Photo by Alex Mejia
Purple Pam Foundation Honors DJ Pam The Funkstress With Scholarship Contest
Two women will learn the craft of mixing records in Pam Warren’s memory
As a DJ on her own and as part of the Oakland rap group The Coup, Pam Warren was known for decades as "Pam The Funkstress." But that changed when the one and only Prince handpicked her to play with him, dubbing her "Purple Pam" just months before his passing in April 2016. Soon after, Warren tragically passed away in December 2017 at age 51.
Her mother, Helen Warren, and family friends set up the Purple Pam Foundation in her memory last year and are now reaching out to the creative community with a special opportunity for women in California: the Pam The Funkstress DJ Scholarship. One scholarship will grant a woman access to the DJ 101 course at Pyramind in San Francisco, while another will be good for the Intro to DJing track at Beat Junkie Institute of Sound in Glendale. Both recipients will also receive a gift basket from 1-Stop DJ Shop in Modesto.
Warren considered herself more of a party rocker than a precise cutting-and-scratching turntablist, but the truth is that she mastered both with consummate ease—and with more parts of her body than her male counterparts. (But more on that in a minute.)
"I call myself "Pam a.k.a. The Party Slapper" 'cause I like to slap the party, but I want to slap them with hit after hit after hit," Warren said of her mixing style in a 2009 interview with Davey D TV. "Scratch a little bit, bring something else in—you don’t have to play all the new stuff to get the party going. There's a lot of music out there and if you know how to rock certain songs, new stuff, old stuff, R&B, hip-hop, even if you go East Coast, West Coast, whatever, if you know how to play the songs and know how to mix it in, your party's going to be off the chain."
When he first saw her DJ in 1991, The Coup's frontman Boots Riley thought Warren was "one of the most exciting, animated, show-stealing DJs I had ever seen,” he wrote in a tribute posted to Facebook after her passing. Riley later tracked her down when she was the DJ at a San Francisco release party for Tupac Shakur’s debut album 2Pacalypse Now and asked her to join The Coup.
"She was mysterious to me," he continued. "Maybe partly because I wasn’t yet well-traveled socially—she displayed a confidence in a way that I hadn’t personally seen from a performer, much less a female performer. [She had] a boisterous, comical energy that can only come across on stage once you’ve totally mastered everything you’re doing... She also dressed, at that time, in a way that these days might be described by others pigeonholing her while attempting not to do so as 'gender non-conformist.' It was clear that this person couldn’t give less of a fk. We were being totally sh*t on by this woman wearing a giant smile, big baggy jeans, a giant Ben Davis work jacket all the way buttoned up, and a black beanie with all her hair tucked in. Dancing all over our identities. That was Pam The Funkstress."
Deep experience or perfect technique isn't necessary to apply for the Pam The Funkstress DJ Scholarship, though part of the application process does require having access to some type of gear for long enough to film a video. Applicants are asked to submit proof that they’re aged 18 and over with a high school diploma or GED and a woman (or identify as female) along with an indication of whether they want to be considered for Pyramind or BJIOS. They also must submit a one-to-two-minute performance video using turntables or a controller and an essay of no less than 500 words stating why they should be selected. Applications are due by April 20.
Both schools are looking forward to taking on these special new students in the future.
"There are no egos; they really take constructive criticism really well,” BJIOS professor DJ Babu, who first met Warren in the '90s on the battle DJ circuit, said of the girls and women who take classes there and comprise almost half of the student body. He says they consistently excel at DJing in and out of school. "A lot of times with the male students you really gotta break down some barriers to get a point about a concept or something they’re having trouble with," he explained. "It’s an ego issue, like a, 'Don’t help me, don't help me, don't help me' kind of thing. But we love the female presence here."
One technique that students won’t learn from the schools is the one that Pam called the "titty scratch," a result of an ample bosom and a symbol of eternal playfulness from a DJ who will forever be remembered in the mix.
Wild At The GRAMMYs: It's Miller Time
David Wild has written for the GRAMMY Awards since 2001. He is a contributing editor to Rolling Stone, a blogger for Huffington Post and an Emmy-nominated TV writer. Wild's most recent book, He Is…I Say: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Neil Diamond, is now in paperback. Follow him on Twitter.
The GRAMMY Awards broadcast is the biggest show on earth — or at least the biggest show on television. At least that's the way it looks from my admittedly subjective and sweaty point of view in the GRAMMY trenches.
Think about it for just a moment: There are more moving parts on the GRAMMY show than any other television event that I can think of. See, most of the big TV events are based around actors walking out on a stage in a theater and speaking, and then showing film or video clips. Other shows may feature a number of performances, but no show features more performances than the GRAMMYs. And in search of great GRAMMY moments, performers tend to push things to the limit on the GRAMMY stage, and sometimes slightly over the limit too.
Capturing all of those moving parts on camera in an artful and appropriate way is largely the job of the person in the truck calling all the shots for the camera operators attempting to cover all the musical action — namely, the director.
