idk who needs to hear this but nurses who work 16hr shifts aren’t heroes. they’re horrifically exploited workers& they don’t need thanks or applause, they need more colleagues and better labour protection
in 1990, madonna was arguably the most popular and consistent pop artist on the planet. at the time, she had already sold millions upon millions of records and amassed an astounding 17 consecutive top 10 singles. sixteen of the singles reached top 5 including 7 number ones on the billboard hot 100. madonna was a decade into her recording career and with the release of a surprise single, she was about to enter another imperial phase of her career.
madonna was still actively promoting her 1989 album “like a prayer” in the spring of 1990. in fact, the album’s fifth and final single, “keep it together” was still in the top 20 of the hot 100 after peaking at #10 in march of 1990. but a chance meeting with luis and jose xtravaganza of the legendary house of xtravaganza would inspire the creation of a song that became one the biggest culture moments of 1990.
released on march 27, 1990, “vogue” quickly became the most successful single of madonna’s career selling 6 million copies worldwide and reaching #1 in over 30 countries, including topping the us hit 100 in may of 1990. jose and luis not only served as lead choreographers, they were prominently featured in the “vogue” music video. it was through madonna’s and producer shep pettibone’s deep house track that the two xtravaganzas provided a glimpse of black and latinx ballroom culture in the accompanying music video that mainstream america had not yet seen.
since it’s release, the black queer and trans created art form of voguing has re-emerged in the mainstream via shows like “rupaul’s drag race,” the vice docu-series “my house” and most notably, the ever popular and critically acclaimed fx show, “pose.” in fact, the 1990 release and cultural impact of madonna’s “vogue” was a story arc across several episodes of the second season of “pose.”
so here we are 30 years after the release of one of pop music’s most commercially and culturally successful songs by one of pop’s most polarizing figures. i can attest to all of this because i was around to witness most of it. i have a clear memory of watching the teasers for “vogue’s” world premiere on mtv. i remember being in awe by the video’s imagery and wondering to myself, “is that a titty?”. i knew i was watching something so queer at a time when all things gay were associated to deviancy, aids and death. i also remember learning the choreography and showing it off to my aunt who quickly responded, “don’t you think those moves are kinda gay?” i didn’t respond but internally i was like, “bitch, duh!”
so in celebration of the “vogue’s” 30th anniversary, i wanted to ask a few friends around my grown and sexy age what they remember about the song. i asked my good friend, fellow queer historian and longtime madonna fan, juan, peter, who has long history in the philadelphia ballroom including being a member of the house of africa and my former mentor and former father of the house of ferraramo, kwame to share their memories of “vogue.”
louie: do you remember when you first heard “vogue”?
JUAN: i was in 5th or 6th grade when i first heard madonna’s vogue. that song was everywhere but it never really appealed to me. it didn’t really hit me till i was 14 and went to my first gay club, arena in hollywood, ca. the “older guys” i met through that scene – about 18-20 years old but at the time they seemed very adult – showed my friends and i what vogue was. i never really connected to the song till i saw live vogueing at arena. around that age, i also saw the “blonde ambition” tour broadcast on hbo, that whole thing became my obsession and my entry into queer culture. later in high school, a counselor in my lgbt support group showed us “paris is burning” and everything felt complete. being a madonna fan back then, when aids was still at the forefront of the lgbt community, being a madonna fan was code. now that i think about it, the song became a hit at the time that i came out and went to my first gay club.
KWAME: i think it was the world premiere of the video on mtv. if i had heard it before it wasn’t as exciting as waiting to see the visual.
louie: what were your initial thoughts about the song? about the video?
PETER: my initial thoughts about “vogue” when i first heard it, i was in delaware. i was hyped! i like “oh look, its gonna be on tv and there’s gonna be a video.” i was hype because voguing was coming out to the mainstream.
