What are the six degrees separating Bill Cosby from A Tribe Called Quest, Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Norman Connors, Mos Def and Alicia Keys?

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Six Degrees of Separation: The Bill Cosby Edition
by Nia Smith (Intern, The Liberator Magazine)

Stating that “everyone in the world is separated from everyone else by six links”, the theory of “Six Degrees of Separation” has been used to connect everyone from me and you, to yo momma and yo cousin too. So what are the six degrees separating Bill Cosby from A Tribe Called Quest, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Norman Connors, Mos Def, a “mystery person” I'll let you figure out, and Alicia Keys? Check the connection:

1) Martin's Funeral: Bill Cosby from the album, Bill Cosby Presents Badfoot Brown and The Bunions Bradford Funeral and Marching Band (1971)

Before becoming “America's Favorite Black Daddy” (step aside James Evans, Sr.) and an avid hater of black men named Muhammad who steal poundcake, Mr. Cosby counted “musician” as one of his many titles -surprisingly creating music that was much funkier than his comedic routines. A frequent collaborator with Quincy Jones, Cosby released this 1971 track under the alias “Badfoot Brown” in tribute to the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (and yes, I put the “Rev.” in there). This melancholy track features Mr. Cosby Badfoot Brown on keys.

2) We Can Get Down: A Tribe Called Quest from the album, Midnight Marauders (1993)

Badfoot Brown's track gets a sample shoutout by ATCQ on the group's self produced track, “We Can Get Down” from 1993's Midnight Marauders. Sworn by many lovers of Hip-Hop to be the album that changed their lives, and the landscape of Hip-Hop as it was known, this track features both Tip and Phife on lyrical duty.

3) If You Don't Know Me by Now: Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes from their self-titled album, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (1972)

0.36 seconds into “We Can Get Down”, Phife makes reference to this 1972 classic that I'm sure everybody is familiar with via the famed Body and Soul infomercials of the late 90’s or your local radio station's “Quiet Storm” hour. Featuring lead vocals by the great Teddy P (not, in fact, the group’s namesake Harold Melvin-Harold was relegated to background vocals once sexy Teddy joined the group), this song is arguably responsible for one of the coldest lines you could EVER say to your lover: “if you don’t know me by now/ you will never never know me.” The next time you get into an argument with him or her, try it out and let me know how that goes.

4) Invitation: Norman Connors from the album, Invitation (1979)

Hailing from the same city as super producer/songwriter Kenny Gamble (who along with Leon Huff produced the song mentioned above), Philly's own Norman Connors is responsible for such hits as “You Are My Starship”, “Valentine Love,” and a string of other classics from the 70's and 80's featuring the vocal likes of Jean Carn, Micheal Henderson, and the late, great Ms. Phyllis Hyman. This track should be recognized by all you lovers of early 2000's black romantic comedies.

5) Brown Sugar (Fine): Mos Def from Brown Sugar: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (2002)

For all of you who guessed that Mr. Connor's song was sampled for this Mighty Mos Def track you get 15 bonus points. For those of you who didn’t, go on Netflix and watch the film now! Like RIGHT NOW...it's the last time you'll see the dynamic duo that is Saana Lathan and Taye Diggs in action. Hell, it might be the last time you see a happy black couple in mainstream black film (here’s looking at you Tyler Perry).

6) “The Mystery Person” (But I’ll be nice and give you a hint: If I could go anywhere it the world, it would be to the ____ African country of Ghana.)

7) You Don't Know My Name: Alicia Keys from the album, The Diary of Alicia Keys (2003)

To quote Ms. Keys, this video “sets my soul on fire” and here are the reasons why: 1) I have been “the waitress in a hairnet” who crushed on one or several customers; 2) I love seeing black men wear suits. I love black men who have business cards. I love black men who wear suits and have business cards. I love when Mos Def is this black man; 3) The video pays homage to the classic movie “Cooley High” featuring the likes of a young Joe Jackson and “Col. Bradford 'Brad' Taylor

and finally...

Slumber Party (Season 1, Episode 22): The Cosby Show (1984)

Admittedly, I didn't grow up watching The Cosby Show, but have caught this episode off the late night via the blessing that is syndication many a time. So in this classic episode who is “America's Favorite Black Daddy” (step aside Frank Mitchell) bouncing on his knee at the 4:48 mark? You guessed it, none other than a young Alicia Keys.

And this concludes “Six Degrees of Separation: The Bill Cosby Edition”.

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