For the last 29 years, my friend Walter C. Miller has directed the GRAMMY Awards television show. That's not a typo — that's a fact: 29 years. That means every great GRAMMY moment most of us remember, we remember the way Walter wanted us to remember it. I've personally been there and witnessed him take every performance seriously, from Eminem and Elton John, to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and Prince and Beyoncé. "You get to be a part of a lot of musical history on the GRAMMYs," Walter told me recently. His historic track record is remarkable for any business, but much more so in an entertainment industry where survival is more often measured in intervals of 15 minutes than 30 years.
When GRAMMY Co-Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich first brought me in to help write the GRAMMY show a decade ago, he introduced me to Walter, who immediately insulted me in some witty yet somehow warm way. Being a lifelong Don Rickles fan, I liked the guy immediately. He is super sharp with a long lifetime of stories and a singular ability to tell them with fresh wit and the sting of truth. Just between us, Walter reminded me of my father. I remember seeing another director friend after meeting Walter and asking if he knew who Walter was. "Yes, David, Walter Miller basically invented live television,” he told me.
Having Walter on the GRAMMY team has meant the world to all of us lucky enough to work with him.
"I've learned so much from Walter," says Ken Ehrlich. "Wally had been and continues to be like a brother and a father to me. It's been like Butch and Sundance, and we're always ready to yell 'St' and jump off the mountain together."
"In his 30 years with the GRAMMY Awards, Walter Miller has not only created the look for our show, but for all other music award shows too," says GRAMMY Co-Executive Producer John Cossette. "He created the template for everyone else to follow."
In recent years, I’ve been lucky enough to find myself down in Nashville working as the writer for the Country Music Association Awards, another very big and distinguished show Walter executive produced and asked me to write after we first met at the GRAMMY Awards. One Sunday afternoon, the two of us had a few hours off in Music City, and decided to go see the new George Clooney movie Good Night And Good Luck. As we left the movie theater, I stupidly said something to Walter like, "Wow, can you imagine being in TV then." Walter looked at me, and said, "David, I was."
And so he was.
This year, Walter decided it was time for him to step back from directing the show, and he's been consulting on the show instead. Another legendary TV director, Louis J. Horvitz will be in the truck calling all those camera shots, and I have no doubt he'll do a great job. "Walter is the king of live television event directors," Louis told me the other day. "He's one of the founders of the whole form."
This year, Walter is also quite rightly receiving the Recording Academy's prestigious Trustees Award. He's earned it, because every time you look at the GRAMMYs for these past 30 years, you could rest assured that the great Walter C. Miller was there.
Walter C. Miller is still here, and thank God for that — and for him. The King lives. Long Live The King.
(Click here to read Wild's other GRAMMY blog installments.)
Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic.com
The Week In Music: Prince Is Down In The Digital Dumps
Artist refuses to record until the piracy battle is won
It's been almost a year since Prince formally declared the Internet to be "completely over," and now the artist formerly known as a symbol is back on his Web-hating soap box. "I personally can't stand digital music," said Prince in an interview with the Guardian. "You're getting sound in bits. It affects a different place in your brain. When you play it back, you can't feel anything. We're analog people, not digital." And the other problem with the Internet according to Prince? The lack of regulation when it comes to copyrighted content available for free on the Web. "The industry changed," continued Prince. "We made money [online] before piracy was real crazy. Nobody's making money now except phone companies, Apple and Google. It's like the gold rush out there. Or a carjacking. So I'll just hold off on recording." While we shouldn't expect a new album from the artist anytime soon, we can certainly rest assured that he'll be coming to a town near you, at least for one (or 21) nights.
With a combined 10 GRAMMY Awards, comedian Stephen Colbert and producer/musician Jack White are adding another commonality notch to their belts in the form of a musical collaboration. White and his Nashville-based Third Man Records have produced Colbert's recent single "Charlene II (I'm Over You)," the follow-up to the comedian's '80s new wave release, "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)." Colbert, along with his backup band — female goth rock group the Black Belles — premiered the single live on June 23 on "The Colbert Report." The song is available for download at iTunes, but audiophiles can also purchase a limited-edition vinyl pressing in red, white and blue available from Third Man Records just in time for the Fourth of July holiday. But fans at iTunes are already looking ahead as one commenter wrote, "Can't wait for Charlene III (Did You Get My Last Record?)!"
Arguably one of music's biggest cult documentaries, Heavy Metal Parking Lot is celebrating its silver anniversary in 2011. Clocking in at just 17 minutes, it's a must-see for aspiring metal heads, and has received accolades from the likes of Oscar-winning writer/director Cameron Crowe, actor Ed Norton and Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl. The film captures the shirtless, beer-guzzling debauchery in the parking lot of the Capitol Centre in Landover, Md., leading up to a 1986 Judas Priest gig. It's lack of cinematography or tangible plot aside, part of the film's charm is its spontaneity. "We certainly didn't go in with an agenda or plan, and 25 years later we are still trying to make sense of Heavy Metal Parking Lot," filmmaker Jeff Krulik told NPR, and said the production cost for the film was a mere $5 for a parking fee. Have any of these headbangers cut their mullets? Find out with a look at what the alumni from Heavy Metal Parking Lot are up to in 2011. And you can relive the film in all its devil-horn glory here.
