Questlove, King Britt and more reflect on the birth of Back2Basics and neo-soul
In an article for Red Bull Music Academy Daily, Laurent Fintoni dug into the history of neo-soul in Philadelphia, a phenomenon that took off when a crew of now-legendary artists and producers (including Questlove, King Britt and Dozia Blakey) made a home at Silk City on Monday nights in the 90s. They called their live set / DJ clubnight experiment Back2Basics and created a breeding ground for R&B, soul and hip hop performers from around the world.
The article is both a history of the place and a history of the sound, as Fintoni talks with key Back2Basics players about what drew them to the Northern Liberties restaurant-venue and what grew out of it:
Good business is about creating opportunity where others see none. But around 25 years ago few people saw much opportunity in Northern Liberties, a rough neighborhood tucked north of Philadelphia’s Old City. So when New Yorkers Paul Devitt and Joey Maritato bought Silk City Diner, you would have been hard-pressed to imagine it would end up becoming “ground zero for creative music in Philadelphia,” according to Grammy Award-winning musician Aaron Levinson. Yet that’s exactly what happened when two young DJs – King Britt and Dozia Blakey – created Back2Basics, a home for tasteful, era-spanning selections and live jam sessions that birthed the neo-soul sound.
The Back2Basics founders had a family reunion of sorts in 2014, though the stage was the Hard Rock Cafe rather than Silk City.