When an artist drops a hit song, there's always a possibility it could be their last, but of course we always hope it isn't. Unfortunately for these artists, they weren't able to stay on the charts as long as they might have liked, but they still made quite an impact on music during their brief stint in the spotlight.
This young band of men from Atlanta hit our ears with the deep and meaningful, "Blackberry Molasses." This song still resonates with many of the struggles we're facing today, and although the group worked on a second album, it was never released. The lead singer, who we know now as Bobby Valentino, went on to find some success as a solo artist. We haven't heard much from the rest of the group.
The song "Addictive" was a breakout hit for Truth Hurts and somewhat of a comeback for the iconic emcee Rakim. But from Dr. Dre's label to Raphael Saadiq's, it seems like the singer just couldn't find the right consistency in her music career. Her latest song was released in 2015. Titled "Fight 4 Love," it's presumably dedicated to equal marriage rights for all, as the singer tweeted the song with a rainbow heart and the hashtag #LoveWins. Keep up with her on Twitter.
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Am I the only one who knew that this duo was a thing outside of "Maria, Maria," their smash hit collaboration with Carlos Santana? They also collaborated with 50 cent (after his musical career had plateaued), but their music outside of that didn't do much, and only one album was released under that name. They are now simply known as Ghetto and Blues, and released a song featuring Maino this past April called "On The Block."
Listen. I'm still here for "Return of the Mack" even though I (like most of us) would need to Google the lyrics to the verses. His official website is still promoting his 2014 release, "I Am What I Am," a single and the title of his EP, but his Twitter account alludes to the release of a new single this coming August with Tory Lanez and Rick Ross. Do I smell a comeback?
"Heard It All Before" was a hit and is still the anthem for every woman tired of dealing with a no-good guy. Unfortunately, that's pretty much the only commercial success Sunshine Anderson saw in music. Another song, "Lie to Kick It" was released under The Verve Music Group in 2010. She's found success in radio, however, and is now an on-air personality for a Charlotte radio station.
Koffee Brown is the musical equivalent of that delicious pound cake that your mom brings home from one of her co-workers who then proceeds to quit the next week (but whose pound cake you can never forget nor duplicate). "After Party" is still the jam at any cookout or kickback. There's literally not much information out there on these two, no official social media, and even their Wikipedia page is pretty bare. Dear Koffee Brown, where are you?!
A 2013 interview with BET seemed to mark a comeback for Glenn Lewis. And though his single "Can't Say Love" harkened back to traditional R&B, it wasn't a breakout song. He seemingly hasn't been able to find another hit since "Don't You Forget It." He can now be found posting very sparingly on social media.
Letoya Luckett should never have been a one-hit wonder, and if you count her time as one of the original members of Destiny's Child, she isn't. We didn't hear from Luckett for a long time after she left the group until she released a self-titled debut album. It charted on the Billboard 200 and was even certified platinum, but there were no breakout singles. Then, in 2009, she burst back onto the scene with the banger, "Regret" featuring Ludacris, and an album called Lady Love. This was a moment when I thought she would become a big star, but the buzz died down after a while. The latest music we've heard from Letoya is a song called "Together," a collaboration with the Calibur Foundation, whose mission is to end gun violence in America. She also starred in a show on TV One called Here We Go Again. It's unclear whether or not the show will return for another season. Her website says she has new music coming soon.
What 'one-hit wonders' are you waiting to hear from? Let us know in the comments below!
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If your equilibrium is off and you need to get right, we've got a week's worth of songs to set your balance straight. Welcome back to Soul Sessions — where we share some of our favorite songs on Soundcloud.
Bloss0m - "Black Magic Woman"
Because we all want to wind to some lovely reggae and remember how magical black women are, Bloss0m is here with the musical gems. The song talks about how we're taking back our right to remain black, which is poetic and spot on. This track is a reminder that our magic is stronger than anything trying to keep us down.
Rudy Currence - "Royal Blue (Remix)"
Rudy Currence is a singer for singers. His tone and riffs are just beautiful. Although I've loved the bangers he puts out, this "Royal Blue" takes a jazzier approach. It's your standard love song about not wanting to be left out in the cold and how wonderful the object of your affection is.
Valley - "Over You"
This song starts out with audio from Tina Campbell. She famously found out about her husband's infidelity while filming on the Mary Mary reality show, and considered not returning for another season. The audio perfectly sets up a track jam-packed with regret for forgiving a cheater who commits the same betrayal over and over.
Iman Europe - "High Tonight"
We all decompress in different ways. Some people take a more herbal route to relaxation. This song is a bouncy track about being a certain kind of influence on someone who doesn't necessarily partake in the herb. We all have that one friend.
Kevin Ross - "Prototype" (Andre 3000 cover)
This cover is very much worth adding to your playlist. I've actually heard a lot of covers of this song and was never compelled to write about any of them until now. With beatboxing acting as the drums and heavy layers of vocals acting in an instrumental capacity, there's room for the lead vocal to go off, which he does.