JUAN: i didn’t really care for the song. i still don’t. for some reason, i’ve always known all the lyrics so it definitely made an impression. the video was cool because her dancers were hot, and “fancy,” they were being sexualized in a way that was empowering to their nuanced body language. i would argue that without that specific group of dancers, that era in her career wouldn’t have been as exciting. the mtv awards performance where she lip-synced in marie antoinette drag was way more exciting than the video. when i hear the song, it just doesn’t process or register the way vogue and ball culture does. i was a madonna fanatic for decades, and in some ways still am, but that song isn’t my favorite. it does carry strong memories of coming out to my friends and a type of nostalgic, youthful freedom and for that i appreciate it. i remember when the club kids were on geraldo and they played vogue during an intro and they all gave geraldo shit, like, “we don’t listen to that!” – that’s how i feel about it now.
louie: were you aware of voguing before the song’s release? what was your entry into the world of voguing?
PETER: oh yes, i was well aware of the whole ballroom scene and vogueing long before madonna. and i was already in philadelphia way before that song.
JUAN: my entry to vogue was simultaneous to the first time i went to gay club and i met trans sex workers, and gays in the party scene doing this thing from new york. i remember all the queens talking about new york, looking to new york, walking runways on dancefloors and trying to vogue. the origins of vogue were unknown till a few years later when i was in high school. the song was also powerful in how it gave the working class access to “feel their fantasy.”
KWAME: yes, but I never walked before the song was released. i started walking (the category) later that year.
louie: how would you describe the impact of the song in 1990?
PETER: i think the impact was a lot for mainstream. because mainstream got to see what ballroom and voguing was because it had already existed for decades and it was interesting to see mainstream try to do it. really, really interesting.
KWAME: it (partnered with the release of “paris is burning”) brought visibility to the ballroom scene, and I think it helped create a dialogue that brought ballroom across the US in a big way. it definitely influenced choreography for a few years. although other artists (most notably, Jody Watley) had featured vogueing in some visual format before madonna, “vogue” became the anthem that made the dance a staple movement.
louie: how would you describe the song’s impact over the last 30 years?
JUAN: now we have the language to say she culturally appropriated an entire subculture (her career relied on it), we can say she exploited a whole community. that statement would not be wrong; but with vogue, she also highlighted a space and language that was entirely invisible and needed a lift. people were dying of aids, and tons of scared queer kids found joy in this song. in some ways it was a gift. rupaul’s “supermodel” (1992) could not have existed without vogue. deee-lite before that. underground club culture and dance music got a hand from this awkward single.
KWAME: for me, the power of the song waned as the visibility true ball culture rose. it’s a cute song about a dance, kinda like “the twist”. but i feel the video is ICONIC, and would even say her “live” performances (MTV awards; blond ambition tour) of the song are probably still entertaining. let me see… it’s one of those culture phenom moments, which is to be expected for madonna. and “vogue” is probably one of her three career defining songs!
PETER: i think after 30 years, madonna’s vogue has a small impact because ballroom has changed in the past 30 years, it has evolved. and it’s gone to different places with different songs from around the world, but it has a small part of the history.
there is no debating that “vogue” was a pop-culture moment in 1990 and like most things that are consumed by the american populous, the moment that madonna’s vogue ushered in didn’t last. however, the art form continued to thrive in the ballroom scene. so as we remember the impact of “vogue”, we must honor and raise up the black and brown queer and trans people from the new york ballroom scene who carried the beautiful art of vogueing before, during and after madonna’s cultural moment in 1990.
today marks the 30th anniversary of theatrical release of “house party,” one of the seminal black movies of the 1990’s.
starring hip-hop duo, kid ‘n play, tisha campbell, martin lawrence, aj johnson and the late great comedian robin harris (who died nine days after its release), “house party”centered on a high school student who hosts a house party that gets out of control while his parents are away. the movie provided a glimpse into what it was like to be a young black teenagers during the golden era of hip-hop.
produced on a budget of $2.5 million dollars, the movie was a surprise hit grossing over $26 million at the box office. originally written for will smith and dj jazzy jeff, “house party” helped to expand the reach of the already successful music career of kid ‘n play. the film also inspired both me and childhood best friend robert, to rehearse hip-hop routines we would do at north philly house parties to clear the floor. not because kid ‘n play’s characters did the same during a scene in the film but rather because co-stars tisha campbell and a.j. johnson let’s boys have it with their dance moves.
the first single to released from the movie’s soundtrack was the funky and equally poppy song, “funhouse.” the song also served as the lead single from and title of kid ‘n play’s sophomore album. produced by hurby luv bug, who also the mastermind behind some of legendary hip-hop duo salt ‘n pepa’s biggest hits, “funhouse” captured the youthful and joyful feeling of both the movie and where the hip-hop culture was in 1990.
