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Article

Lise Waxer

[Colón Román jr, William Anthony; ‘El malo’]

(b South Bronx, New York, April 28, 1950). American bandleader, composer, arranger, trombonist, popular singer, producer and actor. Dubbed ‘El malo’ (the ‘bad boy’) of salsa, he began playing the trumpet in 1963 with the teenage band the Dandees. Switching to trombone, he made his professional début at 17 with the album El malo (Fania, 1967). Both as a bandleader and a member of the Fania All-Stars, he quickly moved to the fore of the burgeoning New York salsa scene, cementing the raw, trombone-heavy ‘New York sound’ inspired by earlier artists such as Eddie Palmieri and Mon Rivera. Between 1967 and 1973 he made a series of important recordings with vocalist Hector Lavoe, which included the albums Asalto Navideño I and II (Fania, 1972 and 1973) with cuatro virtuoso Yomo Toro, where traditional Puerto Rican Christmas aguinaldos were fused with salsa. During his second period (...

Article

Athena Elafros

(John) [Diddy; P. Diddy; Puff Daddy; Puffy; Sean John]

(b New York, NY, Nov 4, 1969). American record producer, rapper, record executive, artist manager, and actor. His sample-heavy approach to production and R&B-infused sound contributed to the mainstreaming and resurgence of East Coast hip hop in the mid-1990s. As an entrepreneur and business executive, Combs parlayed his career in music into the multi-million dollar Bad boy entertainment empire, consisting of Bad Boy Records, the clothing lines Sean Jean and Sean by Sean Combs, a movie production company, and several restaurants. Often criticized for commercializing and watering down hip hop, Combs’s career, and the controversy surrounding it, exemplify fundamental tensions related to hip hop’s massive cultural influence and complicated relationship to global capitalism. Significantly, his wholesale recycling of popular hooks such as the Police’s “Every Breath You Take,“ Diana Ross’s “I’m Coming Out” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” to name only a few, have resulted in his music being heavily criticized (and heavily sold) both within and outside of hip hop circles....

Article

Eminem  

Joseph R. Matson

[Mathers, Marshall Bruce III; Slim Shady]

(b St. Joseph, MO, Oct 17, 1972).

American rapper, record producer, and actor. As a youth, Eminem moved between multiple residences in and around Kansas City and Detroit; he has remained based in the Detroit area since the late 1980s. He was raised by his mother, Debbie (Deborah) Mathers; Ronnie (Ronald) Dean Polkinghorn, an uncle who was only a few months older than Eminem, first introduced him to hip-hop music. Eminem and Kim (Kimberly; Kimberley) Anne Scott, whom he later married and divorced twice, have one daughter, Hailie Jade Scott. During his third attempt to complete the ninth grade, Eminem dropped out of high school permanently to focus on his career as a rapper.

Proof [DeShaun] Holton (1972–2006), Eminem’s closest friend in high school, effectively functioned as his teacher, manager, and back-up band at various times in his early career. Together with four other Detroit rappers, they formed a collective unit called D12. In ...

Article

(b Los Herreras, Nuevo León, México Dec 16, 1921; d Monterrey, Nuevo León, México, Sept 1, 2003). Mexican actor, singer, songwriter, and film director. Eulalio “Piporro” González Ramírez is best known for developing an idiosyncratic style of parodying Northern Mexican, or norteño, identity, lifestyle, and language through music and comedic acting for radio, stage, and film. His career spanned 60 years. He began as a newspaper reporter and radio personality in Monterrey and in US-Mexico border towns when he landed a role on the radio comedy, Ahí viene Martín Corona (Here Comes Martín Corona) produced in México City and starring the popular singer and actor Pedro Infante. At age 28, he played Infante’s elderly sidekick in 19th-century northern México where his bumbling character, “Piporro,” helped solve conflicts and dustups in local ranch life. The show’s success led to the 1951 film of the same name starring González and Infante. González enjoyed countless roles as “Piporro” in classic ...

Article

Bonnie E. Fleming

(b Harrisburg, PA, March 2, 1921; d Westport, CT, Sept 16, 2017). American singing actress, producer, stage director, and teacher. Possessing a wide range of performing skills, she was known for undertaking challenging operatic roles such as Birdie and Regina in Mark Blitzstein’s Regina (1949, 1953, and 1958) and Lizzie in Jack Beeson’s Lizzie Borden (1965). She worked on Broadway, in light opera, on radio and television, and at New York’s Metropolitan Opera. Lewis attended Penn State University and was encouraged by its Glee Club director to audition for a scholarship at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she went on to study with Emilio de Gogorza. After her teacher suddenly left the Institute, Lewis auditioned and made her debut with the Philadelphia Opera Company at the age of 19 in the role of the Marschallin in Richard Strauss’s Der Rosenkavalier. A remarkably quick study, Lewis absorbed music and words in any language almost on the spot, a gift to which she attributed most of her early success. In ...

Article

Jonas Westover

(b Hattiesburg, MS, Jan 3, 1943). American Composer, lyricist, producer, arranger, actor, and singer. He is best known for collaborating with other artists and for writing the lyrics to the Beach Boys’ album Smile with Brian Wilson. Although he began his career as a child actor throughout the 1950s, he turned to music in his teens, learning guitar and performing with his brother, Carson. He landed a record contract in 1964 with MGM, then moved to Warner Bros. two years later, mostly working as an arranger and a session musician. In 1966 he recorded on the Byrds album Fifth Dimension (Columbia) and began his work on Smile. His songs such as “Surf’s Up” and “Wind Chimes” impressed Wilson, who championed Parks’s work. However, due to strife within the band—caused partly by objections to such songs as “Cabinessence”—Smile went unreleased at the time. Parks went on to work on solo projects, and in ...

Article

RZA  

Jared Pauley

[Prince Rakeem; Diggs, Robert Fitzgerald]

(b Brooklyn, NY, June 5, 1969). American Hip-hop producer, rapper, and actor. Often cited as one of the most influential producers in hip hop, he was the chief architect behind the Wu-Tang Clan’s ascent to popularity in 1993. Early in his career he was known as Prince Rakeem and was signed to Tommy Boy Records. With production assistance from Easy Mo Bee, he released the album Ooh I love you Rakeem (1991, Tommy Boy). It flopped and was his only release with Tommy Boy. His production work on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) (1993) was more successful and helped usher in a more grimy, hardcore sound to New York hip hop. The album was noted for its use of vintage kung fu movie and soul music samples, and the rappers’ collective chemistry catapulted them into the American mainstream. RZA handled the brunt of the music production on each of the Wu-Tang Clan member’s solo albums, including Method Man’s debut ...

Article

Claude Conyers

(James)

(b Wichita Falls, TX, Feb 28, 1939). American actor, dancer, singer, choreographer, and musical theater director. Enrolled in a tap dance class when he was five years old, he showed obvious talent. This led to classes in acrobatics, modern dance, jazz dance, and, finally, ballet, in which he trained for some years with the intention of making it his career. His aspirations diminished, however, as his height increased (he eventually grew to a height of six feet, six and a half inches), and in high school he focused his energies on staging musical comedies. In college, he appeared in numerous student productions as a theater major, earning a bachelor’s degree in 1962. Just before completing requirements for a master’s degree, he decided to abandon academic studies for the professional stage.

Arriving in New York City in 1964, he quickly found work. He made his Broadway début in Baker Street...