Duckwrth feat. Georgia Anne Muldrow - "Get Uugly"
When you wanna get busy with that someone but you don't want to beat around the bush about it, this is the right song to play. This song sounds as though Andre 3000 and Pharrell came together to collaborate and were both inspired by '80s Prince. Take a listen. You'll understand what I'm talking about.
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Sometimes the Bay can feel like the cute step-sister of Los Angeles. We get a friendly smile and a side hug as people pass through to pick up the sister they're really trying to get with. Many say that the reason for this is because there's no real "industry" for art up here in Northern Cali, and artists often find themselves moving to L.A. or New York to gain bigger shine. Here's the thing: The Bay is overflowing with talented creatives in all mediums, and should not be slept on.
Joshua is a visual artist painting the future. When I first saw his work, I immediately thought of Octavia Butler and how intricately her stories were woven. If she were able to resurrect herself and choose an illustrator for her words, I believe she would choose Joshua Mays. His work transports viewers, always taking the observer to another space, another time, and possibly another planet. It focuses on women of color and has been featured in murals and galleries around the country. You can keep up with his work on Instagram, and even purchase some of his art here.
Sydney "Sage" Cain
This Bay Area artist is in her early 20s and already killing the game. Walking past an Oakland art gallery, I saw an advertisement for an exhibit called "Cosmograms: Visions of Black Matter." I quickly noted the dates in my phone so that I could come back and experience what I knew would be something phenomenal. Though Sydney is a San Francisco born and bred artist, her work resonates with Oakland natives, harkening back and paying homage to the ancestors. During her artist talk for Cosmograms, she talked about seeing her ancestors and drawing them, and how her grandmother told her that many of her drawings bore a striking resemblance to her actual predecessors.
Right now, Malik's wife Karen Seneferu is being hailed across the state for her groundbreaking work in creating "The Black Woman is God." Perhaps the most well-known creative couple in the Bay Area, Karen and Malik created a joint exhibition "Black Love Matters," which brought art lovers from all over to appreciate the power of their work together. Karen often credits Malik as her first art teacher, and his work in the Bay Area spans decades.
Melinda James' work focuses on cinematography, but she also dabbles in photography. Working under her company's moniker, About Her Films, her site describes her as having "shaped a body of work that places women and underrepresented communities in positions of power and recognition, yet the messages behind her work are tangible enough to reach many."
"Byron Malik Photography specializes in compelling, creative portraiture that strengthens individual and corporate brands." That's what his site says, and it's very true. You can find Byron everywhere from The People Party at the New Parish to First Fridays taking shots of the community enjoying art, to one of San Francisco's top tech firms taking professional photos for an executive. His work is clean and agile enough to attract clients from all walks of life, who trust in his ability to capture the image that they want to portray.
The host of the long-running Thursday night open mic for singers at Liege in Oakland, Naté is much beloved by the Northern California community. Last year, she won Artist of the Year, Best Vocalist, and Bay Area Rising Star in the Bay Area Black Music Awards. Her passion for music is always illustrated in her live show, and one thing that I love about Naté's music is that it sounds just as good in person as it does on wax. We all know how some singers try to get their engineers and producers to cast spells on their vocals, but here's a true example of ability and skill.
Have you ever heard of a classically-trained pianist who raps? That's Kev Choice. Having played for everyone from The Coup to Too $hort to the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill, his instrumental skills have long been lauded by artists at every level. He's also released several solo projects, including the most recent 88 Steps to Eternity, a mostly instrumental album. You can hear and purchase some of his work here. 88 Steps will be available for purchase on iTunes and available to stream on Soundcloud, Pandora and Spotify this coming August.
DJ Lady Ryan
DJs often get written off of the "creatives" lists, but they're the ones who keep parties going with their curatorial skills. DJ D-Sharp (also from the Bay) is deservedly getting lots of shine as the Golden State Warriors official DJ. But DJ Lady Ryan has been kicking great mixes and throwing great parties for nearly 10 years, representing for the ladies in a male0dominated industry.
Queens D. Light
Whether people know it or not, the Bay is chock-full of women who rap. Queens D. Light stands on the shoulders of rhymers such as RyanNicole, Melina Jones and pioneers such as Conscious Daughters. Having released her debut album, California Wildflower, Queens has been performing regionally for a few years, and is linked to collectives including The House of Malico, Malidoma Collective and Them Hellas.
Netta Brielle was Oakland's darling before picking up to move to Atlanta after signing with Atlantic Records. A short time later, she to part ways with her label and has continued to push forward as an independent artist. This plight is one that many artists are experiencing in the current climate of the music industry. She released a project named after a Bay Area freeway, 580, which documented her feelings and experiences post-record-deal. Netta's got a great voice and stage presence, and her hometown is rooting for her, label or not.
