Street Roc: Exciting, versatile entertainers who thrill fans, showcase talents

The Street Roc Label has a cadre of diverse, talented musicians who bring individualism to the label.

The Street Roc Label has a cadre of diverse, talented musicians who bring individualism to the label.

By Carmen Glover

An enterprising group of youthful entertainers who cemented a strong bond of friendship while growing up in the Bronx, New York, the birthplace of hip hop, is poised to storm the music scene from their dual base of operations in Atlanta, Georgia and New York City with a plethora of musical offerings under their music umbrella, The Street Roc Label LLC.

Inspired by genres that span reggae, hip hop, R&B and Rock & Roll, the ambitious musicians are passionate about their craft and determined to make an indelible mark in the music industry. Despite having their own unique styles, they are also following in the footsteps of other memorable groups such as Ruff Ryders, which was helmed by DMX and the Fugees, which paved the way for explosive careers for its members Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel.

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With NWA’s biographical film, “Straight Outta Compton,” dominating the movie theaters this past summer and industry buzz building about upcoming releases chronicling the career of Snopp Dogg, sometimes known as Snoop Lion, the Street Roc roster mates see a viable path to carving out a competitive niche for themselves in the industry and solidifying their reputations as serious, conscious, hard-working, savvy musicians and budding entrepreneurs.

But, just like the 1985 blockbuster movie “Krush Groove” told the story of hip hop trendsetters Russell Simmons, Run-DMC and LL Cool J, and enigmatic musician Prince set the stage for independent producing when he left Warner Brothers after a public spat, the Street Roc team members are determined to have ownership of their work and shape the trajectory of their careers, a lesson many musicians fail to learn until they have lost all their earnings to extravagance and flash.

Kristoph Francis developed the name for the record label and takes great interest in the success of all the artists.

Kristoph Francis developed the name for the record label and takes great interest in the success of all the artists. His demo, “Critique Me,” was released in 2014.

Kristoph Francis, 23, one of the label’s co-founders, created the name for the company based on reactions to his childhood musical performances and because the name, Street Roc,”has a nice ring to it.”

“I came up with the name when I was in high school because everywhere we went we had the streets rocking,” he recalled. Francis, who played the Congo drums in church at age 11, describes the drums as instruments that infuse all of his musical repertoire. “When I’m making my beats, I think of the drums because they give me my music sense,” he said, explaining that his cousin plays the bass drums for reggae singer Capleton, who is known for introducing the element of fire to his extraordinarily spectacular shows.

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The Street Roc Label is poised for takeoff after releasing mixed tapes “Divine Adolescence,” in 2012 and “Too Geek’d For The Streets,” in 2013.

Francis said he was influenced to pursue a career in music by Michael Jackson, Jay-Z, his stepfather and a host of artists, including reggae crooner Sanchez, who came around the family often during Francis’ childhood. Meeting Young Jeezy and M.E.M.P.H.I.S. Bleek, who signed Francis’ book of raps, piqued his interest and fueled his drive to hone his musical skills.

As he puts the finishing touches on a mixed tape, which features singles such as “Back Home” and “It’s All Yours,” Francis reminisces about the day he showed his grandmother his homework, which posed the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? Francis wrote “a rapper,” which elicited much consternation and the response: “You can’t be a rapper,” which caused him to internalize his dreams until his adult mind was capable of developing a plan of action to aggressively respond to the tugging of his heart-strings and live his musical truth.

Kristoph Francis is focused on creating beats and taking the label to the fans.

Kristoph Francis is focused on creating beats and taking the label to the fans.

While also having an interest in music, the experience has been somewhat different for Francis’ brother, Malcolm ‘Dolo Pierre’ Jackson, 25, a co-founder of The Street Roc Label. Jackson combines his experience as an actor, songwriter, producer and musical artist to create a career path that is boundless in scope and richly textured with layers of possibilities.

“A lot of my musical and acting experiences come from the church because my mom was heavy in the church and I used to try to join her on the choir and they would let me sing,” he said, a thespian in his own right.

Malcolm "Dolo Pierre" Jackson delivers range as a multi-talented songwriter, producer, actor, musician and performer.

Malcolm “Dolo Pierre” Jackson delivers range as a multi-talented songwriter, producer, actor, musician and performer.

Citing reggae legend Robert Nesta “Bob” Marley and iconic entertainer Michael Jackson as his two greatest influences musically, Jackson strives for range in his music.

“I’ve done reggae, hip-hop, R&B,” he said, while explaining that all of the artists represented by the label “take pride in writing our own lyrics.”

Malcolm "Dolo Pierre" is looking forward to releasing a full album early in 2016.

