Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ode to Mr. Mike

I recently had an epiphany. Mr. Mike needs a tribute. That said, here is my ode to Mr. Mike--one of the most unrecognized guys to come out of the south, but arguably one of the most subtly influential. I got to know Mike pretty well a few years ago, and even produced a few tracks for him. One of them is on my first release, The Other Side of the Game pt. 1. The other never was released. I don't have it on me at the current moment, but I will find it and post it, in case anyone cares to hear it. Anywhoo. Much love to Mr. Mike.

"All in My Mind"- Eightball & MJG feat. Southcircle
Good grief. Anybody who is still, in 2010, talking about how the south doesn't have "lyricism" needs to be shot after listening to this song. EVERYONE on this track snapped super hard.

"New Day"-One of my favorites off of South Circle's Anotha Day, Anotha Balla.

"Where Is Ya Love"- Clearly Mike was influenced by the west coast. Notice the random "west coast singer" who actually could not sing on the track. Why did the west coast always do that? Feature some terrible ass singer? Anyways, it jammed nevertheless.

"It's Yo Attitude"-I just remember writing Thorough's bio (one-half of South Circle) and finding out that this song was randomly featured on As the World Turns or something. Seriously, this was on a mainstream soap opera back in the day.

"Wicked Wayz" feat. Ice Cube- Probably Mike's most popular song. Back when rappers weren't comfortably-political (meaning socially conscious only when it's convenient).

"Kool-Aid"- Eightball & MJG-feat. South Circle- This was made around the time that I was hanging with Mike and Ro pretty tough--both of them decided to leave Atlanta shortly after this song was made though, and head back to Houston. Can't say that I blame them. Notice Mike crooning on the chorus. Dude can actually sing. Preacher's son and all that. Anyways, I thought this was going to help them make some kind of comeback, or you know, do something. But...yeah.

Tweet: "Always Will"

With my emo ass.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Foreign Exchange Readies 3rd Album, Authenticity

I normally don't do things like post album art and whatnot here. I think it's boring and silly, quite frankly. But, Phonte sent this over yesterday afternoon, and I'm a big supporter of his and the FE Family, so why not? 

I see that Chantae Cann is going to be featured on the album, which is super cool. She's the "voice" on Jaspect's Polkadotted Stripes album. I remember Phonte asking me why the hell I hadn't put him up on Jaspects a little over a year ago. Of course, I had, but the songs I sent him weren't his favorites on the album, so I guess he kind of forgot. Anyways, he was going ape over Chantae's voice--asking who on earth she was. At the time,  I didn't know much about her myself, only little tidbits Jaspect's manager at the time, Jeff Cohran, had told me. Anyhoo, fast forward about a year or so, and Tay tells me he has just finished recording vocals for Chante. A few weeks later, at the FE show in Atlanta she nervously gets on stage during their impromptu jam session, and RIPS it. Good gracious, this girl's voice is other-worldly. I just hope that she gets over her shyness a bit.  

So, that was my personal Authenticity story to justify making this post. Not really, but I wanted to share anyways. I think this album should be pretty incredible. I don't think most people understand how much work these guys put in. I mean, how many artist do you know that not only write, sing, and produce their own vocals, but then, mix their own vocals and engineer all of their own sessions? That's what Phonte and Nic do. Phonte essentially handles all of the vocal work--mixing the vocals, writing, engineering and Nic handles the music--producing, mixing the tracks.  For any of you who have ever spent actual time in a studio (and no, interviewing someone for an hour or two doesn't count), you know that is an overwhelming amount of work. 

Anyways, I'm looking forward to this project. Leave It All Behind is still in rotation...literally.

Picking up where their 2008 Grammy-nominated "Leave It All Behind" set left off, "Authenticity" is the group's most diverse work to date, with a tight, 11-track song cycle spanning the duo's trademark brand of lush electronic soul, to stripped down acoustic pieces that recall the heyday of 70's singer-songwriter driven folk. 

Lead single "Maybe She'll Dream Of Me" is a playful, synth-driven hip-hop groove featuring a rapped verse from Phonte that evokes the band's "Connected" era, while the epic opener "The Last Fall" finds some of the band's most cynical lyrics to date ("Love is at worst an excuse/at best it's a truce...") over a frenzied Nicolay production jammed with layers of strings, guitars, and dense choral harmonies. 

"I think every band reaches that point when they come into their own and find a sound that is distinctively theirs," says Phonte in reference to the album's title. "The title refers to me and Nic's journey to find our own unique space within this vast musical landscape. The biggest challenge as a musician is to find that 'thing' that makes you who you are. But I think we're getting there, and we're finding our way more and more with each record." 

Featuring guest appearances from longtime contributors YahZarah, Darien Brockington, Zo! and Median, and also relative newcomers Chantae Cann and Jesse Boykins III, "Authenticity" hits stores 10/12 on +FE Music.

