The ghost of Black Bottom 

Editor’s note:Yeah, this guy Khary is a regular contributor to Metro Times. All nepotism aside, we thought it would be fun for him to interview himself using the same questions anyone would ask. Got it?

A late summer night’s dream:

Psst! You asleep?

(yawning) Who’s there?

It’s the ghost, the Ghost of Black Bottom.

(stretching) Wha? Black Bottom? You mean the neighborhood.


Stop playin’.

I’m serious. I need to talk to you.


You’re making music in my name.

And? What’s wrong with that?

Nothing, really. I just want to make sure you’re representing me the right way. I’ve got a reputation, you know.

You haven’t heard our stuff?

You fill me in.

My pleasure … in the middle of the night. I formed a band two-and-a-half years ago.

The Black Bottom Collective.

Right. We make good music. Some say soul-stirrin’ music.

Is that right? And what do you call this music?

Alternative Hip-Hop Soul.

Never heard of it.

That’s because you’ve never heard us. We created the name to describe our sound, which combines poetry, hip hop, soul and rock.

Sounds interesting. How do all those elements sound together?

Imagine what happens when Earth, Wind & Fire meets the Roots and hangs out with Carlos Santana and Gil Scott-Heron. You get bangin’ music that has strong messages, with a lot of emotion. It’s real honest stuff. Doesn’t sneak up on you while you’re sleeping.

Get over it. Anyway, I’m ribbin’ you. I’ve heard it.

Dog, it’s late. Why you playin’?

It’s fun. I heard your little CD.

“Stay Low, Keep Movin’.”

Yeah. Pretty damned impressive. Covers a lot of ground with the rhyming and singing and all. You’re a rhythmic little schizo, huh?

That what you got from?

Shit, that and more. I eavesdropped on a couple of your live shows too. What do you call them, ‘soul-stirrin’ meetin’s?

You’re just full of surprises.

Tons. Y’all think you’re somethin’ special, huh?

Damn skippy. Can’t take it to the stage actin’ scared. I ain’t afraid of no ghost either.

Very original, Mr. Turner. But, honestly, I’m not here to dis. I just want you to know y’all give me hope.


Straight up. When I heard it, it hit me like water to a thirsty man’s throat. I felt it, really felt it.

How can you feel anything? You’re a ghost.

Hey, apparitions got feelings too, man. You know what it’s like not being able to ... but wanting to …

Damn, I can imagine. My bad. I’m glad you ‘felt’ it. A lot of people share your, um, feelings.

They should. Like on “CondomNation,” there’s humor, but then you flip and pay tribute to your ancestor on “Lucille.” That’s cool.

Yeah, Mrs. Moreland was cool. She was my fourth-grade teacher. There are people out there who still appreciate things our elders did for us.

Think anybody’s listenin’?

Shit, I hope everybody’s listenin’. We try to get around as much as we can.

Where ya been?

Lemme see. Opened for Mos Def some time ago.


Bulltrue! Angie Stone too. She heard us and was like, “Y’all ready. You just need somebody to discover you.”

That’s cool. Who else?

Nappy Roots, Stevie Wonder, Common, Nnenna Frelon.

Whoa, Stevie?

Yeah. He used my keyboard player’s foot pedal. He hasn’t washed it since. And I think he almost head-butted my drummer with that waggin’ head thing he does.

So, back to the name. Why do you call yourselves the Black Bottom Collective?

It’s history, man. Personal and otherwise. My daddy’s side of the fam is from there. Second, the determination of the people. You got the folks who pulled together after some of the first freeways in the country — I-75, the Davison — cut the community in half. Crippled the tax base. But cats built their own shops, their own entertainment district. God, the personalities that came through there! Coleman Young, the Rev. C.L. Franklin, John Lee Hooker. We formed our band right on Kercheval, so it seemed natural.

You know those ‘cats’ from Black Bottom weren’t just black, right?

Yeah, the term ‘Black Bottom’ refers to the dark soil, right? French settlers gave it that nickname, or something like that.

Aw, silky silky! You’ve been studying. So where do you all go from here?

We play the music. We do the damn thing. We rock out, long as the block’s out. We put these words in the street. We …

I get it, I get it! Sounds like a plan. Who’s in the band?

We’re pretty diverse. six men, two women. Got friends, husbands and wives. One family. There’s two educators, Kamau, the bassist, and Swami, on keys. There’s Karen, the alto. There’s Djallo Djakate Kieta on drums. He played with Harold McKinney for a time.

Baba McKinney?

The one and only, bless his soul. Djallo’s mad versatile. And he ends every sentence with the word ‘shiiiiit.’ There’s also DJ Invisible, who just wrapped the Anger Management tour, spinning for Xzibit. Then there’s my wife, Tunesia. She owns a spa in Ferndale, and was the first to suggest the idea of a band.

No shameless plugs here, eh?

You asked.

When’s your next show?

Look for us in October at Club Bleu. It’s gonna be insane. People can check our Web site for shows too. See

Well. In the immortal words of Carl from Sling Blade, you ain’t done nothin’ but good by me.

Well, thank you, sir.

I know you’re gonna ask your editors at Metro Times to do a story on the band as soon as you awaken, right?

Nah. I write for them. That’s a conflict of interest.

Man, go to sleep!

Khary Kimani Turner spins words for Metro Times. E-mail

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