When I moved to St. Louis a few years ago to work in the black press, I had some catching-up to do on hip-hop.
Because of a girlfriend who was connected, I had once swung in Queens on the outskirts of the Wu-Tang Clan, but I really didn't know how cool that was at the time. I was there for a girl, not the music, and though the second and third generation of Wu cousins (etc.) were grinding all around me, dreaming up verses and competing for studio time and playing each other their new hot tracks, all I saw was a girl.
One of my best friends in St. Louis is an unlikely hip-hop mix master. Adam Long is a carrot-topped space cookie from Minneapolis who produced Nelly's earliest recordings with The St. Lunatics and who knows just about everybody on the creative side of that scene in St. Louis (and none of the posers). Adam said if I wanted to know what was going on in hip-hop, I should get to know Orlando.
So I got to know Orlando "Pretty Boy" Watson. Orlando is one of those quiet guys behind the scenes. He produced what became my favorite local hip-hop artist, 1 Dime. A short list of the national artists he has produced would include Tyra B., Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Swizz Beatz, Kelly Rowland, Yolanda Adams, Teddy Riley, Shawty and local boy Jibbs.
I would eventually see Orlando go to hell and back in a struggle with lymphoma that I kept to myself until he asked me to report it in The St. Louis American.
From my first conversations with Orlando, he was telling me about Bradd Young. Bradd is another one of those genuinely creative characters, with swagger, who can't be bothered to promote himself or compete for the top spot on the sales shelf. He just lets the music pour out of him.
People who know Bradd's work well usually arrive at the same comparison, eventually: early Prince. Like the purple one, Bradd can play every instrument in a band and build up an entire, complicated pop song from scratch, all by himself. Just leave him alone in the studio long enough.
This past year, Orlando and Bradd have been setting aside time that clients can't get at to make Bradd's own record. Bradd could have had a label deal as an artist years ago, when he was an even younger man, but he didn't like the marketing plan: sex symbol (Bradd has good looks, on top of everything else). They are not close, yet - Orlando told me yesterday they don't have a title or set track list, yet - but they are close enough to be putting together the live act.
"Bradd is such a natural, he got up onstage at the Old Rock House after years, and he killed it," Orlando told me yesterday.
Tonight (Friday, August 22), Bradd is playing an early show at The Loft (on Lindell, near SLU) with the gorgeous and talented Aloha. Live pop music, with swagger (and, in Olaha's case, crushing beauty). Orlando says show time is 7 p.m. "sharp," though I'm smiling to myself at the concept of "sharp" applied to the local club scene.
Orlando says "it's no big deal" and there will be many more local club dates for Bradd as he gets ready for a major label push and tour. I say it's always a big deal when Bradd Young and Pretty Boy are the house. And Aloha? Damn.
Photo is a still (actually, a photograph of a paused image on my laptop!) from my movie Blind Cat Black, which features Bradd in his first on-sceen role - and his first (faux) "nude" role. He makes love to the lead character (played by hip-hop diva Toyy) on top of a pile of zombies. Yeah. can watch the entire clip on the Blind Cat Black MySpace page. The clip you want, if you want this, is "This Monstrous Traveler in Hashish."