Monday, April 14, 2014

Music Monday | That One Time John Legend Remade a Nina Simone Song... and new-new from Lady of Rage + Moe Green

John Legend, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free 

I'll say that I had high hopes for this joint I love the original by Nina Simone. The first mistake was sped
up tempo. Um... this song is MEANT to be mid-tempo, not rushed. For me, the tempo contributes to the soulfulness of the song. Rushing the song also didn't give Legend enough room to breathe vocally... I mean... you're remaking a NINA SIMONE song... you need all of the advantages you can get. On The Roots as the backing band... I'm disappointed that the song wasn't updated to sound fuller. Overall, this was a pretty weak remake. And the choir?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. And where did the random church lady at the end come from?! At least let her get HER riff on... smh... Listen HERE.



DJ Premier - Chemical Burn feat. The Lady of Rage (Dirty)

Dear DJ Premiere, thank you for bringing back to the forefront of hip hop, one of my biggest inspirations as an emcee, Lady of Rage, with this new cut, Chemical Burn. It brings my heart joy to hear her familiar, assertive voice, her precision with rhyme scheme and content, and her sheer beastliness. I can't really review this song in a typical fashion, I can only write it a love letter, a swaying nostalgia sweeping the pit of me forward in hopefulness for the hip-hop that I cherish. I love this song. I love Lady of Rage. I love hip-hop. Rock on.

This is an extremely smart move on Moe Green's part. Jhene Aiko is a burgeoning artist on the R&B/Pop scene and low key becoming a major player. To do a version of her song means that Moe is capitalizing on her growing fame. He's also capitalizing on the affinity for the vulnerable emcee. I like that the song was slowed down. 

Green navigates love in a real way... liquor, mistakes, the usual suspects show up in this song. Love is a joy and a pain and Moe is willing to roll the dice. I like it. Listen HERE

Monday, March 10, 2014

Music Monday | Jesse Boykins III, Zoe Alexandria, and Duckwrth




Show Me Who You Are, Jesse Boykins, III
My eternal crush on JB, III is no secret at this point, so let's just get into this new music. "Show Me Who You" is his new song from the upcoming project, Love Apparatus. I like the writing the most, I think. My favorite lines are:

"...Enthralled by even the frame you lay/So I know for sure the visions I portray..."

"I'll take haste to learn the trails of you..."

As far as the vocals, it's classic Jesse, flexing his falsetto with the lower register as a backdrop. I enjoyed having a mid-tempo joint from him, as the production seems a slight departure back towards songs like "B4 the Night is Thru" or "Pantyhose," two of my favorites. Check it out below, and feel free to share your thoughts!




Traffic, Zoe Alexandria


According to her Soundcloud, she's from Oakland, so... I must find her! Comment w/ her social networking contact, if you have it. To the song >>>

INSTANTLY starts off grooving. Once she starts singing, I'm all the way IN: "I had a plan, you had a plan we had a plan, let's stick to the plan/I shoulda ran, you shoulda ran, we shoulda ran, let's stick to the plan..."

This is that vacuous relationship that keeps pulling us back for the wrong and right and unknown reasons. She illustrates the magnificent confusion, beautifully, and I REALLY hope I can catch her around town soon.

Voltron, Duckwrth ft. Queens D. Light & Dunzo
I've been sitting back and observing this crew called Them Hellas for about 2 years now. They are an interesting evolution of hip-hop, integrating the profane and the conscious -- as illustrated by Queens D. Light saying "Sankofa, n***a!" at the end of this song. To the song >>>

What I like the most is that the production perfectly matches the title of the song, giving you a little of that galactic groove. Queens D. Light is up first and navigates a cadence that many have tried and failed to impress me with very well. She has a solid rhyme scheme and good delivery.

Duckwrth's flow is awesome. Sometimes it's that simple. Check out the song below.
 




Monday, March 3, 2014

Music Monday: Covers Gone Right... and Wrong

I loooooooooooooove covers. In many instances, I am introduced or reintroduced to great music when an artist is inspires and decides to remake the song. Covers can go fantastically well or horribly wrong. Today, we're talking about both. Bad news first.


GOT IT WRONG
THE SHARK TALE SOUNDTRACK

So all I want to know is who was in charge of this soundtrack and why  they thought it would be a good idea to ruin not one, but TWO classic songs? UGH!

All I have to say is that I'm over BOTH covers! MJB's tone is more terrible than usual and can SOMEONE TELL HER TO STAY OUT OF HER "UPPER REGISTER?!" Moving on...

HEAR THE ORIGINAL

Not even Missy Elliot could save the trainwreck that is Christina Aguilera's remake of Car Wash. While she doesn't sound bad, it's just not a song to cover unless you're a wedding singer doing the wedding of the owner of franchise car washes... I don't get it.

