Songs like Money over Bullshit and Carry on Tradition on Nas 2006 release, Hip Hop is Dead, are turning out to be more relevant than most of us imagined. After a publicized truce with the ultra-powerful Jay-Z and a recording contract from the positivity-pushing Def Jam camp, Nas rapping-as-storytelling has yanked social consciousness and personal responsibility to the front row. And by bum-rushing audiences with more narrative than ego, his collaborations (will.i.am, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg) have become some of the most accessible in rap. At the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5450.
Ralph Nader: Seventeen Traditions
LITERATURE/ISSUES & LEARNING
Activist and presidential election-adjuster Ralph Nader will be at Borders in Farmington Hills this week to discuss his latest effort, Seventeen Traditions. In the book, Nader gets personal by discussing his childhood in Winsted, Conn., and the 17 key traditions he absorbed from his Lebanese immigrant parents, his siblings and the people in his community. The result is an inspiring look back from todays complicated times. At 7 p.m. at 30995 Orchard Lake Rd., Farmington Hills; 248-737-0110. Nader will also be present at the screening of An Unreasonable Man at the Detroit Film Theatre. See the cinema section for more information.
Magic Poetry Band
Among the pleasures of the latest from the Magic Poetry Band is a tune from the long-defunct but legendary Griot Galaxy — saxophonist Faruq Z. Beys Fosters, the Galaxy tune where you hear the spirit of Sidney Bechet wailing in the rafters — refitted with an M.L. Liebler poem extolling the wonders of jazz. Thats not to mention a refracted strain of Im an Old Cowhand behind a poem by guitarist Ron English that invokes poets Baudelaire and Michael McClure, and Liebler transmuting the Barrett Strong classic Money (Thats what I want) into a darker anti-anthem called Blood Money. The jazz, funk and free verse clan celebrates the release of The Kurl of the Butterflys Tongue. At the Jazz Café at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-887-8501. Free.
Detroit Music Awards
Its been a couple of years since anyone new from the Motor City was on the worldwide music radar; and while the lucky few were off snagging Grammys and packing arenas, the Detroit Music Awards soldiered on. Always there to give props to local musicians left to make their waves regionally, what this controversial awards show might lack in heft, it makes up for in entertainment: This years scheduled performers include the Go; rapper Trick Trick; electronic music and hip-hop peddler DJ Godfather; gospel ensemble Gods Army; blues gal Alberta Adams; a veritable ax-a-thon courtesy of homegrown guitar dudes Jeff Grand, Jim McCarty and Bobby East; plus Alexander Zonjic and Friends. Begins at 7 p.m. at the State Theatre, 2115 Woodward Ave., Detroit; 313-961-5450.
Odu Afrobeat Orchestra/NOMO
Both collectives look to bandleader and mercurial spirit Fela Kuti for inspiration. Odus leader, saxophonist-vocalist Adeboye Adegbenro, even played with Kuti as a young musician in late-1980s Lagos, Nigeria. Both lineups include jazz cats, punk rockers and learned musicians with university credentials. Both freely mix Afro-beats polyrhythms with pop, funk, jazz and rock influences. But its not often that you can conveniently compare and contrast their styles in a single night, let alone two nights in a row. Friday at Neutral Zone, 310 E. Washington, Ann Arbor; 734-214-9995. Saturday at Alvins, 5756 Cass, Detroit; 313-832-2355. Both nights will feature special guests, including DJ Dez of Slum Village on Saturday, who just might sit in on the congas. (The Alvins gig, by the way, is part of an effort to breathe new life into the struggling Cass Avenue venue.)
Dont overthink it: danger + dirt + exhaust fumes + speed = Americas fastest growing extreme sport, Supercross. Featuring crack athletes like Chad Reed, Kevin Windham and Bubba Stewart, this weeks 125cc and 250cc stadium motorcycle racing event at Ford Field is sure to evoke more oohs and ahhs than an entire season of Lions home games. Tickets range from $20-$50 and were still available at time of publication. At 2000 Brush St., Detroit. Call Ticketmaster at 248-645-6666 for information.
Hard Lessons/HiFi Handgrenades
Squeaky-clean hometown rockers the Hard Lessons came out of the chutes at a full clip and havent ceased hurling dust at the nags. And while the pie-eyed anti-hipsters have single-handedly carved out a new niche in the Detroit rock scene, theres no doubt that they took cues from saltier and more seasoned personalities like John Speck, former front man from the Fags and current leader of the HiFi Handgrenades. This week, the diametrically opposed outfits share stage and sentiment: Theres more than one way to be a maverick. Sponsored by SPIN magazine and 89X, this show is all-ages. At 8 p.m. at St. Andrews Hall, 431 E. Congress, Detroit; 313-961-MELT. The Silent Years and Island View Drive to support. Tickets are $8.90.
Albertan artist Deborah Forbes latest installation exhibit, Shadow Princesses, might sound ethereal and sweet, but it comes from darker places. An abstract investigation of the worlds fascination with princesses — from the painting Infanta Margarita by Diego Velázquez to the image of JonBenet Ramsey — the multimedia offering uses projected visuals, shadows and reflections to represent the tragic beauty and the ubiquity of the princess icon in contemporary culture. Opening reception is 7:30 at Artcite Inc., 109 University Ave. W., Windsor; 519-977-6564. Ends May 19.
Guitarist Steve Jarosz used to blow up crinoline skirts with his swamp rock-rockabilly outfit Blue Voodoo, but his musical evolution has taken him to places much more exotic. His Grupo Escobar specializes in the sounds of Cuba, but also employs the band members diverse backgrounds; incorporating timba, salsa, jazz, cumbia, Middle Eastern and tropical rhythms. At the Amber House, 7012 E. Nine Mile Rd., Warren; 810-754-3434.
Aria Hendricks with the Scott Gwinnell Orchestra
In New York you can hear singer Aria Hendricks putting her vocal polish on big bands like David Bergers Sultans of Swing. In Detroit, well, you usually cant hear her at all, except for this weekend when she performs with the innovative Scott Gwinnell Orchestra at its home base of Cliff Bells. Shell be singing arrangements worked up especially for the occasion (including charts by Gwinnell and Berger). Word is that Arias hep daddy-o — Jon Hendricks of Lambert, Hendricks and Ross — will be on hand and sitting in on a few numbers. Cliff Bells, 2030 Park Ave., Detroit; 313-961-2543.
A gathering of hundreds of Linux geeks, gaming fanatics, sci-fi folks and fellow travelers, PenguiCon, is described as an anarchic hotbed of intelligence and creativity, a geek Woodstock, a true Nerdvana. Headliners for the fifth annual event include security guru — as the Economist dubbed him — Bruce Schneier, nanotech booster Christine Peterson and John W. Campbell Award-winning sci-fi writer Elizabeth Bear. The anime goes nonstop, and the ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen. Dont forget your light saber. At the Troy Hilton, 550 Crooks, Troy; info at penguicon.org. Day rates vary, $45 for the weekend.
Jazz Café at Music Hall
Former WDET-FM host Judy Adams holds fort of late with a free Music Hall series to search for an unknown band to perform at this years Detroit International Jazz Fest. New bands play Wednesdays, while Tuesdays are semi-final match-ups for bands that have already appeared in the series. Adams says contestants have ranged from their teens to their 70s and span the jazz genres. This Tuesday, the high schoolers of In the Pocket and the Jesse Kramer Trio square off. Jazz Café at Music Hall, 350 Madison Ave., Detroit; 313-887-8501. Performances from the series are recorded and air Sunday nights at WVMV-FM (98.7), Adams new home on the airwaves.