Malcolm “Dolo Pierre” is looking forward to releasing a full album early in 2016.

Jackson, whose musical talents gained an audience when he participated in the chorus in elementary school and the band in middle school, said that being raised in a household with ‘musically inclined’ parents made a huge impact on his sensibilities.

“Music developed naturally and soon I wanted to record,” he said.  As he continues to follow his heart, Jackson said that he plans to release an EP of “all original music early in 2016,” and strives to achieve the taste of success, which, for him, is “the look on everybody’s faces telling me that nobody has any question about my talents.”

Kristine "Phresh" Walker is the lone female on the label and she cherishes her role as a deep thinker.

Kristene “Phresh” Walker is the lone female on the label and she cherishes her role as a deep thinker.

Kristene “Phresh” Walker, 26, spent the first seven years of her life in the Bronx before relocating to Atlanta, Georgia, where the other members of the label gradually transitioned.

“Once we all came down to Atlanta, it solidified what we were trying to do,” Walker said, describing herself as a thinker.  “I think a lot and I want to bring a lot of thought back into music because back in the day it was more about lyrics and I’m trying to bring it back to that and integrate the message back into music and the rhythm,” she said.

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Walker, whose musical interest was awakened at age 13, also performed in church as a child. A solid artist, who sees her role as akin to Lauryn Hill with the Fugees, is striving to awaken “a more conscious and cultured element to the current crop of music, like Erykah Badu and Missy Elliott.”  For her, being a member of the Street Roc family is comforting.

“The team plays a big part because us being together pushes me to create something that never existed before,” she said. As she continues to promote her mixed tape, “Loud Silence,” which debuted in April 2015, she is also busy working on new music. “Being able to influence others and have a say, gives me a high and pushes me forward,” she said.

Lavar "Stiff Tha Godz" Stiff, is creative and entrepreneurial, a solid combination for success.

Lavar “Stiff Tha Godz” Stiff, is creative and entrepreneurial, a solid combination for success. As he promotes his mixed tape “High Times,” he utilizes concepts he learned while completing all but one semester in undergraduate studies in Business Administration. He hopes to complete his studies soon.

Lavar “Stiff Tha Godz” Stiff, 28, another of the label’s co-founders, was enthralled when he first saw Tupac Shakur having a merry time on MTV in his classic Dr Dre-produced hit “California Love,” followed by a video by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

“When I saw Tupac in ‘California Love’ I knew I wanted to be a rapper. He inspired me and MTV opened up a new gateway for me,” said Stiff, who was 8 years old at the time. “I started acting like I was on stage, like I was performing.”

Once the music bug hit, Stiff began to formulate a plan to make his dream become a reality. But he realized that he was also interested in the business side of the music industry so he enrolled in college and completed three and a half years of a degree in business administration.

"High Time" is an ode to marijuana and its impact on society.

“High Times” is an ode to marijuana and its impact on society.

“As far as entrepreneurship, I was influenced by Master P because he came from nothing to become one of the first Black millionaires just from doing rap. I’m an artist. I write music, I rap and I helped put the label together by forming the foundation,” Stiff said, while explaining that he has a lot of different things that he would like to accomplish, including learning to play the guitar. “For the future, I’m interested in film, movies and incorporating them into the musical aspect, like Michael Jackson and his long-form videos,” he said.

For a fledgling musical entrepreneur who did not grow up around much musical influence, Stiff nonetheless developed an eclectic taste for music and an admiration for genres including reggae, hip-hop, old school R&B, Rock & Roll and Blues by the incomparable B.B. King and Muddy Waters. Yet, Stiff celebrates marijuana each chance he gets and lauds the herb on his recent EP, “High Times,” which was released on September 23 2015, at https://soundcloud.com/stiff-tha-godz/sets/high-times.

Devon "D.O.C" Riley, the youngest member of the label, is eager to make his mark in the industry.

Devon “D.O.C” Riley, the youngest member of the label, is eager to make his mark in the industry.

The youngest member of the group, Devon “D.O.C” Riley, 21, looked no further than two hip hop legends as a template for inspiration.

“Nas and Jay-Z influenced me because they are able to express themselves and the way they deliver their lyrics, they have something to say,” he explained. Riley developed an ear for music from his father, who is a DJ. “I was exposed to music at a young age. I felt the music. I used to be more on the reggae side but as I grew I dabbled into different types of music because I don’t want to be put in a box. My focus is to get people to understand both types of music—-reggae and hip hop,” he said, pondering the musical landscape.

 

Gotham City is DOC's take on the nuances and mysteries of New York City lifestyles.

