bennett4senate / Flickr / Creative Commons

The producer Large Professor has worked with many of the greatest names in hip hop: Nas, Busta Rhymes and Common, to name just three. While never achieving the superstar status of mainstream producers like Pharell or Timbaland, Large Professor, who is also known as Xtra P, has held his own in hip hop for nearly 30 years. Here he is with the group Main Source, from 1991:

clownhousethethird / Flickr / Creative Commons

Science fiction is a place where art meets forward thinking, and African American music has its own science fiction thread, called Afrofuturism, which is populated by some of our most progressive musicians.

Mikamote / CC BY-SA 3.0

The Brooklyn underground emcee RA the Rugged Man recently held a contest to find the so-called "Definition of a Rap Flow.” While we’ll thankfully never know how many thousands of very awful submissions he received, we do know who won in RA’s book: a 17-year old phenom called A-F-R-O who delivers a freestyle so far above the level of anyone walking this earth that it’s nearly celestial.

Abigail Wilson

The Lord’s Diner in downtown Wichita offers a hot meal 365 days a year for those in need. There’s a piano at the diner, open for anyone to play. Carrying a weathered blue backpack full of sheet music over his shoulder, pianist Chris Espey taught himself to play at the diner where he has been going to eat for more than a decade. KMUW’s Abigail Wilson has his story.

vansassa / flickr

When I think of songs that mention Wichita, I can’t help but try to find a common thread, some consensus from songwriters about what they think of us. Unfortunately, there’s a sadness that comes through, an image of Wichita as a distant locus of ordinariness.

Drew Yorke-Slader / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license / Wikimedia Commons

Producer and emcee Amir Mohamed el Khalifa, who goes by the name Oddisee, writes music that lives up to his name.

Hailing from the DC-Maryland-Virginia triangle, he developed as an artist in a kind of geographic and political ambiguity. And if place truly informs who we are as people, it will be no surprise that Oddisee is a musician who has an uncanny ability to flow, navigating both space and rhyme with ease.

Jim Kent / Wichita Music History Project

Popular culture often provides a useful window into the past, highlighting larger trends and issues that may not be apparent at first. This was the case when I became involved in a project documenting local rock bands from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Going To Extremes

May 12, 2015

A lot of talented musicians like to show off their technical skills, and sometimes it’s annoying. There’s the jazz tenor saxophonist who won’t stop after 10 choruses, the lead guitarist who has never heard the expression “less is more.”

A musician’s ego can get the best of them. “Higher, faster, louder” is sometimes the quickest way to kill the mood.

Anetode / Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license

Blues guitarist Robert Johnson is said to have gotten his musical talent by selling his soul to the devil at the crossroads close to the famous Dockery Plantation in the Mississippi Delta. The same story was told earlier about another bluesman named Tommy Johnson.

Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

Congress changed copyright law in the 1970s with a provision that allows songwriters to get out of their contracts 35 years after they had signed away their rights to record companies.