Former record label executive Naima Cochrane talks with Panama Jackson about the good, the bad & the ugly of the industry. Plus the story behind Black Music Month and the social media favorite, Music Sermon.
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[00:00:00] You are now listening to theGrio’s Black Podcast Network, Black Culture Amplified.
Panama Jackson [00:00:07] What’s going on, everybody? And welcome back to another episode of Dear Culture here on the Real Black Podcast Network. I am your host, Panama Jackson, and I hope you’ve been checking out all the episodes of Dear Culture because every episode is being a conversation about some aspect of Black culture. We’ve been talking about songs. Is Usher a legend? We talked about movies. We’ve just we’ve talked about all kind of things. But today we have somebody here that actually curates the culture in a very interesting way, somebody who’s created culture, who’s behind the scenes on things. Her bio is amazing. She’s been a part of every project I think I wanted to be a part of and some I’ve been upset to see and read. So before we dig into that, please put your virtual digital hands together for Naima Cochrane. How you doing today?
Naima Cochrane [00:00:58] Thank you. I’m great. How do I thank you for having me and thank you for that intro. Those intros still bug me out, but I’m learning to accept it.
Panama Jackson [00:01:08] I’m glad you said that, because I actually want to tell you how I came to know who you are. We’ve only met once, and that was at the Roots picnic recently, and I don’t think you had any idea who I was, but you’re with Miles Jones. And he said, Do you know Naima? And I was like, one name, Naima? Because that’s what I like. That’s how significant you are in spaces that I frequent, like I know of you by your first name. So you up there would Bey and Jay and all these other people in the Black cultural.
Naima Cochrane [00:01:36] Oh, my God.
Panama Jackson [00:01:37] But let me tell you why. Let me tell you what. It’s actually gonna be really fun. One is actually really fun, and one is like, I was like, who are these people? The fun one is a couple of years ago, I wanted to do this series when I would I want to do this series about Black Pop art. And I was going to do like a like a Black History Month, 28 days of like Black Pop. I love Black pop art. Like, I literally if my wife would let me fill the house with pictures of Bob Marley and Tupac in pictures together, with Left Eye, you know.
Naima Cochrane [00:02:09] With the angel wings on that back?
Panama Jackson [00:02:11] Listen, if it wasn’t for my wife, my house would be full of that type of stuff. But she’s like, absolutely not. So I had to confine it to my own personal spaces. But you curated this amazing Twitter thread of all this stuff, and I was like, I thought I was going have to do a lot of work to find it, but boom, there it is, right? There’s like, Oh, here’s everything I’m literally looking for. I couldn’t do it because of legal clearances, because I don’t know who did any of that stuff. Right.
Naima Cochrane [00:02:32] Right.
Panama Jackson [00:02:34] I was so excited is like, yo, who was this person that did all the heavy lifting for me on this stuff that I’m trying to do? And it was you. Including my favorite work, which is the one of Malcolm X baptizing Tupac in a river somewhere, I’m just going to assume is Mississippi and all these Black anyway. So that’s the first.
Naima Cochrane [00:02:56] I think thug life is misspelled or something that one exists in the world courtesy of Tyrese.
Panama Jackson [00:03:03] Did Tyrese actually create their art because if he did, he’s actually a brilliant artist.
Naima Cochrane [00:03:08] You know, I’m not sure because he also has this really big mural in his home, and I think he’s presented it as though he did it. But I don’t like you said, he would be a brilliant artist, but I can definitely see Tyrese as a savant of sorts. I’m still not clear if he did the artwork, but he’s like, If you want to talk about provenance of of art, it starts with Tyrese.
Panama Jackson [00:03:31] I mean, logically speaking, I associate that piece with Tyrese, and I wanted to do the entire series just so I could exalt and uplift that one particular piece that I’ve wanted to do as a mural in my house. But again, my wife is like, absolutely not.
Naima Cochrane [00:03:48] Your wife has sense.
Panama Jackson [00:03:49] When it comes to that, that’s probably true. I’m willing to indulge all manner of foolywang. Secondly, though you are a part of this is a couple of years ago it was like 100 songs that defined New York rap. Now, I’m not from New York, not from New York City. I saw it as listen, I wanted to fire everybody involved. So I, of course, looked at the list and I had to see whose names were involved. Good friend of mine, Shamir Ibrahim, was a part of that. And I saw your name on there and we did like a podcast episode of another podcast about that. We were talking about this and I was like, What was going through your people’s brains when you all put together this list?
Naima Cochrane [00:04:27] Can I Explain?
Panama Jackson [00:04:27] Please, feel free.
Naima Cochrane [00:04:30] Okay. First of all, shout out to my dear friend. Willie Ketchum who was one of the editors who is not from New York, right. I was probably the only Xer who actually has a New York. I was born in New York. I grew up in in South Carolina. But I spent all my summers and holidays here. And I’ve been here my back, my entire adult life. So I was the only Xer kind of revising that boom bap era like I had to throw. So I came in, we ranked, everybody did their own personal ranking and then they ranked everything collectively based on each individual ranking, which I don’t know if that was the best way to do it. You know, it’s so so it, it was definitely a little bit of a skewed list. Like I had to fight to put Nobody Beats the Biz up in there and I had to fight to get a couple of other points in there. And I was like, we can’t not have these up in there. But yeah, that’s what happened with that. It was, it was like individually rank and then collectively, based on the individual rankings, there was probably this is why I hate Ranked List though. Like it just doesn’t it never bodes well for anybody.