A Tisch School of the Arts graduate, Obatala returned to the Bay to kill the game and put on for his city. He's the creator, co-writer, and director of Clouds: The Series, and has everyone hyped for some melanated TV magic focused on Oakland's beauty and not its perceived brokenness. From the teasers and trailers, Clouds is authentically written to sound like Oakland, which is important to supporters, and therefore vital to the success of the series.
Niema is a student of journalism who graduated from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. She went on to attain a Master's of Journalism from UC Berkeley, so it's only right that publications such as Ebony and Essence would be regularly reaching out to her for her work. Niema is also a filmmaker, exemplifying the Bay Area creative who tackles more than one medium.
My favorite children's book was and is Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters. This book was one of the first books I saw as a child whose images reflected me and my experience (my dad wasn't a king, but you get the point). Tiffany Golden's Midnight Series is giving my favorite a run for its money! "The Midnight Story Series is a collection of children's chapter books focused on the journeys of Midnight, the Keeper of Dreams and Protector of Children, in the mystical land of Shina," says the site. Tiffany's work is important for empowering black children to read stories that are creative, relatable and accessible.
This group is kind of unfair. A group of brilliant black men come together to form a spoken word and theatre supergroup. The five are Prentice Powell (Arsenio Hall), Shawn William (Showtime at the Apollo), Rudy Francisco (National Slam Champion), Andrew Tyree (Slam Champion), and Javon Johnson (Def Poetry Jam)?! They've all appeared on Verses and Flow, and are so in-demand that they were tapped to open for Jill Scott on her national tour and at the Essence Festival. To be clear, the Bay Area can only technically claim Prentice and Shawn, but nah... y'all are all Bay-dopted now.
SoJari is the poet every poet is trying to be. Unapologetically vulnerable, her poem "To Time Travel While Black," is a prime example of how she uses her chosen written medium to tackle important discussions around black culture, life and current events. Her site says, "The driving force behind Sojari's body of work, artistry, and performance is the culmination of her desire to shatter traditional notions of race, gender, and class while simultaneously serving as the orator of her family's history."
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Maybe you've been with us for a few installations of Soul Sessions or maybe this is your very first time joining me. Either way, consider yourself in a one-on-one listening session with the artists I've discovered this week and want to share with you. Let me know which gems had you really bobbing your head or smiling wide in the comments!
MC K~Swift feat. Mankind - "Killing"
James Baldwin said, "To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage." This song perfectly illustrates the rage of those adversely and disproportionately affected by killings in this time and in this place. There are no complex decorations or intricacies to this music. It's very straightforward, with no hook and a repeating guitar riff. MC K~Swift shows expert emcee skills without acquiescing to common ways of engaging the genre, and Mankind matches Swift's passion and ability.
Jairus Mozee - "EQUAL RIGHTS"
Also known as "J. Mo," Jairus Mozee has worked with everyone from Grammy-award winner Lalah Hathaway to BJ The Chicago Kid. His musical and production skills are stellar, however this gem takes his creativity even further. Chopping up commentary from black men and audio from actual violent interactions with police, it's almost as if J. Mo is scoring the soundtrack to our struggle with this one.
Kev Choice - "Blues for Blueford"
On his recently released project Love and Revolution, emcee, pianist and composer Kev Choice ends with this striking instrumental tune for Alan Blueford, another black person killed by the police. It's a beautiful tribute, evoking the sorrow, confusion and reflection that comes with each of these tragic events.
Sincerely Wilson - "Love Junkie"
And in these times, we all need a little more love. This is a beautiful tribute to the object of his affection. The alternative and soulful take on contemporary R&B makes this one of the gems you'll be happy to uncover, and one that can be listened to on repeat.
VanJess - "Adore"
Building a bridge between the girl duos and groups of the 90s that brought the soulfulness and the trap sound of present day black music, this is one of those gems that's both nostalgic and relevant at the same time. It almost goes in and out of R&B and hip-hop, making one curious if either of the group members is actually an emcee. Check out their other music to find out!
Chris Turner & the Dropouts - "Love"
One of the gems from their Love Bomb EP, Chris Turner & the Dropouts really build a layered composition that takes the listener on a journey with the protagonist in this story, who is grateful to be alive but is still searching for meaning and purpose.
Kyle Shedrick - "War"
This is one of those rare times when I don't mind the use of autotune because this is an inspirational song with a turn-up sound. Listen to this when you're going to that job you hate, interviewing for that dream gig, or any situation where you'll face opposition or challenges. Then, stand in a Superwoman/man pose for at least three minutes, and you'll be ready to conquer anything.
What songs have been stuck in your head this week? Share in the comments below!
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Welcome to this week's edition of Soul Sessions, where we bring you talented musicians and their music from Soundcloud. If your playlist needs an update or an upgrade, check out the songs below. We've got one for every day of the week.