HEAR THE ORIGINAL


GOT IT WRONG: Chris Brown | This Christmas by Donny Hathaway


Look here, Ike Jr: NO ONE asked you to remake a Donny Hathaway song. Well... someone did, but it wasn't me! FOH with this cheap, karaoke version of Hathaway's classic holiday song. The swing on the new version is disgusting, and Brown's voice doesn't have a drop of the depth of Donny Hathaway's voice... miss me.

 HEAR THE ORIGINAL



GOT IT RIGHT: Whitney Houston | I'm Every Woman by Chaka Khan




Obviously, I HAD to mention this cover. It's probably my favorite R&B cover EVER. Not only did Whitney introduce a new generation to Chaka Khan, she reinvigorated an anthem for women. The vocals are on point, the production is super 90's, but worked for the time. Only Whitney could have done it.


 HEAR THE ORIGINAL




GOT IT RIGHT: D'Angelo | Cruisin' by Smokey Robinson



Another HUGE risk, being that Smokey Robinson is such a prolific musician and songwriter, but D'Angelo matches his charisma, and makes a cover that I like MORE than the original.


HEAR THE ORIGINAL

 

GOT IT RIGHT: Lagrima ft. Jimetta Rose | Lithium by Nirvana
Kurt & Courtney ft. Jimetta Rose (Cover of "Lithium" by Nirvana)
Let's be honest: Some of us need to expand our musical palette. Covers are a great way to do that! Never heard Nirvana? That's okay. Lagrima makes the song accessible to soul, jazz, and reggae lovers with their cover. Jimetta Rose invokes her inner Amy Winehouse and brings some on point vocals to match the slow grind of the instrumentation. I'd encourage you to check out this burgeoning group, making some really quality and interesting music.



HEAR THE ORIGINAL

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Midweek Mood Music: Harris, Tamar Braxton, and Daley

These 3 songs illustrate different stages in relationships. Since it's February... and Valentine's Day just passed, I thought it apropos to highlight love/lost love songs.

Feels Good ft. 1-O.A.K.
Feels Good is the new offering from Harris (formerly known as KnowItAll), which features Bay Area crooner and heart-throb, 1-OAK. It is the perfect song to release around a lover's holiday, it is the perfect song to put lovers, paired or singular, in the mood to be immersed in the steam of passion. The percussion, highlighting kicks over snares, masterfully reflects the staccato of one's breath and heartbeat while in the throes of lovemaking. Harris, needing a bit of reassurance that he isn't alone in the agony of ecstasy, asks his partner... "Does it feel good to you, baby?" I love this song, have played it at least 5 times a day since it was released, and invite you to help Harris get it played on KMEL, by listening and voting HERE.



Tamar Braxton - Love And War
I tend to stay away from reality TV, so while many of you were introduced to Tamar via "Braxton Family Values," her music and the musical legacy of her sister, Toni Braxton, have been my introduction. Her recent song, Love and War, talks about the struggle of love -- and how it frequently feels like going to battle: for happiness, for sanity, for partnership. Her voice is clear and almost pleading for a happy ending. Some couples are destroyed by their differences, and the bickering that it causes. This song celebrates the resilience of working it out, even when it seems impossible. The production is nice, but only a backdrop to her amazing vocals. Listen HERE.


Daley - Broken
I didn't like this song at first. I think that I disliked it because I related to it so much. Sometimes, we don't find the resilience found in Tamar's song. Sometimes, we come back again and again only to leave more bruised and battered than the time before. Daley's song explores finally walking away. He seems to be talking about separate relationships, but for many of us, it's the same one, over many failed attempts. This song is full of emotion, just like the others, but the happy ending is freeing one's self from a hostile and harmful relationship to move on. I'd have preferred if the drums didn't go so pop, mid-song, but that's really my only gripe.
Listen HERE.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Music Monday: Emily King's "Distance" and Kev Choice's "International Blvd."


Emily King is always honest. This song instantly resonated with me, from the moment she says, "One room just ain't enough/When it's two folks trying to get along but it's hard to leave you alone." I always have the feeling that she's talking about her life or the life of someone close to her.

The production on the song is solid and stay in line with the sound we heard on her Seven EP: Old school without being dated. Check it out, and let me know what you think. I personally hope that this is the prelude to a coming album.

Found on Soundcloud.




Kev Choice is Oakland royalty. Classically trained in piano and a talented emcee, he has traveled the world, working with everyone from the God MC Lauryn Hill to Hip-Hop Activist Boots Riley.

I was enchanted by the title alone of his new album, Oakland Riviera. While I'm choosing to highlight my favorite track on the album, the entire project was solid, and definitely leaps and bounds above what most mainstream hip-hop is offering these days.