11. This City Ain't The Same Without You feat. YahZarah

10. Laughing At Your Plans feat. Chantae Cann

9. Everything Must Go

8. Make Me A Fool feat. Jesse Boykins III & Median

7. Don't Wait feat. Darien Brockington

6. Maybe She'll Dream Of Me

5. Fight For Love

4. All Roads

3. Eyes To The Sky

2. Authenticity

1. The Last Fall

Friday, August 13, 2010

I Do Not Tweet, and I Am...Not

Six months ago, I deleted my Twitter page. Six months ago, I ceased to exist.

When I first deleted my page, I got a lot of emails and phone calls.  

"Are you okay?" "What's going on with you?" "Why did you delete your page!?"

People associated my mental health, stability and psychological well-being with my occupation on Twitter. The fact that I had willingly deleted my page, for no apparent reason, was a sure sign that I was going through a psychotic episode.

I started to wonder...

Was I still alive? Was I okay?

For the first few days after I deleted my Twitter account, I remember checking myself in the mirror frequently. I still looked the same. My pupils weren't dialated. My hair wasn't falling out. I seemed to still be breathing.

The phone calls, emails and texts, those were starting to slow down, however. It was then that I realized that my relevancy as not only a writer, but possibly as a human being was somehow inextricably linked to my Twitter page. After all, I was no longer available to tell everyone all of the vitally important things they needed to know, in order to gauge if I were still alive:

"Out having drinks with my baby @suchNsuch!"

Or references to my exciting dating life...

"About to go grab a bite to eat w/ the misses."

Or references to my fab lifestyle...

"Just had a great weekend of fun, sun and drinks with the fam @blah @blah @SuchNsuch Summer Sunday Fun, Fun, Fun!"

Or references to my impeccable health regiment...

"Hitting the gym now." 

Or vague references to my popular religious/moral beliefs...

"Faith is so important stuff!"

Or offer comments about my preferred brand of lemonade while shopping at Kroger...

"Do you prefer Simply Lemon or Minute Maid? Simply Lemon for me..."

Yes, without my Twitter page, my existence was becoming dimmer and dimmer. People were unable to read about how I entertain myself, who I entertain myself with, where I enjoy drinking, how I serve Jesus and how frequently I practice yoga. In essence, they were unable to know the real me.

Then, there was my career.

In the 2000 school of media-- I know that visibility is everything. Writers want to be more popular than the artists/celebs they cover. We create websites using only our names. We make videos where we essentially interview ourselves. We bustle around town with equipment we don't know how to use to be seen and "on the scene." We participate in meaningless roundtable discussions that never lead anywhere, and serve no purpose--other than of course, to show that we were invited to the meaningless roundtable discussion.

Twitter has become the perfect medium for us media "tastemakers."

We can participate in silly music related debates (debates that in no way have any bearing on the actual state of the industry, but serve only to illustrate that we can write 140 characters about whoever the rapper up for discussion is). We can articulate just how much we know, and how quickly we can discreetly google what we don't know during an especially heated discussion. We can illustrate how smart we are. We can offer brazenly sarcastic commentary on every song that leaks or every ill-advised email blast we receive. After all, how else will people know how many unwanted emails we get per day, or how many people want us to listen to their music?  We can brag about where we are, and where you aren't. We can tell you where we just landed.

It hit me. Without Twitter, how will other "tastemakers" know that I am still "tastemaking?" How will they know I am witty and sarcastic? How will they know that I'm alive?! I mean, sure they can read my bylines or blogs, will they really know if they are unable to read what I'm #nowplaying every hour on the hour-- and that my musical taste (and therefore personality) is eclectic, yet grounded, well-informed but approachable? They won't. That's how.

My worth, I've found--both personally and professionally is synonymous with my Twitter Page.

And my Twitter Page no longer exists.

Therefore, I am... not.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

iCarly=Child-Sized Soap Opera

The weekend before last I was hanging out with my little cousins at my Grandma's house in Kansas. Of course, because it's Kansas and was like 117 degrees outside (almost literally), they were hanging in the living room, watching TV.

Then it dawned on me. I know why these kids these days are so advanced.

They sit around watching soap operas all day.

Now, I admittedly watch some of the shows that come on Disney Channel and Nickleodeon--mostly because I'm always interested to see what they are feeding to our kids, and I have a three-year old niece who imitates everything she sees. It's from watching these shows, like Hannah Montana for instance, that I was able to give my brother and his wife an informed opinion about why the show is too old for her.

So anyways, the kids, aging from ranges 8-12 were totally engaged in the shows that came on-- namely, Hannah Montana and iCarly. Both shows have real people (apparently cartoons are dead). They have love interests. They have continuing story lines. Seriously, it's like Young and the Restless for the pre-teen set.

Of course, all of this soap-opera like drama is disguised by the overt slapstick comedy that all of the shows incorporate. In fact, the slapstick comedy is what makes the shows look totally harmless-- and also fails to engage most thinking adults, because their brand of "comedy" is just, well, atrociously, obnoxiously un-funny.

