Weldon Irvine Influenced Black Star, KRS-One, JAY-Z, Common & Q-Tip. His Story Is Being Told (Video)

Best-known perhaps as the songwriter of the unofficial Civil Rights anthem, “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” (popularized by Nina Simone), the late Weldon Irvine bridged the generations as a key mentor and collaborator to Hip-Hop icons during the ’90s and beyond.

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In a career that stretched back to the 1960s New York City Jazz scene, he was later featured as a musician/arranger on landmark Mos Def and Talib Kweli albums. Irvine’s music also provided the foundations for tracks by Boogie Down Productions, A Tribe Called Quest, and Leaders Of The New School. He also was the piano teacher of Q-Tip and Common. Additionally, it was his “Morning Sunrise” that Just Blaze used as the bed for JAY-Z’s “Dear Summer” address during Hov’s mid-2000s hiatus.

Irvine’s influence reached far outside the East Coast Rap scene: after Irvine’s Nassau Coliseum suicide in 2002, Madlib (as Yesterday’s New Quintet) released “Suite for Weldon” and then a full-length album Tribute To Brother Weldon two years later, under an alias “Monk Hughes & The Outer Realm.”

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Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) once called Irvine “an artist without borders.” Irvine’s openness to experimentation, his fusion of Soul, Jazz, Blues, Gospel led to what would later be called Acid Jazz. Irvine’s music was sustained by strong Afrocentric politics and concern for racial justice; his last release in 1999, The Price Of Freedom involved Mos, Talib, and Q-Tip. The LP focused on the killing of Guinean immigrant Amadou Diallo who was shot by NYPD officers 41 times.

Underway is a documentary feature, Digging For Weldon Irvine, by Brooklyn, New York-based director Victorious de Costa, that seeks to explore Irvine’s significance via exclusive interviews and previously unreleased audio and music. In the trailer, the film analyzes the art and complicated life (and death) of the Virginia-born musician.

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Including archival footage of Weldon Irvine performances and critical appraisals of a career that spanned decades and 500 compositions, the documentary feature promises to offer a unique insight into the man. It traces how he later found kinship with the next generation of Hip-Hop artists who knew him as “Master Wel.”

Executive producer, Joey “G-Clef” Cavaseno, a Jazz/Hip-Hop musician himself, says that Weldon Irvine referred to him as his “last disciple,” alongside the team’s obvious passion for the project suggests that the movie when finished will be of real interest and value.

To ensure that the feature offers a fitting testament to Weldon Irvine’s life and work, De Costa is calling for financial support to expedite release. More than half of the film’s $35,000 completion goal has been reached.

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#BonusBeat: Weldon’s 2000 “Africa Dream” collaboration with Reflection Eternal:

This appeared on Train Of Thought.