Soundcheck: Hot Summer Hip-Hop

The 2012 BET Awards were held Sunday night in Los Angeles, setting the tone for a sizzling summer of new music from some of hip-hop’s biggest names. Beyoncé took home the trophy for Best Female R&B Artist while Nicki Minaj nabbed Best Female Hip Hop Artist for the third year in a row.

Whitney Houston was given one final farewell from a group of very talented loved ones including her mother, Cissy Houston, who sang Bridge Over Troubled Water to a sobbing crowd. Mariah Carey and Angela Bassett, along with the rest of Houston’s Waiting To Exhale cast mates, also delivered heartfelt tributes.

Performances from Chris Brown, D’Angelo, and Kanye West provided previews for some of this season’s most anticipated releases. Brown’s album, Fortune, was just released on July 3.  Last weekend, Brown was honored at the 2012 BET Awards winning Best Male R&B Artist after he gave a power-packed performance of Turn Up The Music and Don’t Wake Me Up to a turned up crowd who can’t help but be mesmerized by his unrivaled dance moves and brightly painted bare chest. His newest singles dropped last week and included one Drake diss and two crazy collaborations; Mirage featuring Nas and Get Down featuring B.o.B., as well as one stellar solo offering, Trumpet Lights.  (more…)

Don Cornelius: Tribute To a Trailblazer

After the shocking news of Don Cornelius’ death rattled the nation on Wednesday, many are left with heavy hearts and fond memories of a true trailblazer.

Thousands of mourners assembled around the nation to share memories of the man credited with bringing black entertainers to the national market at a time when racial tensions made it nearly impossible.  Some of our country’s greatest music legends got their start on Cornelius’ Soul Train stage; including Roberta Flack, who led a meeting at Al Sharpton’s Harlem headquarters on Saturday. He didn’t have a great big light telling him `Go over here, don’t go over there, watch where you step, there’s a hole right there.’ He stepped,” she said at the gathering.

Cornelius, seventy-five, died of an alleged self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. Sources say he suffered from severe health problems, including dementia and possibly Alzheimer’s. In recent years, he endured personal, legal and financial hardships.  His son, Tony Cornelius, spoke with Gayle King on Thursday. He had been very unhappy about things that had gone on in his life and his health. My father was extremely private, he said. Unfortunately, when you’re a private person, you keep things inside¦Me, being extremely close to him, I could tell he was uncomfortable, he said.

Rather than focus on the tragic end of this legendary life, I asked a few industry insiders to share their thoughts on the impact of his contributions, and the legacy he leaves behind.

When I think of Don Cornelius, two specific things come to mind. First of all, he was a truly egalitarian host. He treated everyone who appeared on Soul Train equally, whether it was an A-list superstar like Aretha Franklin, an up and comer or one of the kids in the Soul Train dance line.

The other thing is that when we talk about the people who were responsible for breaking down the barrier between white and black in music, we usually mention musicians like Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. But we shouldn’t underestimate the impact that Soul Train had in introducing black music to the masses. It wasn’t just about one artist, or just one type of music, or even just one race. Don Cornelius and Soul Train, more than probably any other factor, showed the world how much variety and talent existed in black music, and by including white artists like David Bowie and Boz Scaggs, he introduced black audiences to performers they might not have been exposed to otherwise. For that alone, Cornelius will forever be one of the true pioneers of not only black music, but music in general. ”Jeremy Helligar, Music Expert

We can all remember watching regular folks dance down the Soul Train line, debuting new moves and new looks to a hungry audience. Fans held a Soul Train line in Times Square in Cornelius’ honor on Saturday afternoon.

For me, Soul Train was all about the fashions. As a kid who was just dying to buy a pair of white bell-bottomed jeans or Daisy Duke shorts, and constantly eyeing the latest accessories, it was Style 101. And I remember being amazed at how choreographed the outfits were, almost as much as the dances. Dance shows were not an uncommon phenomenon in the 1970s and 80s, but Soul Train looked like no other. Thinking about it now, I have to give Don Cornelius a lot of props for being a decades-long trendsetter.”Shirley Halperin, Music Editor, The Hollywood Reporter

Aside from his impact on the general public, he also affected those he worked with.  As much can be said about his strength in leadership as for his eye for talent.

There are countless words to say about Mr. Cornelius. I admired his boldness, work ethic and vision. What stood out to me over ten years of booking my acts on Soul Train Weekly Show, Soul Train Awards and Lady of Soul Awards was his team. Mr. Cornelius built and maintained a tight knit crew of really good people. They functioned as a family and demonstrated genuine loyalty. With Mr. Cornelius’ leadership, they kept the shows going through the years. ”Tony Ferguson, Chief Marketing Officer, Urbintra Entertainment Media Corp.

