I am looking at all ways I can save some money. Let’s face it, I may cut some corners on certain things, but I still need to feed my obsession for good entertainment and fun.

For me Halloween has always been the fun holiday. You are not coming together with family for big feasts, gift giving and the dreaded pretending you love everyone in the room. Halloween can certainly be celebrated with family, but it’s usually the ones you have FUN with. It’s the family members who can enjoy the same sick and twisted horror films that you love.

If you have small children (or small grandchildren as I do), you will probably be out in the streets while they fill up their bags of candy. That is always fun until you get home and discover they have eaten one too many skittles and are bouncing off the walls.

This year Halloween falls on a school night, so I suggest you ration the candy. After inspecting their bags for all the dangerous things, we are warned about, you can also remove ALL YOUR favorite candy. This way the kiddos will have less candy to keep them buzzing till the next holiday of Thanksgiving.

Violet Brown Told Me – Halloween Tip:

While inspecting your princess or superheroes’ candy, “remove” the ones you like!

I am a grandparent that loves seeing my “most beautiful-in the world” granddaughter but I have noticed some miserable Grandma’s trekking down the street trying to keep an eye on their little Princess or Superhero that are literally in a sea of little Princesses and Superheroes. These are the Grandma’s or sometimes Pa’s that have adult children who’ve dressed up like what they feel is funny or sexy and have headed off to get “extra-happy” (drunk) at a friend’s party. They know that their little one is in good hands since they have pawned them off on Grandma.

If you have teens they will probably want to do what you like to do (minus the alcohol). They may want to have a few friends over to eat all the candy you have bought to hand out to the kids and to watch horror films.

If there are no kids in your household and you find yourself hosting “the Halloween party” you will want to have some great horror films on hand.

So, getting back to feeding my need for entertainment…fun…and SAVING MONEY.

I clicked on’s Halloween Buy More Save More Sale and was pleasantly surprised to find loads of great Halloween films. And not just the ones you see in big bins at the front of stores. You know the ones…the movies that 4 other people are throwing around while digging to the bottom of the bin to find just one they have heard of.

The link will take you to a heading that says “HALLOWEEN: BUY MORE, SAVE MORE….There you can read the description of the film and even view the original trailer to see if it is “GORY” enough for your little demon get together. And guess what, you will find the classics that we all know so well, and the films that grab the attention of your twisted, sick mind (oh sorry, maybe that’s just me).

So, save gas, avoid sifting through discount bins filled with the D-list Halloween films and save BIG BUCKS on all YOUR FAVORITE HALLOWEEN, HORROR, SCI-FI and THRILLER FILMS…



Rap travels from the Bronx…to Harlem…to the clubs of NYC…and to RADIO & RECORDS

From the early seventies to 1979, rap was alive and well in the clubs, at house parties and in the parks of the Bronx. Soon everyone wanted to get in the game. MC’s and DJ’s started coming out of the woodwork. Battle rappin’ was becoming a huge thing and rap groups were forming everywhere. Battles became as big in the Bronx and Harlem as some of the sporting events and boxing matches. A well promoted rap battle could fill a venue. And Harlem World located in Harlem, NY was the epicenter of some of the first gigantic rap battles.

When two members of The Cold Crush Brothers left the crew and joined the Fantastic Five there became serious rivalry between the two groups. It did not take long before a new MC joined the Cold Crush Brothers. His name is GRANDMASTER CAZ (a.k.a. DJ Casanova Fly).

On July 3, 1981, one of the most legendary rap battles went down at Harlem World. It was between The Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic Five. The prize was $1,000 cash…WINNER TAKE ALL!

Cold Crush had been preparing for a major battle for almost a year and the time had finally come. They were about to go up against some “pretty boys” that seemed to be loved by the ladies….”THE FANTASTIC FIVE”

On the night of the battle, the club was HOT and packed with fans for each group. The winner would be chosen by the audience and the loudness of their cheering. Cold Crush was all about delivering dope lyrics that were also melodic. The Fantastic Five did not have lyrics of substance so they relied on getting the girls up front and screaming for them. Fantastic Five had dance routines, wore flashy clothes, and leaned heavily on their looks and flirting with the girls up front…..