“Gotham City” is D.O.C’s take on the nuances and mysteries of New York City lifestyles.

Riley, who is very interested in scary movies and hopes to find ways to integrate that interest into his music, is currently savoring success with his new song “Gotham City,” which is available on iTunes.

“People have different views looking out on the world. Music is the way people express themselves and I’m working on a project on duality, to use music to explain everything,” he said.

Alexander “Spazz’ Momon, 26, rounds out the crop of label mates, who function like family by nurturing each other’s independent projects while collectively investing in the success of the label as an entity.

Alexander "Spazz" Momon, is refining his compilations so that he can release his full album on November 1, 2015.

Alexander “Spazz” Momon, is refining his compilations so that he can release his full album on November 1, 2015. His single, “Bon Jour Mary” appears on the “High Times” EP.

“We all went to high school together and we have different styles. My musical style is more energetic and technical, like Busta Rhymes, Eminem and DMX,” he said. After careful thought, Momon, who also holds down a job so that he can pay his bills while building his musical career strategically, explained that he has “been influenced by pioneering rappers such as Kool Moe Dee and LL Cool J.”

“My dad put me on to them and Wu-Tang Clan and my mother used to work in the music industry,” he said, revealing that when he first heard Rhymes’ “Dangerous,” at age 11, he was so captivated by the animation and high-octane flow that he would sneak home early from school to listen to the song over and over. Like his label mates, Momon is hard at work compiling an EP.

“My mixed tape will be ready on November 1 but I recently released the single “Bon Jour Mary” on the “High Times” EP,” he said. As he charges full speed ahead with his musical career, Momon has one objective: “I want people to understand the struggle, the triumph and the love for music,” he said.

As the multi-talented entertainers on the Street Roc Label LLC pour their efforts into a distinctive musical repertoire, they create individual projects and bring new artists along the journey to prominence. While they contemplate organizing a Street Roc tour, the label mates expect to soon hear the sweet sounds of success reverberating from coast to coast and across the globe, as they finally get their career recognition and financial rewards.

Learn more about this prolific, dynamic group of musicians and what’s next in their careers at StreetRocMusic.comOnPointPress.net

Hip-Hop’s Top Five, inspired by Chris Rock’s movie of the same name

Where do the biggest stars land on this top 5 list? (l - r) Nas, Lil Kim, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z

Where do the biggest stars land on this top 5 list? (l – r) Nas, Lil Kim, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z

By Charles Glover, Jr.

After seeing Chris Rock’s movie “Top Five” it seems fitting to compose my own list of hip-hop artists. There are five different categories of top five lists: solo artist, rap duos, rap groups, rap factions, and record labels. This is a list of my top 5 for each category. What’s yours?:

(l - r clockwise) Ice Cube, KRS-One, MC Lyte, and Rakim, are some of the best hip-hop artists of all time but there is only room for 5 on the list.

(l – r clockwise) Ice Cube, KRS-One, MC Lyte, and Rakim, are some of the best hip-hop artists of all time but there is only room for 5 on the list.

Record Label:

Since the early 1980’s, hip-hop has a range of record labels dedicated to mainly to the genre. There are so many labels that narrowing the list to just 5 is very difficult but here we go:

5) Cash Money – This label makes the list because of its impact financially and cross-over appeal of main stars from the subsidiary, Young Money record label. Notable stars from the label include Juvenile, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, and Drake.
4) Rocafella – This label makes the list mainly because of Jay-Z. The label was also able to eventually add other stars that made hits for years. Notable stars included Jay-Z, Kanye West, Cam’ron, Beanie Sigel, and DJ Clue.
3) Bad Boy – They helped usher in a resurgence of east coast popular hip-hop music. Charismatic owner/producer Sean “Puffy” Combs, was able to assemble a talented cast that made plenty of chart toppers. Label stars included The Notorious B.I.G., The L.O.X., Ma$e, and Craig Mack.
2) Death Row – The emergence of this label as a top company in such a short time of existence is to be celebrated. Led by Suge Knight and Dr. Dre, they were major influences in spreading west coast flavor in hip-hop. Notable stars included Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg (now Lion), Tha Dogg Pound, and Tupac Shakur.
1) Def Jam – The preeminent hip-hop record label for many years, Def Jam has found a way to stand the test of time. Founded in 1983, Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin started a tradition of finding and signing some of the best artists of the genre. Notable stars include, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, EPMD, Ludacris, DMX, Method Man, and Ja Rule.

Rick Rubin (l) and Russell Simmons (r) were instrumental in the early growth of hip-hop at Def Jam.

