Nucomme Gives Us a Glimpse of "Betty's Story"â€
The crowd seemed to be a mix of the Brooklyn's finest and Harlemâ€™s best. The sexual energy she exuded towards the musicians on stage seems like she's been intimate with the whole band...And the thickness on this woman? Crazy.
Satisfy my soul. It’s a request, an invitation even, that Bob Marley gives in his song of the same name. I don’t know why it came to my mind, but I guess in a way, I was giving the same invitation to Nucomme (sounds like “new-comb-ay”) when I watched her show the other night on March 17th. I truly believe that it was a transformative night. I could write a book on this performance, and I’m getting chills as I type.
The space was small, a smaller theatre at the Apollo Theater in Harlem. Not as small as an intimate bar or pub, but you could certainly see everyone in the room by glancing around.
When I got there, I couldn’t tell if I was witnessing something historical or if everyone just wanted to make it seem that way because they knew the artist. From what I saw, I could tell that she had a bit of Brooklyn funk in her, and the crowd seemed to be a mix of the Brooklyn's finest and Harlem’s best. The sexual energy she exuded towards the musicians on stage seems like she's been intimate with the whole band...And the thickness on this woman? Crazy.
More than halfway through the show, while I’m chanting "Game is my middle name," from (Betty Davis’ self titled album released in 1973) I’m still taking in the aesthetic and vibe of the production. I thought about how some people say that having a little more weight around the middle is not good, they would look at Nucomme’s tight shorts and not tiny waist and say "thats not sexy" and I say YES IT IS! She sells it without selling it. Nucomme is just... it. The dress is so tight you can see imprints of various curves and crevices, and I like it, because she doesn't give a fuck, and neither do I. (I’ve never had the flattest stomach or smallest waist, so I feel a kinship with the thicker sisters who truly are comfy in their own skin.)
Looking around at the others enjoying the show, I noticed and took great pride in the fact that the white people look scared. So, you know it’s good when they look nervous and shook up! It means that Black people are not displaying their sexuality in a way that is “safe” for them to digest, and I think there needs to be more of this happening on an everyday basis, instead of letting them tell us what is and is not appropriate. (There’s a reason why Beyonce is and will always be more famous than Jill Scott.) Someone even said “they look that way now, but 10-15 years from now they’ll be a white woman covering all of Betty Davis’s music, wearing an afro wig and no one will think anything of it.”
Soon after arriving, maybe by the second song, I was convinced that this was a historical event. See, you have to understand that the reason why this show is so special. You could see that there was so much thought put into the details of the production. The curvaceous Burlesque dancer with the quietly beautiful face and the tall thin “70’s beauty queen” with the pasties on her nipples, who shimmied and shook on stage while Nucomme belted out the lyrics, even looked a little like Betty Davis to me. And Nucomme’s self-styled looks mirrored the era and Betty’s different looks that she had been photographed wearing during her prime. One outfit that struck me as extremely erotic was the black lace stretch bodysuit, complete with afro wig and red sparkly lipstick.
But why was it so important for Nucomme to bring us this woman’s music? Listening to Nucomme talk about it, I think it was a visceral thing. She was already a fan of Miles Davis, whom Betty Davis was married to for a year, and she had seen the “Kind of Blue” documentary about his life and music. Then her husband download some of Betty’s music for her, the super slippery sensual song “Lone Ranger” and she gave it a listen. “I levitated out of the bed; my hips started swaying and shaking,” and after that she knew she had to find out everything about this woman. “I went to page 35 on Google to learn all about her tragic, beautiful, amazing life.”
Nucomme usually doesn’t cover artists, but she wanted to share what she had found out about this woman. “Everyone knew who the white Betty Davis was, I wanted them to know who the Black Betty Davis is.” So since she’s a Black artist, covering another Black artist, she got a Black promoter, Kim Knox, to promote the show. “I don’t wanna be Betty. I want people to know who she is and her story because it’s all of our story. I’ll pick back up with my music when I feel like it.”
They started with the first show in 2010 at Littlefield in Williamsburg. “The show was very successful, it had 300 people.” And she doesn’t do it alone. She gave props to her band and production team whom she said all worked very hard to bring the show to the Apollo. “Fame is starlight, starbright, that shit ain’t real.” Nucomme muses on the supposed glamour of the business. “Walking 10 blocks with your band lugging bags and instruments, that’s real.”
After the show we met at Billie’s Black in Harlem where one patron says “you can be anybody you wanna be up in this place, and nobody judges you. It’s home.” So it was the perfect venue for Nucomme’s after-party, which was really just a gathering with some good music, great drinks, tasty food and phenomenal people, mostly artists. It’s where the interview was done, and I swear that I had stepped into another time; I felt like I was in the second Harlem Renaissance. Nucomme’s presence has that effect on you. She makes the air feel thick, deep, and time feel timeless, as she hopes “Betty’s Story” will be : “Betty was not a one-dimensional character, there are layers to Betty. She owned her sexuality. It was not uncommon in those days for a woman to walk into a spot with a black eye from her man. It was not uncommon in those days for an artist to give up all of their royalties! Betty was the first Black woman to own her publishing.”
This is surprising and remarkable, because it means that Betty was more than a model with a pretty face, she was a smart business woman who didn’t drink, party, or smoke, but was all about the music. (Maybe even more than she loved her husband of one year, Miles Davis.) But for Nucomme, business woman as well, it’s about even more than that. This show is about creating a legacy, and it’s from the heart. “It’s not about the money. I don’t want a person like Betty to die without you knowing how amazing she was. I’ll keep doing this show, and it’s not about me. When I get too old to to do it, I’ll keep producing “Betty’s Story” and pass it on.”
Please visit this Rennaisance woman’s website at www.nucomme.com.
Helese Smauldon, Columnist for The Black Star News