Needless to say, the screaming girls worked and The Fantastic Five took home the $1,000 prize money. Cassette tapes of rap battles and live shows sold quickly throughout all 5 boroughs of New York. The tape of this battle revealed clearly who REALLY should have won the battle. The Cold Crush Brothers “CRUSHED IT” with their clever lyrics. When the underground, bootleg tape of the battle hit the streets “EVERYONE” was talking about the “Cold Crush Brothers.” At the time there were no real record labels signing rappers, and rappers were okay with that. The rap community loved having something that they could call their own. Rap was spontaneous, performed “LIVE” and found in the boroughs throughout New York. The underground tapes were giving The Bronx and Harlem a name in hip hop. Everyone wanted to be present when this music was performed live so the tapes were great for promoting the clubs, parties, and rap battles.

One night an R&B diva who had some radio hits under the name “Little Sylvia” (known for Pillow Talk & Love Is Strange) went to a party at a club in Harlem. Sylvia also had her own record label called “Platinum Records” which was not doing well. At the party she noticed the DJ who was also on the mic as an MC. He went by the name “Love Bug Starski.” Sylvia could not take her eyes off of him. After leaving the club she could not get “Starski” out of her mind. She saw something fresh and new that she felt could be big someday. It was not long until Sylvia Robinson founded the first hip hop record label…SUGAR HILL RECORDS. She and her son went out in search of a rapper that could thrill the world like she was thrilled watching “Love Bug Starski” in that Harlem club.

Sylvia Robinson and her son went to a local pizza shop to meet up with a guy who managed the Pizza spot and some of the local rappers. One of the rappers he managed was an amazing writer and member of the Cold Crush Brothers, “Grandmaster Caz.”

Sylvia and Joey rolled up and parked in the front of the shop and they asked, “Big Bank Hank” and a couple of his friends who also rapped a little to come out to the car to audition for her new record label. Big Bank Hank did not have lyrics of his own, so he started rapping lyrics that he knew. Those lyrics belonged to Grandmaster Caz (who was also known as Casanova Fly). Hank also managed Caz.

Sylvia loved what she heard from all three of the guys. They went by the monikers of Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee. Although she was only looking for one rapper to sign to her record label she decided that all three should be signed as a group. Sylvia Robinson did not know that Big Bank Hank’s lyrics were taken from another Rapper that Hank happened to manage.

Sylvia signed all of them and they became the “The Sugar Hill Gang.” Now Hank was in a real jam because he had no writing or real rapping skills of his own. He called his friend and client that he managed Grandmaster Caz. Hank asked Caz if he could borrow his lyric book to use some of his lyrics and rhymes. Caz thought if Hank’s group took off that it would be a break for him and “Cold Crush” as well. Caz handed over his precious lyric book to Hank. Back then, getting a record deal was new territory so Caz did not fully understand what could happen to him by handing over his “coveted and priceless” lyric book.

When The Sugar Hill Gang released their first BIG single “Rappers Delight” it took the world by storm. The song exploded on radio and the charts. It even cracked the Top 40 charts. The lyrics of Grandmaster Caz were now popular and made famous by “Big Bank Hank.” Fans were now rapping along to the lyrics of “The Sugarhill Gang”…so they thought!

FUN FACT  (for everyone but Grandmaster Caz)

When Wonder Mike introduced Big Bank Hank in the beginning of Rappers Delight, this is what went down on the record.

Wonder Mike said….

“Well, so far you’ve heard my voice, but I brought two friends along….And next on the mic is my man Hank: come on, Hank, sing that song”

Then Big Bank Hank said…..

“Check it out: I’m the C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a, and the rest is f-l-y

Hank didn’t even change the part in the song that actually spells out Caz’s original moniker, CASANOVA FLY. When Rapper’s Delight and the Sugarhill Gang shot to world-wide fame and fortune, our man C-a-s-an-the-o-v-a…f-l-y never saw a “p-e-nn-y” of royalties.

Caz did NOT get paid. The lyrics were “straight-up stolen,” No songwriting and credit and NO PAY! There were also other parts of the song that sounded much like lyrics that were performed during live sets in the clubs. It kind of makes you wonder how many lyrics were truly original and written for “Rappers Delight”


Rapper’s Delight was originally a 15-minute song that was recorded in just ‘ONE TAKE’. Black radio played the entire 15-minute version of the song but that was not suitable for pop radio, so the guys recorded a 7-minute version that introduced pop fans to the infectious hit song.


I have always found this verse remarkably interesting…….

“A time to break and a time to chill
To act civilized or act real ill
But whatever ya do in your lifetime
Y’never let a MC steal your rhyme!


In the classic  hip hop film “Wild Style” from 1983, Grandmaster Caz plays himself. This film is a must see and one to own for all old-school hip-hop fans.