The thing that resonates more than the careers he launched, or the music he helped bring to the masses is the integrity with which he accomplished these feats. When faced with the same financial hardships that often force executives to compromise their original values, Cornelius never buckled to the pressure of the mainstream. Throughout his career in entertainment, he managed to maintain the same core values he built the Soul Train brand upon; passing up lucrative options to sell. Don Cornelius held tight to his convictions and stayed true to the brand he built, and in the meantime, empowered a generation to raise their voices. His passing leaves behind a legacy built on civil commitment, passion and perseverance; and begs the question, who will continue to carry the torch Cornelius bravely lit over forty years ago?

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

Soundcheck: Stars Go Big At BET Awards

When the 2011 BET Awards hit Los Angeles, it was a whirlwind weekend of parties, performances and puzzling moments.  The festivities began Thursday night with Def Jam hosting a star-studded party at LA’s Rolling Stone Lounge at Hollywood & Highland. Fans clammored outside to catch a peak of their favorite artists coming down the red carpet before entering the packed venue.  Inside, stars like Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled and Ne-Yo partied ’til the wee hours, sipping Ciroq cocktails and enjoying the scene.

Sunday’s performances started off a little rocky to say the least. Rick Ross opened the show with a medley of his current hits, starting off with his eerily contagious “Aston Martin Music” featuring Ciara.  Problem was, Ciara was not in the building, and Ross awkwardly waited while her hook played over the speaker until his rap verse was on. Equally confusing was the fact that Drake, who was in the house, did not perform his hook either, leaving lots of dead stage time while his part played as well. He was joined by Lil Wayne and Ace Hood to perform their (kinda old) hit, “Hustle Hard”.  The hard-bodied Ace was no match for Ross, who decided his belly needed to breathe by the last song, shocking unsuspecting fans in the front row with his less than tight frame.

Chris Brown took home the first award of the night for Best Male R&B Artist, and ultimately took the title of Video Of The Year and Best Collaboration for “Look At Me Now” featuring Lil Wayne and Busta Rhymes. Brown quickly accepted the statue, thanking fans and admitting that “public speaking isn’t my strong suit.”  Good choice, Chris.

His performance was a dance-heavy medley of hits that started off a bit confusing with Brown in an oddly-shaped, oversized suit that seemed like a prop that never served its purpose.  After a wardrobe switch, he heated up the dance floor and proved why despite his attitude, he’s still a top-notch entertainer.

Willow and Jayden Smith shared the honor of winning the Young Entertainer Award, with the siblings sharing the excitement of their first award onstage together, with proud parents Will and Jada beaming in the audience.

The best performance of the night came from Jill Scott, who looked ravishing in red during her speakeasy-themed performance of “Rolling Hills” that looked more like a perfect scene out of a Broadway play than an awards show slot.

Other standout performances came from Kelly Rowland, who gave a steamy rendition of “Motivation” sans Weezy, debuting some dance moves we forgot she had. Beyoncé performed via satellite from Glastonbury, England, belting out “Best Thing I Never Had” and “End Of Time” live from the famed festival.  Alicia Keys premiered her post-baby bod during her medley which included classic hits like “A Woman’s Worth” and “Fallin'” and featured a guest appearance by Bruno Mars.

Cee Lo Green kicked off the night’s tribute to Patti LaBelle, this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award recipient, in the weirdest outfit I’ve ever seen on television. Marsha Ambrosius and Shirley Caesar also took the stage to honor the legendary singer. Snoop Dogg and Warren G also paid tribute that night, honoring their fallen friend, Nate Dogg, with a revival of “Regulate.”

Noticeably missing from the building was Rihanna, who was nominated in several categories.  In one of the night’s more confusing moments, the Viewer’s Choice Award winner was announced first as Chris Brown, then Rihanna, then Drake, who came up to accept the award, saying “This is awkward.” He proceeded to thank RiRi for the opportunity and then said, “Over your ex so your girl’s at my next show” and walked off the stage. Was that a dig at Chris? Was the whole thing a scripted set-up? Adding even more question marks to the equation was the fact had BET announced post-show that the actual winner was indeed, Chris Brown.

Overall, the show was less than stellar.  The disjointed script, weird performances, and plenty of “what just happened?” moments, made me long for some new faces on the hip hop scene.

Dominique Soundz Performs On BET's 106 & Park Wild Out Wednesday

The BET 106 & Park’s “Wild Out Wednesday” Competition came to rest in May, and winner Dominique Soundz secured the prize with his hard work and unadulterated talent. The competition was stiff, with over 800 male R&B entries, but he climbed up the ranks, clinched a spot in the Top 20 and won the judges over with his track “Messing Up The Bedroom.” The prize was no small potatoes either: an opportunity to face off against two other artists in the June 1, 2011 episode of the 106 & Park’s “Wild Out Wednesday” Competition for a myriad of prizes. This is a big deal for any aspiring musician, with a chance to make an impression, bolster their bio and collect some new fans in the process. We had a chance to talk to Dominique about his experience on the show. Read on!

