By 1978, Brian Eno had already changed the face of art rock with his production and collaboration on David Bowie’s Berlin Trilogy, as well as “invention” of ambient music. He next landed in post-punk New York City where he stumbled upon ”No Wave” — the art, jazz, skronk scene exemplified by James Chance And The Contortions.

Fast forward 40 years to New York City in 2018 where The Contortions former lead guitarist and producer, TomÁ¡s Doncker, is producing and releasing albums on True Groove, the record label he founded in 2014. For years, Doncker had been decrying the lack of a ‘true music’ scene like the one he grew up in in the ’70s and early ’80s. The last New York scene had been the rock art world of The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in the 2000s.

Digging deep into the present day New York scene, TomÁ¡s, along with his partners Marla Mase and James Dellatacoma, started scouting out some of the city’s up and coming bands and were thrilled to discover that there was indeed a scene. Once they discovered this scene, they reached out to the artists they felt represented the True Groove “Global Soul” ethos and sound and offered to produce one song for each for a compilation album they were putting together. The result: a genre-busting collection of tracks that creates the scene all on its own. With an eye on that legendary scene, they called the new compilation NOW NY.

There are two constants on this sprawling, challenging, and extremely relevant group of tracks — New York City and True Groove. By showcasing artists as diverse as the ’60s jangle-inspired Diane and The Gentlemen, the voice of a generation rapper JSWISS, art rock protester Marla Mase, experimental pop stalwarts Woodhead, psychedelic jam band God Tiny, Jamaican “Reggae Rock” superstar Garrison Hawk, LGBTQ cult film director/auteur/performance artist and TROMA FILMS star Dylan Mars Greenberg, ’70s glam meets the Doors Lost Boy?, grunge pop prince Logan X, and a “Theatrical Rock & Roll Meets Future Pop” flame out from Janelle Monae’s lead guitarist/songwriting partner Kellindo Parker, True Groove has ably demonstrated that there is indeed a New York music scene and that it is alive and well.

Khalil Kain

The album also features two debut releases. One is from psychedelic garage rock pioneer and enigma Touchy Feely in their True Groove debut. The other is from urban icon actor/writer/director Khalil Kain who has just released his debut album on True Groove, Lambs to Slaughter. Kain’s acting career has spanned two decades and during that time he has become something of an urban icon. Perhaps his best-known work was in the seminal film Juice where he established the brand of swagger and bravado that he is now bringing to the new album.

Kain follows the family tradition established by his father Gylan Kain who was a member of the storied spoken word group The Last Poets. Kain’s take on the current state of the nation is nothing less than incendiary on Lambs To Slaughter and demands a response from the listener. The music from the album also serves as the score for Kain’s play of the same name. Like the NOW NY collection as a whole, Kain brings diverse sounds including hip-hop, classic soul, funk, spoken word, and old school rap to the proceedings.

If a contemporary music scene was missing in New York that problem has been solved by the release of NOW NY. The album serves to remind the world that New York is, was, and always will be a center of the music world. It’s also something of a dispatch that serves as something of a marker that establishes the city’s place in the music world, as the album’s title says, now. 

NOW NY was produced and curated by TomÁ¡s Doncker and James Dellatacoma along with executive producer and curator Marla Mase for True Groove. It’s no coincidence that the album, which wears its of-the-moment relevance as a badge of honor, will be released on Election Day, November 9.

Popdose is proud to present the exclusive video premiere of Khalil Kain’s ”Lil’ Duckie.”

About the Author

Ken Shane

Ken Shane lives in Narragansett, R.I. He is a freelance writer and far and away the oldest Popdose writer. In fact, he may be the oldest writer, period. He wants you to know that he generally does not share his colleagues' love for the music of the '80s, and he does not forgive them for loving it. (Ken passed away in November 2022. R.I.P. —Ed.)

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