Get it here: Wild Style on

Although Grandmaster Caz received no writers credit or pay for his contribution to “Rappers Delight,” he is often acknowledged as the writer that took hip hop to the mainstream with the first “hit rap record.” Rappers Delight has now sold over 14 million copies…and counting.

In addition to Caz’s lyrics being stolen, the songs track also included a replayed sample of Chic’s “Good Times.” The two writers of “Good Times” sued Sugar Hill Records for copyright infringement. Writers, Nile Rodgers, and Bernard Edwards are now credited as songwriters on “Rappers Delight.”

My personal relationship to Rappers Delight….

Back in 1996, I had the concept in mind for an album that would be a tribute to some of the biggest rappers of the past.

Prominent rappers were asked to record “remakes” of their favorite rap songs that paid homage to the original songs and rappers.

On November 25, 1997 “In tha Beginning There Was Rap” was released and I was the Executive Producer.

Erick Sermon of EPMD, Keith Murray, and Redman (who had a close relationship with the Wu Tang Clan) recorded their remake of “Rappers Delight” for the album under the name “DEF SQUAD.” Their version also became a huge hit that pushed my album to #4 on the hip hop charts and into the Top 20 on the pop charts. Within two months the album achieved gold status, selling over 500,000 copies.

If you read Part 1 of “HIP HOP HOORAY” you heard that one of the true honors of my life was working with “DJ Grandmaster Caz” at the United Nations club in LA. In addition to being an important writer and MC, Caz is an enormously talented DJ.

Grandmaster Caz

Thanks to all of you that have sent messages concerning my hip hop features. I am glad that you enjoy hearing about the beginning of this important and historical era in hip hop.

I will be writing about several things that come to mind for October, but I will also keep the features coming on Hip Hop….Part IV is in the works now, so come on back for more!


Now, if you read my feature on the “Holy Trinity of Hip Hop” (HOW IT ALL STARTED) you know a little about how it all began.

Over the next few months, I will have a lot to write about from all genres of music, movies, and television but my plan is to also go deeper into the history of rap music and hip hop culture. I will feature some of the most important originators of hip hop and their music. I will take you on a journey through where the artists are from and how their music found its way into the hearts of hip hop fans worldwide. If you are a subscriber to my blog, you probably have read a bit about my history in the music industry. You may know that I have had a lot of success with hip hop and that I have a deep love of the genre.

I will give you interesting information and personal stories of my relationships with hip hop artists and their music. In order to make it an easier and a quick read I have created the title “Hip Hop Hooray” in celebration of the genre, and it will include several parts to tie the full history together

Be sure to come back to my blog often to see which artists I am featuring and where my stories will take you. When I am interviewed I am often asked to share my personal stories that span over the nearly fifty years of hip hop. I am excited to share some of these stories and personal photos with all of my subscribers.

Before I get rollin’ on Part III, of “Hip Hop Hooray” I want to remind you about a historical collection that was released in 2021.


Back On August 16, 2021, I reviewed this new extensive and definitive collection of hip hop. This amazing release should be in the personal collection of every hip hop fan. You can read my original feature on the link at the end of this post. After reading you will understand why I was chosen as a contributor to the making of this historical music project. You will also understand   how each song was added to this impressive release.

“Smithsonian’s Anthology of Hip Hop and Rap” could very well be the soundtrack to my “Hip Hop Hooray” features. I will highlight many of the Legends and Originators of Hip Hop that are included on this 9-disc collection of rap music.

I am bringing this title to your attention now because through September it is being offered at Deep Discount for an appealing sale price.

Here is the link to take advantage of this great deal – Click Here.

How do you put over 45 years of musical history into one disc?

It was impossible so the collection turned into 9 discs…129 definitive songs and a beautiful 300-page collectors book written by hip-hop’s leading writers and critics. The book also contains hundreds of iconic photos spanning the decades of hip-hop….1973—2018.

The final songs that were chosen for this ground-breaking and historical release were compiled by a committee of well-respected rappers, scholars, writers, aficionado’s, music critics and industry leaders. The committee was led by rappers Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte, Jeff Chang, and Mark Anthony Neil (writers and scholars), Bill Adler and Bill Stephney (early Def Jam Executives), Questlove (artist and writer) and 9th Wonder (educator). Along with a few other record executives and DJ’s, I was asked to submit 100 songs that I felt were worthy of being on this important piece of hip-hop history. I was pleased to see that many of my selections made the cut and are on SMITHSONIAN’S ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP.

