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Justin A. Williams

[Huston, Paul ]

(b Amityville, NY, April 2, 1967). American DJ and producer. He began his music career as DJ and member of the group Stetsasonic and gained further prominence as a producer for De La Soul’s first three albums, which are known for their liberal use of sampling. In addition to releasing two solo albums in the 1990s, Prince Paul joined the RZA, Frukwan, and Too Poetic to form the group Gravediggaz. He has also collaborated with producer Dan the Automator—forming the group Handsome Boy Modeling School—and with a number of rappers including Del tha Funkee Homosapien and Mike D (of the Beastie Boys). He is credited as one of the first producers to put skits (of comedy and other dialogue) on hip-hop albums, most notably De La Soul’s debut 3 Feet High and Rising (1989). As on his early productions, Prince Paul continues to use eclectic source material and collaborate with a diverse range of artists....

Article

Jessica L. Brown

(b Springfield, MA, April 15, 1965). American Singer, songwriter, and producer. She was raised in a musical household, which exposed her to a wide variety of music. In 1989, while performing in a variety of small venues in San Francisco’s Bay Area, she was recruited into the band 4 Non Blondes as lead singer. The band released their debut album, Bigger, Better, Faster, More! (Interscope, 1992); it contained the group’s biggest hit, “What’s going on?,” which was written by Perry and brought the band’s pop-rock sound and Perry’s powerful voice to mainstream audiences. Perry has identified herself as a lesbian, and during the Billboard Music Awards in 1994 she attracted attention by performing with the word “dyke” on her guitar. Before 4 Non Blondes could complete a second album, Perry left the band to pursue a solo career. In 1996 she released In Flight to critical praise but poor commercial sales. In ...

Article

H. Wiley Hitchcock

revised by Joanna R. Smolko

(b Chicago, IL, March 16, 1892; d Chicago, IL, Oct 23, 1984). American Labor leader. He played trumpet and at the age of 14 organized a dance band. He was soon attracted to union activity, and in 1914 he was elected president of the American Musicians Union (AMU) in Chicago. After being defeated for reelection three years later, he resigned from the AMU and joined the American federation of musicians (AFM). He became president of the Chicago local in 1922, was named to the parent union’s executive board in 1932, and in 1940 was elected national president, a post he held until he retired in 1958 (although he retained the presidency of the Chicago local for another four years).

Petrillo was an aggressive, shrewd, and powerful fighter for the musicians in the AFM. He built the Chicago local into a disciplined force in municipal politics and worked to expand the membership at the national level (by ...

Article

Will Fulton

[Martin, Christopher Edward]

(b Houston, TX, March 16, 1966).

American hip-hop DJ and producer. A member of the group Gang Starr, DJ Premier brought a unique sensibility to DJing and record production, and he is regarded as one of most influential sample-based hip hop producers. While growing up in Grand Prairie Texas, he was known as Waxmaster C. Moving to Boston in the late 1980s, he met rapper Guru (b Keith Elam, 17 July 1961; d 19 April 2010) and joined Gang Starr. Relocating to Brooklyn, the two recorded a series of critically acclaimed albums, and Premier also produced noteworthy songs for Nas, the Notorious B.I.G., and many others.

Along with Pete Rock, Lord Finesse, and other producers in the early 1990s, Premier expanded the choices of sampled recordings to include jazz and rare soul rather than disco and classic funk breaks. Whereas early sampling looped short samples taken from popular dance records to create ostinatos, Premier was among the pioneers of a style that cultivated a technique colloquially referred to as “chopping” in which short segments of a given sample are reshuffled to create new rhythmic and melodic patterns that can be looped over a steady drum beat, which itself might be the product of other chopped samples. Premier’s sound exemplifies a 1990s “east-coast rap” style: hard-hitting beats, jazz samples, and street conscious lyrics....

Article

Prince  

Charlie Furniss

[Nelson, Prince Rogers; The Artist Formerly Known As Prince; TAFKAP]

(b Minneapolis, 7 June 1958; d Chanhassen, MN, 21 April 2016). American rock and pop singer, instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. As a teenager he began playing the guitar, drums, and piano and formed his first band while still at school. Over the next few years he made a number of recordings and became acquainted with studio production skills. In 1977 he signed a deal with Warner Bros. Records that allowed him complete creative freedom, which at the time was almost unprecedented among black solo artists. His first album For You (1978) failed to enter the charts, but Prince (1979) fared a little better and contained the hit ‘I Wanna be your Lover’. Around this time he formed his first touring band which established his precedent for using black, white, male, and female musicians. His third album Dirty Mind (1980) lost much radio airplay owing to its sexually explicit themes and it was not until ...