Panama Jackson [00:05:41] I don’t know. It bodes well for all of us who like to argue about this stuff. Like it literally. I mean, it’s the perfect it’s like provocative is literally nobody knows goal but is provocative is literally that I was so mad and I’m not you know, I’m not even from New York, but I was like and it wasn’t even the top of the list. It was like some of the things that were on the list and where they were place like. But again, it gives people like myself and it gives all of us who argue all day long online things to talk about and fight about for a solid week. It was awesome. It was awesome as far as I was concerned.
Naima Cochrane [00:06:12] Let’s be honest. These lists are created so everybody can argue about. That really their intention.
Panama Jackson [00:06:16] And we all need things to argue about. So that’s perfect. We’re going to take a quick break here on Dear Culture. Stay tuned.
Panama Jackson [00:06:32] So part of the reason why I wanted to have you on here is because you curate the amazing Music Sermon IG in like the Black Music Month thing that you do. You said it into the Black Summer, but before we get to that, I actually wanted to kind of get into how you got to this place where you are a curator of culture in your in your bio, on your website. You have an amazing line that I think literally symbolizes what I like to do as well, which is putting Black culture in context. Like, I love that line. Like I start with that and I’m reading them like, man, that’s such an interesting way to exist as a person, as a job, as a profession. I don’t know if you call it like literally you put it on a resume, but what does that mean for you in how did you get to the point like we’re putting Black culture in context is what you do, I presume, for a living at this point.
Naima Cochrane [00:07:25] So explain that line I got. I do have to go a little bit into my resume. I was a music industry executive for many, many, many, many years and then at several different labels, Bad Boy, Arista, Columbia, Epic. And then I moved over to the management side. And in both of those roles, both of those arenas we use, what we’re working with is the commodification of Blackness, Black culture, Black arts, Black ideas, Black creatives, which we now also see and we see it in every space we occupy. Right. And when you are what people don’t really understand about label executives is that not only are we fighting for our artists, but we are usually fighting to keep our to keep the relevant context around our music and our art and our culture. Because we’re usually in buildings where the ultimate decision makers don’t understand all of it. They just know something’s making money, something’s connecting, something’s not. One of my best examples of that was when we were rolling out Bandz Make Her Dance with Juicy J
Juicy J [00:08:39] And they ain’t uisng hands. Bands will make her dance. Band will make her dance.
Naima Cochrane [00:08:44] Those were some really awkward meetings. It’s like one-fourth of the conference room is wild’n out and everybody else is really uncomfortable. So or like video edits with the password strippers like that type of thing. It is a fight to kind of like make sure that things don’t get lost in translation between creating it and how we present it to the consumer. And then the management is the same thing I’m trying to help translate in artist’s voice to their work, to their art, to the people who are going to help package it, manufacture it and sell it without certain things getting lost. So now as a music and culture journalist, historian, researcher, etc., this is this is my opportunity to do it on a larger platform, right? Because there is a lot of history recipes, whatever you want to call it, is lost and or is being lost. And sometimes I see like for example, we’re having this whole nineties resurgence, but there’s a lot around it that isn’t that isn’t being added to the story. There’s a you know, there are a lot of people calling folks culture vultures without really understanding there’s a form of erasure and what they’re saying for certain people for a certain reasons. That’s my thing is like not only just for non-Black people, but also for some younger generations of Black people. Like, I really kind of wanted to go on a mission to kind of put our stories about our music, about our art, about these cultural moments within our framework that help you understand, like how we got there, what the landscape was like at the time, and how it connects the dots to the present. So that’s, that’s my mission and that’s what I started doing with Music Sermon
Panama Jackson [00:10:30] I love that. And I got to tell you why. So I’m one of those people who has the idea. So I’ve been writing for years at this point. When I started VSB and 2008 with Damon and Liz. And you know, we were writing about relationships in their culture and at some point and a lot about race and things like that. Right? And at some point I decided like wholesale, like I’m not writing about white people anymore. Like I’m literally leaving them completely out of the conversation. There’s no more white gaze for me, like it’s 100% celebrating Blackness. It’s 100% enjoying being Black and all that. Like there has to be some celebration and joy in what it is we’re doing. It can’t all be Blackness as a pathology of some sort or in comparison to what’s happening in the white community. So much so that I did this. I curated this series. When I was at The Root called the Black Mainstream. And it was built out of this idea that, I remember I was listening to another podcast. I’m going to get heavy into what that one was, but they made this comment about Arsenio Hall and how he wasn’t like, whether like Coming to America was Arsenio Hall his biggest moment? And I was like, Nah, it’s the Arsenio Hall Show. But I was like, you gotta be Black to know that. It has to be something that like in the mainstream Black culture, in our culture, Arsenio Hall, The Arsenio Hall Show was like his apex. So, I then enlisted all these people to kind of write about, like, Black culture. Like one of my boys, Damon wrote an article about all of us thinking Georgetown was an HBCU at one point because it was, you know, like in the nineties, it was like, I don’t want to go Georgetown. The number of Black people everywhere. You just think like.
Naima Cochrane [00:12:07] Right.
Panama Jackson [00:12:08] So it was like all these discussions about one was about The Coldest Winter Ever. I was like, that’s a book everybody I know had read like that was like, you know. So I like, I do that kind of thing as a rule because I love the idea of framing culture in mainstream as like a Black thing. Like, this is how I grew up and this is what I do. The rest of this is like. It’s important because it’s the world we live in. But and that’s how even the Black pop art thing, that’s why I loved it. I’m like, this is literally what I love seeing. Like this stuff that’s ridiculous on his face. But, you know, it’s value in our community. Like, it brings all this stuff to us.
Naima Cochrane [00:12:46] Right. And there are themes there. That’s the thing. There are themes there. There are, you know, repeat it, pattern’s there. You really can’t examine it like art, even though sometimes is really absurd and crazy. Like there’s definitely something that is so uniquely Black about it. You got to appreciate it for that.
