EAST ORANGE, NJ — At large Councilwoman October Hudley represented the township well at East Orange’s Independence Day concert and fireworks display in Paul Robeson Stadium on Park Avenue on Wednesday, July 4.
“All these areas — Newark, East Orange, Orange — they’re all my town. We’re all family,” said Hudley on Wednesday, July 4. “I’m here today for the Fourth of July celebration. I’m here to listen to some good entertainment and also to see some fireworks.”
Hudley also got to see East Orange’s own hometown hip-hop music heroes Vinnie “Vin Rock” Brown and Kenneth “DJ Kay Gee” Gist of the group Naughty By Nature introduce their new Illtown Sluggaz music production company and record label and their roster of new artists. This year’s East Orange fireworks display was the first for new Mayor Ted Green, who had served as Irvington’s Building Department director before being elected East Orange’s mayor in 2017, and Hudley said she came out for that reason, too.
“I’m here to support the Mayor … Ted Green, and I’m just so really, really excited at all the wonderful things he’s doing here in the city in such a short time,” Hudley said. “I would like to say come on down and have a good time. The weather is holding up nicely for us and come and enjoy your Fourth of July.”
Brown served as the master of ceremonies for this year’s event and he and Gist used the occasion to introduce Illtown Sluggaz, their new label.
“We have Ryan Lane, Angel No Halo, Freshko and Leah Jenea,” said Brown on Tuesday, July 10. “And the mascot’s name is Slugga.”
Both Brown and Gist were enthusiastic about their new company and label.
“Right about now, we’re going to introduce you to a new movement based right here in East Orange. It’s called Illtown Sluggaz,” said Brown on Wednesday, July 4, as he and Gist introduced their new artists at Robeson Stadium. “I go by the name of Vin Rock. You’ve known me for years. We’ve been around here for years. To my right is super producer DJ Kay Gee.”
The two said this year’s July 4 celebration was all about the future, specifically who will pick up the baton Naughty By Nature is ready to pass on to a new generation of East Orange talent.
“So we’re doing the whole reset here and don’t get it twisted — Naughty By Nature is forever, when it comes to our legacy business. We’re headed to Vegas,” Brown said. “But right about now, this whole Illtown Sluggaz movement is about all the new talent, the new people. Naughty By Nature, we started right here on the big stage, so we thought it was appropriate to set off Illtown Sluggaz right here on the big stage.”
“It’s like we did in the ‘80s, when we were in the group The New Style,” said Gist. “We used to perform the group Soul 2 Soul’s song ‘However Do You Want It.’ We pulled up in the Volkswagen Fox. We always been doing it, but we’ve got to introduce this whole new crop to East Orange, to our hometown.”
Then Gist and Brown proceeded to introduce their mascot, Slugga, a deejay, and brought artists Ryan Lane, Angel No Halo and Freshko onstage. Each performed bits of their music from their compilation album, “Illtown Sluggaz Presents,” to loud applause from the audience. The Illtown Sluggaz debut was capped off with Newark native Leah Jenea singing “Perfectly Imperfect,” about autism. Autism awareness is featured on the new album.
“Once again shout out to Nassan’s Place,” Gist said at the concert.
Nassan’s Place is the East Orange-based nonprofit organization founded by Nadine Wright-Arbubakrr and her husband, Hasson Arbubakrr, that is devoted to spreading autism awareness and serving families from traditionally underserved and mostly minority urban areas in Essex County. Nassan’s Place — named for their son, who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum — aims to assist families and children dealing with similar challenges.
“They are just simply amazing,” said Jenea on Wednesday, July 4, after she performed “Perfectly Imperfect.” “I had the opportunity to honor them. It was a fun time, a great time.”
The Arbubakrrs said they couldn’t have been happier that Jenea wrote a song about autism and that Gist and Brown and Illtown Sluggaz decided to debut it in East Orange.
“To hear her the first time was amazing. To hear this now and see it all come together — and our kids are in the video — it was amazing,” said Wright-Arbubakrr on Wednesday, July 4. “I’m super excited. We’re going to make this go viral, I promise you. I’m sending this to everybody. Everybody please share. This is amazing. It sends a positive message from an amazing young lady who’s beautiful and talented.”
“Perfectly Imperfect” is available for download online at iTunes and Spotify.