“funhouse” reached the top of the hip-hop chart in the spring of 1990 and helped to make the host album sell over 500,000 copies – their second album to do so. unfortunately, even after becoming the first rap duo in history to have their own saturday morning cartoon, grunge music and gangsta rap began to grow in popularity and kid ‘n play’s brand of “party” hip-hop fell out of favor at radio. the duo would release just one more album in 1992 as well as star in “class act,” their last feature film.
“house party” was followed-up by several sequels but the original movie and soundtrack, even 30 years later, remain the sentimental and fan favorite.
in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, david cole, one half of c&c music factory, wrote and produced some of dance music’s biggest pop hits. today we celebrate his life and his musical legacy.
david was a brilliant piano player who got his start remixing songs as he was DJing in night clubs in NYC in 1985. it was during this time that David met his future musical partner, fellow DJ robert clivillés. as a pair they would DJ at the hottest clubs while david customized songs by playing the keyboard during live mixes. in 1987, david and robert along with future super successful dance producer and remixer, david morales and future freestyle producer, chip nuñez formed the dance group 2 puerto ricans, a black guy and a dominican. the group scored a top 50 UK hit with the dance song, “do it properly.”
in additional to his extraordinary instrumental talents, David was awesome a great vocalist,. in 1988, this was showcased with his first solo single, the early house track, “you take my breath away.”
it wasn’t long before other pop/dance artists came knocking at david’s door hoping that he would blessed them with his magic. in february of 1988, cole and clivilles scored their first top 30 pop hit as songwriters and producers with the cover girls’ freestyle classic, “because of the you.” the crossover success this single helped to break freestyle music at both pop and r&b radio as well as helping the cover girls’ independently released debut album “show me” reach gold status.
by february 1990, cole & clivilles were churning out so many hits that they had two of songs in the pop top 10 with the cover girls’ “we can’t go wrong” and seduction’s “two to make it right.” the latter was a dance trio that included future rupaul’s drag race judge, michelle visage. after signing a production deal with vendetta records, a subsidiary of a&m records, cole and clivilles formed seduction. the group’s debut album, “nothing matters without love”, featured four top 20 singles including “two to make it right” which peaked at #2 on the hot 100.
february proved to be a lucky month for david cole. after writing and producing for other artists (chaka khan and grace jones), cole and clivilles signed to columbia records and formed c&c music factory. along with rapper, freedom williams, singer, zelma davis and the vocals of martha wash, c&c music factory scored a monstrous hit with the jock-jam genre creating, “gonna make you sweat.” on the week of february 9, 1991, “sweat” peaked at #1 on the hot 100 and pushed c&c’s debut album into multi-platinum status.
however, the success of did not come without controversy. just as the song was reaching it’s cultural peak, martha wash, who’s uncredited vocals are prominently featured on the track, and lip synced by zelma davis in the music video, sued c&c music factory and their record company, charging them with fraud, deceptive packaging and commercial appropriation. the case was settled in 1994 and martha would be featured on c&c music factory’s sophomore album as well as featured in their music, “do you wanna get funky.”
by the summer of 1991, david song writing and production could be heard all over the radio. one of the songs included mariah’s now classic. “emotions.” co-written with mariah, “emotions” topped the pop, r&b and dance charts. david & mariah forged a musical bond and would go on collaborate on several songs & remixes. david could be seen masterfully playing the piano on mariah carey’s mtv unplugged.
in a recent pitchfork interview, mariah spoked about david. “He was one of the only people I used to have in the studio when I would sing because I respected him as a singer. He would push me in different areas where he could actually sing it to me and I would be like, “Oh, this is cool. I like that.” If you listen to the song “Emotions,” that was him going, “You can do that. Try this.” Half the time, I would lose my voice afterwards because he would just push me.”
