Photo by Charles Meacham.
THE ILLUSTRIOUS BLACKS:
Once upon a time, in a galaxy not far away, there lived two kings. Each was the ruler of his own deliciously glorious planet. The first king, Manchildblack, was well known throughout the cosmos for his ethereal vocals, celestial sonics and earthy musical messages. The other king, Monstah Black, was a star in the solar system for his gravity defying performances, gender bending fashions and spacey disposition. One magical night, an inexplicable ultramagnetic pull forced the two planets to collide. A technicolored explosion occurred, turning night into day, with a feast of aural and visual delights. It was then that the universe was changed forever. Manchildblack and Monstah Black united and became The Illustrious Blacks.
With inspiration from extra terrestrials like Prince, David Bowie, Grace Jones, Boy George and George Clinton, The Illustrious Blacks have arrived with a mission to fuse futuristic funk, hypnotic house and cosmic pop into pulsating positivity for the planet. The real life married couple are not only co-pilots on their artistic voyage, but are united in their fantastical journey through life.
In 2017, The Illustrious Blacks released their highly anticipated debut EP, NeoAfroFuturisticPsychedelicSurrealisticHippy, on Concierge Records. The EP features the high energy single “Blast Off,” the seductive “Red Light,” the thought provoking “Delusions of Grandeur” and the anthemic “Black Like Jesus.” In the same year, the dynamic duo also found time to work with producer Nickodemus on a remake of the 90s dance floor classic “Funk That!,” which spawned a popular music video.
The acclaimed duo found even more praise for their epic live shows, which fuse music, dance, theater & fashion as the ingredients to expand minds, shake bootys and save the world one beat at a time. Toward the end of summer 2017, The Illustrious Blacks landed their electrifying live show, Hyperbolic, for a three month residency at the legendary Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater.
If their music and live shows are meant to elevate you into the stratosphere, then The Illustrious Blacks radio show, “On Air w/The Blacks,” is an opportunity to experience their inner space. The entertaining and often hilarious weekly series invites listeners onto the mothership of the charismatic couple, where they discuss the latest happenings in global pop culture on WBAI 99.5 FM in New York.
Individually, Monstah Black and Manchildblack illuminate the galaxy with equal magnitude. Together, as The Illustrious Blacks, they have combined their powers and metamorphosed into supernovas, blazing through the Milky Way like a comet, with their own unique brand of cosmic freak nobility.
“As he searches for his own promised land, Manchildblack might be on the road to delivering us all.” – Jason King (NYU-Tisch School of the Arts, Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music).
As a recording artist, impresario, tastemaker and DJ, Manchildblack is a true renaissance man. He has released three acclaimed EP’s: Awake In A Dream, My Mind’s I and Love Reigns Vol. 1. The music video for his soulful single “To The Sky,” received heavy rotation on BET J/Centric. Manchildblack is the Creative Director of Hype Life Music, which co-produces the long running dance party Libation, as well as his own DJ residencies: Astro Beat and Get Together, the latter alongside DJ Afro (Los Amigos Invisibles). These popular nightlife events are inspired by Manchild’s fascination with 70s and 80s New York nightlife, where people of different races, sexual orientations and backgrounds came together to dance and fellowship to the sounds of Disco, Funk, Punk, New Wave, Jazz and early Hip-Hop.
He recently launched the annual Hype Life Music Fest, dedicated to showcasing and celebrating black and brown artists in dance and electronic music. The 2016 festival garnered press coverage from news source NBCBLK. Manchildblack and HLM has curated and produced events for the Apollo Theater, SOB’s, AFROPUNK, Webster Hall, The Studio Museum In Harlem and has featured acclaimed DJs like Louie Vega, Black Coffee, Osunlade, Rich Medina and many more. As one half of The Illustrious Blacks, Manchildblack and his husband, Monstah Black, co-host the weekly radio show On Air w/The Blacks for WBAI 99.5 FM in NYC. Known for their electrifying live performances, the dynamic duo have released the singles “Black Like Jesus” on Hype Life Music, “Take Me Ovah” on Get Up Recordings and “Delusions of Grandeur” on Royal Advisor Records. In recent years, Manchild has become an in-demand DJ spinning a seamless mix of House, Disco, Funk, Afrobeat and Techno alongside legendary spinners Kerri Chandler, Francois K., Hot Chip, Derrick Carter and Dimitri From Paris. He’s also provided opening sets for concerts by musical artists Meshell Ndegeocello, Seun Kuti, Jesse Boykins III, Tortured Soul & the incomparable Roy Ayers. In 2014, he was selected to be one of the faces of l’oreal’s Magic Shave print campaign, shot by famed photographer Jamel Shabazz.
