Iowa's African-American Festival

2018  Headliners 

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Celebration Day Headliners

LARENZ TATE

Film & Television Actor

Larenz Tate is an American film and television actor.   He was born on Chicago, Illinois’ west side, and the family moved to California when he was 4 years old.  He is presently part of the cast of STARZ’s series “Power” as Councilman Tate, and was most recently in the movie “Girl’s Trip” starring Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith.

Following appearances in such television series as 21 Jump Street and The Wonder Years, Tate was cast in the television movie The Women of Brewster Place before receiving the recurring role of Steve Urkel’s nemesis, Willie Fuffner, in the family comedy series Family Matters (1989). He was also a cast member on the CBS series The Royal Family, starring Redd Foxx and Della Reese, which ended prematurely after Redd Foxx died. In the video game 187 Ride or Die, Tate voices the main character, Buck.

Following numerous small-screen roles, offers began pouring in for Tate, and in late 1992, he starred in Menace II Society. The film found Tate channeling his substantial energy into creating “O-Dog”, a trigger-happy teenager. Following up with the little-seen but often-praised television series South Central, Tate would later appear in the family comedy-drama The Inkwell (1994), Dead Presidents (1995) and took on the role of a love-stricken young poet in the romantic drama Love Jones (1997). Larenz Tate also played the role of Kenny in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the episode “That’s No Lady, That’s My Cousin”.[citation needed] There followed roles in The Postman (as the automotively monikered Ford Lincoln Mercury), the Frankie Lymon biopic Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1998, with Tate as Lymon), and 2000’s Love Come Down. Though a big theatrical release had eluded Tate for the first few years of the millennial turnover, Tate would soon turn up opposite Laurence Fishburne in the high-octane but critically derided Biker Boyz (2003)[8] A Man Apart (2003), Crash (2004), as music legend Quincy Jones in Ray (2004), and Waist Deep (2006). Larenz was also featured in R&B singer Ashanti’s 2003 released music video Rain on Me, where he played the jealous, abusive spouse of Ashanti. The video touched on the subject of domestic abuse.

Tate has been married to Tomasina Parrott since November 30, 2006, Together they have three sons. (edited from Wikipedia)

 

CARL THOMAS
Biography

(By Michael A. Gonzales) 

In the Beginning Carl Thomas sang around the Chicago-land area, joining groups, singing in the church choir and doing some recordings in comfortable surroundings. Feeling the need to test himself in unfamiliar waters, Thomas trekked to New York and began singing during open-mike nights at various clubs. Bad Boy CEO Sean “Diddy” Combs and Christopher “Biggie Smalls” Wallace caught one of his performances and signed him to their label in 1997. As a Recording artist- Carl Thomas’ major label debut was certainly Emotional. The buzz caused by the airplay of the not-available-to-retail single “I Wish” – (set to be released in the late summer of 2000)– from the urban R&B singer’s Emotional album was such that the release date was moved up to April 18, 2000. Thomas wrote or co-wrote 11 of the album’s 15 tracks. I Wish is the title of the number-one R&B single. The hit song spent six long weeks at number-one on the US R&B chart and also peaked at number twenty on the pop charts, and set the stage for his debut album “Emotional”, On the success of “I Wish”, the album’s other singles, “Summer Rain,” and the title track “Emotional” reached #18 and #8 on the R&B charts respectively, the album did very well. In fact, Thomas’ debut album “Emotional” went platinum with 1.7 million units sold. In Jan 2002 to close out that phenomenal debut a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal for “Can’t Believe,” Faith Evans featuring Carl Thomas.

Although Carl Thomas’ masterwork Emotional was a critical and sales success, life has not always been a simple path for the young and talented singer. On March 23rd, 2004 Carl Thomas came back with his second album, let’s talk About It. The album went gold and had moderate success. The album’s singles were “She Is”(featuring L.L.Cool J) and “Make It Alright” which reached #56 and #33 on the R&B charts respectively. Later that year tragedy struck home when Carl’s oldest brother (Duranthony Evans) was shot & killed Oct 31st, 2004 as a gang initiation in the suburbs of Chicago. The youngest of five children, Carl remembers, “With the death of my brother Randy (Min. Duranthony Evans), I kind of lost my voice. I had found the truth in my brother, and now he was gone. After that, my feelings towards the world changed”. Slumping into a depression that blocked him as a writer and performer, Carl says, “I knew that I had no control over the death of my brother, but I wanted to be able to at least control my own career. I love Bad Boy and Diddy, but it became more about how I want to be perceived as an artist. I didn’t know how long it would take for me to reemerge, but when it happened I wanted the situation to be different”

Emerging from his solitude over two years later, On Dec 7th, 2006 Thomas earned a Grammy Award nomination along with Chaka Khan, Yolanda Adams, and the late Gerald Levert for “Everyday),” a song from the soundtrack of Tyler Perry’s Movie “Madea’s Family Reunion” The song received a nomination for Best R&B Performance by a Duo Or Group With Vocals. Thomas’ second nomination was as sweet as the first “There is grand heritage that already exists.