[fun fact: the first time i stepped foot into a gay club was in the summer of 1993 and the songs that was playing as i walked in was the c&c music factory remix of taylor dayne’s "can’t get enough of your love.” i immediately ran to the dance floor and felt a kind of freedom that i had never experienced.]
over the next few years, david continued to be high demand and produced hits for pop icons, whitney houston, aretha franklin, michael jackson and donna summer. sadly, just as donna reached the top spot on the dance chart with c&c written and produced, “melody of love”, david died of complication of spinal meningitis brought on by hiv on january 24, 1995. he was just 32 years old.
even after his death, february proved to still be a magical month for david. in 1996, the number song in america for the entire month of february was the mariah carey and boyz II men duet, “one sweet day.” mariah shared that when she co-wrote the song with boy II men, she had her friend david cole in mind.
i remember watching mtv when the news of david’s death broke. the realization that fame and talent could not and would not protect the young and talented knocked the wind out of me. even now as an adult, i am still saddened by the loss of such a brilliant artist.
david cole, in his all too brief time on this planet, blessed us with a catalog of music that has and will continue to inspire generations.
rest well, david. may you forever dance in peace!
check out this spotify playlist featuring the musical legacy of david cole.
if you ask the causal freestyle music listener who the “queen of freestyle” is, you may get a few different answers. some will say lisa lisa, or judy torres or maybe even lisette melendez. while those answers are not necessarily wrong, as each of those three women contributed to the genre tremendous ways, their success would not be possible without pioneering freestyle artist, nayobe.
nayobe catalina gomez was born in brooklyn, new york in 1968 to afro-cuban parents. by age her early teens, nayobe had performed through-out the city at events for the late great shirley chisholm, auditioned for “annie” and secured a role as an understudy for the off-broadway production of “the wiz” starring lena horne.
in 1983, songs by c-bank, freeze and shannon were reviving dance music on both radio and in the nightclubs. many of the people dancing and purchasing these records were young latinos. one of the labels there was beginning to take notice of the new sound was fever records. after being introduced to label president by a friend, nayobe was signed and was the first singer signed to the then fledging rap label. while she in artist in development, nayobe provided vocals on songs the fat boys and the starski hip-hop classic, “you gotta believe.”
a chance meeting after a block party performance with song writer and producer, andy panda, led to the recording on of the song the song would inspire the genre we now call freestyle. after listening to the demo, the label president wasn’t completely sure about the song’s latin influenced sound but nayobe loved it and recorded it.
“please don’t go” was released in early 1985 and became an instantaneous hit in new york, los angeles and miami. at just 15 years old, nayobe was outselling madonna in these markets and scored one of the hottest songs in the gay club circuit. the song built on the foundation created by shannon’s “let the music play” and “give me tonight.” while those songs contained freestyle elements, “please don’t go” is credited for as the first latin hip-hop song, a sound that would later be known as freestyle music.
the success of “please don’t go,” led to a cameo in the 1986 classic hip-hop movie “krush groove” and positioned her as the “queen of latin hip-hop.”
By 1987, nayobe released two slammin’ tracks, "second chance for love” and “good things come to those who wait.” both songs performed well on the dance charts. the former remains, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest vocal performances in all of freestyle music’s history.
by the time nayobe released her debut album later that year, as the freestyle genre grew and now included artists like lisa lisa, the cover girls and stevie b. these artists were signed to labels that understood the importance of the music video and these artists benefited greatly. by 1988, these artists had all scored several top 40 cross-over hits. while their music videos were not played on MTV, they were in rotation on BET. freestyle music was now associated with the mainstream visual perception of latinos. nayobe, who has just one video under her belt, found herself marginalized in the genre she helped create because she didn’t look “latinx.”
in 1990, nayobe signed with epic records and released her sophomore album "promise me.” the album included production by r&b legends mcfadden and whitehead & teddy riley. the r&b/new jack swing sound alienated her freestyle fans and the label didn’t know how to market an afro-latina. i remember watching the video for the lead single, “i love the way you love me” (which is not available) on BET and not making the connection that that it was the same nayobe who had recorded freestyle music just a few years earlier.
nayobe took a few years off to recoup. she returned in 1995 with a rendition of the mary jane girls classic “all night long.” unfortunately, just as it was starting to gain radio airplay, mary j. blige released her version. nayobe’s version lost its steam at pop radio.