For those of us from Oakland, this project is special because we know the references that Kev makes. International Blvd. highlights his musicality, as well as runs the gamut of emotion that this boulevard that most of us still refer to as East 14th Street evokes on a daily basis. E 1 4 is expansive, violent, beautiful, dramatic, fast-paced... it is an amalgamation of everything delightful and dismaying about Oakland, and this instrumental piece illuminates its traits through a deep and abiding bassline, high pitched, quick synths, and rapid jazz drums. The riffs leave us spinning past the burrito truck at the the start of the boulevard all the way to 100s... well maybe not literally on that last one, but most definitely figuratively. This song is the magic of Oakland... it is the mystique of Kev Choice. It is the ride of your life.

Hear the song and purchase the album at kevchoice.bandcamp.com

Monday, January 27, 2014

Music Monday: REEEEEEEEMIX! (and random Grammy thoughts)

We all have that song where the Remix was just sooooooo much better than the original... or where the Remix completely tarnishes the legacy of the song. This week I'm talking about some of my favorite remixes from producer IAMNOBODI and his bevy of fantastic remixes.

Kendrick Lamar | ***** Don't Kill My Vibe

Okay, I know everyone is feeling some type of way about K-Dot not getting that Grammy. I'm not sure why you feel that way... did you know that there were no televised black winners at 2013's MTV Video Music Awards? I bet even Macklemore knows he's not the best. Kendrick for dern sure knows... and we know. I'm lightweight bitter for Kendrick, but this remix is hot. See how there was no transitional anything there? Yeah. Anyway, it's what fusing hip-hop and orchestra music SHOULD be. The horn section had me the entire time and the flute was so subtle and beautiful. It just all came together for me. What do you think of it?

Kendrick Lamar's Crush | Beyonce | Party

UNLIKE the lot of you, I am not a Beyonce` worshiper. This remix slaps HARD, though. I like the original track, but I feel like this one really makes me wanna shake the derriere, you know? I always love when the bass line and kick are in sync, and the beat switch during Andre's verse is perfection.


Random Grammy Thought:
Miley, THIS is how much booty you  need for that type of outfit.



Miguel | Sure Thing

This is for all of the neo-soulites who can't quite get into Miguel's pop-prince-esque grooves. IAMNOBODI takes it there with the rhodes and the 80s-esque drums on the end of the hook. I would love to see Miguel perform this version live with a full band.

Random Grammy Thought:
Miguel's project seemed solid enough for consideration... yet there he was in some infuriating pants, presenting an award with someone I didn't know. 

Amel Larrieux | For Real

Amel Larrieux's music tends to be light-handed on the boom-bap, and here, we get some super slap in the drum section. It's an interesting take to have such a heavy handed beat over her bluebird voice. Again, the bass line is on hit, and I love the synth chords.


Random Grammy Thought:
I'm going to need the Grammys to stop playing and give Amel one. She's earned it.










To hear more of IAMNOBODI's production follow him on SoundCloud at soundcloud.com/iamnobodi

Monday, December 30, 2013

Music (to my ears) Monday: Prentice Powell | "The System"

Prentice Powell | Spoken Word Artist | "The System"


 I met Prentice in my early 20s, while I was a poet mentor, spreading the message of literacy in middle and high schools. I noted two things about him: he reminded me of someone I knew very well then and he spoke a lot about his father in his work. We didn't cross paths much after my work in the schools ended.


By now, the world knows him as the first ever spoken word artist to perform on The Arsenio Hall Show. He performed what is becoming his most popular piece, "The System," where he engages the audience in a robotic voice, emulating the beast (made up of many parts, including government, media, and our own human vices). Prentice brilliantly illustrates the way we vehemently complain about the ethos of modern society/culture that we also apathetically acquiesce to on a daily basis. If you haven't experienced this performance, please take a moment to view below.


Last week, I had a conversation with my best friend, where I asked, "Who the **** is Nene Leakes?! I hope people don't feel that she represents all black women." I don't watch reality TV, yet I hear this person's name, she is famous... for what, I'm not sure, and she is a touted archetype of the African American woman.We have artists like Chief Keef who, while knowing that the murder rate in his hometown Chicago exceeded 500, proclaimed that his next project would make it increase even more -- the touted archetype of the young, African-American male.

The question among the so-called conscious crowd is often: "How do we combat the proliferation of these archetypes as singular images of us in media, and also reduce the effect on our communities through education?"

The answer, for me, comes in a familiar slogan: SUPPORT OUR TROOPS. I see Prentice as a Spoken Word Soldier, putting himself on the proverbial front line to do three things:

1. Illustrate cultural/societal horrors
2. Call out our apathy around combating them/participation in their continuing
3. Expose the beast which we allow our minds/pockets to be controlled by, i.e. "The System"

We will wave the flag in honor of men and women who give their lives fighting in wars that we don't even believe in, against countries we have never been to. Will we raise our fists for someone aiming to free our minds, to liberate us from a system that aims to tell us that we belong to it: mind, body, and soul? Or will we snap a few times and slip back into the matrix? If we do the latter, I fear that we, ourselves, are the system.