Harley White Jr. on Papa's Culture
SacTV.com "Video of the Day" review by
Alex Cosper on October 27, 2013
Harley White reflects on when he was in the signed band Papa's Culture in the late eighties and
early nineties. "Blake and I were in college," Harley explains. "He was at U.C. Berkeley and I was
transferring to USC at the time we met and we just had a friendship and hooked up. He was a DJ at the time and I was a fledging jazz studies
major. We made a four-track demo through a friend of ours, Matt Robinson. We got it to Chris Blackwell (owner of
Island Records) ... Chris liked it so he signed us."
Unfortunately, Blackwell sold Island Records to Polygram, so Papa's Culture got dropped after the merger.
"Polygram was going a different way and we were one of Chris Blackwell's projects." Harley, however, still considers
it to be a valuable experience. He concludes that "some people win Grammys, we were signed by
Papa's Culture, an eclectic band that fused many styles, still wound up on another big label, Elektra.
One of Harley's friends got a job at Elektra and was able to get the music to the right executives, which
landed them their second deal. "So they signed us as Elektra and that was wonderful," Harley relfects. But at
the time the label was more focused on promoting the new releases of artists such as Metallica and
Frank Black. Since Papa's Culture was the new band on the block, they simply got buried in the label's
roster and did not get serviced to radio as much as artists who do gain airplay.
One of the songs on Papa Culture's CD was called "Top 40," which was played on KWOD's local show
The Sound of Sacramento. The song made fun of the music industry at a time when the pop and r&b scenes
were shifting to hip hop. Papa's Culture's music went against the grain of the mainstream. At the same
time, it didn't fit in with the direction that alternative music was moving, which was very guitar-based.
The band did not really try to create a radio-friendly record. At that time bands were signed to several
album deals and weren't expected to sell until after a few releases. The music industry, began to change
around that time with a lot of mergers and new people running the industry.
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Harley White, Jr. on Papa's Culture
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