LIFE

We’ve been enthralled with Vivian Sessoms two part project LIFE as it reveals its depth and transition from dark to light. More than just a collection of songs, LIFE is a conceptual reflection on the world in both a cultural and musical sense. The production is unique, a soulful and almost subterranean groove that sets the perfect vibe for Vivian’s wide ranging vocal talent. When she steps up to the mic with power everyone can feel it, as evidenced in her stunning performance on her tribute to Erica Garner, I Can’t Breathe. Her (and husband and producer Chris Parks) choices of select cover songs reveal a specific understanding of music history, from See LIne Woman to The Best Is Yet To Come, to One Thing Leads To Another.

LIFE II is set for release on Friday May 17: drop in here to catch up and preorder.

Discussion with The Last Poets

We had the great fortune of interviewing each of The Last Poets to discuss their new release Transcending Toxic Times, due out this Friday. Bookmark these on Mixcloud or drop in to your favorite podcast source and search for The Station Tapes…

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Babadonn Babatunde

New Music | Rosemarine

Last year we had the great pleasure of hosting Logan Richardson for a live session here at the Ropeadope Room. If you’ve heard Logan’s album Blues People, it is impossible to avoid the haunting guitar style of Igor Osypov. And now, we present ROSEMARINE, a trio formed by Danish singer Mia Knop Jacobsen, Igor, and drummer Philip Dornbusch. The sound is unique and hard to define, it’s big and powerful one moment and sublime and delicate the next. You can feel the interplay between the musicians as they reach for a space that they call their own. Expressions of love, loss, anger and determination come through on their self titled debut album, due out on May 10th. Pre-orders (and a taste) hit on April 5.

Andy's Picks

In the great city of New York there’s a man (with a formidable beard) who knows music like few others. We are speaking of Andrew Neesley from Jesus On The Mainline; vocalist, trumpeter, producer, designer are all titles he can safely claim, and now we will add curator to that list.

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New Music | Bubby Lewis

Our hero Bubby Lewis is at it again, this time a new single featuring Jhene Aiko. Setting the tone for the lead in to his second album, Hero Dynasty, due out on July 19, 2019, Bubby hits us with a strikingly beautiful track featuring the longing vocals of Jhene Aiko. The song reveals the comfort and connection between two great artists… 

‘Miss & Love was written for the purpose of healing people. Everyone has lost somebody, but we can all make it. It is relatable not just to those who have passed on, but also to those to have lost relationships.’ (Bubby Lewis)

Miss & Love is refreshingly soft and dreamy in a time when there is noise all around, urging us to find that place of love within, and to share it.

American Immigrant | We The People

Ropeadope presents the American Immigrant Capsule Collection

Independent label and collaborative community Ropeadope is reviving the American Immigrant Collection; powerful designs respecting the immigrants that built a nation. Screen printed on unisex cotton tees and hoodies, the American Immigrant Collection includes a message on the back of each garment supporting immigrant culture in the USA. 

The American Immigrant line was originally released in 2008 as a statement of pride in the diversity of our nation. Today the message is more needed than ever as nationalism is co-opting the real American message, and immigrants worldwide are facing horrendous obstacles to everyday life. Nationalist sentiment has turned to full on racist rhetoric and policies are gaining ground in so called ‘populist’ movements and governments. 

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The intent of the American Immigrant project is that people everywhere can show unity and provide a sense of pride and hope. 

‘In a time of great upheaval on planet earth, we stand strong in our conviction that we are one people, with a common destiny and the natural mandate to care for one another. They say the darkest hour is just before the dawn; now is the time to stand up and connect across borders, across race, across gender, and across nations. There is no wall that that can divide us, there is no law that can keep us apart. We are seeking unity, we are seeking compassion, we are seeking LOVE. Join us in making this simple statement; that we are all immigrants, and we are all proud to tell the world.’ (Louis Marks, Ropeadope)

The American Immigrant Collection will be available for pre-order on May 2 at store.ropeadope.com, and in select stores in the summer of 2019. The line will also be available to activist and immigration support groups for fundraising purposes at half price. 

