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Rigel Gemini (with special guests): “Coffee in My Cup”

Good news for all hard-core caffeine fiends (or caffiends) out there: On Monday, we were gifted with a scalding hot dance anthem that pays homage to the bitter bean, the jittery java juice, the narcolepsy nectar. And perhaps homage to some other things, too, as the line “I need that coffee in my cup / Now come over, fill me up” so delicately hints.

Atlanta-based artist Rigel Gemini is something of a Renaissance human — social-media influencer, content creator and performer. And his previous forays into music videography have already pulled in some exciting celebrity guests, including RuPaul’s Drag Race favorites Alyssa Edwards, Gia Gunn and Plastique Tiara. For this piece, famous entertainer, entrepreneur, writer and LGBTQ+ activist Ts Madison, or Maddie, joins for a 1:40-minute opening sketch roasting (get it?) overly complicated coffee orders. The neon-lit “Rigel’s Roasters” scenes were shot at My Sister’s Room, a favorite Midtown dance club and “the longest-running lesbian-queer bar in the Southeast.”

Gemini’s knack for casting and scene-setting extends to local talent, too. The video features key support from prominent Atlanta drag performers Brigitte Bidet, Jaybella Bankz and Canzara SZN. As a rule, these three performers are consistently funny and stylish, providing that patented stamp of reassurance that quarantining at home is no reason to put a stop to the creativity, satire, fun and glamour.

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Rising Appalachia (featuring Aja Black): “Hungry World”

As winter continues its gray, shivery crawl, we could all use some brightness and comfort, and Atlanta folk duo Rising Appalachia answers that call with their latest single. With a strong, steady, simple guitar riff as its backbone, the lyrics add layer upon layer, at first invoking patterns of waiting, resting, praying — all-too-familiar activities in the past year. Then comes the cautionary line, “It’s a hungry, hungry world / don’t let them devour you whole,” as Chloe Smith, half of Rising Appalachia (with sister Leah Song, who’s absent from this track), urges us to slow down. 

Smith is joined by the majorly talented singer/emcee Aja Black, who grew up in Queens, New York, and heads up The Reminders with her husband, Big Samir. A true highlight arrives toward the end when the silky, expressive voices of Smith and Black meld in this meditative, reflective bit of buttery, soothing poetry. 

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James Brown: “Funky President (People It’s Bad)”

To mark Presidents Day on Monday, dust off this bona-fide 1974 hit, our Vintage Track of the Week, from Augusta’s Godfather of Soul, James Brown. “Funky President (People It’s Bad)” is a catchy critique of corruption, economic hardship, inequity and political apathy that could have been written today. The song hit the Top 5 but has gained immortality thanks to the many prominent rap and hip-hop artists who’ve sampled portions of this funk classic over the years. 

That long list includes everyone from Salt-N-Pepa to the Beastie Boys to De La Soul to Childish Gambino. But the best and most famous (though subtle) use of “Funky President” might be as a flourish in the musical tapestry that is Public Enemy’s immortal, stirring and relevant-as-ever “Fight the Power,” which exploded into the cultural consciousness in the summer of 1989 as the perfect theme song for the Spike Lee masterpiece Do The Right Thing. Listen closely as Brown’s refrain, “We’ve gotta get over,” bubbles up amid Chuck D’s emceeing. Not bad for a tune that Brown wrote at the start of the fairly milquetoast tenure of Gerald Ford, who had just stepped in for Richard Nixon after an impeachment process that now, in 2021, seems — well — positively quaint.

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