Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Its funny how truth works in the universe. Sometimes its right in front of your face and your just not in the place mentally or spiritually to take it in. Its the same when you know you have something special to offer that nobody else can offer but you still go un-noticed or walked on by others who are lesser than you but maybe have better political placement.
Maybe that's why there has been very little said about the great Renaissance man known as Weldon Irvine. I'm going to try and really get the point across here about how important this man was and still is to this day. Like I said about truth, even though Iv cherished his albums for years now it took a reference in the new wax poetics for me to go back and actually search for information about Irvine and after the fact I have to say that its astonishing how little has been said about him. I guess he's just one of those people who exists for the real truth seekers to be in the know of.
Weldon Irvine was a musician, performer, composer, writer, teacher, playwright, political activist...I could go on and on. Its more like he was that and a whole lot more. He wrote the civil rights anthem "To Be Young Gifted And Black" for Nina Simone and also produced award winning plays which featured similar political and racial themes. Throughout his whole career he played the role of an activist as well as a mentor to countless people, especially musicians and rappers.
There are over 500 songs which he is credited to, many of which were sampled by hip hop artists in the 90's. The most notable of these were ATCQ's "Award Tour" which sampled "We're Getting Down" on the "Spirit Man" album and BDP's "My Philosophy" which samples "Sister Sanctified" by Stanley Turentine (A song written by Irvine).
Irvine helped a whole generation of young musicians from Jamaica Qweens by teaching them all aspects of being a successful musician and in turn many of his deciles became just that. Guys like Tom Browne, Bernard Wright and Marcus Miller were just of few of these success stories.
One thing that really differentiated Weldon Irvine from his peers was that once hip hop became prominent he actually embraced it instead of writing it off as a bullshit deviation of real music like many other jazz musicians did at the time. Just like he did in the past he mentored quite a few hip hop artists including Q-Tip, Mos Def and Common. He was also featured on these artist albums and in Mos Def's case even served as musical director for his first album "Black On Both Sides". The thing is he was fighting the same battle that a lot of these Mc's were which was overall an anti music industry thing. His quote says it all: "Many of the young rappers got disconnected from a tradition of protest and decided to rap about mayhem in order to get paid".
While being involved in quite a few hip hop projects, Irvine produced and financed an album in tribute to Amadou Diallo who was gunned down by police officers without probable cause. "I said, 'This has got to stop and I'm going to use my art form as a vehicle to address the shooting". Very few artists ever go out on a whim and completely do a whole album themselves over a political matter.
Unfortunately it wasn't that many years later that Weldon Irvine took his own life. As sad as it is, its even more upsetting that it was really people in the music industry bullshitting him that let him to his suicide. He was trying to get a pay advance or outright sale of his music licensing in the UK. They were basically ignoring him and somehow that led to go over the deep end.
Weldon Irvine's Music lives on and the mark he made as unsung as he may have been still serves as an inspiration to many including myself. You can check his amazing discography here at: http://www.discogs.com/artist/Weldon+Irvine and if you are interested in learning more about him please visit: http://www.nathanielturner.com/weldonirvine.htm for a lengthy biography.
Here's an instrumental on Mos Def's "Black On Both Sides" album that really helped me get through some things as a teenager. Its called "May-December" and it features Weldon Irvine on the Keys and arrangements. Please check his other music too. It will really inspire you in a big way.