Previously Smithsonian Folkways released extensive collections on Folk Music and on Jazz. For their third historical release they decided to celebrate the newest voice and dominant genre of music…HIP-HOP and RAP.

Here is the link to my feature from August 16, 2021, with more interesting details about the making of “SMITHSONIANS ANTHOLOGY of HIP-HOP and RAP”
GREATEST HITS – Violet Brown Told Me

Here is a short video that will tell you a little more about this important piece of hip hop history and how it came to be. Hear it straight from the mouths of Chuck D of Public Enemy and MC Lyte

Hip-Hop History in the making


I am going to borrow from my friends Naughty By Nature and shout-out…..


Over the next few weeks…and possibly months I am going to celebrate the genre of music that has fueled my being, my soul, my passion, and my extensive career in music. I am celebrating rap music and the elements of the culture that is known worldwide as HIP HOP.

Do you know about the…HOLY TRINITY of HIP HOP?

Hip Hop as we know it today, is felt and heard everywhere. It is a cultural movement and a global phenomenon. Its strength and power has influenced all of the arts. Hip Hop is a tremendous part of our pop culture. We see traits of hip hop in the marketing and growth of business, our sports and even our politics. I often hear politicians and news casters quoting rap lyrics.

In the mid-seventies I was a club DJ that played all genres of music. This job was a natural progression for me since I collected records as a child and accumulated an enormous collection. If I heard a song and loved it, I had to find and have that record. I began by collecting 45 rpm records (vinyl) and quickly evolved into collecting LP’s (long-playing albums).

When I purchased an album, I would listen with undivided attention and full intension to find the songs that moved me even more than the hits on the album. I always found songs that I considered to be hidden gems. There were many people just like me that were doing the same thing. There were DJ’s and producers in New York that took these unknown “album cuts” and re-created new songs by sampling certain pieces of the song. Dance and Hip Hop music seemed to sample songs much more than other genres.

For me, my life changed in 1979, when I first heard a song called “Rappers Delight”. This was the first commercially successful rap song by “The Sugar Hill Gang.” It was the first rap song to hit the Billboard charts as a Top 40 hit. When “Rappers Delight” hit my ears it quickly got my attention. Then in 1982 another song hit my soul and blew my mind. The song was “Planet Rock” by “Afrika Bambaataa and the Soul Sonic Force.” Upon hearing this song, I had to have it, right away. I found it and played it in the club the very next time I was in the DJ booth. At first the crowd just listened and about a minute later they started moving towards the dance floor.

At the time “disco” dance music was still immensely popular, so “Planet Rock” marked the change of the way I wanted to rock my dancefloor. This became a signature song for my DJ sets each night I performed at the club. It has now been 40 years since the release of Planet Rock, and we still use this song on the weekends at a fitness class at the beach and that crowd loves it too.

Planet Rock was created by Bambaataa and the producer Arthur Baker after bonding over their love of the group Kraftwerk, which were pioneers in electronic music and popularized the genre. I also loved Kraftwerk, so Planet Rock was music to my ears and a new addition to the soundtrack of my life. After hearing Rappers Delight and Planet Rock I wanted to know EVERYTHING about RAP MUSIC….THE HISTORY & ROOTS OF RAP….THE ORIGINS….THE ORIGINATORS….WHERE & WHEN IT ALL BEGAN.

As I went on my quest to learn more about the music that shook me to my core, I read and heard many different stories. The stories were always similar from where it all began. So let me take you to the borough in New York City where it “DID” begin …….

“The Bronx”

It was the seventies and while all the glamorous people and celebrities were dancing the night away in the clubs of Manhattan NY to disco music, the Bronx was on fire with gang violence, murder, drugs and “REAL FIRES.” South Bronx had the worst fire devastation in the country. There were blocks of burned-out buildings. Jobs were scarce and the livelihoods of the people were at an all-time low. South Bronx was only 4.7 miles from Manhattan yet the difference in the lives of its people were starkly different.

Let me introduce you to one of the first originators of Hip Hop……DJ KOOL HERC. (the Founding Father of Hip Hop)

The South Bronx clearly needed something to bring the city together. A local DJ known for house parties that could sometimes be violent decided to take his parties out of the house and into a local recreation center.

On Saturday, August 11, 1973, the first “rec-party” took place at 1520 Sedgwick Ave in the South Bronx. A hand-crafted flyer billed it as a “DJ KOOL HERC PARTY….Back To School Jam.”