Watching the shows, made me think about what I was watching at that age. Really, I was reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club, which in all honesty, was kind of the same thing-- but better because I was like, actually reading. I'm not suggesting that the shows are inappropriate, only that the concept of them is, at the foundation, very grown. I mean, where are the X-Men cartoons when you need them?

Anyways, as I said, I now understand why these kids think the way that think, and then grow up to become stars on reality shows like the Hills or other ill-advised MTV reality shows. Sitting around watching soaps all day has never been healthy for anyone.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Hot Heavy & Bad (Joi) Video: "One" directed by Dashon.Is

Here is the new video, "One" by Hot Heavy & Bad, directed by Dashon.Is. It was shot on Auburn Ave, mostly in front of Pal's Lounge, which is owned by Devon Lee. As Devon says, "Joi is the Hot and Heavy and I'm the Bad." Guess this video amply demonstrates that statement.

Charles Taylor Blood Diamonds--The New Major Motion Picture?

I've been trying to keep up with the developments of the Mia Farrow and Naomi Campbell testimonies against Charles Taylor. The prosecution is trying to get Taylor (the former president of Liberia who the U.S. government is rumored to have put in power, only to strip him of it when he got too out of control) on some blood diamond charges. Allegedly he gave Naomi some huge diamond back in 1997-- and they are now bringing that up as evidence against him.

Today, I get online and find out that Mia Farrow testified, and her testimony directly disputes Naomi's, who said she didn't know for sure if the diamond came from Taylor or not. It has been suggested that Taylor was using raw diamonds to leverage power and whatnot from different people.

My question would be: then why the hell did he give one to Naomi Campbell of all people? Not to be rude or anything, but even in 1997, Naomi wasn't like over here calling shots or wielding political power. She was like, at Fashion Week.

At any rate, I really find this story to be pretty fascinating and fully expect for it to be a major motion picture starring Matt Damon as the random white dude who is sensitive to the plight of African people and therefore must see Tayor destroyed, Gabrielle Union as Naomi Campbell in her first Oscar-nominated role (or Keri Washington because she already sort of has the accent down) and Gwenyth Paltrow as Mia Farrow. I'm dead serious. Mark my words.

If you guys haven't watched the Vice Guide to Liberia, as I suggested months ago, it will fill you in on more detail about Taylor and the other warlords, and the overall state of the country right now. It's going down over there. It's extra ironic because Liberia is the closest that America got to colonization in Africa. Suffice to say, the country is now f--'d up, and apparently, no one gives a crap about it.

As usual, great job, America. Meantime, I'll be waiting on my check from Lions Gate.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The 5 Best Female Singers On the Block

Folks are always complaining about the auto-tune, out-of-tune state of R&B/soul music. With that said, here are the four women (currently) that I think have the best vocals in the game.

1- Janelle Monae. She's number one on my list simple because of her vocal dexterity. The way that she's able to switch styles at the drop of a dime is crazy and her range is ridiculous. I've literally gotten the chills listening to her sing.

2. Yahzarah. Anyone who has seen Yahz live knows her vocal ability is other-worldly. She's probably the most vocally-limber singer I've heard, honestly, alongsie Janelle. Hell, anyone who can do justice to a Minnie Riperton ("Perfect Angel") cover deserves a standing ovation.

3. Amy Winehouse. Sure, she has an unhealthy addiction to narcotics, but good gracious, her voice is beautiful. Rich, textured... she's the certified shit. Praying for her comeback--I'd hate for her to go out like Janis Joplin.

4. LaToiya Williams.  She sounds really Aretha Franklin-ish/Fantasia-like, minus all of the unnecessary screaming. Her voice just melts into her tracks. Soulbounce says she's coming out with an album soon. Looking forward to that one.

5. Chrisette Michelle. Her vocal control is pretty impressive, especially because she's so young. I'm excited to see what she does as she gets older. Also, it would be nice if she could get with different producers and writers who can help her fully display her depth of talent.

Jazmine Sullivan
Melane Fiona
Carlitta Durand

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Joi on the Cover of Creative Loafing

This story was a long time coming. It was especially cool for me to write because I'm such a stan, er, FAN of Joi. She's super duper cool, plus her talent is for real, other-worldly. I've had a chance to check out her new music with Hot Heavy and Bad and no exaggerating, it's the certified shit.

She's an artist that re-invents the wheel every time she drops, for real. As a writer, she's the type of artist that inspires me to still want to write music, honestly. Not that I'm jocking or anything-- just saying.

At any rate, if you ever get a chance, make sure you get down to Pal's Lounge on Auburn and Bell to check her out for FREE every Saturday night, while the getting is good.

She will also be having a Creative Loafing Cover Party and will be debuting her video for "One" (which is dope as hell) on Thursday evening at 7:30 at Pal's Lounge.

Hope you enjoy the story.