Victoria Monét - "Better Days" ft. Ariana Grande
This song speaks to the myriad of ways that the world is hurting, troubles we inevitably face during our journey on this planet, and how the love of another can be a salve to the war wounds of living. The production is simple, mostly just acoustic guitar and drums, which allows the message of the song to shine through.
Tone Stith - "Selfish"
What I enjoy about this song is that the lyrics address how both sides of a relationship can be selfish, and how that negatively affects a relationship. Sometimes, it's difficult to acknowledge lack of maturity and how that is impeding the progress of a romance. Also, the vocalist's range is fantastic!
Brittany B. - "Mercy"
I don't have a lot of Dancehall in my playlist, which is how this song is classified on Soundcloud, but I have to say that what little of the genre I've listened to has been dominated by male vocalists. This song is a really nice change to that, and a great tune for your pre-club turn-up playlist with your pals.
Moxe - "You Did This"
This is one of the more honest songs about how a guy caused his girl grief and heartache, and then vacillating between arrogance and gratitude that she stuck it out with him. I like the production and I enjoy Moxe's voice.
XamVolo - "Runner's High"
This song is relatable to many folks, as it addresses change, challenges, and how we're "just a couple kids in burning towers." The imagery of the song complements the drama of the swing-like production.
Jamal Plummer - "Invisible"
This song is almost a meditation on pain, rejection, and the instability of an unhealthy relationship. Because there isn't really a hook, you really go on the roller coaster of emotions with the writer, as he goes from being hurt to bitter to seemingly unbothered and considering reconciliation.
Laurin Talese - "Trenchcoat"
This is a pure jazz tune, equipped with flirtation and seduction that a lot of songs today have, but without the overt sexuality. I was really surprised and pleased to find this on Soundcloud, as many feel that jazz is a dying genre. Lauren's tune is proof that it still has life in it. Add it to the road trip playlist to impress your jazz enthusiast friends or parents.
What songs are you loving this week? Let us know in the comments below!
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Welcome back to Soul Sessions, where I've put together some of the best music found on Soundcloud for this week, no matter the genre. Because no artist wants to be "the next (insert name here)," I'm digi-crate-digging to bring you some of the best up-and-comers from all over. Take a listen and tell me what you think is fire in the comments below!
Chic Loren - "Right Here"
This is one of those beats that could easily overpower the singer, but Chic Loren comes in with that second soprano power. It's a hard-hitting love anthem for when your partner needs to be reminded that the adoration isn't dissipating, it's building (just like she does with those harmonies).
Paige Wells - "Runnin'"
I usually really dislike sampling, especially if the person is going to be singing over it (I'm less likely to dislike it if it's hip-hop). Paige Wells has me ready to change my mind as she uses one of my favorites, Adrian Marcel's "Weak After Next," to respond to his tune about the object of his affection running away from their budding relationship. It's an awesome take on why a woman might be unsure of giving her heart to a man, and Paige's voice definitely is complimentary to Adrian's. Collab in the future?
Ré Lxuise - "CHBYG"
So remember how Paige was talking about her hesitation for entering into a relationship with a guy? Well Ré Lxuise takes it next level when her guy keeps fronting and she's over it (CHBYG stands for "could have been your girl"). She was down for him, he played games, couldn't figure out what he wanted, and it just wasn't poppin' like that anymore. So, she hit the studio to let bruh know that he had the greatest her heart had to offer and he messed it up. The lesson here is that if you screw up a relationship with a musician, they'll just write a fire song about it and keep it pushing.
Desmond Owens (feat. QUEEN) - "No Pay"
What happens when you invest in your relationship, figuratively AND literally? Desmond Owens tackles being taken advantage of emotionally and financially in this traditional soul cut. I really appreciate the musicality in this song, from the vocal layers to the live instrumentation. I could have done without the rap verse, but only because I didn't feel it was necessary with this kind of vibe. The speaking part at the beginning accomplished enough, including humor.
Drew Vision - "Pills"
Drew Vision just wants to have fun and compares his love to pills in this upbeat tune. The song boasts that one night with him will have the lucky girl hungover and addicted. With an infectious bass line and some very cool musical transitions (especially in the bridge), this talented singer recently released a full project, Balance, which you can stream on Soundcloud. Balance also includes a "Pills" remix.
MAAD MOISELLE - "Black Ice"
Drew might be addictive, but MAAD MOISELLE says she'll have him slipping, sliding and falling, illustrating her love as the elusive and dangerous black ice. The synths and drum pattern give a nod to the '80s, but this song doesn't sound dated at all. This is an awesomely danceable song to put on at a girls night in or on the way to your favorite spot to grab drinks.
Tay Walker - "Where Would We Go"
I'm sure current events have many people contemplating their mortality. Tay Walker takes an introspective route on this song, wondering what happens when one transitions out of this life and off of this plane. He also takes aim at society, questioning the way we treat each other and our planet. It's poetic without being lyrically cumbersome and beautiful without being overdone melodically.