The admission for ladies was 25 cents and gents were 50 cents. Such a low price to be a part of history!

This party had about 50 attendees and when the word got out about all the fun and great music, future parties had people lined up around the block to get in.

Herc did NOT play the disco found in the clubs of NYC. He played the music that he loved which were mostly deep album cuts that most people did not know. He played the hidden gems of Soul, Jazz, and Funk albums. But he put his own twist on the songs. He loved the breaks of songs which were often the parts that made you want to “dance harder.” So, he extended the breaks in the songs to go longer and play louder. He was known for isolating these breaks and repeating them seamlessly over and over. His continuous “breakbeats” were also known as DJ Kool Herc’s, Merry Go Round beats.

Break-beat definition
A repeated sample of a drumbeat, usually forming a fast syncopated rhythm, used as a basis for hip hop and dance music.

DJ Kool Herc is now known as the “Father of the DJ Breakbeat”


In 2017, a section of Sedgwick Ave in The Bronx was renamed by NY Mayor Bill De Blasio as “HIP HOP BLVD” to honor the Birthplace of Hip Hop and the legacy of DJ Kool Herc.

It was at Kool Herc’s parties where guys started dancing against each other (battle dancing). They were doing a unique style of dance which became known as break-dancing or breakin’. The guys became known as B-Boys and it was not long until the girls joined in, and B-Girls were also claiming their fame on the dancefloor too.
Take a look….

How the Bronx brought breaking to the world – YouTube

Coke La Rock, becomes the “Life of the DJ Kool Herc Party”

Coke La Rock was a friend of Kool Herc who jumped on the mic at Herc’s parties to give some basic shout-outs to people in the party. After his first party, Coke began to get more energetic and animated on the mic. He began to rhyme in his shout-outs and messages. With Kool Herc’s amazing music and unique style of spinning music, and Coke La Rock on the mic, the parties doubled in size each time they rocked a party together. Soon there were very long lines to get into the DJ Kool Herc parties.

From the East side of town comes another originator, pioneer, and emerging star of the early days of hip hop… Afrika Bambaataa (The Godfather and the spiritual father of Hip Hop)

Afrika Bambaataa was born Lance Taylor and he grew up in the Bronx River Projects. His mother was part of the Black Liberation Movement, and she also had a massive collection of records. Gangs surrounded the projects and Lance was soon a member of the largest and most feared gang in the city, the Black Spades. It was his job to recruit new members. He had respect from people in the Bronx and other gang members. He was able to cross turf and build relationships with other gangs to grow the turf and members for the Black Spades. Lance was smart and he could bring people together. He loved music, and books…he also had a thirst for knowledge.

When he joined an essay contest and won, he was given a trip to Africa, After going to Africa and also seeing the movie “Zulu” he wanted to create solidarity and unification in The Bronx just like the Zulu’s did in Africa. He changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa and started a new group in the city which he called the “Bronx River Organization.”

He brought forth young leaders from all the organizations throughout the city. Young, dynamic leaders from local churches and schools. He recruited DJ’s, MC’s, B-Boys, B-Girls, and Graffiti Artists to come together and join his group. He then persuaded many of the Black Spades to join another new group that he founded called the “Universal Zulu Nation.” He brought knowledge to the group. He wanted all members, no matter what their background was, to learn the history of their ancestors.

Since Bambaataa had access to a huge and eclectic record collection, he too started having parties at the “Bronx River Community Center.” His first party was in 1976. He wanted his parties to unify the streets and to bring peace to the city. Everyone was invited regardless of color or where they were from. He definitely lured the people in with his brilliant music and DJ skills, but they got so much more by being around young positive people with a new mindset.

Bambaataa preached his core values of Hip-Hop which were, peace, unity, love and having fun. He was named the “Godfather” of hip-hop for his formation of the Hip-Hop movement in Europe, Africa, and Asia. There are several stories about who created the term Hip Hop. Most reports say that Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins a member of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five or the Bronx rapper and DJ “Lovebug Starski” coined the name “Hip Hop”, but Afrika Bambaataa was the first one to name the whole culture “Hip Hop” through his Universal Zulu Nation.

It was around 1989 when I was asked by Afrika Islam and Ice T, to join the Zulu Nation as a Zulu Queen with some other amazing women from Los Angeles. At the time I was also a DJ in the Reggae Room at their club called “United Nations.”

