Continuing with the WE RESIST! concert series of 2017’s Winter Jazzfest, this year’s WJF shines the light once more on social justice issues from mass incarceration, sexual and gender equality, racial justice, immigration rights as well as environmental responsibility. It’s the perfect the platform where arts and societal issues can be presented in a manner that is both uplifting and thoughtful while treating audiences to some of the best live performances in New York.

Revive’s Music Stage is no different as we’re proud to present the New York City debut of Sly5thAve‘s “Invisible Man: An Orchestral Tribute to Dr. Dre.” Originally performed as “California Love: A Live Orchestral Tribute To Dr. Dre” back in November 2015 at Los Angeles’s Wilshire Ebell Theater, Sly5thAve’s treatment of your favorite Dre tracks has also materialized as the sprawling 23-track LP that dropped back in November 17, 2017.

An orchestral tribute to one of the godfathers of gangsta’ rap can seem like a farfetched connection to social justice issues. But Sly5thAve explains that a lot of Dr. Dre’s early work with N.W.A are examples of protest music. “If you look at N.W.A, what they were talking about was what was going in the inner-cities of America,” he explained during a phone interview with Revive. “There were concerned moms that didn’t want their kids to listen to their music, but that was their life! The dope man is right there. Fuck the police, they just arrested us for nothing. I feel like the spirit of that music was gangster because they were talking about what was happening everyday in the inner-city. That spirit of rebellion in N.W.A was shining a light on an invisible people.” Continue reading our insightful conversation below.

Revive: Let’s go back to 2015. How did the initial concert happen?

Sly5thAve: I had been doing Club Casa Orchestra via SoundCloud. Through that Brian Cross, who is an amazing photographer based in LA and just released his book Ghost Notes, which are all these photos that chronicles all of LA hip-hop from 1988 until now, reached out and introduced me to this whole circle of LA people. I met Quantic and did a tour with him. I also met Brian’s partner, Eric Coleman.

Brian had suggested to Coleman that he was looking for this Egyptian composer living in Beirut, Lebanon named Tarek Kandil, who had something called the Love Ain’t Enough Orchestra and released a version of “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang.” So Brian and Coleman along with this guy Kentyah Fraser, who works for this organization Playing For Change, had this idea of doing this concert that was similar to Suite For Ma’ Dukes because Mochilla did the first Suite For Ma’ Dukes.

Eric reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in scoring something like this and putting the concert together. And I remember seeing Suite For Ma’ Dukes and going, “Wow, this is incredible” and it inspired me to do something similar. So when Eric reached out, I immediately said yes. I had been waiting for the opportunity to be part of something like this.

Me and Tarik would correspond via email — because he wasn’t able to come over and be a part of the concert [due] to visa issues. But we were able to collaborate on two arrangements for the concert on email, which was email. He sent me a MIDI demo on what he worked on. I would take the MIDI demo and export it to Sibelius and arranged it. I would add my elements and sent it back to him and ask what he thought of it.

And I think I had over-prepared. For this hour and a half concert, I had about three hours of music prepared. We actually ended up cutting five of the arrangements for the concert and about half for the record.

R: That’s a lot of music.

S: [laughs] Yeah! So Dr. Dre, if you ever decide to do a Broadway show. I got you.

R: I think there needs to be a low-rider in one of those Broadway theaters. We gotta make that happen somehow. Going back to the making of the concert and the record. It seems like Dre’s music would lend itself nicely to being given an orchestral treatment since a lot of his songs feature the use of string parts. Did you find it easier to translate his music to a big orchestra?

S: There were definitely some songs that I was like, “That’s my favorite song. I can’t wait to arrange that.” There were also a lot of songs that lent themselves really well because there’s a lot of harmony. Like you mentioned, there were a lot of string parts and I could arrange them exactly how they were. I could substitute chords and create other thing.

But there were also some songs — like some of the earlier stuff with N.W.A — that were samples. This wasn’t in the record, but we did “Boyz-n-the-Hood” for the concert. That song just has that main melody happening and that’s the only thing that’s going on for the whole time. There’s that little break with the DJ. So songs like that are a challenge because it just meant it had to be more different.

For “Boyz-n-the-Hood” we added a free jazz section. I think Mark de Clive-Lowe took a piano solo. We created this whole environment and right when the melody drops, people were really excited about it. We just tried to add different elements. Brian was the one who told me that we could make it our own.

Some songs were definitely easier. You would just hear them and it arranged itself. Other songs were me staring at the computer screen for two weeks, at the paper, or at the piano asking “How are we going to do this?”



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