Panama Jackson [00:13:04] Yeah. So when did you get to the point where like this is like when did you realize that you were like good at doing that thing? Because you’re an executive, you’re a manager, right? But you know, like I read the I read the essay that you did in the Smithsonian’s anthology, Hip Hop and Rap. Like I had a chance to cover that. I have I have the box set. It’s an amazing thing. Right? Like, when do you realize, like, I’m somebody who is good at doing these things and putting these things in perspective, in curating that stuff, like when did that happen for you? .
Naima Cochrane [00:13:39] I didn’t realize it was what I was good at until after I started doing it. Let me explain that. So I started doing Music Sermon as a series of Twitter threads in 2017. A matter of fact, the five year anniversary is on July 29th, and I was doing it kind of out of a sense of me missing a certain element of the fun of the business. Right. So had seen people kind of do these video threads before and it was the 25th anniversary, I think, of What’s the 411? And I started talking, I was watching the Real Love video, which led me to a whole bunch of other Big Les. Leslie Sager choreographed videos, which was basically every knee pads, tennis skirt, baseball cap, kick, you know, turn, drop, you know, video. And I the first thread I ever did was how we dance hard as F in the nineties. We danced everything. Gen X I got their 10,000 in before we finished high school. You can’t touch us. You cannot touch us on an eight count. You can’t. You can’t do it. That’s all we did. Did it every day. We got home from school. We just had them in pocket ready to go. So that led to me thinking, you know, we don’t talk enough about this person or this person or this person.
Naima Cochrane [00:14:56] And also people were retweeting, but also retweeting with their own like shared experience, their own nostalgia, their own memories. And people were talking to each other and it was communal. Right. And I did a couple more threads. Even I said I wasn’t going to become the, quote unquote right person. And after like maybe at first it was just like for me and my peers, like just kind of the memory lane gives might or flowers. Like I talked about Uptown and I talked about Latifah, Salt and Pepa and Lite, you know. And it got to Babyface, I think. And that’s when 20 somethings started. Yeah, 20 somethings started chiming in like, I didn’t know he did the song. I didn’t know the song was a sample. I had no idea about this. And then I did one about like the adultery, R&B of the eighties of the seventies, and that’s when it was really kind of like, I had no idea I was today years old, etc. So I was like, oh, there’s an educational component here. And because I’ve been on the executive side and the management side and I’m a fan and I was quote unquote there in real time in the nineties, I have a point of view that not a whole lot of people in journalism have.
Naima Cochrane [00:16:17] And it kind of I sit at a spot where I’m able to talk to a whole bunch of different elements and together to create a full picture. And I realized that I had a way of translating these things to people clearly in a way that they could actually access and understand what it is still being entertaining. And I don’t really know where that comes from. I don’t really know how to do it. I just know that I watched a whole lot of TV and listened to a whole lot of music and watched a whole lot of movies and then worked in it. And then somehow I’m able to now write about it. So once I realized it was something I did well, I wanted to do more of it because I just felt like our stories were getting lost. I felt like history was being rewritten very often based on pictures taken out of context, based on a paragraph or a story or an interview that nobody dug back to the source of, etc.. And I just kind of wanted there to be a correct record of things for people to have.
Panama Jackson [00:17:10] I love that you’re like my spirit animal. Like literally everything that you were saying is like my entire ethos in how I’ve carried my own personal career for so long now, even the educational part of it. I So a couple of years ago I wrote an article like, when did you find out Bobby Caldwell was white? Because that.
Naima Cochrane [00:17:30] Happens like once a year on Twitter.
Panama Jackson [00:17:32] Every year.
Naima Cochrane [00:17:32] Like Groundhog Day
Panama Jackson [00:17:33] It’s the craziest thing. Like, why are people still finding out that this man is white? But it happens and people don’t know. And it’s like this whole new world is opening up for people.
Naima Cochrane [00:17:44] Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:17:44] So I love this. So what we’re going to do, we’re going to take a real quick break. And when we come back, we’re going to dig into Music Sermon and experiences with that and all of that, because it’s one of my favorite things. It’s one of my favorite things to participate in for various reasons. Some selfish, some cultural. And but I love it and I’m glad you do it. So we’re going to take a quick break here on Dear Culture. Stay tuned.
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Panama Jackson [00:18:26] All right. We’re back on Dear Culture. And I’m talking with Naima Cochrane, a cultural curator of Blackness, somebody who puts Black culture in context, a person who literally does everything that I would want to do in my life. We do it in different places, but I love it. And you are the creator of one of my favorite indulgences online, which is your Music Sermon IG but the series you do for Black Music Month. I love it for a couple of reasons. One, selfish I’m a music snob and I think I’m better at music than everybody else. Present company. So I think that I know songs that nobody else knows. So, you know, you know, when you get an opportunity to let a couple of shots off, like, you know what? Let me show y’all what I know. I love doing that. But also I like seeing all the songs that everybody else includes on the various props, right, that you come up with. One of my favorite ones, because it actually gave me an idea, was the one about like a song with a whole monologue in the middle, because I don’t think people realize how many songs have monologues in them. Like my favorite has always been Oran “Juice” Jones like Walking in the Rain.
Oran “Juice” Jones [00:19:38] Yous was with the juice. I gave you silk suits, Gucci handbags, blue diamonds. I gave you things you couldn’t even pronounce. Now I can’t give you nothing but advice because you’re still young.
Naima Cochrane [00:19:47] Yes.
Panama Jackson [00:19:48] Because it’s such a fun thing. I was like, man, this should be like a one act play. Like somebody needs to do a one act play of just like monologues. People using like monologues in songs. I mean, the clearance issues would be a mess.
Naima Cochrane [00:19:58] That’s a genius idea, though.