Let us know your favorite new songs in the comments below!
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Welcome to Soul Sessions, where I put together the best songs I've found on Soundcloud for the week of June 5-11, 2016, no matter the genre. Introduce yourself to some artists who will soon become your favorites, and comment below with your favorite new music as well.
JoJo Martin - "Run On"
JoJo Martin is a well-known singer in the gospel world who went viral this week when he was called upon to sing at a Kirk Franklin concert. JoJo has been battling renal failure, going to dialysis, and has been on the transplant list for a new kidney for the past three years. His solo at Franklin's concert was a heartfelt plea to a higher power, and this song is a continuation of his resilience in the darkest of circumstances. It's more inspirational than directly religious, making it accessible to all listeners. The lyrics are strong, and you can hear the determination in his voice.
Gwen Bunn - "Unofficial"
This is for everyone in a 'situationship.' Gwen has such an original and conversational way of talking about relationships. With Gwen also on production, this is a sonically solid song, however, it will have the listener yearning for the kick drum to drop. The drums tease that way throughout the entire track, making it feel almost like an interlude to something else.
Sia Amun - "Flowers"
If you want to get into a serious groove with some live instrumentation, then "Flowers" is for you. It's the first single off Sia Amun's upcoming debut album Blue Dream, which is dropping later this summer. I was happy I ran across this gem, because she's got great tone and makes good harmonic choices. I'm looking forward to more music from her.
1-O.A.K. - "Fall Down"
Everyone has met that partner who has been hurt, and as a consequence, has their walls up. If that person wanted to write a song to sing to their love, this would be that song. I'm not big on singers using samples in their production, but 1-O.A.K. makes it work with updated drums here. This one's definitely gonna be on repeat.
Lee Mo - "Don't Have A Reason"
Her tone is spectacular, and the production is reminiscent of older soul music. Feeling intuitively that her love might be looking at someone else and might hurt her, Lee laments her sorrow. Admitting that she has no reason for these suspicions other than her gut, she speaks to a woman's intuition spectacularly here.
Tiyi Christopher - "Curious"
This is one of those tracks that grew on me the longer I listened to it. The production is solid from the jump, but I didn't know if this was going to be one of those template "freak me" songs. Tiyi makes the song interesting, building throughout and referencing classic boudoir songs from the '90s.
Kiah Victoria - "Cold War"
Everyone faces different struggles. This song vividly describes the feeling that comes with thinking you're fighting a losing battle. Whether you're repeating bad habits or fighting your way back from a deep loss, this song will resonate with the feeling that sometimes even your own body is not on your side.
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It was strange to me when I saw Fantastic Negrito on an episode of Empire. "Actually real, good music on Empire?! No freakin' way." But there he was, getting down with Jamal on the show. It was serendipitous that he was one of the three featured artists at the Grammy Songwriter's Summit I was attending in my hometown just a few weeks after finishing the spring semester. The other two artists were interesting enough, but it was Fantastic Negrito who really captured my ear, my eye, and who I was utterly enchanted by. Each artist introduced themselves in song, and when he hit the stage, I knew I was witnessing something special.
Mystifying, his voice soared over us while he plucked a simple blues/rock riff on his guitar. He jerked about while singing, as though his song was moving him as much as it was the crowd. His jarring lyrics contained more honesty that maybe the audience was ready for, but if being an artist is about leaving your truth on the stage, Negrito is certainly an artist. He talked about his mistakes, his stumbles in relationships, and about being selfish, singing, "Yeah, I want everything you've got for no reason." He was a vision of imperfection turned masterpiece, a representation of the Oakland I've always known and loved. With our city (and the surrounding cities) going through sweeping change via gentrification and Fantastic Negrito's upcoming album aptly entitled The Last Days of Oakland, he's unafraid to share a bigger truth: All around the country, we're losing the neighborhoods and communities we've built, loved and cultivated to opportunism and greed.
Traditionally, black rock, rhythm, and blues have been musical documentations of black struggle. Negrito's music harkens back to that sound, bringing the message forward to relate to current struggles. Personally, he shared having a bad record deal as a younger man, losing everything and then leaving music. A tragic car accident that damaged his playing hand and the birth of his son would be his rebirth to music, this time on his own terms. His music is sometimes self-deprecating, many times critical of society, and always thoughtful. It doesn't shy away from loss — even the loss of an entire city. From Oakland to Brooklyn, his brutally honest music should give all of us being pushed out of 'redeveloped' areas hope because it is a reflection of a man who lost himself and is now seemingly losing his town. If he can find himself again, in the worst of circumstances, maybe we can find the cities we once knew. Fantastic Negrito made me feel like I could find Oakland again, and that maybe it could live.