Rick Rubin (l) and Russell Simmons (r) were instrumental in the early growth of hip-hop at Def Jam.

Hip-Hop Groups/Factions: For the purpose of this article, hip-hop factions refer to groups of artists who worked together regularly but didn’t  record together often as a group. Examples would be the Juice Crew, Hit Squad, the Boot Camp Clik, Native Tongues, and the Dungeon Family. Groups have 3 or more members. Groups that narrowly missed the cut were Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Boogie Down Productions, and Slaughterhouse.

5) N.W.A. – Their influence during the transformative years of hip-hop is undeniable. Group members included DJ Yella, Eazy-E, MC Ren, Dr. Dre, and Ice Cube.
4) Public Enemy – Known for their music about black empowerment, this group made it clear that there was more to them then their music. Group members featured Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Terminator X, Sister Souljah, Professor Griff and DJ Lord.
3) Ruff Ryders – This group had a string of hits in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Not only did the group work together often, but they often collaborated with other top rap acts at the time. Featured members included producer Swizz Beats, DMX, Eve, Drag-On, and the L.O.X..
2) The Fugees – This group featured a talented trio made music with the diversity of R&B at times and hard-core hip-hop at others. Group members were Wyclef, Pras, and Lauryn Hill.
1) Wu-Tang Clan – A large group with each member having a distinctive rap style, Wu-Tang quickly rose to success with hit songs right out of the gate. Though the group has grown to have many members, the original group consisted of 9 members: RZA, GZA, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, and Method Man.

The surviving Wu-Tang Clan members (l - r) RZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon the Chef

The surviving Wu-Tang Clan members (l – r) RZA, Ghostface Killah, Masta Killa, Method Man, GZA, Inspectah Deck, U-God, Raekwon the Chef

Rap Duos: For this article, rap duos are two rappers, not a dj and a rapper. The synergy that exists between a rap duo makes their music stand out. Examples are Black Star, Mos Def & Talib Kweli, Tha Dogg Pound, Salt N Pepa, and Kid N Play.

5) Mobb Deep – Havoc and Prodigy make this list slightly ahead of Black Star because they were just young teenagers when their hit “Shook Ones” came out and they continued making hits for quite some time afterwards.
4) EPMD – Erick Sermon and Parish Smith made dollars and hits. They sampled music a great deal and now they are the sampled often as well.
3) Method Man & Redman – What started as a mere collaboration on “How High” turned into a true partnership with albums, a movie, and a television show.
2) Run-DMC – True pioneers in the rap game, Run and DMC opened doors for hip-hop fans with big hits in the 80’s and also starred in the movie Krush Groove as well.
1) Outkast – Andre 3000 and Big Boi rose to hip-hop stardom as unique hit makers with complementary rap styles. They also appeared in a movie together, Idlewild, and have had success as solo stars as well.

Big Boi (l) and Andre 3000 (r) form Outkast, top rap Duo on this list.

Big Boi (l) and Andre 3000 (r) form Outkast, top rap Duo on this list.

Female Solo Artist: Women’s contribution to hip-hop should not be understated, the ladies of hip-hop have had to be creative to carve their niche in the male dominated hip-hip world. Some ladies that narrowly missed the list are MC Lyte, Rah Digga, Left Eye, and Roxanne Shante.

5) Foxy Brown – Foxy teamed up with Jay-Z for a few songs and was part of the group The Firm that included Nas. She had the respect of some of the best rappers during their prime.
4) Lil Kim – Lil Kim was a member of Junior Mafia with the Notorious B.I.G. and was able to emerge as one of the top hip-hop artists after the Notorious B.I.G.’s death.
3) Queen Latifah – The Queen had several hits before rapping the intro to her own sitcom, Living Single. Though she would transition to acting and TV host, her music career should not be forgotten.
2) Da Brat – Her lyrical style made her verses stand out on just about every track she collaborated on. Jermaine Dupri was wise enough to find a way to get his So So Def artist on numerous tracks between the few solo albums of her own.
1) Lauryn Hill – Hill’s dual threat nature as a singer and rapper helped her have one of the most successful hip-hop albums with “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”. Her rap skills are highlighted while she was working with her Fugees brethren Pras and Wyclef.

Lauryn Hill earned the top spot because of her rap lyrics, her singing ability is merely a bonus.

Lauryn Hill earned the top spot because of her rap lyrics, her singing ability is merely a bonus.

Male Solo artist: The argument for best male hip-hop artists can and will go on forever. This is a list of my favorite as I realize there’s no making everyone happy. Some artists that narrowly missed the list were Big Pun, Snoop Dogg, Rakim, LL Cool J, Nas, Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z.