Panama Jackson [00:20:00] Yeah. I was like this. I was like, I want to see somebody do this monologue. Like, this would be amazing. Like a an interpretation or even like this at the beginning of the song. But like Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle’s Saturday Love, one of my favorite songs of all time, like, the opening is so bad. It’s such a horrible.
Naima Cochrane [00:20:18] There’s this whole soap opera opening, like, Oh, no, it’s her.
Alexander O’Neal and Cherrelle [00:20:23] See, you haven’t changed. It’s good to see you anyway. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday.
Panama Jackson [00:20:37] How she know I’m here?
Naima Cochrane [00:20:37] It’s awful. The beginning of fire and desire.
Rick James and Teena Marie [00:20:42] Wow. It’s really good to see you again, baby.
Naima Cochrane [00:20:50] Like, Yeah, it’s a whole it’s a whole. Somebody really should turn that into a production. You’re absolutely right. That would be amazing.
Panama Jackson [00:20:56] Wonderful. So let’s let’s let’s jump into this Music Sermon thing. So you created it in 2017. What’s been like your favorite experience because of it? I actually tell people what it is, and then I want to know what some of your favorite experiences, because I feel like everybody and their mama knows what this thing is like the famous people, not famous people, but everybody participates. Questlove Like everybody was like, yo, we waiting on that, waiting on them prompts, homie. Which has to be annoying. I want to get into that too. But break it down.
Naima Cochrane [00:21:26] Yeah. So. So Music Sermon actually started as a weekly series, a weekly storytelling series, and I had dead that part of it after a couple of years because I would always put video clips in every tweet to kind of assist with the storytelling and copyright police, I’m on the top ten most wanted list. And, you know, fortunately, I have, you know, friends at Twitter who I can’t say they they necessarily pulled strings, but they would help expedite. I definitely had to counter because people hit me all the time about getting their accounts back. I definitely still had to go through the, you know, counter to everything where every notification. So I didn’t skip any steps. I just had people who help make sure that folks are paying attention to the fact that I was countering and whatever, whatever. So after I lost my count for like the bloody millionth time and I have a whole like my burner has 30,000 followers, that’s how often I get suspended that I, I was finally like, okay, clearly because the problem was with the copyright, the DMCA rules and especially stepped it up during the pandemic is that they can they can pull something that you posted at any point. So I was getting hit first stuff my 2018, you know, even from 2017.
Naima Cochrane [00:22:49] And the only real recourse would have been to like just delete my whole account. So I was just like, I’m a chill on a weekly series, but I also started for Black Music Month. I started this challenge maybe I think I started in 2018 and for the month of June, you know, I’d seen like 30 day music challenges before. So I want to craft one that was specifically for Black music and kind of like what happened, what music in as a storytelling series that I didn’t expect was people really got engaged. And the thing that’s great about it, the reason music assignments took off it is so much what I do is the fact that people have really formed like a community around this. So starting with the storytelling series, people will respond, like I said, to tweets, like I said with the first one, and be like, Oh my God, I remember this or I didn’t know this or Oh, you know, I had this haircut. I had this I remember wearing this outfit. Oh, like I posted something, had Coffee, Brown’s after parties, and I was like, the apple martini just showed up in my hand, you know, like that, like that type of thing. So and they would talk to each other, and it really became like a little community.
Naima Cochrane [00:23:58] They know each other, they are familiar with each other. Quest even this year gave me like a huge compliment, which is kind of compared it to the Okay Player Boards, you know. And he said that site, but I knew what he meant. So, you know, some of the biggest moments early were like Ava DuVernay jumping on, Lin-Manuel Miranda jumping on. I did a whole part about Missy. Missy herself retweeted it and thanked me, you know, when not when the artists that I’m talking about saw it would see it and actually jump in and cosign or thank me or repost it or whatever that was. That was huge. So those obviously were really big moments for me and it opened the door to my journalism career. Editors started following me and they started seeing what I was doing and started tapping me to do kind of niche stuff on legacy artists because it was clearly a space. My role was no pop star, no none of the big stars, no Michael, no Janet, no Mariah, no Whitney and all pre 2000. I was trying to cover pre blog era stuff with a little bit, but a little bit of early aughts, just a little bit. But it was really more like the stuff before we started tracking every move that artists made and having behind the music and you know, all of that. And every once in a while I do cover the bigs.
Panama Jackson [00:25:25] I mean, you got a Stevie Wonder thing going on, Right?
Naima Cochrane [00:25:25] In other ways.
Panama Jackson [00:25:26] Like you did the Stevie Wonder thing, right?
Naima Cochrane [00:25:27] Yes, I had a Stevie thing and Stevie was like a Stevie is daunting, you know what I mean? Because there’s just so much. So it was like, how do you cover that? So when we started the Black Music Month, when I started the Black Music Month challenge, at first it was just the way it again, keep people engaged, give people something to do. Because honestly, I do stuff that I want to do, right? So if it’s fun to me, I’m gonna try to figure out a way to translate it, to be, you know, to do it for everybody else. And people just happened to love it. Now, this was my I did it. 1892. I found it. Yeah. So this was my first summer doing the Black Music Month challenge. I don’t know what happened this year. I don’t know what the tipping point. I don’t know what connect. They all know how, but it went so wildly viral I wasn’t even prepared like my friends ahead of me. Like people who don’t even know. I know you are posting. There’s people who don’t even occupy the same space on the internet. I do are posting this. I was in a room in Nashville and I have a 20 year old and a 40 something year old talked to me about how they do challenges, you know, so it’s just wildly like the connectivity to year was loud. I, I honestly can’t speak to what it was. I’m, I’m humbled and I love that people are taking joy out of this, obviously, which is why I expanded it. And that’s the part that just that’s what I get from it is, is seeing how people love it and connect to a and are like Yes. Thank you for this. Clearly, there’s a need for it, you know.