Manchildblack’s mission is both clear and powerful and is now resonating with audiences around the world. “This is about more than me, it’s about a movement and I plan to be one of the leaders in the forefront of the change that’s coming.”
Reginald Ellis Crump a.k.a Monstah Black is a multi-dimensional performing artist known for his stage performances that blur the lines of genre and gender. Born and raised in historical Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, Monstah was exposed at birth to not only the pulpit rocking sounds of the southern Baptist Church and the classical sounds of Roman Catholic Church but also Soul, R&B, Rock, Funk and Disco. His aesthetic reflects this upbringing revealing influences of Prince, David Bowie, Grace Jones and Sylvester. He fuses his love for music, movement, fashion and visual art in his funk drenched musical creations.
As a pre-teen Monstah became the personal high heel stretcher for his mother’s new heels, spending evenings parading through the house in “mothers new pumps” while grooving to hits on Music Television. By 16 he was terrorizing the halls of high school in stiletto boots, safety pins and exercising his desire to be a NewRomanticAfroGypsyPunkFunkDiscoGlamRockStar.
He trained in Choreography, performance while in undergrad @ Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Using performance art as a way to enhance his music, after graduating, Monstah moved to Washington, DC and began creating performances under the moniker Bedrock Goes Ka-Boom while simultaneously dancing for local dance companies and performing in Nightclubs. Monstah was commissioned by The DC Commission on Arts and Humanities to create his one man show entitled The Acid Box Cabaret. This opportunity lead him to creating a site specific Punk Funk Opera entitled Delicious Hunger, Hunger Delicious, performed in the lobby of The National Theater in Washington, DC. The Opera featured some of DC’s well known musicians, poets, dancers, strippers, nightlife freaks and several students from George Washington University dance department.
After years of experimentation in DC Monstah re-located to New York City and chose to focus on producing electronic based music using a 505 Groovebox Sequencer. With a thumb on electronic music Monstah combined musical compositions with his kinesthetic and visual ideas. He began creating otherworldly performances mixing 70’s Sci-Fi, Funk, Punk Rock, Post Modern Dance and physical theater with elements of underground club culture and fashion. Out of this experimentation he produced four un-released albums (This Suite Divine, Black Strap Molasses, Skipping Backwards and Living Outside The…) Choosing to never release the soundtracks, only performing live with the exception of the occasional mix tape that was given to or sold to close friends and fans, Monstah created musical events that happened only once and then disappeared.
In 2011 Monstah Black collaborated with composer Major Scurlock on the creation of Black Moon. Black Moon is an Electro-Funk Chamber Opera that remixes the life of Pierrot Lunaire as an African American male vaudevillian performer. This works creation was supported by the Dance New Amsterdam Artist in Residence program.
Monstah has performed in numerous venues including Art Basel, Miami, The Whitney Annual Gala, New York, Smithsonian Museum, Washington, DC, Performa Biennial, New York, Joe’s Pub, New York, Dance New Amsterdam, New York, New York Live Arts, Movement Research, New York, Dixon Place, New York, Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, New York, New Media Festival, Moscow, Performance Festival, Ouro Preto, Brazil, Dance Festival Gdansk, Gdansk, Poland, Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland, Eyebeam New York City, National Theater, Washington DC, Dance Place, Washington, DC, Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Pennsylvania and The Brooklyn International Performing Arts Festival. He has been the recipient of an international choreographers residency at Dance Omi in Hudson Valley, New York and has returned as a guest mentor. Honorable mentions in publications include The New York Times, L Magazine, Time Out Magazine, Dance Magazine and The Village Voice.
Monstah has received numerous awards including the Tom Murrin Performance Award, Franklin Furnace Fund, Queer Arts Mentorship Fellowship, BRIC Media Artist Fellowship (Brooklyn), Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, American Music Center Live Music for Dance Program, The District of Columbia Commission on The Arts and Humanities, Career Transitions for Dancers, Topaz Arts Center, NYSCA and has garnered extensive support from New York Organizations including The Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center, The Field, Dance New Amsterdam, New York Live Arts and is a graduate of the Long Island University New Media Art and Performance, Master of Fine Arts Program.