Since the mid-60s
the legendary twin brothers, Albert and Arthur Allen, now known as Taharqa and Tunde Ra
Aleem have been making Rock, Blues, R&B, dance and Rap music. They have established
their place in music history as artists (The Fantastic Aleems, Prana People, Us), writers
(Hooked On Your Love, Confusion, Loves On Fire
etc.) and independent record label pioneers (Nia Records). Their status as collaborators
with Jimi Hendrix, Rick James, Kashif, Technetronic, New Kids on the
Block, GraveDiggas , and recognizers of major music talent (Luthur Vandross, WuTang Clan
etc.) has propelled them to the Hall of Fame attention and, in particular, recognition in
the world of black music.
vocalist,) and Taharqa (guitar, vocalist) began their careers working,
traveling and socializing with such icons of rhythm & blues as Big Mabelle, Bobby
Womack, Sam Cook, Sam & Dave, Otis Redding, Clarence "Blowfly" Reid. They
then learned the inner workings of the music industry through their close association and
friendship with Harlem legend Fat Jack Taylor, owner of the infamous independent label
Ro-Jack Records. They would later establish the famous Harlem World Club with
Taylor, which was ground-zero for a large number of musicians and acts.
While working with Fat Jack, the
Aleems met and became close friends with a brilliant guitarist named Johnny Allen
Hendrix, while Jimmy was still a side-man playing and touring with some of the lead
R&B acts of their generation like Little Richard and The Isley Brothers. It was during
this period Tunde-Ra, Taharqa and Jimi shared an apartment in Manhattan's Park West
Village and formed the bond which would indelibly shape theirs as well as Jimi's life and
The story of Jimis
disappearance from the Harlem scene and his finding incredible success and acclaim in
England is well known, as is the Aleems subsequent work with Hendrix as back-up singers
and accomplices. It is during this period that Tunde Ra and Taharqa began to call
themselves GhettoFighters. The Aleems have Gold Albums for their GhettoFighter vocal
contributions to three of Jimis albums Cry of Love, Rainbow
Bridge and War Heroes, in addition to their own projects.
In mid-1969 the Aleems became aware
of Jimis growing frustrations with his management and his lack of connection with
the Black Community and in order to begin to remedy this situation they organized the
famous street concert for him in Harlem to benefit the charity Biafra Calls. This appearance would, unfortunately, prove to be
Jimis only appearance uptown and it was a smash success. It was also
during this period that Hendrix established his own production and publishing company with
the Aleems as well as contributing guitar leads to the songs the Aleems had produced for
the GhettoFighter Album they all were working on.
After Jimis all-to-soon
passing in September 1970 the Aleems decided to put the GhettoFighter Album project and
group aside and the tape went into their vault. They then wisely decided move onto the
next phase in their careers and in the process changed their names from Allen to Aleem.
Soon thereafter Earl
"The Pearl" Monroe, the New York Knickerbockers basketball star and music
enthusiast, met the Aleems and with them established his music business career. Together
they founded two record labels, Pretty Pearl and In Your Face. During this period the
Aleems recorded "The Ostrich," using the name Prana People. It
was recorded by Monroe's production company and released on Prelude Records in 1977.
The early 80s found the
Aleems forming their own independent label, Nia Records, which would secure their place in
black music history, both as producers and music
business executives, as well as performers and writers. They
recorded several big independent hits for Nia as the Fantastic Aleems and their song
"Hooked On Your Love showcased Luther Vandrosss first recorded work as
their backup singer. In this initial period of Nia records, the brothers released a number
of early rap songs and artists, such as the Captain Rock series and a duo known as Dr.
Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde. Dr. Jeckyll was Andre Herrell, who 10 years later founded UpTown
Records and then would, for a short time, become CEO of Motown Records after Uptown was
folded into the Polygram organization.
In 1984 the Aleems wrote, produced
and recorded "Release Yourself" for Nia and formally set-up a music organization
with Earl Monroe's old partner, Dick Scott, who had formerly been an assistant to Motown
Record chief Berry Gordy. Dick would later become the manager of the group New Kids On The
Block and enlist the Aleems songwriting and production skills for their
second album, Step By Step. The Aleems and Nia Records now became
fully immersed in a new genre of urban music : Rap, and
their decision to use the upcoming DJ Marley Marl to do a special mix for the b-side of
their "Release Yourself," single would prove to be highly innovative. Many music
writers and critics have regarded this move as an important step in the acceptance of rap
music in its ongoing influence on R&B.
In 1985, Marl recorded the
groundbreaking "Marley Marl Scratch" with MC Shan for the Nia label. These
decisions propelled the Aleems to the forefront of recorded rap and Nia was seen by many
as the label leading the way. The
Aleems recognized the important contribution female rappers could and would make in this
field and they used Nia to record and distribute MC Sparky D. It was her
duo with the upcoming DJ Red Alert, another Nia artist, which produced
Sparky's Turn (Roxanne You're Through), her answer record which
fired the legendary MC battle with Roxanne Shante. Shante recorded for another black-owned
independent label, Pop Art, located in Philadelphia and, incidently, also
owned by two brothers Lawrence and Dana Goodman. The Aleem and the Goodman brothers
realized the business opportunity this battle craze presented and together
they created a new label, Spin Records, to record the phenomenon. The Battle
is now seen as an innovative step in female rap and hip hop music.
During the early 90s the
Aleems decided to concentrate their attentions on writing, production and engineering and
they withdrew from distribution and performing. They established Konkrete Recording
Studios and they wrote and produced a song on New Kids On The Block second album
Step By Step. They also worked with acts like Rick James, Kashif and
Technetronic at Konkrete. But perhaps the most significant project developed during this
period was the founding of a non-profit organization The Reconstruction of Black
Civilization (ROBC) to affirm their strong commitment and ties with the Black Community.
ROBC produced and sponsored a trip by the Ethiopian Royal Family to New York and the
Aleems personally organized several events with black music and art in Harlem for the
Royal Family. In
1996/1997 the Aleems were producing for the rap group Gravedigaz, a Wu-Tang Clan offshoot.
This relationship with the Wu-Tang Clan began at Konkrete studios where the Clan's
36 Chambers album was partially recorded. The Aleems also ventured back into
independent distribution with the Wu-Tang Clan's first single "Protect Ya Neck".
During this time period until the present, the Aleems have been occupied
with their GhettoFighter tapes and they have enlisted contributions from Jimis
former bandmembers Buddy Miles and Juma Sultan in this effort.
The GhettoFighter project brings the
Aleems full circle, back to their beginning, and they believe their desire to present the
legacy of their friend and mentor Jimi Hendrix to a new generation of music lovers will
eventually be viewed as their greatest achievement in the music business.