Panama Jackson [00:26:54] Yeah. I mean, that’s the part where I think, you know, you make you make it was something where the individual attached to it. Like the thing that you create is is the stuff that travels. Like it’s not dependent on the fact that you did it. It’s just that is right. Whoever, however happy and I agree like it felt like this year I would see those prompts every really every single person and no matter what social media I was using was share in these things and arguing about songs and trying to put people up on games and stuff like that. And I think that’s part of even when I thought so when I ran into you at The Roots picnic, I was already thinking about podcast episodes. So when I saw, I was like, Oh, this is somebody I want to talk to about creating culture, like cultural curation, because you are doing something that I’m actively going to participate in, I’m looking forward to. Which brings me to something. How annoying is that when people are like, Yo, we’re at a point where it’s okay to post something about them like Fam, I get busy homes like trust me, like a real life thing. But that’s part of that. That’s part of it too. Like, it’s like the it’s a good problem, but it’s part of the game too.
Naima Cochrane [00:28:01] It is a good problem. It is a good problem. You know, it varies every year. During the Black Music Man challenge, there comes a point like toward the end of like the second week, the beginning of the third week, where people start getting on my nerves. But it’s all well intended. I, you know, I appreciate the fact that folks enjoy it so much that there’s demand there, but some people are really rude about it. And that that’s the part that that hits me. There’s a level of entitlement like, you know, people were fussing at me because I have, you know, Black Rock Day or Black Jazz Day. And, you know, there was one person who was like, is the least you could have done. And I’m like, no, at least I could have done is not do this at all, you know? So, you know, it’s just it’s just kind of like I created a space I saw I’m missing. Right. So it’s easy for people to come in and see now that my Twitter account has 50,000, 50,000 followers and the idea account has, you know, 49,000 followers. And I got bylines and I got whatever. And just say, well, you have the platform. You could do X, Y, Z, but I built this platform.
Naima Cochrane [00:29:09] And that’s the thing that I think that people don’t really appreciate. I’ve been building this for five years. I built it because it was something I wanted. So if you see it, if you see something that’s missing build yours. You know, and I’ve never been shy that this is like a R&B and Hip-Hop centered platform. I want to expose people to other things, but this is mine. So, you know, it’s a community, but it’s mine ultimately. And I tell people that a lot of times, often I would make an arbitrary call on what I do and don’t want to do because it’s mine. But I think that’s the part that kind of I have to push past sometimes is, you know, people are enthusiastic about it, people are engaged. I appreciate that. But there is an entitlement like no paper. This is not sponsored content. Like, it’s not it’s not like you know, brought to you by Apple Music is not sponsored by Ciroc. You know what I mean? Like it’s just me on the humble so I you know but the vast majority of people. Appreciate it. They love it. They enjoy it. They thank me. They participate in good faith and good spirit. But yeah, there’s those one or two. Like, I went to my page one day. I think it was like 2:00 o’clock to finally post and under another post it was mad people like where’s the prompt, where’s the prompt. Run it up. Hurry up. Time’s ticking. And I was like, really? That that kind of hurt. But I got to push past those days.
Panama Jackson [00:30:33] Do you have, like, a list of potential prompts, or are you coming up with these things like daily? Because I can see it both ways. I at some point I run out of prompts. It’s like, you know what, I got to come up with something right now. So let me think about it, you know? Right. I would also probably if I’m doing something like that, like so I used to do those like there’s 28 days of Black History Month for like books and video. Not so I basically try to come up with the entire list ahead of time. So I would be prepared because, you know, is always going to be that one day. Well, oh crap. I thought I was ready, but I’m not. And I got to come up with something and you know, that’s not even stressful. Scrussful.
Naima Cochrane [00:31:08] Stressful. Yeah. No, for Black Music Month, I come up with all the prompts ahead of time. And actually the very first thing I post at the beginning of the month has them all right. You did what people want. Yeah, but people want the individual daily graph to repost. Yeah. Now for Black Music Summer, I’ve been freestyling because it’s once a week, so I figure I have enough time to kind of figure out where I’m going to go. But there is a list on the notes app in my phone that several some are like potential sermon topics I never did, some are potential prompts. So I do have like a store of things that I pull from and then my friends often hit me up like, Yo, you should do X, Y, Z like, shout out to my friend Antonia, she gave me two of the prompts for this summer. For Black music summer, the extension is, is a combination of the two because this is the first time I’m doing this. And since I’m only doing one a week instead of one daily, it gives me a little bit more time to kind of flow and move based on how I feel.
Panama Jackson [00:32:16] Do you for every one of the prompts and forgive me if I just don’t know this because I’m I’m so busy trying to come up with my own that I don’t actually go through the comments because I don’t want somebody to influence like I want to find out that I’m not as special as I think I am, dude.
Naima Cochrane [00:32:30] Right.
Panama Jackson [00:32:31] Do you have like, do you drop your own songs in each one of these things or do you just like drop the bomb on it? And because I see you comment on stuff on occasion, but I’m not like, I see your name in there, but usually comments. But I never actually try to look to see if you are actually dropping songs.
Naima Cochrane [00:32:48] I do. Sometimes. I do for I’m Black music month I usually I try to as often as I can. There are some days when I just don’t. I might even have the idea. I might even know what I want to do and I just don’t have the opportunity to because I really do want to amplify other people because a lot of people get put on, like you said, you like to see what other people choose. Sometimes that’s that’s one of the things people love. They love to argue about music. There are a couple of proms that are known events arguing days. So I’m just in the comments posted up to watch. And a lot of times what I do on IG specifically is I will just add my commentary on top of other people’s like this is my joint, this is my I do sometimes though if I see something missing that nobody’s posted yet and is one of mine, I’ll post it. Or if I feel like it’ll help kind of jog the conversation a little bit. I’ll post. But when I’m trying to do both, especially for the 30 day challenge, it can feel laborious. Like I gotta post mine and I got to repost everybody else’s and I want to comment and I want to participate. So sometimes it’s easier to just bob and weave in and out.