OS: 106 & Park’s “Wild Out Wednesday” is a pretty big deal. How did you feel going into the show?

DS: I was very nervous, but excited at the same time! I knew millions would be watching and I couldn’t believe that this was actually happening. I watch it all the time and then to be on it was a dream come true!

OS: How do you think your performance went overall?

DS: I think my performance was great! I had background dancers, we wore matching colors…it was a great show.

OS: Did the live audience on set help you get into the right mindset?

DS: The audience was great and very supportive. And it didn’t hurt to have the “applause” sign [laughs].

OS: Did you have a chance to meet any of the other artists performing on the show?

DS: Yes, I met the other artists. Very cool brothers¦very talented.

OS: In your bio, you mention that you’ve performed in some of LA’s top night spots. How did this compare to those shows?

DS: I performed for tens/hundreds of people locally. I know 106 & Park is watched by a lot of people, but my performances only helped prepare me for something of this magnitude. Still, I was nervous.

OS: Do you think this might open up some doors for you in the future?

DS: I hope so. I have already been receiving calls from managers, producers and other artists that want to work with me. I’m just hoping to take my music to the next level. Also, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube hits have increased.

OS: What was your reaction when the judges selected you out of the Top 20 artists in the competition? Are there any family, friends or fans you’d like to give a shout-out to or thank?

DS: I was shocked and then, very happy. It made me feel good to know somebody chose me because of my music, video or just the talent they saw in me. And I do have a few shout-outs. God, my family, especially my mother and father who are my managers. Pat Charles for selecting me, my fans and last, but not least¦OurStage.  You guys have great competitions for artists. They’re real and I appreciate the opportunities you provide for us artists. Much love to you.

Check out Dominique’s performance on 106 & Park below and be sure to hit up more of his tracks on his OurStage profile.


Soundcheck: Chris Brown Vs. Rihanna 2.0: Battle At BET Awards

This year’s BET Awards nominations are in with Chris Brown leading the pack, snagging six nominations, going head to head with his ex, Rihanna in two of the four categories she’s up for. We’re guessing the former flames will exchange friendly fire if their recent Twitter reunion is any indication. Rihanna recently began following Brown, prompting a fourteen-year-old fan to ask the singer if she and Chris could be rekindling their romance.  The singer fired back at the fan, It’s f—in’ Twitter, not the alter!

Point taken, RiRi¦but you can’t blame a girl for wondering why you would give a damn what your former attacker had for lunch.

Brown, (who is also nominated for Best Actor for his role in Takers) will be battling himself for Best Collaboration, where he’s nominated for Look At Me Now with Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne and Deuces, his hit with Tyga and Kevin McCall. He will face Rihanna and Kanye West for their smash, All of the Lights.  West, who scored four nominations, will go against Drake (also four noms) again, along with B.o.B. and Rick Ross for Best Male Hip-Hop Artist. Chris is  joined in the Best Male R&B category by Trey Songz, Bruno Mars, Cee Lo Green and Usher.

Rihanna at the 2010 BET Awards

As far as the ladies go, Rihanna’s up against Keri Hilson, Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé and Marsha Ambrosius in the Best Female R&B race.  Nicki Minaj is also up against herself in the Viewer’s Choice category, where both Bottoms Up with Trey Songz, and Moment For Life with Drake are up for the honor along with Weezy‘s 6 Foot, 7 Foot featuring Cory Gunz and Mindless Behavior’s, My Girl, and Brown’s “Deuces.”

Willow Smith is up for three awards including the Young Stars Award, (up against Diggy Simmons and brother, Jayden) and Video of the Year for her smash hit, Whip My Hair.  Joining her in the Best New Artist category are J. Cole, Bruno Mars, Miguel, and Wiz Khalifa.

Cali Swag District is up for Best Group along with N.E.R.D., Diddy-Dirty Money, New Boyz and Travis Porter. They received their nomination news just days after their group member, M-Bone was gunned down in Inglewood, California.  The 22-year-old  Dougie dancer, Mante M-Bone Talbert of their breakthrough hit, Teach Me How To Dougie was killed in a drive-by shooting in his Inglewood neighborhood on May 15.  While there were several witnesses, Inglewood Police had no motive for murder and no clear suspects at press time.

R.I.P. M-Bone

Friend and fellow nominee, B.o.B. weighed in on the tragedy and reflected warm memories of the young rapper, telling MTV News He was the one; he brought a lot of the life with the dance moves. He was really innovative in that aspect of it. Initially, when I heard about the news”when you hear it, it’s almost like, damn, you don’t even want to believe it.”

While M-Bone had not appeared on the actual recording of Dougie, Jermaine Dupri explained what a big part of the group he was. “I believe that he was the one that they all looked to, to learn how to do the Dougie,” Dupri said. “Everyone was about it, but he was the one who went hard with it.”

Cali Swag District and the rest of the nominees will be onstage at the 2011 BET Awards, airing June 26, Live from the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.