Politics and music, as they say, make strange bedfellows. They also create a lot of licensing problems. The latest rocker to issue a take-down request is Tom Petty, who will ask the Michele Bachmann presidential campaign to refrain from using his "American Girl" in any campaign-related endeavors, according to an NBC report. Musicians issuing cease-and-desists to politicians trying to co-opt popular songs or musicians into their campaigns has a long contemporary tradition. In 1984 presidential candidate Ronald Reagan invoked Bruce Springsteen during a stump speech, trying to hitch his star to Springsteen's working class fans. In 2008 John McCain apologized to Jackson Browne for using "Running On Empty." That same year California state senatorial candidate Chuck Devore had to make a similar mea culpa to Don Henley for appropriating "The Boys Of Summer" and "All She Wants To Do Is Dance." The grandfather of all political apologies to musicians came in 2010 when U.S. Senate candidate Charlie Crist took to YouTube to issue an official apology to David Byrne for his unauthorized use of "Road To Nowhere." As for Bachmann, maybe this would have been a better choice for her campaign stop.
After she wore a dress made completely out of raw meat to the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards, and arrived encased in an egg shell to the 53rd Annual GRAMMY Awards in February, Lady Gaga has certainly made a name for herself as a raw (no pun intended) and edgy fashionista. With the help of social media network Tumblr, Gaga has created a home for all of her fashion forays in the form of a photo blog titled Amen Fashion. So far, the Fame Monster has posted several entries that picture her showcasing a wide array of styles, from the self-dubbed "Tokyo Unicorn" to her "Born To Kill Look." And, not for the faint of heart, there's also an image of the organ featured in her "Alejandro" video with a post that reads, "He ate my heart, so I put his in the Alejandro video." Moral of the story? Don't eat Gaga's heart, but feel free to get a taste of her fashion sense.
White House party crasher Michaele Salahi made her recording debut back in March and made her live-singing debut (or at least live lip-syncing debut) last week on an NBC affiliate in Miami. Neither events made the splash she and husband Tareq made in 2009 when they crashed an official White House dinner for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as part of a reality TV stunt. The song, "Bump It," a club-flavored dance track, is available at iTunes, where customer reviewer Klaus Von Bong commented: "Dump it."
Pitbull's "Give Me Everything" featuring Afrojack, Ne-Yo and Nayer is No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" featuring Lauren Bennett and GoonRock is tops on iTunes singles chart.
Any news we've missed? Comment below.
Black Sounds Beautiful: Five Years After His Death, Prince’s Genius Remains Uncontainable
In the latest episode of Black Sounds Beautiful, explore Prince Rogers Nelson’s GRAMMYs legacy and consider how—five years after his passing—we’ve only scratched the surface of his bottomless talent.
Some artists celebrate Black genius pointedly through their lyrics and public statements. Others like Prince, simply live it by being exceptional.
Not that the Purple One, who passed away in 2016, didn’t acknowledge race. In the midst of acrimony with a major record label, he scrawled “SLAVE” on his face. He called his name change to the infamous “Love Symbol” “the first step I have taken towards the ultimate goal of emancipation.”
In the end, though, he knew his inimitable writing, production work and guitar playing would be his true statement to the world. attacking others for their immutable characteristics wasn’t the answer.
“Nothing more ugly in the whole wide world than INTOLERANCE (between) Black, white, red, yellow, boy or girl,” he wrote in his personal archives. (He punctuated it with an extra “INTOLERANCE” at the end.)
In the latest episode of Black Sounds Beautiful, take a brief tour through Prince’s astonishing history as a GRAMMY winner and nominee. Without cheating, try to guess how many wins and nominations he earned before pressing play.
Then, when you’re done, chase it with one of those recent boxed sets of 1999 or Sign o’ the Times. Or, if you’re pressed for time, peep his outrageous, spotlight-stealing guitar solo on “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” (Seriously, you’ll be glad you did.)
Gary Clark Jr.
Photo: Recording Academy
Gary Clark Jr. On His Admiration For Prince: "He's The Best Guitar Player In The World"
The GRAMMY-winning "This Land" singer honors his hero at The GRAMMY Salute To Prince, which airs on CBS on April 21
"He's the best, the pinnacle. When I think about true artists and expression, unapologetic and free, Prince is that to me," the GRAMMY winner told us backstage at "Let's Go Crazy: The GRAMMY Salute To Prince."
"As a guitar player, I think he's the best guitar player in the world. I don't think anybody could touch him, and I'll fight you on that. It's just what I want to be, really," the "This Land" singer adds with a smile.
During the special tribute concert, which airs on CBS next Tues., April 21 (the fourth anniversary of Prince's death), Clark performs "Let's Go Crazy" with H.E.R. and Sign O' the Times deep cut "The Cross."
Tune in to CBS (or stream on CBS All Access) on April 21 from 9-11 p.m. ET/PT to watch Clark pay tribute to his hero, as well as many more powerhouse covers from Prince's musical treasure chest, brought to life by Sheila E., The Revolution, John Legend, Common, Dave Grohl with the Foo Fighters, Earth, Wind & Fire, Juanes and other greats.