(l - r) Snoop Dogg, and Tupac are two of the best to do it but only one made the top 5.

(l – r) Snoop Dogg, and Tupac are two of the best to do it but only one made the top 5.

5) Joe Budden – Budden may not have a great deal of mainstream success, but he has made quite a name for himself on mixtapes and through freestyles.
4) Busta Rhymes – Busta has been in the game since the early 90’s making hit songs. However, his music videos were influential as they broke the typical mold of hip-hop videos.
3) Tupac Shakur – Tupac’s music is wide-reaching and clearly reflected his mood when he was in the studio. In fact, there’s probably a Tupac song for every mood a hip-hop fan is experiencing.
2) DMX – DMX is entertaining to just hear speak but his flow and constant energy make it easy to listen to his music, even the barking.
1) Eminem – What makes Eminem stand out among the best is add to his repertoire as his career continues. Even if you’re listening carefully you have to go back and listen to the songs again just to catch all the metaphors and wordplay prevalent in his music, which earns him top honors on this list.

Eminem tops this list as he has topped many charts throughout his career.

Eminem tops this list as he has topped many charts throughout his career.

I’m sure there will be major disagreements about the lists so please feel free to engage me on social media.–OnPointPress.net–

Charles Glover Jr. is a management/employee training and benefits consultant. Follow me @OpenWindowMES on Twitter.com. For business inquiries contact (646)309-1938.

Mental Health Awareness Month spotlights growing concerns, solutions

Terrie Williams

Terrie Williams, author, mental health advocate and publicist champions the cause of those who suffer from mental health diagnoses and encourages blacks to stop hiding and seek help. She is author of the book “Black Pain: It Just Looks Like We’re Not Hurting,” which deals with mental health in the black community and the stigma associated with dealing with mental illness.

By Carmen Glover

Mental health continues to be an area of profound concern globally because mental health diagnoses continue to be shrouded in secrecy, and for some, profound shame.  Interestingly, some individuals find it much easier to admit that they are HIV positive, because of the support that society provides through housing and financial aid, rather than acknowledge that they struggle with a mental health diagnosis.

Terrie Williams, mental health advocate, author and  public relations specialist

Terrie Williams, mental health advocate, author and public relations specialist

Although both HIV and mental heath diagnoses are protected by health shield laws, they can both be lethal if left untreated. When troubled rapper DMX appeared on “Iyanla Fix My Life,” the episode burned up social media because of the spectacle he made of himself. But some viewers were shrewd enough to recognize that his bizarre behavior was fueled by more than drug addiction. He displayed evidence of a co-occurring disorder, which was supported by revelations that he suffers from mental illness.

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Across the USA as carnage explodes in the form of mass murders and unprovoked attacks, mental health is often found to be the underlying trigger. Terrie Williams, who earned a master’s degree in sociology from Columbia University and stumbled into public relations as a career while caring for the late Miles Davis, went on to count Eddie Murphy, Nia Long and Essence Magazine among her boldfaced clientele. She wrote one of the most enduring books on the public relations industry, “The Personal Touch,” which some communications expert view as “the PR Bible.”

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But, speaking frankly at last year’s regional NABJ media conference at the Associated Press headquarters, Williams described tackling mental illness at the pinnacle of her very public career.

“I had a nervous breakdown several years ago and I’m on anti-depressants. For white people, therapy is a badge of honor and they will tell you, unasked, what anti-depressants they are on but blacks are afraid to face their struggles,” she said, to shouts of “Amen.” Pausing and glancing around the room, she smiled, then said “Everyone is walking the fine line of crazy. Face the truth of who you are: the good and the crazy as hell side. Be kind to everyone you meet because you never know what that person’s journey is.”

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She cautioned the journalists listening to her raptly to take care of themselves. “Choose your friends and colleagues wisely because people’s spirits are transferable,” she said, to appreciative nods. “Release past hurts and learn to forgive, especially yourself. We are absolutely nothing without our emotional and physical health,” she added, before urging “Get help. Therapy is the gift that keeps on giving.”

Somehow, when someone who lives in the public eye like Williams does, shares a personal story, it resonates. If you have been feeling as if something is not quite right with you or a loved one, get help. Mental illness, at its most destructive, leads to suicide, feelings of hopelessness and  uncontrolled rage  If you are a loved one experience any of the signs of depression, seek help. As Williams puts it “Be able to ask for help when you are the strong one that everyone goes to for help and give yourself permission to say no.”

October is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental Health Awareness Week is being observed  from October 5 to October 11. October 9 is National Depression Screening Day and October 10 is World Mental Health Day. –OnPointPress.net.