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I'll be real. Musiq had me worried for a minute, especially after this interview with The Breakfast Club as his rap alter-ego 'The Husel.' I'm all for exploring different dimensions of artistic expression, but as a fan, I thought, "don't nobody wanna hear you rap, Musiq!" When I saw him in concert late last year, he sang brilliantly the entire time, including all of our favorites, plus some new tracks. And when I heard that a new album was slated to come out, I was hoping and praying that The Husel wouldn't make an appearance. Before I even realized the album had dropped, my music theory professor was emailing me to tell me it was fire. Even though I was still hesitant, I grabbed a copy off of Google Play.
A few years ago, I was really sad about mainstream music. To be blunt, I felt like it sucked. I can always find good music, but listening to the radio was just disheartening. I turned it off. As if the universe has heard my complaints about how non-singers were taking over music, D'Angelo dropped a fire return album, Jazmine Sullivan came through with the awesome storytelling and vocals, BJ The Chicago Kid became an astounding frontman, then Tweet resurged, Brandy went OFF on "Beggin' and Pleadin," and Maxwell announced his first album in seven years.
Y'ALL. Since then, I had been feeling so much joy, and was convinced that anyone who said that good music wasn't out there just wasn't looking for it. Then entered Musiq Soulchild, the man whose music I had grown up on and who I emulated in my own singing and writing, but who had left me feeling disillusioned about the prospect of longevity in the industry without diluting or dismissing my brand along the way.
But right from the first track on Life on Earth, this album blazes! In an era when genre-bending is the go-to thing, Musiq comes through with the authentic R&B/neo-soul flame. However, this isn't to say that his sound is dated. Songs such as "Loving You" take trap beats and pad sounds to bring the production forward, but keep with a classic Musiq Soulchild story and prose. My favorite track on the album is a song called "Far Gone," featuring the dynamic emcee, Rapsody. I'm always amazed by Musiq's ability to write a-million-and-one love songs that resonate with true situations, never feel repetitive, and always feel like a Musiq track. How does he do it? His musicality is something that I aspire to. On "Far Gone," Rapsody is a pleasant surprise, coming in with her blunt and unapologetic voice and lyrics. She tackled love for the people on Kendrick Lamar's album, but here she tackles the struggle of romantic love with the same thoughtfulness.
What baffled me at the end of listening to Life on Earth is why he would make "I Do" the lead single on this album. Although it is reminiscent of classic Musiq, it's not the best song or even the most sonically-alluring track. My hope is that people can have the trust that as he's given us multiple classic albums, he has not let us down with this newest offering. The album is amazing, and I don't have to remind you of the importance of supporting these artists with your dollars. Make sure you download or pick up this album. Pay for it. It's worth it. Plus, The Husel doesn't make one appearance.
Have you listened to Musiq's new album? What do you think? Sound off in the comments!
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Caribbean people love a Sunday cleaning session — my father especially. I remember my sister and I helping to clean the house from top to bottom as if the Queen of England herself would be over for Sunday dinner that night. No matter how much I hated cleaning, I begrudgingly looked forward to it because my dad always had music playing. That was the best time, dancing around and soaking up all that culture. Now, as a semi-successful adult, I have not-so-shockingly adopted the tradition. Although less frequent than once a week (don't judge my life), I attack any cleaning my space with the same fervor and discipline as my dad. I have to play music and it has to be a reggae playlist. Here are some of my favorite hits you'll need to include on your next Sunday cleaning playlist.
Beres Hammond - "Rockaway"
Tanya Stephens - "These Streets"
Buju Banton - "Wanna Be Loved"
Jah Cure ft. Phyllisia - "Call On Me"
Bob Marley - "Buffalo Soldier"
Bob Marley - "Three Little Birds"
Sizzla - "Solid As a Rock"
Shabba Ranks - Ting-A-ling (oh sweet, sweet nostalgia)
Cutty Ranks - "Limb by Limb"
Terror Fabulous ft. Nadine - "Action"
Buju Banton - "Champion"
Gregory Isaacs - "Night Nurse"
Pressure - "Love And Affection"
Richie Spice - "Youths Dem Cold"
Chaka Demus & Pliers - "Murder She Wrote"
Sean Paul ft. Sasha - "I'm Still In Love With You"
Brick & Lace - "Love Is Wicked"
Wayne Wonder - "No letting Go"
Jah Cure - "Before I Leave"
Gyptian - "Beautiful Lady"
Enlist a couple friends and turn this into a cleaning party!
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Now that Zoe Saldana has been thoroughly read, we can focus on another important element of Nina Simone's remembrance: Giving her a film that actually authentically depicts her life in its complexity, struggle and brilliance.
I saw the Netflix documentary, What Happened, Miss Nina Simone?, which I found demoralizing in its title and horrifying to watch. Once I learned that Simone's daughter actually had a lot to do with the production of that documentary, my horror grew. If you haven't seen it yet, I won't go into much detail. However, giving Ms. Simone's abusive husband a platform — which he used to mostly berate Nina — was an egregious error on the filmmaker's part. I left that documentary feeling like I knew her less than before I'd begun watching it. The Hollywood production can only be summed up as a circus, sensationalizing her life in ways that are just downright false.