by 1999, the ever-resilient nayobe transitioned into the salsa genre proving that she could sing any gawd damn thing. now signed to the latino label, platano records, she released the passionate “me hacen falta.” unfortunately, just as the song began to climb the tropical charts, a change at the label resulted in her being dropped.
fast forward 20 years, miss nayobe continues to perform throughout the country and was recently awarded a much deserved dance music lifetime achievement award.
nayobe has survived everything that is wrong about the music business while producing an extensive and beautiful musical history. during my brief time as a freestyle dance in the late 1990′s, i shared a three hour ride with her to show that we were both doing. she shared her many stories with me and what it was like being a black latina in pop music. we talked about the importance of supporting lgbtq young people and how not giving up on your dreams is not an option no matter how hard the journey gets. nayobe is one of the most lovely artists i have ever met.
so today we celebrate nayobe. she is black history and unsung musical icon.
2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the introduction of the first rap category at the grammy awards. while the inclusion of the category, nearly a decade after the first rap song cracked the pop top 40, was considered monumental for the genre. however, it was not without controversy.
dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince along with their pioneering peers salt n pepa, ll cool j, kool moe dee and jj fad, were all nominated for best rap performance. when it was announced that category would not be a part of the televised portion of the grammy awards ceremony, three of the five nominees staged a boycott and did not attend the awards ceremony. kool moe dee and jj fad were the only nominees who chose to attend the award ceremony.
dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince won the award with their pop cross-over hit, “parents just don’t understand.” they were not present to accept their award. but their boycott helped to solidify hip-hop as a genre that was deserving of industry awards.
30 years later, there are now four rap categories; best rap performance, best rap album, best rap song and best rap/sung song. the latter is a formula that dominates contemporary pop radio but would not be a reality without a song that was released just months after the 1989 rap boycott.
on april 15, 1989, the iconic & still criminally under appreciated, jody watley released the groundbreaking r&b/hip hop single “friends” featuring with eric b & rakim. released as the second single from her sophomore solo album “larger than life”, “friends” is the first multi-format single to prominently feature a rapper. in fact, the few songs that did feature guest rap appearance up to that point, seldom even credited rappers. such was the case with chaka khan’s 1984 pop top 5 hit, “i feel for you.” while the songs featured melle mel of grandmaster flash and the furious five, he was not credited and did not appear in the music video. “friends” is notable because eric b. and rakim were given almost equal billing on the song and rakim was featured on 16 bars and a bridge.
by the time “friends” was released, both jody and Eric b & rakim were at the imperial phase. jody had just won the grammy for best new artist and had already scored four top 10 pop singles. eric b and rakim were still riding the successful wave of their sophomore album “follow the leader”, which is considered one of the most influential hip-hop albums of all time.
“friends” helped to into introduce eric b and rakim to pop and mainstream audiences. while dj jazzy jeff and the fresh prince’s grammy award winning song, “parents just don’t understand” peaked at #12 on the pop chart, many radio stations, including r&b radio, did not play rap songs in heavy rotations. the cross-over success of “friends”, which was both socially and esthetically black af, helped to shift the radio landscape.
the accompanying video for “friends” was just as groundbreaking as it notably and intentionally featured club kids, drag queens, and b-boys - all without coming across as pandering or forced. the video also featured butch queens voguing - an entire year before madonna’s “vogue.” when asked about the filming of the video years ago, jody responded, “a great time was had by all on that sweltering summer day in the village in 1989. fabulous and street in it’s realness without pandering, being contrived or sending a negative message, or certain stereotypes. proud.”
“friends” was instrumental in laying the ground work that artists like mary j. blige and mariah carey took to extraordinary heights. chyle, even jennifer lopez’s “i’m real (remix featuring ja rule)”, which i consider to be the single that saved her recording career, or at least her sophomore album, because the original version of the song was failing at pop radio before the release of the remix.
the rap/sung formula now dominates today’s pop music. it even now has its own grammy category. all of this is due in large part to a black pop/dance visionary and rap pioneers who knew the reach of that hip-hop could and would have in this world.