For more information email funky@ropeadope.com

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Col Bruce Lives On

We pause today to remember the late great Col Bruce Hampton, ret. on the two year anniversary of his passing. His wisdom, his humor, and his permission are a driving force for us to continue our work here at Ropeadope, and we cannot possibly overstate his influence. His intent and ours moved together for a few short years, and we strive every day to honor him by pressing on in the service of art and outrageous creative experimentation. Thank You Bruce, it’s chaos down here, same as it ever was.

For those readers who are not familiar, please set aside some time to dig into the man, the art, the music, and the inspiration. You can find the movie right here, the trailer here, and the music right here.

20 Years Of Ropeadope | Radio Style

We’ve been digging through the archives as we move through our 20th year in the game, and we’re finding gem after gem in the form of posters, tee shirts, demos and live recordings. But first, the music - each month we program a 2 hour radio show for our friend Danos Kramos and The Cooks crew in Brooklyn, setting a theme that ties Ropeadope tracks together and discussing the history to put everything in context. In every case the music sounds as fresh today as it it did at the time; with some surprising connections and comparisons. Take some time to rediscover the world of Ropeadope.

New Music | Khemist

Rapper, songwriter, poet and multi-instrumentalist, Khemist is a Philadelphia-bred artist and musical savant beloved as a bonafide lyrical force. Hailing from the city’s Logan Valley, Khemist is an extraterrestrial talent endowed with the hawkish ability to see the streets and set the Dickensian conditions of his formative years to music. Plied with eloquence and empathy, his catalog is punctuated by the monotone delivery and rough hewn exterior he developed surviving a charmed but bittersweet life amidst the blighted haunts, brutalist architecture and cold shoulders of a hardscrabble, post-industrial city.

Incited by the decision to stop speaking as a child, Khemist’s career as journeyman lyricist began at a local playground, when he darted to retrieve a loose ball. That led to a fortuitous encounter with a man facing certain death.

“I didn’t even start talking in school until I went to high school. My whole middle school experience, I didn’t talk at all. I went to the park at Barrett playground. The ball bounced behind the rec and I went to retrieve it and saw this man just bleeding out –– lying there. Me and my man looked for a second, then some oldhead came and told us to move. He told us not to say anything so we never said nothing. We went back to playing ball. I still don’t know what happened to that guy. After that I didn’t talk in school from fifth to eighth grade.” - Khemist

This is by far the most honest music I’ve ever made. Being introspective, and trying new things that I may have been hesitant to do earlier in my career –– like experimenting with and ultimately growing to love my voice. Being around the musicians I’m around has encouraged me to take more ownership over each component of the music I’m making.’

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Bandcamp To The Rescue

We’ve been on the Bandcamp tip since the day they opened, back when the founders were working at the local library. We’ve seen them grow steadily as they provide the best service for independent artists to connect directly with fans and keep more of their revenue. Now they are coming out swinging with a new vinyl pressing service that works. It’s a challenge for artists to get to the threshold to do a vinyl pressing, and just as challenging for us to put every title out on wax. Now fans can support an artist by preordering vinyl and once they reach the magic number the pressing begins. Check out the announcement here, and dig right in and get your copy of Ancestral Recall from Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah cued up.

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New Music | David Sánchez

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‘The African diaspora throughout the Americas feels to me like a big river, flowing and changing its formation across various lands, but remaining one immense watercourse. Carib is my continuation of that river, a personal and musical stream I began when I became bandleader for my first album, The Departure (1994) where you can clearly hear Puerto Rican rhythms running throughout. Another fork, my album Melaza (2000), has the most substantial connection with Carib because of its flow and the strong influence of the bomba music tradition from Puerto Rico. I believe some of the greatest contributions to contemporary music and culture have come from the African diaspora throughout the Americas. Unfortunately, there seems to be too little awareness of their influence, especially the vital stories told by the music. So, I wanted to approach this album as a means to pay tribute to all Afro descendent communities who have helped define my music and the culture’s broad ranging beauty and idiosyncrasies.’ (Dávid Sanchez)

David Sánchez begins his description of Carib with this narrative describing his intent and story behind the recording, setting the tone both figuratively and literally. It would be easy to get lost in his commanding performance on the saxophone; he handles the instrument so naturally it feels like his native language. And yet there is so much more, and we welcome the continuation of the story of the African Diaspora, this time with specific attention on Puerto Rico and Haiti. We have much to learn about how African music has traveled over centuries, and documenting the journey falls short when we use only words. This is an ongoing and fluid narrative presented for us all to learn and grow.

