Jam Sessions III

Erykah Badu's Black Forest Theater is flat-out happening. I'm not just talking about the gorgeous renovated South Dallas movie theater (1920 Martin Luther King Blvd.)--with better sound and lighting (and attitude) than most any spot in Deep Ellum--but the music. Let's start with Common Folk, second on Wednesday night's bill. They're a six-piece of young musicians who prefer old-school soul and watertight harmonies to a monotony of bitches and bling. Set opener "Jukebox" is a series of shout-outs to their musical heroes, borrowing riffs from classics by Eazy-E and LL Cool J. "We know good music's hard to find," the song goes, "so we like to recognize the music that makes you feel good inside." And Common Folk's music does just that. The band plays every Thursday at the Velvet Hookah in Deep Ellum (and rocked Prince's after-party last Friday), and though this is the first time I've written about them, it won't be the last.

The masses flocked down-front for Dead Prez, a high-energy hip-hop act whose raps have the same burn-the-barn rage that fueled Dead Presidents, the 1995 Hughes brothers movie from which they presumably take their name. Other acts included openers Monsters & Dust, a promising rock outfit still finding its feet; Nayrok (Badu's sister), looking like a black Barbarella in her silver lamé pants and gloves and grabbing the unsuspecting crowd by the throat with a hard-driving, at times shriekish, hard-rock set; and Philadelphia-based Musiq, an uplifting R&B singer with all the right moves. Capping off the evening was Miss Badu herself, all inner glow and nine months pregnant. Like the name of the charity the Black Forest benefits, Beautiful Love, the evening was like a feel-good, old-soul embrace--a place where everyone belonged, an evening that belonged to everyone.

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Sarah Hepola