But did any of you know that there is another documentary, and it's actually fantastic?! Jeff L. Lieberman's The Amazing Nina Simone was so thorough, thoughtful and precise that I reached out to Jeff after seeing it to gain more insight into his thoughts surrounding the film. I found him to be as thoughtful and honest as his film. Check out our chat below:
Blavity: Who is Nina Simone to you?
Jeff Lieberman: Nina Simone is an artist like none other. She is fierce and unapologetic. She is unique and unfiltered, giving listeners a true authenticity often unfound in our music universe. She is a freedom fighter, a woman of brave choices, bolds stands, a style icon, a serious risk-taker and uncompromising in her vision of black freedom and equality. She is also a brilliant musician who could take a song and totally make it her own, adding piano flourishes and unique vocal stylings that can induce utter joy or complete sadness. She is an overlooked musical genius, beloved around the world by devoted fans, and someone who has been saying Black Lives Matter since the 1940s, starting in her small Southern town at age 11, to Carnegie Hall when she proclaimed "Mississippi Goddam" at 31 years old and throughout the entire course of her life. As a fierce believer in social justice, she is truly my hero.
B: What has her music meant to you?
JL: Her music has had a special place in my heart. It's introduced me to a time and era that I find especially captivating, and given a counter-narrative to the Civil Rights Movement that is hard to find anywhere else. I've danced to her music, sang her music, been consoled, been uplifted, and listened in awe to some of the ways Nina brings life to a song. It's hard to describe exactly why her music touches me, whether it's her sound, tone, lyrics, piano interludes, the deep androgynous lusciousness of her voice or her choice of song, but it's been a big part of my life for the last 20 years.
B: What do you hope people take away from your documentary?
JL: My intention with this film was to help tell Nina Simone's phenomenal story, and help bring more context to her music, life and incredible accomplishments. When I discovered Nina's classical music background, her politicization among friends such as Langston Hughes, Lorraine Hansberry and James Baldwin, and her tremendous unrecognized musical role in the Civil Rights Movement, I felt that her fans would gain an even greater appreciation for Nina and her music. One could watch the film and then go home and listen to her music again with new context and knowledge to the meaning of her iconic songs. I also felt that many of her fans often wondered about Nina's behavior and that too often Nina was dismissed as crazy. I felt speaking about Nina's mental illness could perhaps bring compassion and a new understanding to Nina's life, and at the same time, I wanted the film to show that it wasn't just mental illness that drove Nina's bold and controversial choices. I wanted people to understand her bravery and brilliance, and what it takes to truly be an artist that fights for the causes near to one's heart. In 1963, people were not used to a black woman demanding equality and respect, and they certainly weren't used to hearing someone like Nina voice outrage at segregation, racial violence, and economic inequality. It's easy to dismiss Nina as "crazy" or "violent" as often people like to do when they don't know her story or when certain films choose to focus on the most sensational elements of her life. When you see The Amazing Nina Simone, I challenge anyone to not realize that her defining characteristics were brilliant and brave.
B: What was the most difficult part about creating the film? How did you overcome that challenge?
JL: Making a documentary is tough work, and even more difficult when producing it independently, without the strings of corporate or investor interests. Taking on a subject as complex as Nina Simone adds another level. I also wondered if not being from Nina's era or culture would affect my ability to truly understand the nuances of her experience. I also feared that others would have the same question. To add to this, once I began the project, another VERY well-funded production began a competing documentary on the same subject, which posed a whole new set of challenges. Carving a place for the film has been a challenge, but out of the 3 Nina Simone films, I am most proud that I overcame all these challenges, completed the film, and been on the right side of history. The film has been embraced by audiences in over 65 cities, and Nina's fans have heard the TRUE story of Nina's life, career, challenges, ups and downs, as told by over 50 of her friends, family, band members, lovers and fellow activists. That has been no easy task, but every audience member that sees the film and gasps, laughs or sheds a tear has given me a tremendous confidence that we are truly honoring Nina.
B: If you could have cast someone to play Nina Simone in the Hollywood depiction, who would it be and why?
JL: Impersonating Nina Simone is a job that I wish on nobody. Nina is a powerful figure, and more complex than any of us will ever understand. Even those who I've interviewed speak about all these different sides and personalities that I'm not sure anyone could ever capture completely. I think it would take an actress of tremendous experience and acting chops to even begin to take on that role. My best suggestion would be Alfre Woodard, who has proven herself throughout many decades as an extremely strong actor. I would also suggest Viola Davis or Lorraine Toussaint. No prosthetics or dark-skinned makeup would be needed for any of these actors — elements that are a distraction and make a caricature of Nina Simone. It goes without saying that Hollywood has a history of casting lighter-skin actors, and Nina even felt that her dark skin and wider nose were obstacles throughout much of her life, including the reason she was never featured on the cover of a magazine, like Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, her lighter-skinned contemporaries.
