Urban Legends have announced a month-long celebration of Black Music Month that includes live DJ sets, new mini-documentaries about James Brown, new episodes of the docu-series Through the Lens, and new releases of re-mixes of classic songs. Urban Legends, a division of UMe, Universal Music Group’s global catalogue company, celebrates and curates a catalogue of some of its most powerful and influential artists and music spanning R&B, soul, hip-hop, rap, blues, reggae genres and more.
Katina Bynum, Executive Vice President of East Coast Labels, Urban, UMe, comments, “The musical and cultural impact that these artists continue to have on a global scale is immeasurable. Their contributions and influence on youth movements across music, fashion, literature and art, continues to this day. UMe and Urban Legends are honored to work with the genre-defining artists, both past and present, who break new ground and prove that music will always thrive, inspire and offer the foundation for generations to use to build on and create their own art and identity.”
Urban Legends is bringing a new vision to its work through cutting edge technology. Among the first steps, Urban Legends is reimagining and relaunching a digital space for interaction and engagement with fans from on-going livestream tribute shows, content series and curated collections of vinyl.
Kicking off Black Music Month celebrations, Urban Legend/UMe spotlights one of the greatest artists of all-time, “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown. This week Urban Legends explores the music of James Brown, whose unique style laid down the foundation of Hip-Hop, demonstrating why he is one of the most sampled artists of all-time.
On 18 June, James Brown’s official YouTube Channel unveils the trailer for ‘Funky Drummer’, episode one of new three-episode animated mini-series titled Get Down, The Influence Of James Brown. Narrated by Questlove (The Roots, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon), and featuring Lord Finesse and Co-founder/former EIC of Wax Poetics Magazine, Andre Torres, the three-part series was created by UMe along with Dreambear and explores the sonic DNA of James Brown whose music is continually sampled and whose trademark phrasing is deeply woven into the fabric of Hip-Hop. The full episode of ‘Funky Drummer’ premieres on 10 July.
The second week of Black Music Month spotlights the Def Jam Era – Perfects Rap, with the premiere of the original Def Jam/UMe three-episode mini docu-series Through The Lens focusing on the iconic Hip-Hop photography of Janette Beckman, Ricky Powell and Jonathan Mannion. Hosted on Def Jam’s YouTube channel, this original series covers 40 years of the music and culture of the Hip-Hop movement from its infancy.
Episode one of Through The Lens premieres on 19 June, focusing on British-born photographer Janette Beckman, who lives and works in New York and began her career at the dawn of punk rock, working for such music magazines as The Face and Melody Maker. Beckmann was one of the first photographers to shoot LL Cool J, T La Rock and Slick Rick, whose images are featured in the series.
Episode two premieres on 26 June and features photographer Ricky Powell with in-depth interviews and images, with most of the latter unreleased including a photo of Chuck D at a mutual friend’s wedding in the Dominican Republic in 1989 on the precipice of Public Enemy releasing the album Fear Of A Black Planet.
Episode three premieres on 10 July and focuses on the photos of photographer and film director Jonathan Mannion, who has shot more than 300 album covers and worked with hip-hop and R&B performers including Jay Z and Young Jeezy. Through The Lens features twenty rarely-seen Mannion photos, including contact sheets from the Reasonable Doubt photo-shoot with Jay-Z, as well as stories behind photos of Method Man, Redman and DMX.
On 19 June at 7pm EDT Def Jam’s YouTube channel and Instagram page will host a special DJ set by the legendary DJ/Producer Clark Kent paying homage to Def Jam. Credited for discovering Jay-Z, DJ Clark Kent has produced some of the biggest names in Hip-Hop and R&B including Mariah Carey, 50 Cent and The Notorious B.I.G.
On 24 June, the Urban Legends YouTube Channel presents a YouTube Livestream Session featuring DJ Natasha Diggs performing a live DJ set honoring Janet Jackson. As one of the most sought-after DJ’s in the world, Natasha Diggs has played some of the hottest parties around the globe, from her world-famous New York residency “Soul in the Horn” to Beijing, India, Sydney, London, Paris, Tokyo and Prague. She has performed alongside some of the biggest DJs and artists in the business including Erykah Badu, Rakim, Q-Tip, Bruno Mars, Damian Marley and Lauryn Hill.
On 26 June, Motown/UMe will release digitally Motown State Of Mind, a set of Motown classics handpicked, remixed and reimagined by legendary rapper and Hip-Hop producer Lord Finesse. On July 24th, Motown State Of Mind will be released as an exclusive 45 RPM box set containing seven 7-inch records on black vinyl featuring the remixed version on Side A and the classic original on Side B. To celebrate the release of one of his most ambitious projects to date, Lord Finesse will perform a special Motown State Of Mind Live Stream on the Motown socials on 26 June, the digital release date.
Listen to the Black Music Month Spotify Playlist here.