Carib is set for release on June 7, 2019 via Stretch Music and Ropeadope, with early listen and preorders beginning on May 3rd. David just finished a run with The SF Jazz Collective, and will return to New York on June 6 - 9 at The Jazz Standard. Look out for David’s music in the indie film Windows On The World, now screening at film festivals throughout the US.

New Music | Emanuel Casablanca

Guitarist and songwriter Emanuel Casablanca stands out from the crowd; In a world of followers he takes his own path, guided by his specific passion and unfettered by cultural definition. As a young man he witnessed the old Brooklyn, when venues where all around and you earned your chops in a Williamsburg venue. He grew up listening to Biggie, Lil Kim, and The Lost Boys at a time and place where you could see them hanging out in the neighborhood. His mother was a music teacher and she kept him playing and on a classical and gospel path. He left the music path for the basketball court, but returned to music during college and picked up the forbidden instruments (drums and guitar) and began his personal music journey. He credits Angus Young as his motivation to pick up the guitar, and titans Albert King, Rory Gallagher, Buddy Guy, and Freddie King as important influences that led him to his sound.

Emanuel Casablanca writes songs; he aspires to write and record them as they were made in the classic times in history, yet keep them relevant to today. His new record, It’s Getting Strange, is a tight collection that hearkens back to a time when artists sought to directly convey their feelings in an effort to connect with the listener. The themes are therefore familiar; love and loss, peace and hope. The style can best described as old school rhythm and blues, with a heavy emphasis on blues. His voice is transcendent, and his guitar licks are deliberate and never overwrought. The record is a refreshing change of pace from the frantic sounds of today. It’s Getting Strange hits on May 17, preorder and a taste coming this Friday.

Photo | Stefano Ortega

Photo | Stefano Ortega

New Music | Vivian Sessoms

Accomplished singer and Harlem native Vivian Sessoms, in the company of some of the world’s finest musicians, stakes a claim to a sound all her own on her new album LIFE. Having earned her stripes as a performer with Ryuichi Sakamoto, P. Diddy, Michael Jackson, Donna Summer and many others, Sessoms and co-producer/creative partner Chris Parks bring their vast array of experiences to bear on an inspired, jazz-influenced set that proves Sessoms a fiery, forward-thinking artist in her own right.

As much as Life I surprised and delighted us, Vivian stepped up the game with her powerful video for the lead single I Can’t Breathe as we lead up to the second album release. A tribute to Eric and Erica Garner, the song is not only one of the most powerful vocal performances we’ve heard but is also a moving statement on the state of America today. Life II continues Vivian’s story, and clearly expresses her expansive musical vision. Life II is set for release on May 17th, with preorder open now.

New Music | Adam Meckler Orchestra

From the ever curious mind of Todd Clouser and his curated house of Ropeadope SUR comes a new project from Adam Meckler Orchestra. Trumpeter Adam Meckler leads an 18 piece ensemble that moves through Jazz, Hip-Hop, R&B, Soul and Pop with ease. Following up their critically acclaimed 2014 release When The Clouds Look Like This, which was listed by Itunes as a best of 2014, AMO brings their new album Magnificent Madness to the halls of Ropeadope. Magnificent Madness explores collaborations with Hip Hop artists Toki Wright (Rhymesayers) and Harjinder (Fatbook), as well as vocalist Cameron Kinghorn (Nooky Jones), multi-Grammy award winning vocalist J.D. Steele (Prince, Donald Fagen), and International trumpet soloist Rex Richardson. Sit back, relax, and let the show begin. Magnificent Madness hits on May 3rd, with preorder available now.

The 21Soul Sessions | Brooklyn

You can’t have a worldwide celebration of music without including Brooklyn, and we are ready. On April 23 we kick off our monthly residency at The Brooklyn Bowl. Dubbed The 21Soul Sessions | Soul At The Bowl, the inaugural show will be a banger. Paul Beaubrun, Vivian Sessoms, and Emanuel Casablanca will mix it up in a night of soulful reflection and celebration of diversity.

The 21Soul Sessions are unique musical experiences; established, world class players and young guns mix it up with a broad range of styles intended to break down the social construct of genre as a divisive term. Musicians today have become world travelers and ambassadors who not only bring new music to new places, but bring their worldly experiences back home to their community. 