There are also plenty of young women who I feel truly "get" Nina (like India Arie) and could potentially capture Nina's height of artistry in the 1960s. However, I think it's important to recognize that this biopic chose to portray Nina in the 1990s, the final decade of her life when Nina was in her 60s. In the controversy over the black-face makeup, prosthetics and casting choice, this is scarcely being mentioned in the press, and this is my larger issue with the film. While I believe Clifton Henderson (whose story "Nina" is loosely based upon) had good intentions when he first began caring for Nina, he ended up isolating her from friends and family, over-medicating her, and taking large percentages of her payments. This is not an uncommon ending for many celebrities of a certain era, and perhaps an interesting story if Nina had not had six other decades of phenomenal musical accomplishments, civil rights stands, and been a symbol for so many people of freedom, pride and artistry. To overlook these moments in favor of sensational drama like Nina brandishing a gun and throwing champagne bottles is not only an insult to her very rich and complex life, but is a blatant white-washing of her achievements as a black woman in 20th century America. It exposes the deep ignorance of the cast, director and production team. Having read the script for the film four years ago, I can say that anyone involved in the production was deeply aware of the choices they were making with this production and should be held responsible.
I love narrative films and have seen great films that portray real people. However, I think the only person who should be playing Nina is Nina. Her story is not fit for the condensing and sensationalizing that are part of the formulaic approach to conventional Hollywood biopics. Nina's story and genius lives on in her performance clips, and anyone who truly wants to know the real Nina should see the real person as told by over 50 of her friends, family, band members, lovers and fellow activists in The Amazing Nina Simone. I say this not as the director of the film, but as a fan.
For More Information About Jeff's Documentary Visit www.amazingnina.com
What are your thoughts about how Nina Simone is portrayed? How would you like to see her story told?
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BJ The Chicago Kid could easily become the next Tank. And not that sexy, shirtless, crooning, "Please Don't Go," Tank. That bitter, giving-up-soul-music-via-Instagram Tank. Why? Because he's an actual musician, who has found the magic balance between musicianship and aural relevance. Although every listener isn't a musician or a songwriter and some only want something head-noddable, there are plenty of creatives who are looking for something that both makes them shake their backside and reaches their inner emotional core. BJ's new album, In My Mind, can appeal to the casual listener, the creative and the random passerby alike. To reach the widest range of demographic possible, his core audience - THAT'S YOU - has to actually purchase his album.
Here's the thing: In this new digital era of streaming, the musician of substance has a hard and long row to tow. They must compel our musical and emotional sensibilities so much that we are willing to spend that all important 7-12 dollars on something that they spent months, maybe even years, thousands of dollars and sleepless nights creating. Every single person who takes the time to buy this album is investing in the future of the artist by communicating to the record label that they are a marketable and monetarily viable product. In turn, the label will continue to invest in the artist, who won't be relegated to just urban radio stations or smaller venues when performing. Record sales speak to who will listen on the radio, who will show up to a concert and who will purchase merchandise at the concert. Streaming listens are nice, but they don't say as much as a swipe of the credit card does.
Many of us who complain about the state of music are culpable in the demise of meaningful music because instead of cashing out for a quality product, we wait for someone to upload it to Youtube, Soundcloud or one of the many other vehicles for musical piracy. We can't expect artists to invest in the music that rocks our bodies and souls if we don't invest in them when they make it! And let me tell you... In My Mind is FANTASTIC. From tracks clearly influenced by Jodeci, such as "The Resume (featuring Big K.R.I.T.)" to sweet, ethereal songs such as "Falling on my Face" to the collaborations we've come to love and expect such as "The New Cupid (featuring Kendrick Lamar)," there's something for everyone without the album losing its cohesiveness.
Another growing trend is that so many of these artists give us a ton of free music before they officially release an album to try to hedge their bets that we'll pay when they finally ask for that nominal fee. To date, BJ has released four free mixtapes (five, if you count the short tribute to D'Angelo), giving us more than a glimpse into his musical style and evolution. Is it too much to ask that we'd now contribute to his official album release? I hope not.
Frankly, if I were you, I wouldn't do it just for BJ The Chicago Kid. I'd do it for all of the fleeting artists who we look back upon with regretful nostalgia. Buy his album for that J. Holiday album you streamed on your computer and burned a cd of for the car. Do it for that one time you did Brandy's Afrodisiac shady by borrowing (and never returning) it from your homegirl instead of grabbing your own copy.
Because I might have soul music "in my mind," but if the industry doesn't know that, it could soon be out of sight.
Buy In My Mind here.
Have you listened to In My Mind? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
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