Panama Jackson [00:34:01] All right. So I’m glad you said that, because I actually have a couple of prompts that I want to give to you right now. See how quickly you could come up with a song. I only came up with three. It should be easy.
Naima Cochrane [00:34:11] Okay.
Panama Jackson [00:34:12] So your favorite Black Christmas song? That isn’t This Christmas.
Naima Cochrane [00:34:18] Oh, that’s easy Temptations – Silent Night.
Temptations [00:34:23] Glorious streams from Heaven afar.
Panama Jackson [00:34:33] I thought you might go there.
Naima Cochrane [00:34:34] In my mind. If I have to do want to, isn’t Temptation – Silent Night, I think it’s Stevie Wonder -Sunday at Christmas. Oh, no, Stevie Wonder – That’s What Christmas Means To Me. Sorry.
Stevie Wonder [00:34:52] All these things and more darling. That’s what Christmas means to me my love.
Panama Jackson [00:34:57] That Motown Christmas album is insane. That is one of my favorite like.
Naima Cochrane [00:35:00] Fire.
Panama Jackson [00:35:01] Like. I was I did music production for years and I used to like just mine that thing for like little breaks and little like two second snippets that I could use, like Marvin Gaye. So I made at least three beats using the Marvin Gaye song on that album.
Naima Cochrane [00:35:17] The Purple Snowflakes.
Panama Jackson [00:35:18] Yes. Yes. I love it.
Marvin Gaye [00:35:20] Softly they float. Where do they go? Purple snowflakes. Cover the ground. Without a sound.
Naima Cochrane [00:35:26] That’s a bop.
Panama Jackson [00:35:29] Favorite brown liquor jam? And I made this one nebulous because you have a couple that you have to explain to people where you put things out there, people would be. That’s one thing I do think is funny. When I do get in the comments and people don’t understand prompts. I’m like, Boy, this is real simple. This shouldn’t be that difficult. It’s supposed to be fun.
Naima Cochrane [00:35:48] Like, people really be like, well, when you said it did you mean? Jill Scott – Crown Royal On Ice.
Jill Scott [00:35:53] Your hands on my hips pull me right back to you. I catch that thrust give it right back to you. You’re in so deep, I’m breathing for you. You grab my braids, arch my back high for you.
Panama Jackson [00:36:08] That’s a good one. I like how quick you are with this. I should’ve came up with a bunch of them. I was like let me just go three out here since I’m going to throw this at you out of the blue. All right.
Naima Cochrane [00:36:16] And y’all going to see that next to your favorite, favorite song that involves liquor. Thank you. I’m going give credit to Panama for that
Panama Jackson [00:36:24] You don’t even have to just run it as perfect.
Naima Cochrane [00:36:26] All right.
Panama Jackson [00:36:28] What song would be your theme music?
Naima Cochrane [00:36:31] Oh. So this varies depending on what that you ask me. Um, it’s often Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation, because I like to pretend that Tip’s first verse is about me. I’ll just saying.
Tribe Called Quest – Electric Relaxation [00:36:49] Honey, check it out you got me mesmerized. With your Black hair and your fat thighs. Street poetry is my every day.
Naima Cochrane [00:36:57] But, if not, I mean, I actually do have a theme song. I’m literally named after John Coltrane’s Naima.
John Coltrane [00:37:03] *Naima plays*
Naima Cochrane [00:37:08] But it’s a little too much of a ballad. Into a mid for that to actually be an active theme song. So I don’t know. I’m going I’m going to I’m just going to stick with electric relaxation for now. That’s that’s my joint for now.
Panama Jackson [00:37:22] Yeah. My era. Midnight Marauders or Low End Theory, which one is better?
Naima Cochrane [00:37:27] Okay. So I finally had to concede. I had this fight for years. I’ve only had to concede that Midnight Marauders is the better album, but to me, low end theory is the definitive album.
Panama Jackson [00:37:39] Yeah, I’ve been having this argument for years. I recently did a podcast with somebody else about this because I think Midnight Marauders is far and away the better album, Low End Theory.
Naima Cochrane [00:37:49] It’s a better album.
Panama Jackson [00:37:50] Low End Theory is more important to Hip-Hop.
Naima Cochrane [00:37:51] Exactly. Low End Theory is the definitive album. But Midnight Marauders is the better. I thought that for a very, very, very, very, very long time. But yeah, Midnight Marauders is the better album. But Low End Theory is the pinnacle. Like, that’s that’s the definitive tribe album to me.
Panama Jackson [00:38:08] All right. Last question on this before we go to a break and then come back to some of my favorite segments here, Dear Culture. Okay. What is your absolute favorite experience that you have had because of the Music Sermon series that you do?
Naima Cochrane [00:38:23] Oh, wow. Um, this one’s hard because it’s, it’s it’s granted so much. You know what I will say I think, if not my favorite, definitely one of the most notable, most important for me. So I get my curation skills from my stepfather who passed in 2007. But he was, um, he was the audio file master or like tape maker curator, putting everything together, music historian and at the opening of the National Museum of African American, I mean, National Museum of Black Music in Nashville, um, I met Jimmy Jam. My father was a huge Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis fan. We it took me a minute to actually realize, like, there was an era where he just ran like the Cherrelle album, the Alexander O’neal on your album, the Control album, the SOS. He was just running them all the time. And it took me a while to realize, Oh, he was running Jimmy and Terry. It wasn’t about the artists, it was about the production. And so I went up to introduce myself to Jimmy and he stood up and he said, I know who you are. He gave me a hug and he was like, Let’s take a picture and almost passed out and he is the nicest guy and like e follows me. We’ve been in clubhouse rooms together. I’ve seen him a couple of times since. But just that fact that Jimmy Jam, I know who you are and stood up and gave me a hug and he was like, Let’s take a picture. And we just had the longest conversation that that moment I was just like, That’s wild. That’s a really, really, really wild. And that wouldn’t happen without Music Sermon ultimately.