Here is an old flyer and you will notice some legends that were also part of the club and the Zulu Nation

Afrika Islam, DJ Caz, DJ Yutaka, Curtis Harmon (who was a famous Mix Master at the first all hip hop radio station “1580 KDAY” in Los Angeles – and now known as Muhammad Abdulsalaam).

In 1982, Bambaataa formed his group “Afrika Bambaataa & the Soul Sonic Force” and signed to Tommy Boy Records. This was the same year that this group changed my life with their monster hip hop classic, “PLANET ROCK”

The next major originator and pioneer to emerge was “Grandmaster Flash” (the Grandmaster of the turntables)

His birth name is Joseph Saddler and as a young boy he had a strange fascination with electronics and especially with anything that spun around. He could watch wheels and dryers spin for hours. He loved watching his father’s turntable spin. He did not understand how the music came off of that black disc and into his ear drums, but he loved it.

His father also had an extensive collection of records.

In school Joseph learned to repair electronic equipment. He understood how electronics worked. He would take things apart and put them back together again. He built his first DJ & sound system from old parts and speakers he found around his neighborhood. He started experimenting with turntables, mixers, and speakers. He too learned to isolate beats and could stop records in certain spots to create a fresh, alternate version of the songs. He soon was so good with records and equipment that he could masterfully control and maneuver his records to create new sounds. He played his turntables as if they were musical instruments…


This is how he became “Grandmaster Flash” and how he became the inventor of “the quick mix theory” which included the backspin, scratching, and punch phrasing. He was able to loop and repeat the best dance and exciting parts of songs. He is also known for blending drum breaks and beats from other genres into his songs and he was a master at mixing records. He was reverently dedicated to his craft and “Flash” made DJ’ing a science.

Grandmaster Flash connected technique with technology and created hysteria on all his dancefloors.

Grandmaster Flash also formed “Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five” in the seventies. After signing with Sugar Hill records the group had a string of successful rap hits and anthems. Their biggest song was “The Message” released in 1982. This classic has been deemed one of the greatest rap songs of all-time. In 2002, “the Message” was chosen by the Library of Congress and added to the National Recording Registry. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were the first hip hop group to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.


Coming soon…More Hip Hop history lessons and the origins of some of the GREATEST Hip Hop groups, artists , albums, and films of ALL-TIME

Great Documentaries – Part 2

Music Documentaries – The biggest sub-genre of documentary film making for good reason.

Everyone loves music and many of us have favorite genres of music and favorite artists. I suppose this is why “music documentaries” are the biggest sub-genre of documentary films. We all like to take a closer look into the lives of our favorite artists and the music they create. We want to know everything about “our artists” or our favorite type (genre) of music. Great documentary filmmakers have a responsibility to paint a full and truthful picture of their topic and in this case, artist, band, or genre of music.

Many people make documentaries and often upload them to YouTube but there are some filmmakers that work on their film for years and they also have big budgets to create the “perfect” documentary that will please the fans and often get them to the theatre.

Documentaries “document” reality, history, and periods of time. They educate while also entertaining us. I personally can’t get enough of documentaries. They have grown to be my favorite genre of films. They are usually made by experts and authorities on certain topics but what I admire most is the heart and love that most of the filmmakers pour into their documentary films.

I love MUSIC……..

Music has been my life and my savior at times. It has been with me through happy and sad times. I made music my career since it is something I knew best and loved the most. I am living proof of the old saying……..

 “If you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life”

I also love sharing music with others. I am “beyond” pleased to share some of my favorite “music docs” with you. I hope you will take the time to watch the film trailers that I have included. Even if you are not a fan of the artist or the genre you can learn something about each one of them….And who knows, you may find something new that you will soon LOVE!


Summer of Soul

(…Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)

This film won 2 Academy Awards in 2022 for “Best Documentary” feature and for “Best Music Film”

Director Questlove’s music documentary explores and reclaims the legacy of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival: a watershed six-week event of the civil rights movement.

Here is a taste of this stunning , soulful piece of history: Summer of Soul – Official Trailer (2021) Gladys Knight, Stevie Wonder – YouTube

I especially loved this feature that aired on CBS Sunday Morning: “Summer of Soul”: Rescuing a historic Harlem music festival – YouTube

Click here to add it to your collection: Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) Dolby, AC-3, Subtitled on


The Beatles: Get Back

An incredible look into the twilight days of the Beatles

Gaining access to 60 hours of footage shot for the 1970 album and making-of documentary “Let It Be,” and utilizing innovative restoration techniques, Peter Jackson delivered an astonishingly comprehensive window into the twilight days of The Beatles. John, Paul, George, and Ringo are revealed as never before. This is 7 3/4 hrs. on three discs and I still wanted more.

