A FUNKY LOWDOWN CHRISTMAS: Salty, soul diva Millie Jackson serves up a ghetto-fabulous holiday buffet
BY DANIEL KUSNER
Clap your hands, everybody.
And everybody, clap your hands.
Millie Jackson is back.
And she still ain’t taking no crap.
Jackson, the 56-year-old ferocious first lady of rap, has released Sex and Soul, a salute to her explicit and empowering career with hits from 1974-1979.
Although she never really went away — Jackson's released more than 25 albums in the last three decades — she seems to be having a resurgence of mainstream interest.
Her controversial “bedroom rap” style is now recognized as the wellspring of hip-hop.
“I just got a fax today from a film company working with VH-1 for a show hosted by Quincy Jones called The History of Black Music in America. They say I’m responsible for the hip-hop movement, and they want me on it,” she beams.
Jackson takes great pleasure be being honored. Back in the ’70s her sassy and lubricous sense of humor was Jackson’s trademark. She told epic-tales with sensitive songs about love triangles over the course of two very successful albums (Caught Up, 1974 and Still Caught Up, 1975).
“But Jessie Jackson was trying to get folks to clean up their acts.
And he was raising hell.
The record company was afraid of him.
So they insisted that I clean up my act.
But the more I cleaned up my act, the less records I sold,” she grumps.
“So in 1978, I refused to tell the record company what I was doing.
And I went back in the studio.
And recorded the best and biggest album I ever had.
I just said, 'Fuck it! Tear up the contract! I’m not changing anything!
And we put out Feelin’ Bitchy.”
Feelin’ Bitchy reinforced her popularity with audiences.
But her bedroom raps had become longer and even more bawdy.
The album required warning stickers for broadcast.
But during this time Jackson was timidly invited on Dinah Shore, Merv Griffin and Mike Douglas’ television shows. They all loved Jackson's soulful ballads and outstanding voice. But they were afraid of what else might come out of her mouth.
“My reputation was so bad that nobody wanted to talk to me.
I remember I sang Merle Haggard’s ‘Back in Love by Monday’ on Merv Griffin’s show.
When the show was over, Merv said he was so surprised. Because I didn’t curse.
He wanted me on the show again — to talk to me.
He finally interviewed me.
But ended up answering every question he asked,” Jackson laughs.
Many critics say her risqué style limits her "true-diva potential."
In the ’80s, she released Back to the Shit with an album cover featuring Jackson sitting on a toilet. But she’s proved herself as a safe on-air personality and broadcasts a somewhat down-and-dirty three-hour radio show for Dallas audiences weekdays on KKDA 730 AM.
“I took the job because I got tired of radio stations being afraid to put me on the air.
So finally I took the job in Dallas.
Just to prove to them that — if I can talk for three hours without getting anyone fired, then I’m sure I can do the two-minutes you gonna give me,” she says.
Jackson's improvisational monologues and smooth-as-malt-liquor anthems are now draq entertainment staples.
“The drag queens do me better than I do me.
They do all those stupid rap songs of mine.
When I put them on the album, I just did this long rap off the top of my head.
I couldn’t do those songs word-for-word if my life depended on it.
They do it exactly like it is on the album.
I’m blown away,” she says.
Her famous “Phuck U Symphony” was featured in the documentary Wigstock, with Lady Bunny acting as a choral director to a dozen or so female impersonators who lip-synched the foul-mouthed classical orchestration.
In 1985, Jackson teamed up with Elton John for “Act of War,” a duet which reached the Top 40.
“Elton wanted to do the song with Tina Turner.
And she turned him down.
So they got in touch with me to show her it would be done without her,” Jackson explains.
This holiday season, Jackson will be in the kitchen.
“Christmas is the only time I have folks over and cook,” she says.
She’s making a holiday spread that will include Emeril Lagasse’s Funky Turkey recipe, duck with a cranberry brandy sauce, chicken sausage with smoked oyster stuffing, candied yams, turnip greens, miniature pies, apple crumb Amaretto cheesecake, shrimp-and-crabmeat lasagna, seafood corn chowder, pea salad and a rib roast.
“I have to prove that I’m no grinch. I’ll feed over 40 people on Christmas," she says. “But I ain’t gonna sing.”