escort & fonda rae’s “city life” is an nyc disco summit

February 26, 2019

Born over a decade ago, at the beginning of New York’s last disco revival, Escort always had one foot in the classics. Yet as importantly, it never succumb to the pure nostalgia that vilified the sound into a cliche. Rather, the band fronted for the last decade by Adeline, and now by new vocalist Nicki B, has always recognized disco as the DNA of pretty much all American dance music, a connecting block between ancient history (live, rhythm and blues, soul) and its contemporary counterpart (DJ, rap, house). And because Escort moves effortlessly along this musical continuum, the group can invite a legendary vocalist like Fonda Rae to make a track like “City Life,” one that sounds suspended out of time, classic but fresh, focused on the positives.

If you don’t know Fonda Rae by name, she stirred New York’s pot for a good decade and a half, sometimes as lead singer of Don Armando’s Second Avenue Rhumba Band (“Deputy of Love”) or Wish (“Touch Me”), sometimes as a featured solo artist (“Over Like a Fat Rat”), and by the end sampled on a slew of golden-age rap records (Eric B. & Rakim’s “Eric B Is President,” Grand Puba’s “Fat Rat” and Kool G Rap & DJ Polo’s “Lifestyles of Rich & Famous”, among others. Fonda Rae no longer makes a lot of music, but her ability to make shit just a little bit hotter has not subsided.

And so “City Life” is a Big Apple disco-house fantasia — Escort’s Eugene Cho and JKriv plugging into the mastry of Patrick Adams, Leroy Burgess and Full Force, but also contemporaries like Darshan Jesrani — transcending the decades if not area codes. It also has a new video that’s as in love with the city that never sleeps as the song. In it, the Bronx-born and -raised Nicki B, a girlfriend and a coterie of friends bounce around Brooklyn landmarks and clubs, while a fur coat-bedecked Fonda Rae hangs out in Brooklyn Bridge Park, singing the chorus sweetly with  Mannahatta’s skyline behind her. In these images, grooves and lyrics, the subways run on-time, the clubs are cool with everybody, and the city is a place of wonder and possibility. Pity it has to end.

Escort’s new album City Life will be released in April.