I loved the sneak peek from the director Peter Jackson so I thought you might enjoy it too: The Beatles: Get Back – A Sneak Peek from Peter Jackson – YouTube

And here is the finished trailer: The Beatles: Get Back | Official Trailer | Watch in Dolby – YouTube

If you are a Beatles fan or know one, this documentary will be an amazing addition to any music collection….If you want to give a meaningful gift, it just does not get better than this! “GET BACK” IS A MUST HAVE!

Get it here: The Beatles: Get Back 3 Pack, Dolby, AC-3 on


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The Secret to Happiness = Documentaries

Could your taste in documentaries lead to finding your perfect mate?

I recently read a friends post that said “I found my perfect match; we like the same documentaries”…could there be some truth in this statement?

I have been in my relationship over four decades and it’s true for us. We might argue about some TV shows to watch or what to have for dinner but when it comes to Docs, we are always on the same page.

Are we birds of a feather, flocking together?

We often learn a lot about each other based on the music, books, and movies we like. I have noticed that the best way to spark up a conversation and to get to know new friends is by asking them about the music, books, or their favorite movies, and podcasts. When they reveal their favorite documentaries, it’s probably the most telling. This gives a clear picture of the interests that are important in their life. When you hear the subjects and topics of their documentaries you will usually know if you are sticking around for more conversation or running off to your “imaginary meeting”.

Everyone seems to have favorite documentaries.

And just like the old saying, “there is someone for everyone” there are documentaries for everyone. No matter what you are interested in, you will find a podcast, or documentary for your viewing or listening pleasure (and even your guilty pleasures).

I love documentaries about Music, Art, Crime, History, Politics, Animals, the Environment, and something I like to call “twisted topics.” Twisted topics could be dark, shocking, edgy or anything my twisted mind finds appealing at the time. I am always open to watching documentaries to learn more about other things.

In August I will be featuring some of my favorite documentaries and films of special interest. Since I have so many based on a lot of topics I am going to break them up by my interests.

Since I view documentaries as an “ART” form, I have chosen “ART DOCUMENTARIES” as my first post in this series of “GREAT DOCUMENTARIES”


I want to give shout out to the amazing and talented members of the Long Beach Arts Council. I am proud to live in a city that is so supportive of the Arts and the Artists that flourish within Long Beach, California. Our art council participates in many things throughout the city. And as they should since Art surrounds us throughout all that we do.

I hope you will take the time to enjoy the trailers I have provided and to add some of these great documentaries to your own collections.

Exit Through the Gift Shop

This is the inside story of street art.

What happens when fame, money and vandalism collide? This is one of the most provocative art films ever made…a Banksy film!

How to get your copy:

Exit Through the Gift Shop is available at Get it on Blu-ray with this link and save 43% right now!

Movie Clips – Banksy “Exit Through the Gift Shop” Clips – YouTube

Trailer – Exit Through the Gift Shop Trailer – YouTube

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Could you be in a cult and not know it?

Can watching movies with friends or groups of people that seem similar to you lead to being in a cult?


There are many CLASSIC FILMS that are considered to be a masterpiece like Harry Potter, Star Wars or The Titanic. But there is also a plethora of movies called “CULT FILMS.” These films have a low budget, low box office numbers and a low following compared to the most “popular” movies with extremely devoted followers.

“When they go low, a specific cult film audience sometimes goes high.” I consider cult films to be high art, especially the classic Cheech & Chong films.

This comedic duo were OG’s in the cult movie game! Use this link to Browse all Cheech and Chong titles

And if you love Cheech and Chong I know you will love this profoundly serious 1936 film that has become known as one of the most hilarious films that helped to start the cult movie craze….

This golden age classic “REEFER MADNESS” is always a “HIT” at every cult film get together. Use this link to get it.

If you have never seen Reefer Madness I highly suggest seeing it with a group of friends and “unique snacks”

Cult films can be hilarious, horrific, bloody, gory, sexy, strange, evil, weird, naughty, scary and something the popular kids and their parents just don’t understand.