Panama Jackson [00:40:07] That is awesome. I’m a Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Stan Lee. I’ve written some articles I’m I put the whole Janet Jackson’s albums are better than Mike’s albums like in Universe because of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Naima Cochrane [00:40:22] But for real they they are.
Panama Jackson [00:40:24] Actually they are facts I did yeah the first the first podcast so I did for this particular podcast was about that because I’m like, I’m kicking the door open like I want to know where I’m coming. I want everybody to understand this. Jimmy jams not to follow me on ig like I literally screenshotted that and sent it to my family like yo, i don’t know if he knows me in the streets, but he knows me here. I don’t have to do nothing else. So now I’m with you. Yeah, I’m with you.
Naima Cochrane [00:40:51] Yeah, that was. That was massive.
Panama Jackson [00:40:54] Well, I love that. All right. We’re going to take a quick break here, Dear Culture. And when we come back, we’re going to come back. We’re going to do our our vaunted signature segments here. We’re going to drop a Blackfession. We’re gonna have a Blackmendation, and we’re going to find out where you can follow everything Niama is doing if you aren’t already. But if you listen to this podcast, you probably already are actively engaging. So stay tuned here on the Dear Culture.
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Panama Jackson [00:41:37] All right. We’re back on Dear Culture with Naima Cochrane, who’s been giving us some great stories, a great story about Jimmy Jam, which is somebody I love and think highly of. Jim, if you check this out, you are my guy. We need to we need to talk. I am breaking down your Music Sermon series, something that everybody I know participates with and indulges in and loves and music snobs like me live for that kind of stuff just so we can try to. So everybody else, how much better my musical analogies and everybody else is, even though I often get proven wrong. But. I also mostly use it as an opportunity to always work in Return to the Mack, which I think is the greatest song of all time. And find a a find a week or a day to somehow work in Ray J’s catalog, because Ray J is one of my heroes.
Naima Cochrane [00:42:29] Ray J is the Forrest Gump of Black Music.
Panama Jackson [00:42:33] Listen, I love Ray J, and I think I actually managed to work him into every single episode of Dear Culture thus far. Possibly.
Naima Cochrane [00:42:41] That’s amazing.
Panama Jackson [00:42:41] Is amazing. And probably a little bit scary, but. We’re going to kick out. We’re going to we’re going to kick off this final segment with a Blackfession. Blackfession being a Black confession, which is something about you personally that might fly in the face of that whole Black people are a monolith type of thing. Right. You know, so do you have a Blackfession for us?
Naima Cochrane [00:43:02] Yeah, I have two, actually. The first one is something personally, something I don’t do. The second one is something I do. I cannot jump double Dutch, which for a Black girl in her forties in New York is actually. Possibly. Yeah, yes, actually possibly a criminal offense. I can turn I got a mean term. I mean turn back, can’t jump. And I was just about to take lessons. There’s actually a school for adults who are trying to get their double dutch game up. And I was about to look into lessons right before the pandemic, so I need to pick that up. So my second one is something that I do that people are really surprised about is as a hobby I pick back up during a shutdown. I fell off. I need to get back on it. But I. I’m into many interests. Dollhouses, major furniture. There was like a whole miniature explosion during the pandemic.
Panama Jackson [00:43:58] Okay.
Naima Cochrane [00:43:59] Not the goals, but to create things that exist in real life, in miniature is fun. And also, you know, you can kind of splurge a little bit, but like on a one small scale. So like little picture, a little KitchenAid mixers, little Gucci bags, you know, custom furniture, all of that. I was doing it for a while and I was documenting it. I was restoring a dollhouse and documenting it on IG and I got a lot of I didn’t know, like Black women, Black people did this. So it’s not really a Black space. But that’s one reason I wanted to do. I wanted to create Black things like I have little itty bitty church fans, you know, that type of thing.
Panama Jackson [00:44:40] And especially interesting because on The Wire, Lester Freeman that’s what he did. He was there today and I remember that being like, this is such an interesting, like random thing to give for him as a hobby in this show. Mm. And what I love.
Naima Cochrane [00:44:55] Is a great hobby.
Panama Jackson [00:44:56] Okay.
Naima Cochrane [00:44:57] It’s meditative
Panama Jackson [00:44:59] You make them yourself?
Naima Cochrane [00:45:00] Yeah, well, that’s the thing. You can buy a bunch of stuff, right? But for me, the joy is and, and it’s expensive, it’s not as high powered, but if you want quality stuff. But for me, the joy is in. Can I recreate things that exist? Like can I make a Ciroc bottle because I can’t find one, you know, like I made, you know, made little versions of vinyl. I made a little peach crown royal for The Isley’s and the for the versus with the Isley’s and Earth, Wind and Fire. I made a little peach Crown Royal bottle. That felt appropriate. So it’s like, you know, it’s just, you know, I want to make, like, a little hot comb and a dax, a can of dax hair grease, you know, like those type of things that you can’t really find. The joy for me is and can I make them and can I can I recreate them as in the craftsmanship of it.
Panama Jackson [00:45:49] That’s pretty cool. I like that. That’s that’s a very interesting it’s a very interesting hobby and very cool. Okay. All right. So we’re going to take a quick break here on Dear Culture. Stay tuned.
