(Editor’s Note: This was done roughly 2 years ago over the span of many long, extensive phonecalls between Mr. Brummett and Mr. Fanaka. It is one of the deepest pieces I’ve ever read on Fanaka’s films and the motivations behind them–it is also one of the funniest. I am very proud to have this among our list of interviews. Thanks so much Jeff and Jamaa. -DM)
By Jeff Brummett
Jamaa Fanaka is a legendary figure in the world of Soul Cinema. A director, writer and producer of several Soul Cinema classics, including the entire Penitentiary series, Emma Mae and the immortal Welcome Home, Brother Charles.
The only student in UCLA history to create a full-length feature out of his senior thesis, Jamaa is a true innovator and pioneer of D.I.Y. ethos who made badass, thought provoking pictures. With Penitentiary as the highest grossing independent movie of 1979, you would think success of that nature would open more doors for Fanaka. Instead he found racism and lack of studio support to be prevalent in Hollywood. In fact he filed a lawsuit against the Directors Guild, charging them with not living up to the quota of minority hiring—just one example of his tenacity for what is right.
He has an unreleased documentary entitled Hip-Hop Hope that he has finished and is working on a script for Penitentiary 4 to be filmed shortly. Still living in Compton, CA, he took time away from his scriptwriting to talk.
Describe how you wound up going to UCLA and how it changed your life.
Well, I’d been in the Air Force for four years and was having trouble looking for a job, there were no jobs. My best friend was a guy named Cash Nelson and when we were in high school, he was too shy to talk to girls, I’d have to do the talking for him, and when I get out of the Air Force, he was now a pimp! He’s got about ten girls in his stable, a Cadillac and everything and I was real impressed by it, you know. But I knew I didn’t want to be a pimp, I loved my family too much. (more…)
Veteran DJ Nu-Mark’s new release sounds promising, a mix focused on Samba, Calypso, Balkan and other world rhythms. It’s called Take Me With You and is due out late January. Mochilla just posted this 20-minute mix in the meantime, serving as a peak inside the project. This ‘mix of the mix’ does the job and makes you want to hear entire thing. Head over to Mochilla and download it HERE.
Nu-Mark’s official debut album, Broken Sunlight, also comes out early next year.
(Writer/editor of Wax Poetics, AOL Boombox, Rolling Stone.com and Stones Throw copywriter Ronnie Reese hit us with this synthy gem. Dude knows his stuff and we’re glad he’s in a sharing mood; peep his take on this jheri curl jam, “Covergirl” by Network. Ronnie’s fine work can be found in the many publications he contributes to. Thanks Double R. Looking forward to more smooth random joints -DM)
“Cover Girl” by Network [Ram’s Horn, 1984]
One of the homeboys put this on a mix for me, but wouldn’t tell me who the artist was—he can be an ass sometimes—so I had to do some digging.
I love the vocals, especially on the bridge (“Cover giiiirl, a picture-perfect face that a thousand words or more could never explain…”). I’m a sucker for those velvety Steve Arrington/Melvin Riley voices. The kind you hear and think, “This dude probably has a jheri curl,” because they usually do. In fact, producer Jake One once told me that’s exactly how he refers to this sound, as “jheri curl music…that feel-good, uptempo, clap-type shit.”
“Cover Girl” has all the right elements—blocks, swirly synths, stabby synths, stretchy synths. It’s just a delicious track, all around, and the beauty is that there are countless songs like this out there if you know where to look. -Ronnie Reese
San Francisco’s Groove Merchant is one of the most celebrated and respected record shops in the world (Pete Rock famously spent weeks there thumbing though music). It’s really a hub of activity for DJs, musicians and music lovers alike, ran by knowledgable dudes who love what they do. This recent comp celebrates the shop’s 20 years in existence with selections from “behind the counter”. It’s filled with heat you (and I) have probably never heard of. O-Dub wrote the intro (and a nice post with music from the release), Props designed a limited t-shirt, and it’s put out by Ubiquity– I am, of course, taking some Bay Area pride in this, but it’s ultimately about the music and the shop that made it all happen. Pick it up HERE. I’m working on a story on the shop’s founder, “Cool” Chris Veltri, so keep an eye out in the months to come. Here’s to another 20 years.
‘I Wanna Go Back’
‘Relax In Mui Ne’
Parisian beatsmith Onra stopped by SF during a recent small tour that took him across major US cities. His visit reminded me of how much I dug his Chinoiseries, an instrumental release from ’07 with touches of Dilla and even early RZA, but with far out timbres and melodies all lifted from 30 or so Southeast Asian records he found in Vietnam. His latest, Long Distance, heavily deviates from Chinoiseries, sounding more like an electro boogie album than dusty boom bap. For a relatively new producer, dude’s already shown much versatility with a penchant for sampling the old and unusual. Glad he’s getting some shine. Peep a couple tracks from the Chinoiseries and purchase his latest album HERE.