While the mass majority of movie goers shy away from films with questionable content, there are legions of “cool misfits” that just can’t get enough of cult films. In fact, they often see these films over and over again. They are passionate and dedicated to their favorite “off-beat” films. They shout-out dialogue and quote lines from their favorite films. You are highly likely to see people dressing up as characters or actively participating at a local midnight showing of some of the films that made it to “CULT CLASSIC” status .

The Rocky Horror Picture Show” is a cult-classic and the “KING of CULT FILMS.”

“The Rocky Horror Show” started in 1973 as a play in London. The play became a movie and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” premiered on September 25, 1975. For 47 years there have been audiences all over the world dressing up like Frank N. Furter, Riff Raff, Rocky, Columbia, Magenta, Brad, Janet and the other 49 characters. They bring their own props to the midnight shows, they sing, shout out replies to lines in the movie and they famously do the “Time Warp.”

Let’s see if YOU remember how to do the “Time Warp”…no worries, no one is looking

“Time Warp” from the 1975 “Rocky Horror Picture Show”

Although I have seen the movie many times I am proud to say that I was one of the original members of the audience at The Roxy Theater on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood that attended the live production over a nine-month run in 1974. For the movie premiere myself and my Road Dawg Sheila, went on a bus with cast members from The Roxy theater in Hollywood to the United Artists Theatre in Westwood, California.

The Roxy live audience was much like the midnight movie audience, we dressed up, sang loudly and everyone did the time warp. This was definitely one of the “BEST” times of my life. Shout out to “Sheila” who joined me for many “Rocky” nights at The Roxy. I know she is reading this “cult movie” feature because she is still a cool, unique, weirdo, misfit.

Cult films are NOT to be watched alone.

You must share the “dark beauty” of your favorite cult films with your wackiest, most unique, weird, nerdy, and strange, mis-fit friends. These are typically the friends who are most likely to have ALL their badges from ALL their years attending Comic-Con. And they are always ready to tell you how each year was better than the rest…(these same friends may also be the ones most likely to have body parts in their freezer)….just kidding about the freezer but they WILL have those Comic-Con badges and wristbands.

Do you have what it takes to be a Cult Leader or are you more of a follower?

If you are considering having a CULT MOVIE party or a CULT MOVIE marathon, at your house or a venue, you should take on the role as the “CULT LEADER” for the day.

  • The CULT LEADER chooses the CULT FILM or films to bring to the party.
  • The followers usually bring the party favors, the junk food and the “brewskis”

It is not easy to recommend Cult Films because they are usually tailored to the specific taste of the viewers. For instance, there are cult groups that are enthusiastic about women’s prison films, naughty nurses, or nuns, while others love zombies, cannibals, and gory horror films.

I will offer some suggestions for a party with a mixture for those who like the popular, big budget cult films and for those that like to dig-deep into the freaky cult film vault.


The Rocky Horror Picture ShowGet your Rocky fix with this link

The Big Lebowski…DUDE, you need to OWN this one! Get the 20th Anniversary edition here

Harold & Maude (a personal favorite) I recommend the Blu-ray, get it here

Friday…Warning: you may need extra snacks for these films. Get all 3 films…1-3 here

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (If you love British humor, this is for you) Get it here

Fight Club…(Another personal favorite) has the Anniversary Edition here

Labyrinth…Get this dark film, directed by Jim Henson, but this one is NO MUPPET MOVIE. It stars David Bowie and you can get it here

American Psycho…not sure what this says about me, but I LOVE this movie. Get it here

Clerks…This classic Kevin Smith film is available here

Showgirls…This erotic, campy, cult drama centers around strippers and showgirls. Need I say more? Here’s the link

Donnie Darko…Jake Gyllenhaal and Drew Barrymore are incredible in this dark, sci-fi cult film. Get it here

Dazed and Confused…Star studded cast and A MUST SEE for all cult film enthusiasts. Get it here

The Room…loved this weirdly amazing movie! has it here

There are far too many popular Cult Films to name them all, but now you have a few choices to get your party started.

For those of you who like to dig deep for the hard-core cult films there are a ton more to choose from. Just read the titles because they often give you clues to the content of the films

Look for key words like Zombies, Sex, Evil, Girls, Women’s Prison, Naughty Nurses, Terror, Horror, Blood, Gore, Hell and all your favorite guilty pleasures. You will find the perfect films for those misfit friends I spoke about earlier in this feature.

Find all your off-beat, hard-core cult treasures HERE

ENJOY THESE CULT FILMS. When you find one you love, write back, and tell me how it warped your mind…or made you laugh your ass off.

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