Panama Jackson [00:46:10] Now we switch from Blackfessions to Blackmendations, which are recommendations about something for, by and about Black culture. Do you have a Blackmendation? Something that people need to be up on?
Naima Cochrane [00:46:22] I do.
Panama Jackson [00:46:23] All right.
Naima Cochrane [00:46:24] My all time number one book recommendation is The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, which is a story about the Great Migration, which, surprisingly, again, going back to putting Black culture in context. I noticed that there’s a whole there’s like there’s younger millennials and Gen Z. I think we assume that people know a lot of things without actually passing them down where we got them passed to us and we’re not actually passing them down to the next. And I’m noticing like a kind of disconnect on people not necessarily understanding why everybody from Chicago has family in Mississippi or, you know, people in Oakland have family in Texas or everybody up north in New York has family from South Carolina, North Carolina, or the food similarities or the dialects, etc.. And it is a book about the Great Migration that follows one or two families to like along each migrant route. And it reads like fiction. It’s really an incredible it’s an incredible read. And it explains so much about Blackness in America. I just highly recommend it to anybody who’s never who’s never read it.
Panama Jackson [00:47:42] And don’t be intimidated by how big the book is. It really does read more quickly than you think.
Naima Cochrane [00:47:47] It reads like fiction.
Panama Jackson [00:47:47] It’s a sizable tome, but it also has very amazing, enjoyable interesting educational read that. I agree. I think everybody can get something out of that.
Naima Cochrane [00:47:59] Yeah.
Panama Jackson [00:48:00] Well, thank you. This has been awesome. I really do appreciate it. Where can people find you? How can people keep up with what you got going on? Where are you at?
Naima Cochrane [00:48:09] I so I basically love on Twitter at Naima, N.A.I.M.A.
Panama Jackson [00:48:14] See one name Naima.
Naima Cochrane [00:48:17] Oh, yeah. Music Sermon. My Twitter page is the Music Sermon page on Twitter. But Music Sermon has its own IG, which is at Music Sermon and on IG at Naima Gram, N.A.I.M.A Gram. But if nothing else, you can find me at NiamaCochrane dot com or Music Sermon dot com.
Panama Jackson [00:48:36] All right. Well, I appreciate everything you do for the culture, everything you do to get people like me, like you’re literally one of the people like. And this is going to be a very lofty statement, but I genuinely mean it. So just trust me when I see this, I mean this. Like, I feel like Questlove does not get enough credit for being a cultural curator of literally every one of my interest. Right? Like, right. I had this realization one day. I was like, Yo, Questlove literally is for people in my generation, our generation that literally is doing all like all of this stuff that I’m interested in. You are another one of those people like the stuff that you do is literally in the vein of all the things that I’m interested in are the, the, from the music art, like looking at your bio and stuff like that. Like these are all the things like I read you had a hand in the Aaliyah’s catalog coming back out right which I don’t know if you got I don’t know if everybody knows that but you need so much credit for that because I’ve been arguing for years that if your music streaming, it doesn’t exist. And Ali was so instrumental to music today that if people can’t hear this, it’s like an entire legacy of music that we’re missing. So the fact that you had a hand in it and I don’t even know what that hand was, it was one hand, two hands.
Naima Cochrane [00:49:49] It was. And and I’ll get out and I’ll clarify it. I didn’t have a hand in it coming back in the fact that it came back to streaming. But I had a hand. I had a hand. I was one of the marketing consultant for the rollout, and it was exactly what you just said. Like, this legacy is too big to just drop it and be like all these music streaming because just putting it all out there at the same time, we want to I want to make sure people experience the album top to bottom, because there’s a whole generation of people who have experienced Aliyah albums top to bottom because even the physical was out of print. So that that was really kind of like the moment we were gone for. So thank you for that. And also, I wanted to say for the record, Panama, I knew who you were when I met you. I knew your name. I never seen you, but I knew, first of all, the name I, Panama Jackson. You don’t really miss that. Like you, you have a name to do things like that. Your name was created for you to be doing some things. So, yes, I know who you were. I knew who you were.
Panama Jackson [00:50:45] Well, I appreciate you taking some time out with us here today, Dear Culture. Sharing all this stuff. Like I said, I can’t say enough. You’re somebody who I follow all the stuff that you’re doing because it literally is something I it interest me and Muic Sermon and I’m actively participating. Are you people trying to outshine and outdo people. So you have a fan for life for me and. That respect. You know, I look forward to other things that you got coming up in a be doing. Thank you for your time and thank you to everybody for listening to their culture and watching a podcast, an original podcast here on theGrio Black Podcast Network. If you want more of this original content, more of these conversations like this that amplify Blackness, amplify Black voices in Black storytelling, make sure you check out our at theGrio is app. It’s available anywhere you get, anywhere you get your apps. It’s amazing how we use it. All the stuff is here. Please email all questions suggestions. Email Scams. A reply to my Request for Money, at Podcast at theGrio.com. Dear Culture is an original production brought to you by theGrio Black Podcast Network. It is produced by Camille Cruz. Our editor is Cameron Blackwell. Taji Senior is our logistic associate producer and Regina Griffin is our managing editor of podcasts. I’m your host, Panama Jackson. Thank you to everybody for listening. Checking us out. Have a Black one.
Maiysha Kai [00:52:15] Don’t forget, you can listen to theGrio’s Writing Black podcast hosted by me, Maiysha Kai. This isn’t your typical writing podcast. We interview any and everybody that has anything to do with writing. From comics to poets to authors to journalists, to politicians and more. Remember, that’s Writing Black every Sunday, right here on theGrio’s Black Podcast Network. Download theGrio’s app to listen to Writing Black wherever you are.