The Place To Be. Get Loose. Get Free.

New Music | Komunyakaa, Cieri,Brown


Yusef Komunyakaa
is an American poet who teaches at New York University and is a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. Komunyakaa is a recipient of the 1994 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award, for Neon Vernacular and the 1994 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. He also received the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. Komunyakaa received the 2007 Louisiana Writer Award for his enduring contribution to the poetry world.

Mike Brown currently lives in Brooklyn, NY - specializing in “New/Avant-Garde Music” and “extended techniques” he leads May the Bridges I Burn Light the Way and is part of the Brown/Jewell duo along with many other groups including KotorinoWheelchair Sports CampKevaCharles AtlasNow Over Ever, The Kerosene Ensemble, Fingerprint and can frequently be seen playing with David Cieri.

Along with performing and teaching, David Cieri’s film-score work includes Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War, (September 2017), The Roosevelts, The Address, Prohibition, Baseball: The Tenth Inning, The National Parks, Emperor of All Maladies, and his score for Raymond De Felitta's Booker's Place was listed for an Oscar nomination in 2013. He has recently completed scoring a documentary entitled, Oklahoma City which is out in theaters now. Cieri, along with longtime collaborator Mike Brown, composes the music for the monthly Gavagai music and reading series at The Owl Music Parlor in Brooklyn NY.

While Cieri was writing the music (along with Trent Reznor and Yo-Yo Ma) for Ken Burns’ The Vietnam War Documentary, he kept close Yusef Komunyakaa’s poetry book Dien Cai Dau as a source of insight and inspiration.  As good fortune would have it, The Gavagai Music and Reading series run by Danielle Blau, brought Komunyakaa, Cieri, and Brown together for the first time on St. Patricks Day 2016 to perform in NYC. From the downbeat, a deep relationship and understanding immediately caught fire and they have been playing with matches ever since as they fuse Komunyakaa’s poems with the sounds and music of Cieri and Brown.

Ropeadope Roots

We’ve been in a reflective space here at Ropeadope as we move through our 20th year in the game. Digging into the past is a transformative process; identifying the key points in history helps us understand who we are. In this digital age it is easy to lose touch with history, so the process becomes even more important. Musicians generally begin with history, whether self taught or formally trained they must know the foundation, the root of what they play. Recently we’ve noticed quite a few artists going back to find the root of the Blues and preserving that structure within their new music exploration. Jesus On The Mainline, Big Hands Rhythm and Blues Band, gorgeous!, and Uncle Nef are great examples. So, each month we will feature one of these bands and tell the story behind their search.

Our story begins with Darren Hoffman and Shannon Powell; the duo known as Uncle Nef. The name alone indicates a connection between the past and present; Powell is one of the best drummers in the world with deep experience in Jazz and The Blues. Hoffman is a historical crate digger of sorts, looking back to the work of Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and more. Their sound is raw and powerful, but only to the necessary degree. They both have deep respect for the feeling in the Blues, and work to preserve that depth in a direct and current context. Let’s dig in to the opening track of their upcoming release Love Songs.

Women's History Month | Michaela!

Everyone arrives on this planet through the commitment and work of a Woman; that alone should keep us in a perpetual space of gratitude and yet there is so much more. Persistent love, grace, and power emanate from the women of the world, and for these reasons we take a moment to show our respect.

First up, a special thanks to Ropeadope team member Michaela DeBenedictis - her exuberant commitment to the music and the musicians is evident every day.

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‘Music has always been my life. I started taking vocal lessons and singing in choirs when I was 8. When I was 10 I picked up my father's guitar and he began to teach me. I was most influenced by Led Zeppelin and Eric Clapton.

I started gigging when I was 13 and stated my first band with my sister. We played all through high school whenever and wherever we could. We would go out to a gig on a school night and my parents would let us skip our first class the next morning because we had been out until 3am. We had been going to their gigs since we were around 8 so gigging was just part of how I grew up.

From there, while continuing to play and write music, I began teaching music lessons. When I moved to Philadelphia, I moved onto running music schools while managing and promoting local musicians while immersing myself in the scene here. All of that led me here to Ropeadope.’

Drop in here and say hello to Michaela!