Article

Andrew Flory

(Brockman, Jr. )

(b Tuskegee, AL, June 20, 1949). American Rhythm-and-blues and pop singer, songwriter, instrumentalist, and producer. He attended Tuskegee Institute as an economics major, where he helped to form the Commodores, the during the late 1960s. Richie broke from the group in 1981 to start a solo career, remaining with Motown Records until 1992. As a member of the Commodores, Richie played saxophone on upbeat numbers, and often performed as vocalist and pianist on ballads. He became known for composing sentimental ballads that featured emotive vocal performances, such as “Easy” (1977), “Three Times a Lady” (1978), and “Still” (1979). Richie branched out from the Commodores in the early 1980s, working with pop-country singer Kenny Rogers, for whom he wrote and produced the hit “Lady” (1980), and Diana Ross, with whom he performed his song “Endless Love” (1981) as a duet that reached the top of both the pop and black singles charts. He left the Commodores after recording the ...

Article

Miles White

[Edward Theodore ]

(b New York, NY, Oct 8, 1967). American Composer, producer, and pianist. He was largely responsible for creating the popular dance music known as New Jack Swing and is among the most prolific of the young influential African American songwriter-producers who helped define black popular music in the post-disco era. A precocious multi-instrumentalist, Riley played organ in the Baptist church and piano in Harlem nightclubs. He landed his first recording contract while still in high school, releasing an album as a member of Kids at Work in 1984. The next year he produced two singles for Doug E. Fresh and The Get Fresh Crew, “The Show” and “La Di Da Di,” which became hip-hop classics. After finishing high school, Riley also took courses in composition at Columbia University and in electronic music at the Manhattan School of Music.

Riley’s collaborations with R&B singer Keith Sweat on “I want her” (...

Article

Rob Bowman

[William]

(b Detroit, Feb 19, 1940). American soul singer, songwriter and producer. While at school in the mid-1950s he founded the vocal group the Miracles with Bobby Rogers, Ronnie White, Warren ‘Pete’ Moore and Claudette Rogers. Loosely modelled on the Platters, they achieved little success until Robinson met Berry Gordy. Gordy was impressed with Robinson’s talent and began recording and producing the Miracles and tutoring Robinson in the art of songwriting. However, the group received little support from End and Chess Records, to which they had leased their Gordy-produced singles, and in 1959 Gordy inaugurated the Tamla label and signed the Miracles. Shop Around, which was co-written by Gordy and Robinson and featured the latter’s lead falsetto, provided the label with its first hit the following year. The group achieved a total of 39 hits in the American pop and rhythm and blues charts until Robinson’s departure in 1972...

Article

Jordan A. Yamaji Smith

[Bavitz, Ian Matthias]

(b Northport, Long Island, NY, June 5, 1976).

American hip-hop lyricist, vocalist, and producer. Aesop Rock began his career in alternative/underground hip-hop music with two self-financed albums that blended an eclectic approach to sample-based production with poetic, figurative lyrics. His creative output has helped to establish him as a prolific solo artist with a commitment to renovating the rap genre with politically-charged songs and experimental production techniques.

Aesop’s abstract lyrics have met divided critical responses: some dismiss them as meaningless wordplay, while others argue that more identifiable themes are present across his work. These include contemplations of urban life in New York City, consumerism, wage slavery/labor issues, religion in modern society, and media constructions of reality. Some songs clearly balance abstraction with thoroughly contextualized scenarios; for example, “No Regrets” from the Labor Days LP features the story of a young girl evolving from sidewalk chalk drawings through a full life devoted to her passion for art; and “One of Four (Thank You)” from the ...

Article

David B. Pruett 

[Ritchie, Robert James ]

(b Romeo, MI, Jan 17, 1971). American popular musician. Raised in Romeo, Michigan, he relocated to New York City in 1990, where he released his debut album, Grits Sandwiches for Breakfast (Jive Records), which failed to garner wide praise. Through the mid-1990s, Kid Rock struggled to market his stylistic combination of blues, southern rock, heavy metal, and rap, and sales of his next three albums—The Polyfuze Method (Continuum, 1993), Fire It Up (Continuum, 1993), and Early Mornin’ Stoned Pimp (Top Dog, 1996)—were poor. However, amid the growing popularity of rap-metal and nu-metal acts in the 1990s, Kid Rock attracted the attention of Atlantic Records, which, in 1998, signed him to a recording contract and released Devil Without a Cause, a nationwide hit that reached number three on Billboard ’s catalog album chart and sold over 11 million copies by 2003. Kid Rock released five albums in the first decade of the new millennium, three of which—...