Carl Thomas was always without a doubt as cool as the winds blowing in his native city. Standing tall as a basketball player and always impeccably dressed, he brought an acute understanding of old soul to his new music. Carl has no problem spreading charm like butter. “Before I give the audience something different, I needed to remind them why they loved me in the first place,” Carl says.  His third album, “So Much Better” was released May 30, 2007 and reached number 25 on the U.S. Billboard. “My only real responsibility is to the music,” Carl confesses. “I’m aware that I have to uphold a certain tradition and integrity in the music, but I also have to stay sincere to myself. I believe people who love music can feel when you’re not being real.” In the wrong hands, “realness” can become cliché of booty songs and artificial toughness, but after listening to Carl Thomas’ singing, one realizes he isn’t having any of that. “What comes from the heart reaches the heart,” Carl says poetically. “In other words, when I’m writing songs I try to capture scenarios that are true. There is a complexity to relationships that many songwriters miss that I try to relate; we all have a lot of drama in our lives and that is what I was attempting to express on So Much Better.

Aside from performing (Billy Joel’s “Just the way you Are”) with Stevie Wonder, or performing in Vegas with Patti Labelle, or being invited to perform at Harry Belafonte’s (first time in 27 years) return to Jamaica, or even receiving an S.C.L.C. Martin Luther King Image award (presented by the Late Coretta Scott King) A crowning achievement for Carl Thomas was having the legendary duo Jam & Lewis support his project with a production (a song entitled “Home”). “I was one of those guys who always read the credits on records,” Carl informs. “So, I’ve been a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis fan since the ‘80s and “Just to have the Jam & Lewis touch on my artistry was a blessing. “So Much Better” also paired Carl up with the Late Great Music legend Jheryl Busby. He told me “that in the age of plastic soul, it’s very special hearing someone who can deliver musical emotions that are really real”. “My style has always been like a pot of gumbo,” Carl jokes. “From gospel and soul to Steely Dan and early ‘80s MTV music, it’s all a part of who I am.

Gala Headliner
KURTIS BLOW

Musical Artist

Early Life

Rapper and producer Kurtis Walker on August 9, 1959, in Harlem, New York. Blow got his first practice as a DJ in grade school, mingling with guests at his mother’s parties to take their music requests. By the time he was 13, he had a fake ID and was sneaking into New York City clubs to hear DJs spin their tracks.

In 1975, Kurtis Blow enrolled in Harlem’s High School of Music and Art, but was kicked out for selling marijuana. He transferred to another high school, where he was soon caught selling the psychedelic drug PCP. Recognizing Blow’s intelligence, the dean gave Blow the chance to test for his General Equivalency Degree as an alternative to expulsion. Blow passed, and went on to study at New York’s City College.

Rap As a New Genre

While still a high school student, Blow had begun spinning his own tracks under the name Kool DJ Kurt. By the end of the 1970s, like many other New York DJs, he had become disenchanted with the boring sameness of the music coming out of the clubs. “Everything merged into one colorless sea of sound,” he recalled. “We, the deejays, had to do something to make our shows a little bit different … a little unique.” That unique new thing was rap. Blow started mixing his own rhymes with the beats on his turntable. “Pretty soon rap became an accepted thing, almost expected in fact,” Blow said, “and those clubs who had rappin’ deejays started to pick up.”

In 1979, Blow signed a deal with Mercury Records, making him the first rapper signed by a major label. His album Christmas Rappin’ sold more than 400,000 copies. His follow-up album, The Breaks, went gold, led by its iconic title track: “Brakes on a bus, brakes on a car, breaks to make you a superstar.”

Superstar Status

Blow was soon officially a superstar as well. He went on to release 10 albums over the next 11 years. This included 1985’s America, featuring the song “If I Ruled the World.” The song cracked the Top 5 on the Billboard charts on first release, and returned (in sample form) a decade later when Nas’s version debuted at No. 1. Blow also produced albums for artists like The Fat Boys, Run-D.M.C., Russell Simmons and Wyclef Jean. His influence on hip-hop was so profound that rapper Run of the seminal trio Run-D.M.C. initially called himself the “Son of Kurtis Blow” when just starting his career.

As his rap career progressed, Blow—a devout Christian—made a commitment to himself to keep his lyrics family-friendly. “I’ve recorded over two hundred songs and I have never used a profanity and I always thought that was just me trying to have some dignity, some integrity,” Blow said. “I knew that in order for this thing [hip-hop] to last and spread all around the world, it had to be wholesome, it had to be something that families could listen to, something people could play for their kid, something you could sing in church and I can sing all my songs in church.” Blow’s songs include “Magic Words,” a track recorded with a children’s rap group about the importance of saying “please” and “thank you.”

Ventures Outside Music

Kurtis Blow’s faith eventually led him to a new career, when he found himself reading the Bible and unable to put the book away. “I got to the last book in the Bible, Revelations, and it’s sort of like a prophecy. And I said I’d better get my act together before all this stuff starts to happen.” Blow became an ordained minister in 2009 and founded Hip Hop Ministry, a movement that incorporates rap into worship.

Besides recording, producing and hosting radio shows, Blow speaks out on behalf of a variety of causes. He coordinated the recording of the song “King Holiday” in tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. He also campaigns against racism and drug use. He will always be credited as one of the biggest influences on rap music. “Rappin’ is totally ours—nothing can take it away,” Blow said in 1980, when rap was still in its infancy. “It’s kinda what we are giving to ourselves.”

Citation Information

Article Title:  Kurtis Blow Biography.com

Author: The Biography.com website

URL:  https://www.biography.com/people/kurtis-blow-5444

Publisher:  A&E Television Networks

Last Updated:  April 1, 2014